Saturday, May 25, 2019

190523 What Shall We Say?

Romans 8:31-32 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
We come back to Romans after dealing with Easter and all the events before and after. We find Paul asking a question. What shall we say to these things? Before we try to answer that question we need to know what it really is. “These things” has a significance. This question directly follows the “Golden Chain” found in verse 30. The links in the chain are: predestined, called, justified and glorified. We could spend the rest of our lives studying these four verbs. But, like Paul, we must get on with his letter to the Romans.
Paul ends this part of his letter by many words of encouragement! Up until now, he has emphasized the opposition we face, along with the Romans, in living out the Christian life. He has written about the opposition of the flesh, sin, and the law! Now he turns to the fact that…
God is for us. Let’s look at 1 John 4:4. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
John, in his first little letter, picks up the same emphasis. No question, God is on our side. We don’t always feel like he is for us. We need to remember, God operates on a different level than we do. We humans are often dominated by our feelings. And, on a day-to-day basis, we do not “feel” like we are united to one who is greater than the one who is in the world. Well, rain on your feelings! We often do not feel victorious. God’s word says that we are and we have a decision to make are we going to believe our feelings or are we going to believe our God as revealed in his word? One of the best illustrations of our victory is the story of Elisha and his servant. Just like Elisha’s servant we may not be able to see his forces arrayed on our behalf.
Let me remind you of the Old Testament account found in 2 Kings 6:8-19. Elisha had taken over the role of principal prophet after the departure of Elijah. Our story picks up with the Syrians raiding the northern kingdom of Israel. The king of Syria is very suspicious that he has a spy in the camp! One of his advisors understands the situation perfectly. He assures the king of Syria that the prophet Elisha is able to hear all his plans. So the Syrians set out to capture Elisha. They come to Dothan, the city where he is currently living and surrounds it during the night. Elisha’s servant wakes up to find them completely surrounded. He is terrified! He is operating on what he can see and he reacts. Elisha simply asked God to open his servant’s eyes so that he can see the true situation. When he does he sees the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire between them and the enemy. Elisha then prays a simple prayer, “Please strike these people with blindness.” Then he offers to guide the blinded Army of Syria and leads them to the king of Israel. After restoring their sight they are given a banquet and sent back to Syria in disgrace.
One of the reasons that story is contained in the Old Testament is to encourage God’s New Testament people. God is for us! None of our enemies can approach us without God’s permission. We may not like the way God does things but we may as well accept them because he is God and we are not. So we need to ask ourselves…
Who opposes us? We can look at Peter’s first letter to get an answer. 1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
Beginning in the Garden of Eden Satan, tempted Eve to rebel against God’s restrictions and bring death to us all. Moving on to the story of Job where Satan is allowed to test Job’s faith. That is a story very hard to understand (Job 1-2). We also see Satan standing against Israel leading David to sin by numbering Israel and questioning God’s ability to take care of them (1 Chronicles 21:1). Zechariah, in his vision, saw Satan standing at Joshua’s right hand to accuse him. Joshua the high priest did not see Satan. Zechariah did and he also saw Satan being defeated and Joshua being honored (Zechariah 3:1-5). Going on to the book of Revelation 12:9 where we see Satan being thrown down in defeat before our God. There are many other places we can find out about the opposition of Satan. Yet all of these and many more are…
Evidences of God’s favor. But the greatest evidence is found in John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
We do not deserve God’s love. In spite of that He gave his Son! Not one of many sons but the original language here indicates “one-of-a-kind”. You and I, having believed in him, have eternal life. That is God’s favor to all those who believe.
Let’s also look at Romans 4:24-25 It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Jesus tells us that all who believe in him should not perish but instead have eternal life. This passage in Romans tells us that those who believe in Jesus have Abraham’s faith counted to them. Jesus not only died for our sins but the Father raised him from the dead. He died for our sins and came back to life to give us life eternal. When Jesus died on the cross, spiritual death that had entered the earth through Adam, died with him. When he was raised alive from the grave he brought those who believe in him to be justified, vindicated and acquitted. Isaiah chapter 53 tells us that the Messiah — Jesus — has lifted our sickness and carried our pain. God, in Christ, gives us what we cannot earn on our own. The coming Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions”, “crushed for our iniquities”, “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace”, “with His wounds we are healed”. Isaiah assures us that Yahweh “laid on him the iniquity of us all”! How do we arrive at this condition? God gives us…
The shield of election. Let’s look at the words of Jesus found in John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
In this passage, Jesus is explaining why some people follow him and others do not. The crowd wanted him to clearly state whether he was the Messiah. In this passage he talks about “my sheep”, “I know them”, “I give them eternal life”, “they will never perish”, and, “no one will snatch them out of my hand”.
He then confirms the protection that he gives us because “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand”.
The shield of election is best explained by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) who was often called the prince of preachers. In his own words, he tells us about how he came to faith in Christ.
One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."
Several passages in the New Testament clearly affirm that God ordained those who would be saved. Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, tells us that when he was preaching to the Gentiles in Antioch in Pisidia “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). A few verses further on Paul told the Ephesians “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12). The first letter to the Thessalonians Paul tells the believers there “we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4). The scripture is filled with references that affirm we are only saved because God chose us. Because of that, there is…
No condemnation. Let’s look back to Romans 8:1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Since we are under the protection of the God who chose us we cannot be condemned. God has legally declared that we are justified in his sight. Therefore, we have no guilt. Elvina Hall wrote a hymn entitled “Jesus paid it all” the chorus goes like this: “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.” Much as we deserve condemnation our God has laid all our guilt on him. If we have genuinely come under the protection of our King nothing can be held against us. He has made us just!
Since we are free from condemnation there is…
No separation. Let’s look at the words of Jesus found in Matthew 28:18-20. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We often quote this passage and it is called the great commission. Based on the authority given to Jesus Christ we are able to go in his name and make disciples.
The last sentence in the passage fulfills the promise found in John 14:3. There Jesus affirms that he is going to prepare a place for us in order that we will be where he is. God has prepared many dwelling places for his children. We can rest in confidence that he loves us and has prepared a place for us.
What shall we say to these things? In fact, what shall we say to so many things scattered throughout the living word of God? There needs to be a response on our part. There are many false responses. One response that I want to deny is, “Everything will always be okay." It’s just not true! When we read of the victory faith grants in Hebrews chapter 11 we often stop before verse 36. It begins with “Others”. And then it lists many of the ways that people of faith have suffered. I am here to tell you that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life. That being true, I’m still willing to tell you that he will never leave us nor forsake us no matter what the world does. I hope you have placed complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If not, search your heart for his choice in your life. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Convert that belief into action for his glory and your good.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

190512 Mother of All

Genesis 3:20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
It is very important that we accept the Genesis story as history. Often today, the biblical creation narrative is compared with myths. In order to deny the historical creation story we have to throw out everything related to the Garden of Eden. When we lose the Garden of Eden we lose the introduction of sin into the human race. If there was no original sin there is no need for the death of Jesus on the cross. The New Testament, especially Romans, clearly points out the connection between Adam and Jesus (Romans 5:12-14). Now, how is Eve mixed into the story?
The Bible tells the creation story. In it we find examples of the way God operated with regard to mankind. All of the rest of creation was brought into being in large numbers.. Speaking of the fifth creation day God tells us that he instructed the waters to swarm with swarms of living creatures. God let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens. God created great sea creatures and every living creature that moves.
It is hard for us to imagine what that world was really like. One example is the passenger pigeon. A flock of passenger pigeons reported in Ontario in 1866 was described as being a mile wide and 300 miles long and taking days to pass overhead. Or, the American bison, usually called “Buffalo”. When the Europeans arrived in North America there were uncounted tens of millions roaming all over North America. Between 20 and 30 million of them existed and roamed in herds that covered hundreds of miles of the great American prairies. Another example would be the fish stock in the oceans. A ship could be filled with fish quickly simply by dropping the net over the side anywhere in the ocean.
With all of that…
Adam was alone. Let’s look at Genesis 2:8. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
The man, Adam, was alone when he compared himself with all this other creation. I doubt that he was conscious of his aloneness in the beginning so God had all the animals brought to the man so we could name them. It must’ve been a revelation to him! Every specie that came by him was a male and female and probably, in some cases, little ones as well. Look at how the Bible describes it…
He ruled over the creation. Let’s read Genesis 2:19-20. Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
God did not tell the man what the creature’s names were — he let the man join him in wildlife management! Imagine the scene! Examples of every beast and bird came before him. They did not fear him because the man was a vegetarian! (Genesis 1:29) He did not view the animals as food. For those of us who can’t imagine living without meat the problem was solved after the flood. At that time God gave mankind meat to eat! (Genesis 9:2-4)
At the end of the six days of creation the Bible tells us that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Between the initial creation and the temptation of Adam and Eve something changed!
It was not good. Let’s read Genesis 2:18. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Remember! After the identification of the animals came an observation “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” 2:20b
It Was obvious that the man now knew that he was alone. He has seen the ground animals and birds of the air in pairs. He did not have a mate who he could identify as the rest of him. Adam had just been warned by God that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil would lead to certain death. Obviously, not immediate death but certain death! Even though Adam did not yet have a mate, looking back, we can observe that he could not die immediately because then there would be no humans on earth. There are people who think that would be a blessing for the earth because we are pretty messy in our occupation of the earth.
Today is Mother’s Day! So far we don’t even have a woman to be the mother. In our next reading we begin to see how Adam’s loneliness could be taken care of! We will see that Adam, after naming all the other animals, came to a place where…
He identified himself with the woman. Let’s read Genesis 2:21-24. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This turns history on its head. The first use of anesthesia did not happen in the last couple hundred years it happened in the Garden of Eden! So far as I know, most translations of the Bible into English uses the word “rib” for what God used to make Adam’s mate from. The word actually is “the side” of the man. The word translated rib is “tsela” and it usually is used in an architectural context. It’s a builder’s term and is used nowhere else to refer to human flesh. God used something from man’s side to build a woman.
I usually use this passage of Scripture as part of a wedding ceremony. I can visualize Adam shaking off his deep sleep and slowly focusing his eyes on what stood there. The Bible tells us that God brought the woman to man and and the man had little speech. It reads like a prepared statement. I have no proof but I believe that statement “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
What I’ve always imagined Adam saying would go something like this “Wow!” Then he might have gone on to use the prepared text. I am comfortable in saying that verse 24 certainly was not spoken at the time. Because, for Adam and Eve, there was no father and mother for Adam to leave. However, there certainly was a wife he could hold fast to. Now we have a wife to become a mother to honor on Mother’s Day. After looking her over and some period of time passed…
Then he named the woman. Let’s look ahead to Genesis 3:20-21. The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
After Eve, and then Adam, rebelled against God there were immediate bad consequences. First, almost out of place, we are told that he called her “Eve”! The word is related to Hebrew verb which may be translated “to live”. Adam called her Eve because she was the mother of all living. From her would come all life.
Then, almost as an afterthought, the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin. Now, we might think of this as leather. It was not the kind of leather we would wear.
I do not know that death had ever entered the garden. Or ever did enter the garden. In order to provide skin God, Himself, had to take the life of animals. I don’t know how many animals it takes to make a suit of clothes. Clothes made of skin are first taken from the animal, dried, softened and usually the hair is taken off. I hope this is not to gross for you. I believe these animals were killed stripped of their skin and the bloody hide was shaped for their bodies and put on them.
They could not avoid the idea that sin causes suffering and death. It seems to me that the animals who died were symbolic of Jesus. They died as a substitute for the man and woman. In a similar fashion Jesus died as a substitute for all mankind.
After they saw the negative consequences of their actions they were put out of the garden where they had been totally provided for. Now they had the responsibility of scratching food out of the ground.
Their food would be eaten in the sweat of their brow.
We do not know how much time these events took up. We read it in a few minutes but it certainly would have taken days, weeks or even months. I don’t think these events would have spread out over a number of years. They were not in the garden long enough to produce offspring so, I believe, only a few months passed leading up to their sin and only a few days between their sin and their separation. I hope you can understand that separating them from the garden was a blessing.
There were two special trees in the garden. They ate fruit from the tree of knowledge. They were separated from the tree of life. If they had eaten of the tree of life they would have lived forever in their sinful condition. Facing that kind of consequence death would be a blessing.
Now that we have a mother let’s see the results…
The “First Family” was dysfunctional. Let’s read Genesis 4:1-2. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.…; 8-10. Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
We don’t know how much time passed after they left the garden before they had a son. Eve’s firstborn male child was named Cain. There doesn’t seem to be any clear agreement as to what the name meant. Eve saw that God had provided this son. After a reasonable period of time a second son was delivered. At least one daughter was given to them during this time. Time passed and these two sons became enemies. It may well be that Eve favored Abel increasing Cain’s jealousy. When they brought their sacrifices before the Lord. Abel’s offering pleased God.
One common reason for God’s favoring Abel’s sacrifice is that it was a lamb. When God gave Moses the law he made provision for both animal sacrifices and grain sacrifices. What was the difference? In Hebrews 11:4 the Bible tells us that Abel’s faith made the difference. Amazing! Cain thought he could kill his brother and get away with it. Unlike his parents Cain denied his sin. When Adam and Eve were confronted in the garden they readily confessed. When Cain was confronted he lied and even expressed resentment that he would be questioned about the death of his brother. Sibling rivalry and lying about responsibility is a common theme throughout the Old Testament.
Eve’s third son established worship. Let’s read Genesis 4:25-26. And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
130 years after Adam was created he fathered a son. The narrative in Genesis chapter 5 completely ignores Cain and Abel. Cain had killed Abel and took his wife and traveled to the east from Eden. No question in my mind that Cain’s wife was his sister.
That son was named Seth --a word that sounds like the Hebrew for “to put, or to place, or to set”. While Seth was growing up he was surrounded by other brothers and sisters. 105 years after his birth Seth fathered Enosh. And then people began to call upon the name of the Lord. For the first time Yahweh’s name is revealed. Many years later it will be given to Moses at the burning bush.
I think it’s interesting that calling upon the name of the Lord, Yahweh, happened with the birth of another link in the chain between Eve and Jesus. The birth of a child should cause worship.
We don’t know how long Adam was the sole representative of humanity. Apparently Adam was created as a mature person. He did not have to wait to grow up. We know that some period of time passed because he had to have time to name all the animals. His authority over all living creatures was established and yet, so far as human companionship was concerned, he was lonely. The only thing “not good”, in the original creation, was the absence of woman! Yet, she was the one who was deceived leading to sin and death. Following that, two sons and some daughters were born and grew up. The older son, Cain, was jealous of his brother, Abel, and killed him! Cain had to leave the first Homestead along with his sister-wife. With the birth of a third son, the godly line began to be established. The sin of Adam condemns us all. Jesus paid the debt. Surrender to his Lordship.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.