Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018.01.18 Devotional Gleanings

Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Genesis 37:18-20
The precious doctrine of God's all-sovereign will is the biblical answer to the problem of evil. Here we have where they meant it for evil, but the testimony of 50:20 is that God meant this for good. Even through the wickedness that the wicked do, the good God is always doing good. And the final piece of that goodness will be to punish the wickedness of the wicked!

    “Why did I not die at birth?
    Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?
    Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?”
Job 3:11-12
Here are the first in a long series of questions that Job has throughout the book. God's answer? "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (38:4). Indeed, this is the foundational answer to any of us, whenever we question the providence of God.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far from Me.
    And in vain they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
Mark 7:5-8
What dangerous thing it is when a clever idea becomes a tradition. As the weightiness of the tradition increases, the importance to us of Scripture decreases, until we begin to lay aside God's commandments, and that dreadful sentence sounds in heaven, "Their heart is far from me, and in vain they worship me."

For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:22-25
When God finally gives a man a right heart toward His law, it is evidence that he now has peace with God, but it brings him directly into a war with his sin. Battle is not pleasant, but victory is sure!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Devotional Gleanings

But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.
Genesis 34:15-19
The abuse of covenant signs for false moral superiority and to wield as a tool against others is as old as covenant signs.

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”
And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.
Genesis 35:1-2

How is it that foreign gods lasted so long in Jacob's house, with his knowledge? Many a sad tale can be told of the spiritual state of a man's household simply because he tolerated it. But how much more marvelous, then, is the patience of God who brings Jacob back to when he at first began to know God and invites him to worship. Let us put away all that is against the Lord, and come back to Bethel, where we first knew Him, and worship!

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
Job 1:1
Let all prosperity gospel, material and spiritual, die here. God's own topic sentence for the book of Job is a quadruple statement of his godliness. Yet, he is plunged into the second-most terrible material pain and spiritual darkness in all the Bible. The most terrible? The only One in Scripture we know for sure to have been most godly, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Who is there who will take a brother in great distress and tie upon his back the burden of being of stronger faith or purer character than the man whom the Lord Himself introduces with a quadruple statement of godliness?! Let such a brother never think that he is being a 'friend'!

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10
What a frightful thing is a spiritually unstable wife, who counsels her husband from passion rather than patience! She is unto him such a spiritual calamity that Satan attacked Job, in part, by leaving his wife alive!

So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”
Mark 5:12
Even if the Lord should providentially assign unto us a messenger from Satan that He refuses to take away for a time (2Cor 12), let us remember that they can only do unto believers what Christ intends for our good. They are on their faces before Him as condemned beggars!

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Mark 6:2-3
Dear preachers, if a congregation, that has had Christ Himself directly deliver the sermon, can respond to what they themselves admit is the most powerful message they ever heard by taking offense at the preacher's person, do not be surprised when the same occurs with you!

Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb.
Mark 6:14, 29
Herod knew they had taken the body of John to bury and so perceived expectation of resurrection. Let us who hope for the resurrection of the dead take care what is done with our corpses!

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Romans 5:10
Let those who believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin marvel. They have not received merely a dead atonement, but a living Redeemer who, having once atoned for them, now works for them and in them forever and ever by His almighty power!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018.01.16 Devotional Gleanings

Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children... Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Genesis 32:11, 24-26
Up until this point, Jacob saw himself as the primary obtainer of his blessings and Esau as his primary danger. He was wrong on both counts. God's phyiscal "answer" to Jacob's prayer was to keep him up all night, exhaust him, and debilitate him. It is by grace that we obtain any blessing. And, it is also God with whom, primarily, we must wrestle in our lives... a wrestling survivable only in Christ!

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that
    ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
    And hearing they may hear and not understand;
    Lest they should turn,
    And their sins be forgiven them.’ ”
Mark 4:11-12
The plainness of the parables exposed that lack of understanding comes not from the complexity of the material but from hardness of heart. The clarity of Scripture is a precious doctrine, regained in the Reformation; but, let us acknowledge what it means about our minds and hearts, and let us ever be pleading with the Lord for light and life to overcome our dullness and deadness.

Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.”
Mark 4:24
The Savior teaches us to put effort into meditating upon the Scriptures.

And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Mark 4:41
Though they knew Him yet but a little, we can learn much from these disciples who knew at least enough to fear the Lord Jesus rightly with the fear of God.

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Romans 3:1-2
How great is the history of God's mercy to the nations that billions now possess what was the chief blessing of the Jews! There is no greater worldwide mercy-mission than the translation of the Scriptures into the tongues in which they are still lacking; and, it is a great spurning of God's mercy if we fail to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest those Scriptures.

As it is written:
    “There is none righteous, no, not one;
          There is none who understands;
    There is none who seeks after God.
          They have all turned aside;
    They have together become unprofitable;
    There is none who does good, no, not one.”
          “Their throat is an open tomb;
    With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
    “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
          “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
          “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
          Destruction and misery are in their ways;
          And the way of peace they have not known.”
          “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:10-18
Let the myth of good people die here. Let the myth of bad things (even the judgment of Hell) happening to good people die here.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Romans 4:5
In Christ the righteous, God justifies the ungodly. That truth which, by its illogic, has scandalized the Papists for 500 years, has also--by that same illogic--delighted believers since Adam began to hope in the seed of his wife.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
Romans 4:16-17
God made dirt into man and commanded light to exist. Scripture stirs sinners up to faith in the promise of Christ by pointing to Genesis 1-2 as literal, historical record.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018.01.15 Devotional Gleanings

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s... And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”
Genesis 31:19, 30
Alas! How the wickedness of our idolatrous hearts has dulled our minds. Gods who cannot even protect themselves from being stolen are no gods at all. Who would want to steal them or care that they had been stolen? And yet it is so with all of our false hopes, purposes, and delights. Lord have mercy upon us!

Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, “Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.” Then the king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.
Esther 7:9-10
Let the people of God never fret over the direction of current events. Though the gallows are prepared for them, nothing is ever so secure as their souls in the hands of their Redeemer. And though their enemies act with apparent impunity, the Lord shall surely bring them to justice.

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28
Our Lord created the Sabbath for our good, just as He, the Lord of the Sabbath, came for our good. But just as there are many who attempt to redefine the mission of Christ to terms that better suit their whims, let us not be surprised if there are many who attempt to redefine the nature of the Sabbath to terms that better suit their whims.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Romans 2:4-5
When I do not suffer immediate consequence for sin, does this new display of wondrous mercy propel me to repentance? If not, let me fear greatly, for it may be not only that I am self-deceived, but that I am continuing to store up against myself still more wrath for the day of judgment!

in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Romans 2:16
It is a part of the gospel that God will judge our secrets. We must have an atonement great enough to exhaust all of the secret sins of our hearts. There can be no such remedy but the cross of Christ!

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 2:28-29
That which a divinely ordained Levitical priesthood and divinely good law could not accomplish for us and in us, is the sure work our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 7:11-19)!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018.01.11 Devotional Gleanings

And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?”
Genesis 27:42-45
How very sad! "a few days." She never saw her dear son again. Let this sober us against attempting to manipulate situations, as she had been doing throughout the chapter. Instead, let us do what is Scripturally right in each situation and trust the Lord to bring from it whatever He will.

Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:53
What encouragement this is! He who now intercedes for us has, at His mere request, the instantaneous arrival of more than twelve legions of angels. Jesus prays for me. Let me never again doubt that I am receiving from heaven exactly whatever is of maximum eternal benefit for me and all the Lord's people.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Acts 26:28
One could hardly think of such a fearful use of the word "almost." Dear ones who are grappling with the claims of Christ and the danger of your sin, do not be "almost" persuaded and suffer torment forever, justly for your sin. Take a page from Jacob, and wrestle with the Lord, clinging to Him and refusing to let go until He blesses you. Do not say from Hell one day, "I was almost persuaded to become a Christian."

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018.01.04 Theology Thursday - The Glory of Christ, continuation of Preface to the Reader

On Theology Thursdays, I've am reading John Owen's The Glory of Christ. Today, I continued with the Preface to the Reader.

Owen is still giving reasons for, or benefits of, the study of the glory of Christ.

The glory of Christ is a remedy for every single trouble.

Owen makes the Scriptural point that by comparison to Christ's glory, every single trouble or distress is slight and inconsiderable. We have a stake in / enjoyment of the glory of Christ, which is infinitely greater.
For what are all the things of this life? What is the good or evil of them in comparison of an interest in this transcendent glory? (Kindle location 157)
Similarly, our emotions get all out of control in the midst of our troubles, but thinking upon Christ's glory will quiet them. Romans 5:2-5 connects our soaking up into all of our heart God's love for us with our rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. And this is what enables us to rejoice in troubles.

The glory of Christ is especially a comfort in contemplating and confronting our death.

At death, we will enter an invisible world, of which we can only know what God has told us in Scripture.

Psalm 16 deals with this by "setting the Lord always before me." He is our portion. [JNH note: also Asaph in Psalm 73, "...YOU will receive me into glory"]. Jesus endured the cross as one about to dismiss His spirit to the Father's presence. Stephen endured stoning as someone who saw Christ ready to receive him.

Since we recoil at having our souls separated from our bodies, we like Paul can take comfort not only in Christ's continuing care for our body, but also in our souls departing to be with Christ. We can remember that Christ, who is transcendentally glorious has undergone the same thing. We can yield our wills to the One who has seen fit to give us a personal interest in the glory of Christ.

In order to receive any of these comforts in death, we must have
a prospect of that glory that shall give us a new state far more excellent than what we here leave or depart from (Kindle location 304)
So, gentle reader. What do you think of Owen's reasoning in this second half of the Preface to the Reader? 

I found it helpful and hope that I might respond to troubles, and especially to thoughts about death, by setting my thoughts upon the glory of Christ.

It also occurs to me that this is a powerful weapon against temptation to sin: what do I hope to gain by this sin, and how can it compare to the glory of Christ?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018.01.03 Worship Wednesday - The Day of Worship, Chapter 2

On these Worship Wednesdays, we are reading The Day of Worship: Reassessing the Christian Life in Light of the Sabbath by Ryan McGraw. Chapter 2 was "The Importance of God’s Day of Worship"

McGraw quotes from Ezekiel 8 as a way of reminding us that sometimes we just need to see the ugliness and filthiness of a sin.

Nowhere is this more true than with the sin of Sabbath-breaking.

God has set apart a day as holy for worship and communion with Him. So, profaning the Lord's Day is not just beastly ingratitude for the rest of God's blessings, but especially for the blessing of His Day, and truly and ultimately for God Himself.

If we recognize what the Day is for, then we must exclude all practices that that are inconsistent with or do not immediately promote worship. Consider the following quotes from the chapter:
In the garden, Adam and Eve lived every day in worship and service to God. Part of their joyful service was the labor God had given them. On the day on which God called them to imitate Him in His own rest, they had no activity left other than direct acts of communion with God...

The “rest” required on the Sabbath cannot be equated with inactivity; it was not so with God Himself, who has never ceased to labor in His works of providence...

It means cessation of the labor of the six days and the taking up of different labors appropriate to the Lord’s Day.
In thinking about the Lord's Day, what we rest from is not nearly as important as what we rest unto. Because what we rest unto is worship and fellowship with the Lord Himself. Focusing upon what we rest from puts us in the Pharisees' shoes and sets us up to neglect and even reject Christ on His Day, just as they did!

When we consider that even unfallen Adam needed such a day; and when we consider the nature of God's absolute claim upon "devoted things" that He set apart unto Himself in Scripture; and when we consider that the first four commandments are entirely about right worship of God; then, how can we turn this into a Day of enjoyment of ourselves instead?

Scripture reinforces this by connecting the Sabbath repeatedly to duties of worship. The Sabbaths are marked by "holy convocations." The morning and evening sacrifices are doubled on the Sabbaths. Psalm 92, which calls itself "A Psalm for the Sabbath Day" focuses upon morning and evening worship. The first day of the week was the time for the Corinthians to gather an offering for the poor.

When we take a day that is for the worship of God, and turn it into an argument over what we can "get away" with doing, we completely miss the great and generous mercy of what we are given the day to do! Consider the following quotes:
If Adam and Eve needed a day of worship before the Fall, do you not need such a day? When you disregard the Sabbath by bending your conscience to the will of employers or to the lusts of the flesh rather than to the Word of God, do you realize you are actually despising the privilege of worship? You are not simply disobeying a commandment of God; you are spurning one of His greatest gifts to mankind.

We must beware that we do not act as though our employers sovereignly provide for our families rather than God.
It's no wonder that the author is so passionate about the subject. And is he wrong? Shouldn't we be passionate about it as well?

McGraw rightly points out that we wouldn't allow disagreement about the Sabbath to rupture our fellowship in the same way as we would over the doctrine of justification or the authority of Scripture. But, at the same time, his alarm is well-taken: when we realize the place that the Lord has given to His Day, we must recognize that the current neglect and misuse of the Lord's Day is nothing less than a spiritual catastrophe in the church.

It is no wonder, then, that so many chase after this or that spiritual remedy, when they have cut themselves off from the means appointed by God to stir up their delight in Him!

What is a wonder is God's longsuffering patience with such a Lord's Day profaning people as we currently are. Turn us back, O God!