“Joy to the World” Minus Third

The other day I was looking to add a couple of songs for the youth group to sing on Wednesday night.  Recently we’ve added a song from our hymnbook (which they open up and use) in addition to the more contemporary songs they hear on the radio.   “Joy to the World” came to mind and I thought this would be a good lesson in what Isaac Watts purpose for writing this song was.  Not to speak about our Lord’s first advent but rather His second!  That way if they complained about doing a “Christmas” song before Thanksgiving my bases were covered.

But the first video I had found was missing the third verse.  Oh well, I will just take a look for another one and proceeded to type “Joy to the World” in the YouTube search.  The next four, for a total of five straight, videos all excluded that third verse (most all of which were included right at the top of the search).  It seemed the desire to include a bridge/chorus within the hymn meant one verse had to go, and time and time again it was that third verse.  Now the question for you is, do you happen to remember what that third verse is?

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as the curse is found.

 

The wealth of biblical truth contained in this verse from Genesis to Revelation is incredible.  Why would anyone want to cut if off, let alone five straight videos?!  For those wondering, the next two videos I looked at under “Joy to the World” search on YouTube had that elusive third verse!  There is hope for humanity.

That’s right there is hope for humanity precisely because the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, has come to make His blessings flow not only in the lives of Adam’s race, but also across the entirety of creation itself.  Every aspect of creation that has been impacted by sin, which is all of it (see Genesis 3; Romans 8:18-25 [esp. v. 22]) is going to be completely reversed by the blessedness of the One who has conquered the grave!

The first Adam sinned and rebelled against God bringing with it death, sorrows, and thorns.  But the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, has promised that He is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).  Notice He isn’t making all new things but all things new, restoring and surpassing the blessed (shalom) state that our first parents enjoyed (see Revelation 22:1-5).  Oh the wonders of His great love for us, for when we were dead in our sins and enemies of God, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2).  That is worth waking up in the morning.  Rest assured, He rules the world with truth and grace!

“G” is for Gabriel

This weeks newsletter focuses on one not like us.  What do I mean?  Well, Gabriel is an angel in the service of God.  We’ll take a quick look at angels in general and then focus on Gabriel directly.

Ministering Spirits

Throughout the Scriptures we read about the various roles of angels.  This time we won’t be speaking about fallen angels who fell with the Satan.

In the OT we read about the cherubim and seraphim.  It was a cherubim with a flaming sword that guarded the tree of life (Gen. 3:24).  Cherubim were worked into the curtains that separated the holy place from the most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant was in the tabernacle.  The ark was the place where God’s presence was in the midst of the camp of Israel and it was found on the mercy seat which had the image of two cherubim on it (Ex. 25:17-22; 26:1).  The cherubim who guarded the tree of life are symbolically present on the curtain guarding the way to the presence of the LORD.

The seraphim are found around the throne of God in heaven, having six wings, and calling out one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Is. 6:2-3).

The Greek word translated angels (ἄγγελος) means messenger.  Now we are seeing a connection to Gabriel.  Really quickly, Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are they [context of v. 13 shows angels are the they] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”  Of course this is a rhetorical question, for that is exactly what many of these angels do.

Gabriel and Daniel

Daniel received several visions from the LORD during his lifetime and we have them recorded for us in the book of Daniel.  In one instance Daniel had a vision and tried to understand it (Dan. 8:15).  Daniel heard a voice and it said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision” and that is what Gabriel did (Dan. 9:16ff).  And once while Daniel was praying and confessing his sins and the sins of his people to God, Gabriel came and gave him insight and understanding.  Gabriel is in the service of God, a messenger, to help those who are to inherit salvation, like Daniel.

Gabriel in Luke

Gabriel did not appear to Luke, but Luke records two more individuals who he did appear to, Zechariah and Mary.  Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the temple and burn incense.  While in the temple an angel appears to him and assures him that his prayer has been heard, what prayer?  Luke has already mentioned to us that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both righteous and walked blamelessly in all the commandments, yet they had no child and both were now old (Luke 1:6-7).

The angel tells Zechariah that his prayer has been heard and Elizabeth will bear them a son, and their son will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord (1:16).  “Zechariah asks, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’ And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news” (1:18-19).  Because of Zechariah’s doubts he was struck mute until John was born (1:20, 63-64).

Not long thereafter, “Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin” (1:26-27a).  Gabriel got to share the wonderful news that Mary was going to conceive a son, though a virgin, when the Holy Spirit comes upon her and the power of the Most High overshadows her (1:31, 34-35).  His name would be Jesus for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).  Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth, her relative, has conceived even in her old age, so God can make even a virgin conceive, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Gabriel served the Lord as commanded, bringing messages of good news.  As Christians we are called to share the good news that Jesus alone can save.  We are to be God’s ambassador’s (2 Cor. 5:20) calling on people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

“F” is for Felix

It is quite possible many may be more familiar with Felix the Cat than Felix, governor of the Roman Province of Judea.  Nevertheless it is Felix the governor, not the cat, that will be the focus of this newsletter.

Who is He?

Felix was governor of Judea because he was one of the favorites of the emperor Claudius.  He ruled as governor from 52 to 59 AD.  His third wife was Drusilla who was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I (see Acts 12).  He was a corrupt, oppressive, and immoral leader.  These notes about Felix come from James A. Brooks brief article in the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible edited by David Noel Freedman (p. 459).

What Didn’t He Do?

Claudius Lysias was a commander of 1,000 troops and having heard of a plot to kill Paul, who was being held in custody on trumped up charges, had Paul sent to Felix the governor (Acts 23:26-30).  Felix was located in Caesarea and after receiving the letter and Paul as prisoner a hearing was scheduled for when Paul’s accusers arrived (5 days, Acts 24:1).

One Tertullus presented a case against Paul accusing him of stirring up riots and being a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  Paul gave his defense and Felix failed to make a judgment, wanting to wait until Lysias came down (Acts 24:22).  In fact, over two years had passed and still Felix gave no judgment.  Acts 24:27 says, “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”

What Did He Do?

But the striking thing about Felix was his common practice for those two years that he made no judgment but kept Paul in custody.  While he did allow Paul’s friends to care for his needs (Acts 24:23) we read in Acts 24:24-26, “After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’ 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.”

Of course, the practice of a Roman governor seeking a bribe to sway a judgment isn’t the striking or shocking part here.  Rather it is the response of Felix to Paul’s conversations with him.  It is quite likely that Felix had heard from Drusilla, his wife, about a coming judgment or righteousness at some point since she was a Jew.  Either way, when he hears Paul talk about these things we are told “Felix was alarmed” (v. 25).  The Greek word for alarmed, ἔμφοβος (emphobos), means “…being extremely afraid” (Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 25.256).  And the striking part you ask is this, what did this fear produce in Felix?  I repeat the end of v. 25 from above, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”

The extreme fear of the coming judgment and of his lack of righteousness and self-control should have driven Felix to his knees in repentance and faith in Christ.  But his heart was ultimately hardened to the gospel and he did not believe.  A godly grief for his sin never was produced.  How do we know?  Well godly grief toward our sin produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret whereas worldly grief produces death (see 2 Corinthians 7:10-11).

How did this happen?  Felix continued to harden himself toward the gospel and Jesus Christ.  One idol Felix appears to have had was money and Jesus said plainly, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).  May it not be so among you and I.  May the Spirit’s convicting work in our hearts of our sin lead us to a godly grief.  May we repent, thanking God for our Savior Jesus, and fixing our eyes on Him (see Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

“E” is for Elizabeth

What do you remember about Elizabeth?  Do you remember which gospel writer talks to us about her?  Or what she’s most famously known for (which is debatable)?

The opening chapter of Luke (there’s the answer to one of the questions) provides a straightforward backdrop of the focus of our A to Z Bible Names this week.  Luke 1:5-7 says, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”

Elizabeth’s Faith

First, I want us to focus on the faith of Elizabeth as Luke records for us here.  She is described as righteous before God and one who walks blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (and this is spoken of about her husband Zechariah as well).  What do the Scriptures mean when they describe someone as righteous?  Noah was righteous.  Job was described as blameless and upright.  Does it mean to say that Elizabeth, and these others, are sinless?  No.  There was only one sinless One, His name is Jesus Christ.  But they are righteous for they trust in the Lord, depend upon Him, and have a genuine bent toward God.  When they sin, they have a godly grief that leads to repentance (take David for example in Psalm 51).

The key to understand what it means to be righteous, though not sinless, is stated right here with Elizabeth and Zechariah.  To walk blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  Notice that their obedience is ongoing, “walking” not merely “walked” in the past.  Striving to obey the Lord day after day.

Elizabeth’s Family

I’m guessing that as much as Luke highlights Elizabeth’s faith it is her family that we tend to remember most.  If you go back to Genesis and read about all the women who had barren wombs you’d have yourself a pretty good list.  No doubt the one that stands in closest proximity, not in time but in similarity, is Sarah (once Sarai).  She was ninety years old when she conceived Isaac.  No wonder God chose the name Isaac for it means “he laughs.”  And that is a similar condition that Elizabeth is in, though at the early stages in Luke 1 not a laughable condition at all.  Elizabeth and Zechariah are described as “advanced in years.”  This is one way of saying they were both old and well past the time to bear children.  Yet the Lord promised Zechariah that he would have a son and they were to call his name John.  This is who we know as John the Baptist.  Read more about the conversation between Zechariah and the angel in Luke 1:8-23.  One highlight from this conversation is when the angel says, “for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (v. 13).  May you and I not grow weary in praying to our Father according to His will.  Pray, and see how God will answer.  May be yes, may be no, or may be not yet.  But pray we must in accordance with His will.

Elizabeth sounds like a joyful person, especially once she is carrying her son.  Her son who is the forerunner to the coming Messiah who the people had long awaited for.  With each day that passes as John comes closer to his birth, she knows it’s another day closer to the Messiah’s coming.  This is realized especially when Mary, who also was visited by the angel Gabriel, came for a visit.  Luke records, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (1:41-43).  Elizabeth, with the leading of the Holy Spirit, rightly saw the baby still in Mary’s womb as her Lord.  Faith and Family are closely tied for this godly woman.  Today, we do well to see our Lord where He is at, seated at the right hand of the Father, possessing all authority in heaven and on earth (see Matthew 28:18-20).

 

“D” is for David

What do you remember most about David?

The slayer of Goliath.  The shepherd boy who was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the next king when God rejected Saul.  A man after God’s own heart.  A mighty warrior who trusted the LORD His God and defeated countless enemies.  His adultery with Bathsheba.  His census of the nation that resulted in the death of many, 70,000 in fact.  What is it that you remember about David?

By any chance was the thought of the covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7 on your mind?  That God would send one from David’s own line who would ruler forever as King.  The importance of the covenants that God made with His people are foundational for understanding the whole of the Old and New Testament.  But given our limited space for this newsletter, we will focus on the covenant God made with David.

What is a Covenant?!

Douglas Wilson definition of a covenant “is a solemn bond, sovereignly administered, with attendant blessings and curses” (Federal Husband, 13).  God entered into covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham (Isaac and Jacob), Moses, David, and there is the new covenant.  To view these unrelated to one another would be wrong since God has continually dealt with His people as a gracious and merciful God.  God’s covenants reveal that God is redeeming a people for Himself.

Highlights of Davidic Covenant

We read in 2 Samuel 7 that the LORD had given David rest, after giving him success, from all his enemies.  David had a desire to build God a house since up until this point the tabernacle (or tent of meeting), which was like a traveling temple, was God’s “home.”  God had allowed His glory to dwell among the people of Israel on the mercy seat between the cherubim within the Most Holy Place (see Ex. 25:10-22).  But David wanted God to have a more permanent dwelling, since even he had a house of cedar (2 Sam. 7:2).  Listen to how God tells David he isn’t the one to build him a house but in fact “the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (vv. 11, 16).  Of course, the LORD isn’t referring to a physical building since David had his house of cedar already.  While David wanted to build a dwelling place for the LORD, it was the LORD who was going to build a dynasty for David.

The LORD speaks about Solomon, David’s son and successor to the throne, as the one who would build a house for Him (2 Sam. 7:13).  Solomon’s heart however was not wholly true like David his father (1 Kings 11:4).  He followed after other god’s and had it not been for this promise to David to build a dynasty for him then David’s descendants would likely have only ruled for these two generations or so (1 Kings 11:36).  But God is faithful to His promises even when his people are faithless.  Just a few generations removed from David we read, “And he [Abijam] walked in all the sins that his father [Rehoboam] did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem” (1 Kings 15:3-4).

The close reader of Scripture would see that David’s sons, his successors to the throne, were established for some 400 years.  However, it did not last “forever.”  The kingly line of David stopped for a long stretch of time.  What are we to make of this?  O. Palmer Robertson answers this well for us when he writes, “David’s reign was intended to anticipate in shadow-form the reality of the messianic Redeemer who was to unite with finality the throne of David with the throne of God…Inherit in every Old Testament type was an inadequacy which demanded some more perfect fulfillment” (Christ of the Covenants, 249-250).  David’s reign was a shadow-reign of the greater, perfect, and yes FOREVER reign of Jesus Christ.  The son of David who is the Son of God.

 

“C” is for Caleb

Have you ever been in a situation or recognized a time when the minority was correct?  With the supreme court justices handing down decisions on various issues, the deciding factor is a majority.  Whether that majority is 8-1 or 5-4 doesn’t matter, majority wins.  Teachers often request student opinion on a matter and quite often it is what the majority wants that wins the day.  But wouldn’t an overwhelming majority, 10-2 in fact, be reason enough to side with the ten?  Maybe.  Unless the two were on the side of the LORD.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m referring to the time when the twelve spies went into the Promised Land.  All twelve spoke well about the good things in the land but ten of them were terrified of the people of the land and certain they weren’t going to overcome them (Num. 13:25-29).  What was the result?  Well let’s take a look.

The first time we are introduced to Caleb is in Numbers 13.  Caleb was one of the twelve spies who was going in to the Promised Land to bring back a report (Num. 13:17-20).  The two things we learn about Caleb include his tribal heritage, of the tribe of Judah, and the identity of his father, Jephunneh.  Jephunneh is only mentioned as the father of Caleb, and is obviously likewise of the tribe of Judah.

Caleb’s Report

With the report of the ten spies causing no small disturbance among the people of Israel, Caleb takes action.  Numbers 13:30-32a says, “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’ Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out.”

Notice Caleb didn’t say that the report of the other ten spies was flawed.  Indeed it did flow with milk and honey (13:27) and the people were of great height who devoured its inhabitants (13:32b).  What was the difference?  Caleb was walking by faith not by sight.  Now this phraseology gets abused in our day.  Caleb wasn’t saying, “I’m going to pretend like the large people and their fortified cities aren’t really there.”  Caleb knew what God was capable of doing for His people, having already led them out of their slavery to the Egyptians.  Remember the ten plagues!  The same God who led them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm was going to lead them into the Promised Land as He promised!  Caleb trusted in the LORD his God while ten of the spies failed to.  Caleb’s faith was grounded in the character of God!  Caleb wasn’t so quick to forget how God has proven Himself to fight for His own people.

How did the people respond?  Let’s go back to Egypt (Num. 14:4).  But Caleb and Joshua once again spoke up and said, “’The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.’ Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel” (Num. 14:7-10).  For Caleb and Joshua’s faithfulness to the LORD the people wanted to stone them.  For their faithfulness to the LORD, they were the only two of that generation who entered the Promised Land (see Num. 14:24, 30).

Caleb and Joshua (sometimes written as Hoshea, see Num. 13:8) were zealous for the LORD and for obeying Him.  May we have the same trust and zeal in our LORD today as well.  For He has delivered us from slavery to sin and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus (Col. 1:13).

Caleb’s Resolve

Take a look at Joshua 14:6-15 for more on Caleb’s request for a certain plot of land.  But listen to Caleb, “And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming” (Josh. 14:10b-11).  Caleb, now eighty-five, defeated the people in the land because Caleb knew it was the LORD’s battle he was fighting and ultimately the LORD who fights for His people (Num. 15:13-19).

 

“B” is for Benaiah

This weeks newsletter, Benaiah, was a name selected by one of the believers where I pastor!

Throughout the OT there are several individuals named Benaiah, at least ten.  The name Benaiah means, “son of the LORD.”  The LORD (all caps) being the English way of translating “Yahweh” the personal, covenantal name of God who revealed Himself as “I am who I am” to Moses from the burning bush (see Ex. 3).  But the focus of this particular article is on Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada.  We’ll take a look at several things about this man.

The end of 2 Samuel 8 speaks about David’s officials and one of them is “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites” (v. 18a).  Now Joab was over King David’s army (2 Sam. 20:23) but Benaiah, himself one of David’s mighty men, did have oversight over these non-Jewish forces who fought for King David.  An interesting note about the Cherethites is that they were raided by the Amalekites the same time that David and his men had their wives and children plundered while living among the Philistines in Ziklag.  One of the servants of an Amalekite who was present for the raids but left for dead when he grew sick said, “We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire” (1 Sam. 30:14).  David and his men defeated the Amalekites and received back their loved ones and, it is likely, also freed the Cherethites loved ones while they went to war with the Philistines.  In gratefulness they appear to join up with David and fight David’s battles as their own.  And Benaiah is their overseer.

In the description of David’s mighty men in 2 Samuel 23 we read this about Benaiah, “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men. He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard” (vv. 20-23).

So let’s recap 2 Sam. 23.  Benaiah struck down two ariels of Moab, what is that?  The Hebrew word “ariel” has a close sound to the Hebrew word for lion “aryeh.”  Some conclude these were two warriors as strong as lions.  Whether that is accurate we know that Benaiah actually killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.  And David wasn’t the only giant slayer.  Benaiah struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits (or ~7’ 6”, see 1 Chron. 11:22-25) tall by taking the Egyptians spear, when all he had was a staff, and striking him down with it.  Awesome!

Later in life Benaiah remained faithful to David when other servants and commanders had not.  Several followed Adonijah to succeed David as king rather than Solomon, but Benaiah remained faithful to David’s desires (which were ultimately God’s) to make Solomon king (1 Kings. 1:8).  When King David’s own lips declared that Solomon was to be king we read, “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, ‘Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so. As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David’” (1 Kings 1:36-37).  Then Solomon awarded that loyalty by making Benaiah, rather than Joab, the leader of the kings army (1 Kings 2:35).  What were Benaiah’s first assignments?  To clean house.  Those who had opposed David or were going to be liabilities as Solomon reigned, like Joab who killed men more righteous than himself (see 1 Kgs. 2:32), Benaiah was given the task of striking down.  As he was commanded, so he did.

Benaiah showed loyalty to King David and King Solomon.  May we likewise be loyal and faithful to our king, King Jesus.  But the only head we should be crushing is Satan’s (see Romans 16:20).

 

“A” is for Adam

With children singing the alphabet and learning how to read the alphabet is constantly in my mind as well.  Therefore, a new A to Z series has begun with a focus on Bible names.  Since we are beginning with the first letter “A” it seems appropriate that we should begin with the first man, Adam.

One of the goals of this series is to help us see that the individuals we are looking at are actually a part of HIStory.  A story that looks to bring honor and glory to the triune God who has existed from eternity past.  It is also a story that points to Christ from the earliest pages of Genesis.  So do not expect a full discussion into everything about the character but rather be reminded and challenged to love our Father who has rescued us through His Son, Jesus!

On the first five days of creation “God said…and it was so…God saw that it was good.”  God spoke creation into existence, out of nothing.  Then after creating the beasts of the earth, the livestock, and creeping things God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).  And that is just what God did.

In Genesis 2 we get a closer look into the creation of man and woman on day six.  Whereas God spoke everything else into existence we read “then the LORD God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7).  You can see the more intimate design of man from the rest of creation.  And what about the woman?  God caused a deep sleep to come upon the man and took a rib from his side and formed a beautiful bride for the man, thus Adam and Eve were created (Gen. 2:21-23).

God commanded them both to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it (Gen. 1:28).  He also took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Gen. 2:16).  This helps us see that work was not a result of sin, but rather part of the goodness of God’s creation.  You and I were created to work!  The challenges came in once Adam disobeyed the LORD’s command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17).  For now the ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin.  The fellowship with God was likewise fractured because of sin, as was the relationship between Adam and Eve (compare Gen. 2:25 to Gen. 3:7 for one example).

So great was the sin of Adam that its effects can still be seen today.   We are born into sin and if left to ourselves choose to sin.  People love darkness rather than light because their works are evil (John 3:19).  And with that first sin came death and the result that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).  Since all sin, all deserve to die.  What hope do we have?

In Romans 5 we read about the disobedience of the first Adam but the obedience of the second Adam, Jesus.  “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17).  Time doesn’t permit the lengthy discussion that could take place between the failures of the first Adam and the great triumph of Jesus.  May this statement by Steven Lawson summarize it for us at this time, “You gained more in Christ than you ever lost in Adam.”

In Adam we inherited his sin and therefore death.  But for those who receive Christ, who trust in Him, we have been forgiven of our sins, gained His righteousness, are in union with Christ, are children of God, and at peace with God. To God be the glory!

 

Speaking Stones!

At Calvary Baptist we’ve been in the book of Joshua during our morning worship service.  One of the many things that has struck me about the book is the speaking stones.  If you are like me your mind is immediately racing through the book of Joshua and you cannot seem to pick a point when stones are speaking.  Donkey’s speak, but that was back in Numbers (see Num. 22:3).  Fools shouldn’t speak (see Prov. 17:28).  And rocks gush out water (see Ex. 17; Num. 20).  So nope, no speaking stones/rocks in Joshua (click here for a good readable commentary on the book).

Yet there are several instances of memorials, made up of stones that communicate important truths to the people of Israel specifically, God is faithful.  There was a heap of stones in the Jordan and across the Jordan in Gilgal (see Joshua 4).  This reminded the people of God’s faithfulness to bring them into the Promised Land (see Genesis 15).  A second heap of stones was set over Achan (see Joshua 7) and this reminded the people of God’s faithfulness in bringing the covenant blessings or curses upon them (see Deuteronomy 27-28).  A third heap of stones was over the King of Ai (see Joshua 8), and a fourth over the five kings of the Amorites (see Joshua 10), reminding the people that God fight for His own people (Joshua 10:14, 42).  These stones spoke clearly of God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel as God had intended them to do.  Sadly, that didn’t always mean that they listened.

When Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the people were exclaiming, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).  This upset the Pharisees and they told Jesus to rebuke His disciples.  Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).

What is the point of all this?  Psalm 19:1-2 says it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” God’s creation is faithful to do what it’s been commanded.  From the starry skies to the solid stones.  From the heap of stones that speak to the “curbside” stones that would have.  The believer should be able to look back and see God’s faithfulness to them, even through many difficult trials and sufferings.  How do you need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness today?  Find a stone in your yard and write down how God has been faithful to you this year.  Then the next time you find yourself questioning His faithfulness, look at that stone and remind yourself, our God is always faithful!

It’s a School Night

As a youngster there were several things I was able to do on a Friday night that I wasn’t able to do, say on a Tuesday night.  Like stay at a friend’s house overnight or even stay up later.  Why?  Friday night is the start of the weekend whereas Tuesday night is a school night.

Now I’m not certain how parents handle this nowadays but it seems like there would still be some general parameters if not rules that you should wait until the weekend to do (fill in the blank), since tonight is a school night.  After all, such parents would want their children to be alert, able to function/participate, and not be grumpy.  I agree!

My question is, why is it that when it comes to the weekend, and especially Saturday night, we (speaking of Christians here) aren’t equally concerned?  After all it is a church night.  Church isn’t some building you go to, it is the gathering of the people of God to worship the God of the universe.  While one might here “I’m too tired to go this week since I stayed up too late on Saturday,” is likely never to be heard on a Tuesday.  And what’s more, even if a child stayed up to late on a Tuesday the parent wouldn’t likely say, “Well let’s just stay home, it’s only one day.”  [Would you say that if you had to go to work, might want to some days, but likely not then either].  Parents are of course supposed to be concerned about their child’s education, especially because you are called to be their primary teacher.  But we need to be equally concerned about preparing ourselves to worship with the gathered body.  What lesson are we teaching when we say staying up late Saturday night is totally fine but you can never do so on a Tuesday night?  After all, it’s a school night.

Yes, worshiping the Lord is something we ought to do all the time.  But there is that verse in Hebrews which reminds us about something important, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:24-25, emphasis mine).  Reminding ourselves Saturday night that it’s a church night might be a first step to preparing ourselves for worshiping the Lord with our brothers and sisters in Christ!