Is it Enough?

Our home is filled with beautiful pieces of art like these.

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Our daughters love to color using crayons, colored pencils, paint, and mess free markers (thanks Crayola).  I started thinking about how the opinions of certain people matter more to us if we believe they are an “expert” in some particular field.  For example, let’s say I told you that you were a good artist.  While you might be thankful for the compliment you are not going around telling everyone, “Brian thinks my paintings are magnificent.”  However, for the sake of argument, let’s say Michelangelo or Thomas Kinkade were still alive and told you that you were a good artist.  Well now that means much more to you than any comment I gave.  That is something you are excited to share.  Same is true for sports.  If I told you that you were a good QB you’d be thankful for the compliment but nothing like you would be if Matthew Stafford said that to you.  This brings us to the end of Romans 8 (a good read for you to do today) where Paul writes, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38-39).

If God says that He loves His children, those who are in a relationship with Jesus Christ by faith alone, why, unlike all the examples above, is that not good enough for us?  We go looking for love in all the wrong places.  In fact Jesus spoke to a woman in Samaria (see John 4) who had five husbands and the guy she was currently with was not her husband.  Now we are not told her complete history but it appears she keeps thirsting for something in others (husbands apparently) that she can only find in Jesus Christ.  For He offers her “living water” (John 4:10).  Why is being told you are a good artist by a good artist so much greater than by me?  Because they are a great artist and I use stick figures.  So why is being told by your Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Friend that you are loved not enough?  Stop searching in other things or other people.  The child of God is greatly loved by Him.  Something we can truly be thankful for.

 

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Tuesday Tunes

This weeks Tuesday Tunes is brought to you by Matt Maher and the title of this song is “Lord, I need You.”  As Martin Luther stated, that righteousness by which we are declared right before a holy God is not our own.  It is extra nos, apart from us.  It is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that a sinner can be declared just before a holy God (see 2 Cor. 5:21).  Enjoy!

 

A Time to Trust

Joshua was the new leader in Israel following the death of Moses (Josh. 1:2).  Joshua was to bring the people across the Jordan into the land that God had promised Moses and their forefathers to give to them.  We read about the people crossing the Jordan River in Joshua 3-4.  Joshua tells the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant to walk into the Jordan River and when their feet hit the river’s edge God would stop the river upstream from flowing so that they could cross over (remember Ex. 14).  The priests revealed a deep trust by doing so especially since it was the time of harvest which meant, “the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest” (Josh. 3:15).  The Jordan was not calm, but moving rapidly, it was not low, but overflowing, it was not a smooth, but covered bushes and jungle growth.

They cross over safely and then Joshua is given this command from the LORD, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time” (Josh. 5:2).  Now back in Genesis 34 we read about Shechem raping Dinah, Jacob’s daughter (vv. 2, 5).  When the brothers hear about it they deceive Shechem and his father and tell them to have all the males circumcised so they can intermarry.  They agree and on the third day after all the males were circumcised, “when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males” (Gen 34:25).

Here in Genesis 34 Shechem and the men with him felt secure, but they were far from secure as Simeon and Levi attacked them for treating their sister like a prostitute (v. 31).  Israel has just crossed a raging river, one that no one else would try to cross, and they are now in the land of promise.  And the first command they are given is to circumcise the males, for the younger generation, who did not die in the wilderness (Josh. 5:5), had not been circumcised by their rebellious fathers.  Wouldn’t this be safer on the other side of the raging Jordan River then in enemy territory?  For as there was a recovery time for Shechem and his men, there would be a recovery time for the men of Israel too (Josh. 5:8), when they would be sore.  They would be an easy target for the kings of the Amorites and the kings of the Canaanites, just as Simeon and Levi took advantage of the situation before them.

Joshua and the people of Israel trusted in the LORD.  They trusted in the reports that they had received about the people of land having their hearts melted (2:9, 11, 24; 5:1).  And rather than being overtaken, since the LORD protected His people, they instead ate the produce of the land that year (5:11-12).

When our feelings about a situation seem to be telling us one thing, but God’s word says the opposite, we must take God at His word.  Our feelings can be deceived and lead us astray, but our trust in the LORD should never waver.  Of course this is easier said than done at times.  So we remember what God has told us.  God loves His children, those who are in Christ, and so we trust, “If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?” (Rom. 8:31-32).

Resource Highlight – For a good exposition of Joshua that is very accessible for all readers check out: No Falling Words by: Dale Ralph Davis

You Are What You…

Have you ever heard the expression, “You are what you eat”?  No doubt this is something maybe you have said before or heard someone else say at some point.  If you constantly eat ice cream and nothing else, and I happen to really like ice cream, your body is likely to show it soon enough.  Of course, you won’t literally become an ice cream cone, and good thing.

In a similar sense the psalmist says, “You are what you worship.”  This is a paraphrase of what we read in Psalm 135,

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (vv. 15-18, see also Ps. 115:4-8).

The psalmist reflects upon the fact that those who fashion idols become like them, and so do those who trust in these idols.  In America you won’t find as many idols made of silver or gold but one idol is silver and gold.  Such a person talks and thinks about money all the time.  They find it difficult to have a conversation about anything else, or at least they don’t desire to have conversations about other things.  Of course, just like the ice cream, in being made like money they don’t literally become money.  Although there is some truth to the one who worships money becoming like cold hard cash, emphasis on cold and hard.  Jesus says, “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).  The fact of the matter is you cannot serve God and anything else.  He alone deserves our total and complete allegiance, no one and nothing else.

How is it true of the Christian, “You are what you worship”?  For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3a).  We are to grow in Christlikeness.  This is God’s will for the one who has trusted in Christ rather than in idols, what they or others have fashioned (in their minds or in their hearts).  We also see this as Paul speaks to the saints (aka believers) in Rome,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

God has predestined believers to be conformed to the image of His Son, to make them like the One they worship!

Advent Readings

Happy Monday! Yesterday was the beginning of the church season known as “Advent.”  The word “Advent” comes from the Latin adventus which means “coming.”  So during this time leading up to Christmas as we remember the incredible truth of the incarnation, God becoming a man, we also, as Christians living on the other side of Christ resurrection, look forward to our Lord’s second advent. Below are a few available readings you can use during this season of Advent.  A couple from Desiring God (both by John Piper), Good News of Great Joy and The Dawning of Indestructible Joy.  Focus on the Family has an Advent reading particularly for those with young children.  While it doesn’t include all the coloring sheets and stand alone calendar the version here has the message and activity.

“Z” is for Zeal

“Z” is for Zeal.  Here we are, the last letter of the English alphabet and the last “A to Z Theology” blog (for now).  Webster defines zeal in this way, “In general, zeal is an eagerness of desire to accomplish or obtain some object” (1828 Dictionary).  A more comprehensive definition is given at the end of this newsletter so continue reading.  Zeal when misdirected or grounded in some false beliefs or assumptions can have devastating effects.  In the case of many dictators or rulers throughout the history of the world their zeal to eliminate or exterminate whole people groups is wicked and sinful, a greatly misdirected zeal you could say.  Zeal can be found in virtually every arena of life: religion, politics, science, academia, sports, and many other areas as well.  We will not explore zeal in all these areas rather we will begin by taking a look at the zeal of our Lord and then see how His followers are to have such zeal.

Jesus’ Zeal

During the course of Jesus’ ministry our Lord cleansed the temple twice.  Once at the beginning of His public ministry (John 2:13-22) and once during passion week shortly before His crucifixion, the end of His public ministry (Matt. 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48).  Only John records this first temple cleansing. We read in John 2, “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (vv. 15-17).

Jesus enters the temple and observes the marketplace it has become.  And this all taking place in the court of the Gentiles.  The only place permitted for the Gentiles to worship God was instead a house of trade.   In the second instance of the temple cleansing Jesus speaks of the temple as being a house of prayer yet they made it a den of robbers (Matt. 21:13).  The disciples recalled here in John that it is written in Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17b).  The zeal, or passion, Jesus had in seeing to it that His Father’s house not be treated as “a house of trade” (or a “den of robbers”) is seen when He makes a whip of cords and drives merchants and buyers out of the temple, out of the court of the Gentiles.  Jesus’ zeal was so great that it would “consume” Him.  Jesus displays a righteous zeal both times as He cleanses the temple.  Certainly our Lord was also zealous to do His Father’s will and be obedient to God’s commands.

Our Zeal

What of our zeal?  Paul writes, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).  The picture Paul paints is great.  Zeal is a passionate burning desire, and here Paul speaks about not being slothful, or lazy, in our zeal.  Rather we are to be fervent, enthusiastic or zealous you could say, in spirit while serving the Lord.

Earlier Paul speaks about not having a zeal for God without knowledge (Rom. 10:2).  One could understand how this could be taken to an extreme.  Paul said of himself before his conversion to Christ, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church” (Phil. 3:6a).  Paul sought vehemently to stop this Christian sect from advancing further.  His zeal to destroy followers of Jesus was extremely high.  After the Lord met with Paul on the Damascus Road he still had a great zeal but the direction and focus of that zeal was forever changed.  Paul would proclaim Christ crucified too much of the known world at that time.  He was zealous for the glory of God (see also Num. 25:10-18) and the salvation of sinners.

When Paul’s zeal was being directed by false knowledge it equated to persecution of the church.  RC Sproul Jr. said, “We don’t increase in our knowledge by decreasing in our zeal. Neither do we increase in our zeal by decreasing our knowledge. Rather, the two are supposed to feed and encourage each other” (Article: Knowledge Without Zeal).  May we have a burning desire to understand the truth of God according to Scripture that our zeal to make Christ known would be like that of our Lord Himself.

In case you have any question about what zeal in religion looks like I close with this quote from J.C. Ryle.  He said, “Zeal in religion is a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way. It is a desire which no man feels by nature—which the Spirit puts in the heart of every believer when he is converted—but which some believers feel so much more strongly than others that they alone deserve to be called ‘zealous’ men” (Practical Religion,  1959 ed., 130).  Do you have a burning desire to please God in all arenas of your life?  Do you have a burning desire to do His will when it is hard and opposite of what many around you are doing?  Do you have a burning desire to advance God’s glory in every possible way?  May we have such a zeal for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

“Y” is for Yahweh

“Y” is for Yahweh.  This is the personal name of God Himself.  Maybe you are wondering, “If it is God’s personal name, then why don’t we see it in Scripture?”  It actually appears in Scripture more than 6,800 times!  Now you might be wondering if we are reading the same Bible.  In our English Bibles the name Yahweh appears most frequently as, LORD.  This is to distinguish it from the word, Lord.  You can see the word is the same in English but distinguished by the use of all capitals in the first example and a capital “L” with lower case “ord” in the second.  The reason for this is that they translate two different Hebrew words.

A Quick Grammatical Look

The Hebrew word for Yahweh consist of the Hebrew consonants yhwh (yod-he-waw-he), and is called the Tetragrammaton, because of it contains four letters, hence YHWH.  It has been regarded as the most sacred name of God, and in fact, the incommunicable name.  Jews feared speaking the name because Lev. 24:16 says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”  So when the Jews read the Scriptures whenever they came upon those four consonants, YHWH, they would say ‘Adonai or ‘Elohim.  ‘Adonai is translated in English as “Lord” like we already looked at above and ’Elohim is translated as “God” most often.  ’Adonai or “Lord” is a title of God referring to His absolute sovereignty over creation.  It is an exalted title of God.  In the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint or LXX) the translators substituted kurios which means “Lord,” with the divine name YHWH.  It is likely for these reasons why most English translations translate YHWH “LORD.”

Jehovah, a familiar name for God to English readers at least, is not actually a Hebrew word found in Scripture.  Ancient Hebrew when written did not use vowels but the appropriate vowel sounds were passed on orally.  The divine name YHWH (the four consonants) received the vowels from ‘Adonai with a couple consonant changes to get the name Jehovah.  It is highly unlikely that this is the correct pronunciation of the name of God.

Meaning of God’s Name

Let’s transition away from some of the grammatical and technical side of the name of God and focus on its meaning.  What does this name reveal about God and His character?  For this is the far greater questions.  Exodus 3:13-14 is crucial for understanding the meaning of the divine name, YHWH.  It is here in Exodus 3 that God appears to Moses in a burning bush as Moses cares for his father-in-law’s flock (vv. 1, 4).  The LORD (YHWH) tells Moses what He is about to do in delivering His people from the hand of the Egyptians and He is going to use Moses (vv. 7-8, 10).  Moses is uncertain, and will come up with a lot of excuses not to go (Ex. 4).  But here in Exodus 3:13-14 we read, “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  A number of things are revealed about the name YHWH from the explanation here in Ex. 3:14 where God says, “I am who I am.”  There is a variety of explanations of what this name means including: (1) that God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for His own existence; (2) that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists; (3) that God is immutable in His being and character and thus is not in the process of becoming something different from what He is; (4) that God is eternal in His existence (ESV Study Bible, 149).  Then we should look in the context where God speaks these words to Moses and it is in promising to be with him as God uses Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  YHWH is telling Moses that He will be for the people in Moses’ day what He was for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in that He is faithful to His covenant (see Ex. 3:6, 16).

While there are lots of passages we could look at since the name of God is used so frequently in the OT let’s stick to the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 20 we find the giving of the Ten Commandments.  But before God lays out each of those commandments there is a prologue you might say.  Exodus 20:2 says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Within this verse we learn a number of things about Yahweh’s relation to the people of Israel.  First, Yahweh has a personal relationship with the people.  He is “the LORD your God” (emphasis mine).  Second, Yahweh is a God of grace for it was He who “brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Certainly much more is wrapped up in what the divine name Yahweh tells us about His character.  But it amazing to think that the Holy One, who is so high and exalted, is willing to be in relationship with those who put their faith in Jesus Christ.  That He lavished grace upon us who were His enemies from birth.  All praise and honor belong to Yahweh alone!