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Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Power of God Revealed in Nature

As we look around us in creation, we often see one small display of God’s great power; the thunderstorm.  Yesterday we had a storm which dropped 6″ of rain and hail up to the size of nickels.  God’s Word gives testament to the power of God as revealed in nature.  All around us, we can see God revealing something about Himself, the question is do we notice?  Often the power of God is equated with thunderstorms in Scripture, and I have been fascinated with weather for years.  Last year at college I remember when we had a tornado outbreak which caused fear among all of the students.  There really was nothing we could do except take shelter, pray, and hope for the best.  All around us there were tornadic storms, one missed the campus by less than 5 miles and caused significant damage.  As I look back on that time in my life, I remember how helpless and out of control I actually felt.  Typically, as human nature is, we like to feel like we are in control of our life.  However, when a tornado, strong thunderstorm, or hurricane comes and you realize there is nothing you can do to stop it, a person begins to realize that there is something Greater.  As these passages show, the power of God in creation, thunderstorms, and other natural events all point towards God as the One and Only God Who is sovereignly in control over all things.  What greater comfort is there for the Christian than to know God is sovereignly in control, and what greater fear for those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior?

Job 38:22-30
22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23  which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?
24  What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

25  Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain
and a way for the thunderbolt,
26  to bring rain on a land where no man is,
on the desert in which there is no man,

27  to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
and to make the ground sprout with grass?

28  Has the rain a father,
or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29  From whose womb did the ice come forth,
and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
30  The waters become hard like stone,
and the face of the deep is frozen.

Psalm 29

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful,
The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sat as King at the flood;
Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.

11 The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.

Romans 1:16-22 shows that God has revealed Himself through creation and offers salvation to all who believe in Him.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”  18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools. 

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Encouragement

 

God’s Judgment on Sin

I came across this in reading through my morning devotional by D.A. Carson, “For the Love of God Volume 1.” I thought it was interesting how from Numbers 25, Carson brings out the hatred God has for sin and also the action of one man who stood up for what was right.

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY to defeat the people of God.
Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Israelites (Num. 22–24). Under threat of divine sanction, Balaam stood fast and proclaimed only what God gave him to say. But here in Numbers 25 we discover a quite different tactic. Some of the Moabite women invited some of the Israelite men over for visits. Some of these visits were to the festivals and sacrifices of their gods. Liaisons sprang up. Soon there was both sexual immorality and blatant worship of these pagan gods (25:1–2), in particular the Baal (lit. Lord) of Peor (25:3). “And the LORD’s anger burned against them” (25:3).
The result is inevitable. Now the Israelites face not the wrath of Moab but the wrath of Almighty God. A plague drives through the camp and kills 24,000 people (25:9). Phinehas takes the most drastic action (25:7–8). If we evaluate it under the conditions of contemporary pluralism, or even against the nature of the sanctions that the church is authorized to impose (e.g., 1 Cor. 5), Phinehas’s execution of this man and woman will evoke horror and charges of primitive barbarism. But if we recall that under the agreed covenant of this theocratic nation, the stipulated sanction for both blatant adultery and for idolatry was capital punishment, and if we perceive that by obeying the terms of this covenant (to which the people had pledged themselves) Phinehas saved countless thousands of lives by turning aside the plague, his action appears more principled than barbaric. Certainly this judgment, as severe as it is, is nothing compared with the judgment to come.
But I shall focus on two further observations.
First, Moab had found a way to destroy Israel by enticing the people to perform actions that would draw the judgment of God. Israel was strong only because God is strong. If God abandoned the nation, the people would be capable of little. According to Balaam’s oracles, the Israelites were to be “a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations” (23:9). The evil in this occurrence of covenant-breaking is that they now wish to be indifferentiable from the pagan nations.
What temptations entice the church in the West to conduct that will inevitably draw the angry judgment of God upon us?
Second, later passages disclose that these developments were not casual “boy-meets-girl” larks, but official policy arising from Balaam’s advice (31:16; cf. 2 Peter 2:16; Rev. 2:14). We are treated to the wretched spectacle of a compromised prophet who preserves fidelity on formal occasions and on the side offers vile advice, especially if there is hope of personal gain.

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word. Volume 1 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998).

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Edification

 

Worship or Idolatry?

Isaiah 2:12-22

12 For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
13 And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up,
Against all the oaks of Bashan,
14 Against all the lofty mountains,
Against all the hills that are lifted up,
15 Against every high tower,
Against every fortified wall,
16 Against all the ships of Tarshish
And against all the beautiful craft.
17 The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
18 But the idols will completely vanish.
19 Men will go into caves of the rocks
And into holes of the ground
Before the terror of the LORD
And the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats
Their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
Which they made for themselves to worship,
21 In order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs
Before the terror of the LORD and the splendor of His majesty,
When He arises to make the earth tremble.
22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils;
For why should he be esteemed?

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995). Is 2:12–22.
One can’t help but come to the second chapter of Isaiah 2 and be in awe at the power of God portrayed.  In the context of Isaiah 1-2, Israel is being warned of God to abandon idolatry and unrighteousness in favor of a return to worshipping and serving Him again, as the One, True God over all.  Here we come to chapter 2 where verses 1-4 are a description of what Israel would be should they return to serving Yahweh; while verses 5-8 contrast what the nation currently is in the sight of a holy God.  The most powerful and frightening language in Isaiah 2 doesn’t come until verses 10-22, which in Hebrew poetry happen to be some of the strongest wording throughout.  Surely a holy, righteous, and just God will not let unrighteousness go unpunished.  An interesting thought came to view as I studied through this passage this morning.  Not only is the language used intense, but it is also ironic in nature as well.  Specifically 2:19-20 caught my attention, and a useful background commentary brought forth an interesting thought as follows:

A Sumerian Hymn of Enheduanna to the goddess Inanna from the third millennium depicts the gods fluttering away like bats to their caves from the goddess’s terrible presence. This suggests the possibility that in these verses it is the idols being carried to caves and crags by the rodents (the flight of men has already been reported in v. 19). Just as men have fled from before the glory of the Lord, so do the idols, but, incapable of moving on their own, they are transported by the lowliest creatures.

Isn’t this interesting?  The possibility that these idols will be transported away by lowly creatures such as rodents to hide from the terror of Jehovah God?  Another alternate possibility exists as well; these idols which the people worshipped and clung to (2:5-8) are now cast away as utterly worthless and helpless, even to the extent that they are surrounded by “moles and bats.”  This suggests that these “valuable golden and silver idols” which the people worshipped were now in company of the most worthless and lowly creatures.  Determining which interpretation to use would be difficult, for in the context it would be highly likely for the people to be acquainted with and worshipping Sumerian idols, lending itself to the first interpretation.  However, in light of Hebrew poetry and structure the second would be more likely.  Either way, the result is the same.  In other words, the people esteemed their idols they worshipped as powerful, able to save them while engaging in wicked deeds and rejecting God.  To this God replies with a warning of impending judgment; should the people fail to repent and turn away from this wickedness they will surely be judged, and severely.  Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites are constantly taught to fear the Lord, to love Him, and to faithfully obey Him.  However the irony in this passage is striking, for in failing to do these things the people will ultimately face the terror of God poured out against them, and their idols will be utterly helpless in that day of judgment.  The final verse of chapter 2 is especially striking by saying to “be done with man” or “stop regarding man.”  Ultimately the finality of this passage comes to a point to stop exalting and worshipping man but instead worship the One who is worthy of all, who is holy, just, and righteous and worthy of our praise.  The ultimate root cause of the idolatry and all the problems Israel faced was not idolatry itself but rather pride, the exaltation of man.  God calls the people to repent of this wickedness and return unto Him, or be judged.  The true worship God deserves will be received, whether in judgment or in times of blessing.  Later in Isaiah the prophet declares that  God will not give His glory to another, a theme built upon throughout the whole of Scripture.

For us as Christians today, the question would be, what are we worshipping?  Are we devoting our time, money, and interest to some form of “idol” today?  The idols Israel worshipped were made of gold and silver and would have been very valuable.  Not only were they valuable, the people spent a great deal of time devoted to these idols and as a result forsook the commands of God.  The question to ask ourselves is if we in any way do this exact same thing?  The “American Dream” pursued by many is just as idolatrous as worship of a literal idol in Israel’s day was.  Instead of worshipping the “idol” as Israel did, many today worship the American Dream.  By the American Dream I mean this: living a good life filled with the comforts we can afford, saving up for a nice car so we fit in with everyone else, having at least a 2,200 sq. ft house we live in, the latest technology and cell phones, and everything else we can use our money for.  Yet the Bible tells us to invest our money in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6) and to take care of the poor and widows (James 2).  Our money is spent on everything EXCEPT for investing in the Kingdom of God and the lives of others.  We may put our 10% in the offering plate and feel good about it, but God calls us to “give out of the abundance of our heart” out of a love for Him, not grudgingly putting in a certain amount.  Even more, the Old Testament principle of tithing would amount to nearly 24%, not the 10% that is endorsed today.  Furthermore, the NT conveys not the idea of giving out of the law but giving out of the heart, to give joyfully unto the Lord as He has blessed us.  Giving isn’t just Sunday in the offering plate, it is a lifestyle a person lives where they are continually using the resources God has blessed them with to invest in the Kingdom of God instead of the “American Dream.”  Certainly a pursuit of what everyone else is seeking will fall short on that day of judgment, when many will cower in fear before the terror of Almighty God.  In every area of our life we should be trying to further the Kingdom of God as commanded, and so as I read the warnings of judgment in Isaiah 2 written to the Nation of Israel, I’m reminded too that this applies in our culture today as well.  To live in worship to materialism rather than God is just as offensive, and prideful, to the God who rightfully deserves our sole affection and priority in our lives.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Edification

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus