Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Isaiah 25:4-5: The shelter of the Most High

You have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners;
as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down.

I don't feel that I am in any spot of trouble at this moment, whether of circumstances or relationship. Nonetheless, I hope to remember that God is the stronghold of the poor and needy in their distress, shielding them well from the blast of evil. The wicked will trumpet their boast but God will mute it as a cloud shames the brightness of the proud sun and seals off its searing heat from the helpless face of the earth.

My hope must rest in God who is invincible. Under his protection, I can do his will, even for my enemies and so pour hot coals on their heads.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Church's Business and its Programmes

I'm reading T Desmond Alexander's "From Eden to the New Jerusalem". In it he maps out what he thinks is the biblical meta-narrative from Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22. In a nutshell, the Bible is all about God creating a temple world for him to dwell with his people who are created to be royal priests, at once ruling over the other living creatures in the world by their numbers and giving worship to God. Despite the Fall in Genesis 3, God will accomplish his goal by the end of Revelation.

The church's business is therefore to work towards the building of such a temple world or the Kingdom of God. This requires people to be holy as God is holy, to obey God's word as an expression of love to him, to love God supremely and people as we love ourselves and Christians as Jesus has loved us, to trust God at all times and under all circumstances, to make disciples of all nations, and to resist the devil.

But we are often much better at the church's programmes than its main business. We have successful ministries but not godly ministers. We proliferate activity but not build godly lives.

  • Who do we know that we we can regard as an example for holy living?
  • Who do we know that is quick to obey God's revealed will?
  • Who do we know demonstrates his supreme love for God by selfless love for people?
  • Who do we know trusts God firmly and unshakeably?
  • Who do we know actively evangelises and sets a good example for others to follow?
  • Who do we know resists the devil and avoids every kind of evil?
Not many, perhaps not even one.

How then can a church truly succeed in its business?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Isaiah 14:14 - Becoming like God

Isn't there similarity in these verses:

Isaiah 14:14: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

Genesis 3:5: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God."

Ezekiel 28:2: "yet you are but a man, and no god, though you make your heart like the heart of a god"

Ezekiel 28:6: "Because you make your heart like the heart of a god"

Ezekiel 28:9: "Will you still say, 'I am a god,' in the presence of those who kill you, though you are but a man, and no god"

Here are statements made by or about one who is not God who desires to be like God: the king of Babylon in the first case (Satan personified); Satan in the second case, and the prince of Tyre in the third case (Satan personified probably). God will not share his glory because it belongs only to him. Mark the following:

Exodus 8:10: "Moses said, "Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.""

1 Samuel 2:2: "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God."

Psalm 89:6: "For who is the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD?"

Psalm 113:5: "Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high?"

No creature in God's universe is like him or can aspire to be like him without his help or permission. See the following:

Exodus 7:1: "And the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh."

Zechariah 12:8: "the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them."

Ephesians 4:24: "to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

Indeed, in wanting to be like God, man or angel will only end up fit for wrath and destruction because we pursue divinity without the attendant righteousness and holiness befitting the divine. Such ambition corrupts and cannot be permitted to continue. Rather, God provides a way for man to be like him. Before, he has created man in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Now, he has opened the way for redemption of our sinful selves in Jesus Christ that we might be renewed in his likeness (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Only then can we share in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Only then can we become like God.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Isaiah 10:5-19 - How Not to be an Assyrian

The Assyrians were to be Yahweh's rod against Israel, his own people. They were called upon to inflict punishment for Israel's waywardness and rebellion against God's rule over their lives. Yet, the Assyrians thought themselves masters of their own destiny, powers in their own hands, to invade, conquer and destroy Israel. For that, the Assyrians would also be punished for their arrogant excesses.

God uses people as his instruments unto others, whether his instruments are good or wicked, and whether the objects of his work are good or wicked. As for me, I must be careful to be a useful instrument in his hand, fit for noble purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-21). God might use me to strengthen the discouraged or to rebuke the complacent. Either way, unlike the Assyrians, I must understand what his will is for me in those roles to which I have been appointed so that I do not overstep my delegated authority and do that which is not his will.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Isaiah 7:1-25: Sheer grace

Ahaz, that wicked king of Judah, that disgraceful son of David who stooped at nothing to promote idolatry in the land and who sacrificed his own son in fire (2 Kings 16:3), deserved the panic and anxiety that he got when Syria and Israel banded together in warfare against him. Yet, God in his mercy sent Isaiah and his son to meet Ahaz with a word of assurance to Ahaz: Syria and Israel would not prevail. Instead, they would be destroyed.

Would Ahaz take heed in that hour of desperation? Would he repent and turn from his evil?

No, the silly man disbelieved Isaiah (v.9b). He was unable to take God at his word. Further, in declining God's invitation to ask for a sign out of false, misplaced and misguided piety, he rejected God's protection for Assyria's and God showed him what Assyria, whose very help he sought, would do.

What grace for a man who deserved none. What a God who would leave us with nothing to accuse you with by his act of mercy.

Help me, Lord, to stay true to you. As you have shown grace to Ahaz, you have also shown to me. Help me to trust you and take you at your word. Keep me focused so that I hear only your voice, especially in my hour of need.

Attention is the only faculty of the soul which gives us access to God.
Simone Weil (from Berne)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Isaiah 6:9 - the commission to speak judgment

Upon Isaiah's acceptance of the call to ministry, God assigns him to speak judgment to the people of Judah. This ministry was to go on until Jerusalem was laid waste by exile. God intends for them to keep on hearing and seeing but not understanding or perceiving. Somehow, he doesn't intend for them to get understanding and repent. Is this unfair? Perhaps not. In many ways, God expects his people to obey, even when they do not understand. The basis of faith is that God can be trusted and his word is trustworthy, even when we don't understand it, because he is trustworthy. When we do not obey God, we show our distrust of him, we think that either God is unreliable or God will not carry out his word. But God would not be slighted in this way. So if his people refused to obey him, he blocks their understanding as a way of punishment. In Romans 1, in respect of those who did not honour God despite knowing him, he "gave them over" to greater and greater depths of depravity, thereby blocking their ability to understand him.

Lord, I pray never to treat you or your word with contempt. Forgive my past sins and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mnemonic for the Books of the Bible

Here's my take on the matter:

Old Testament (39)

Law (5): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Goats Eat Like Nobody Does

History (12): Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Jumping Joe Rarely SwimS, KeepS ChaSing Everyone No End

Poetry (Wisdom) (5): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
Joe's Piano Plays Every Song

Major Prophets (5): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
Itchy Joe Laughs Every Day

Minor Prophets (12): Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Handsome Joe Always Owes Jonah Money, Now He Zaps Helpless Zulu Mothers

New Testament (27)

Gospels and History (5): Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts
My Mother Likes Juicy Apples

Pauline Epistles (13): Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Red CatS Give Every Pink Cat ThoSe ThingS That Pop

General Epistles (8): Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1&2&3 John, Jude
Helpful Joe PickleS JoSe'S Jelly

Apocalypse (1): Revelation
None, we're supposed to remember that Revelation is the last book of all.

Some notes:
  1. I picked the name "Joe" because many of the guys in the Bible have a J-O start in their names, and not because of any Joe I know.
  2. Words with capital "S" signify a multiplicity, e.g. "CatS" would mean "1&2 Corinthians" while "JoSe'S" would mean "1&2&3 John."
  3. By referring to Zulu, I don't mean to deprecate Zulus. Rather the emphasis is on the wickedness of "Handsome Joe."