“What Does Hallowed By Thy Name” Mean?

I was thinking about this phrase this morning. “Hallowed” means purify, make holy, consecrate, venerate. The Greek word is used more times in the New Testament and is typically translated with words dealing with sanctification.

It’s curious to me that most other translations stick with “hallowed” when few know what it means. Even the NIV uses it! I imagine that’s because these words are so familiar no one wants to mess with them.

The Jewish people, in an attempt to not use the Lord’s name in vain, wouldn’t say His name. This is silly. Whatever “hallowed” means, it doesn’t mean some sanctimonious ritual action. I get the idea, if you don’t use His name then you can’t use it in vain, but still.

This reminds me more of the Parable of the Talents. The last guy, knowing his master was harsh, buried the talent and didn’t do anything. How is not using God’s name different from that?

Also interesting that the OT Law tells them not to do something with God’s name, whereas the NT says to do something with it. I find that interesting even if I have no further point!

I think the basic idea is similar with fearing God.

Names represent the person and often their character. The name of God isn’t just a title for a thing; it’s expressing who He is. If you understand who He is and His name represents who He is, then use it in a sanctified manner.

Being too afraid to use it sounds like sanctimonious legalism rather than the intent. Only use His name in ways that are consistent with who He is.

That would be my take.

David’s Anger Toward God for Killing Uzzah

2 Samuel 6 is the account of Israel bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem on a cart. Uzzah reaches out to steady it and God smites him dead.

2 Samuel 6:8 says, “And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah.” The KJV says David was “displeased.” That’s a wimpy translation of the word.

The word literally means to be hot with anger, burning anger is kindled within a person, to be incensed.

It seems to me the simplest reading is that David was angry with God. He didn’t understand, in the midst of their joy, why God would do such a drastic thing. Kind of a buzz kill.

The note on this verse in the MacArthur Study Bible says, “Probably anger directed at himself because the calamity resulted from David’s own carelessness. He was confused as to whether to carry on the transportation of the ark to Jerusalem and would not move it, fearing more death and calamity might come on him or the people.”

OK, it’s possible David’s anger was at himself, but come on! Really?

Maybe this isn’t the best example, but I get annoyed when people skip the simplest sense of words for a sanctimonious interpretation. David was human. The guy wrote about his anger quite a bit. I can’t recall one Psalm where David expressed anger at himself! Plenty where he was angry with other people and well, a little ticked at God too.

That’s the way I would interpret the verse. There’s no need to over spiritualize Bible characters and make them non-human.

Again, maybe I’m wrong, there’s a chance David wasn’t angry at God but at himself or Uzzah, or someone else. But the simplest reading sure makes it sound like he’s mad at God, and that’s the common sense direction of anger here.

I’m not saying the anger was righteous. I’m not saying that David was without sin for feeling that way, but it sure seems like that’s what’s going on.

I think David is burning in anger toward God. I think God is big enough to handle that. God was still right. David was still wrong. But ask yourself, last time it was pointed out to you that you were wrong in the midst of your happy time, did you feel a little anger toward the person who rained on your parade?!

David was angry with God. No need for dehumanizing an otherwise very emotionally expressive guy. David is human. Leave him that way.

The Full Measure of My Joy

When people begin taking their faith seriously, when they contemplate what faith and holiness mean for their life, there is a tendency toward moroseness.

Puritans and monks come to mind. Their holiness makes them miserable, not able to enjoy anything. Separating enjoyment from sin becomes difficult. Typically the answer is found by simply not enjoying anything! Why take the chance?

But the New Testament has quite a bit to say about joy. Here’s one verse I came across today:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”
–John 17:13

This is from Jesus’ intercessory prayer for His followers before His crucifixion. He is talking to His Father about His followers.

Jesus knows He’s about to leave the world, but while He’s still here, He has these things to say to the disciples. He says these things in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.

I wonder what that means? What specifically is the joy He’s referring to?

Some commentaries say it’s the joy of Jesus’ intercession. This might be what Jesus referred to in John 16:24, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

Some say it’s the joy Christ has knowing He’s about to leave the world. In John 16:22 Jesus seems to connect joy with His leaving and their joy with the fact that He will see them again. “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

I suppose those could be part of it. I tend to think the joy is having Christ’s words. This verse is in the midst of an immediate context about God’s word. Sanctify them by Thy truth, Thy word is truth (John 17:17). He keeps talking about the word here. He even connected His words with joy back in 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Perhaps maybe an illusion to the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that He said several times in chapters 14-16 would come after He left.

Jesus is about to go to the cross. He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. This has to be the joy of being in heaven back with the Father added to the redeeming effects of all He just accomplished down here. The cross wasn’t joyful; the results were.

“The full measure of my joy” has to be something pretty spectacular! I wish there was a tad more detail given here! Maybe it’s all this stuff, all that we have as being in Christ and Christ being in us. It’s got to be cool whatever it is!

What Does the Bible Say About God Hardening Hearts?

I read in Joshua how God hardened the hearts of Canaanites so they would fight Israel so Israel could whoop up on them. It got me to thinking: Does God ever harden anyone’s heart in the Bible other than an enemy of Israel?

Using the New King James Version, “harden” is used 38 times.

There are 29 mentions in the Old Testament:

12 uses in Exodus referring to Pharaoh’s heart

1 use in Exodus referring to Egyptians’ hearts so they would follow Israel into the parted sea and get wiped out.

1 use in Deuteronomy referring to Sihon king of Heshbon so Israel could kill him

1 use in Joshua referring to Canaanites so Israel could kill them

11 uses referring to people hardening their own heart and neck

2 uses in Job about inanimate objects being hardened (water into ice)

1 use in Isaiah referring to Israel so the promised judgment would come and God will not relent

There are 9 mentions in the New Testament:

2 uses referring to disciples personal hardening of themselves in not understanding Jesus’ ability to multiply bread

1 use in John quoting Isaiah in relation to Israel

1 use in Romans referring to Pharaoh

5 uses about personally hardening your own heart

Several things to note from this:

1. God hardening people is infrequent, not nearly as much as people hardening themselves. You are a way bigger threat to your heart than God is!

2. No references here deal with individual’s eternal salvation.

3. All references of God hardening people have to do with guaranteeing prophesied judgment. He will make sure what He said He’d do would happen. He will harden their already hardened heart to assure judgments He promised to do.

4. All references to God hardening people have to do with the nation of Israel, either in defeating their enemies, or having to go through judgments God said would come if they broke His covenant. Nothing they can do to avoid the downfall of their nation. Individuals during that time were still free to receive eternal salvation even if the nation went down. Individuals could follow God’s true prophets and individually be saved at any time. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But the nation? The nation is going down.

5. In case you missed it the first time: not one passage is referring to people’s eternal salvation!

If you are in hell, you are there because of the hardening you have done to your own heart.

Another word used in relation with hardening is “blinding.” In the Isaiah passage, God blinded and hardened Israel to receive the judgments He said would come if they broke His covenant. They broke it. Judgment is coming.

Verses referring to individual, eternal salvation do not say that God blinds people from being saved.

2 Corinthians 4:4 says the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers. The god of this age is Satan, the prince of the power of the air.

1 John 2:11 says the darkness of this sinful world has blinded people.

Nowhere does the Bible say that God hardens or blinds an individual to prevent them from being eternally saved. When God hardens people it has to do with covenant obligations and judgments dealing with Israel.

The Humblest Man on the Face of the Earth

Numbers 12:3 has Moses say that he is the humblest man on the face of the earth. Instead of making a joke or using this verse to undermine Mosaic authorship, we should understand the verse.

Last post I pointed to some Bible dictionaries for a better understanding of the word “humble.” It means depressed, afflicted, miserable, disinterested in his own rights and thinking instead of the interests of others.

I also mentioned that this isn’t just Moses’ words, a view of himself, but knowing that all Scripture is God-breathed, this is God’s view of Moses. If God says Moses was the humblest man on the earth, then Moses was the humblest man on earth.

Which leads to another point: Moses isn’t just talking about himself. God is actually being prophetic here, I think.

Moses is a type of Christ. They are played off each other several times in the New Testament—the law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ, showing who the heads of the two covenants are.

Hebrews refers to Moses and Christ as well. Moses is a type of Christ.

Deuteronomy 18:18-19 says that God will raise up another prophet like Moses. Acts 3:20-24 says that other prophet is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Christ will be like Moses.

So, let’s think about Moses and Christ. How was Christ like Moses?

Moses left the riches of Egypt to suffer with Israel; God left heaven to dwell with us.

Moses led a crooked and perverse generation; like Jesus who came unto His own and His own received Him not.

Moses’ authority was constantly questioned; Jesus’ authority was constantly questioned.

Moses’ own brother and sister questioned his authority; Jesus’ brothers questioned His authority.

Moses constantly interceded on behalf of people who came against him; Jesus did the same when He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The similarities are all over the place. That’s because Moses is a type of Christ.

Moses was the most afflicted and miserable person on the earth; so too was Christ, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He had no place to lay His head. He was rejected, afflicted, and bemoaned the crooked and perverse generation He was surrounded by.

When Moses said he was the most afflicted, miserable, depressed, meek, humble person on the face of the earth, it’s not him whining or bragging; it’s him picturing who Christ is.

And, lest we forget, let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. He humbled Himself in the form of a servant and became obedient even unto death on the cross for the sake of others. He put aside His interests for ours.

As we follow Him, we do the same for those around us. We esteem others better than ourselves and serve them in love, even and especially those who misuse us.

I believe there are lots of cool things going on in this verse. Instead of dismissing it with jokes, we’d do well to consider what’s really going on.

How Can Moses Say He is the Most Humble Man on the Earth?

There’s a verse in the Bible that has confused me and many others. It’s Numbers 12:3:

Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth

Usually we make jokes about it because, see, it was Moses who said he was more humble than anyone else on earth! Ha! That’s not very humble to say that! What a doof!

Unfortunately, some have used the verse to claim that Moses was not truly the author of the book of Numbers, or go even further to use it to cast doubt on the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible, going even further and casting doubt on whether we can trust anything the Bible says.

Leave it to people to drive any idea into the worst ditch possible.

So, instead of making jokes or using this verse to undermine scriptural authority, perhaps it would be best to find out what the verse means.

The word “humble” is the key word. Here are various definitions from Bible resources:

Strong’s Dictionary—“depressed (figuratively), in mind (gentle) or circumstances (needy): – humble, lowly, meek, poor`”

Gesenius Lexicon—afflicted, miserable.

Unger’s Dictionary—much enduring, disinterested—a withdrawal of himself, he puts the cause of his nation above his own interests. 

OK, wow, that gives some insight! Some translations go with “humble” while others go with “meek.” Meek is probably better. Most think humility means not talking about yourself in a proud way, which makes this verse read very weird. But the word is really referring to the fact that Moses was afflicted, miserable, depressed, and had given up on his own interests and lived for the interests of others.

The immediate context proves the case. These chapters in Numbers are all about Israel’s rebellion and whininess. They complain about everything and challenge Moses’ authority repeatedly. Chapter 12, where this verse is found, is about Aaron and Miriam challenging his authority. Lest you forget, Aaron and Miriam are Moses’ brother and sister!


He’s leading a miserable, rebellious people through a miserable wilderness, being challenged at every step, even by his own family. It’s hard to imagine a more depressed, afflicted, miserable place than that.

But despite the rebellion of the people; Moses repeatedly intercedes on their behalf. God says He’ll wipe out Israel and make a new nation out of Moses. Moses talks God out of that and instead asks God to forgive Israel.

Even here in Numbers 12, Miriam gets struck with leprosy for challenging Moses’ authority. But in 12:13 Moses says, “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.”

Moses intercedes for his obnoxious sister. Incredible.

Moses has indeed put the interests of others before his own. He’s done it better than anyone else on the face of the planet.

And, lest we forget, these words are not just Moses’ ideas. All Scripture is given by inspiration. Therefore, saying Moses was the most afflicted man on the earth is coming from God’s mouth.

Which leads me to another point I will take up tomorrow.

Demon Worship is Real and You Might be Doing It!

Deuteronomy 32 contains a song that Moses taught to Israel before his death. It was supposed to encourage them to stay faithful to the Lord, and at the same time basically tells them that they aren’t going to.

When Israel gets in the Promised Land and the milk and honey run thick, they will become arrogant and forsake the Lord. Moses says in verse 16-17:

They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,
To new gods, new arrivals
That your fathers did not fear.

Here is one of several places that says when people worship other gods they are actually worshipping demons. Leviticus 17:7 says Israel played the harlot by sacrificing to demons. 2 Chronicles 11:15 says they appointed priests for the high places and for worshipping demons. Psalm 106:37 says they sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons when they worshipped Molech.

When God says He is the only God; He really means it! There are no rivals to His throne.

At the same time, these false gods are not powerless figments of the imagination. False gods have demons behind them.

With all the perversions of Christianity and pagan religions out there, you can see that demons have been quite busy.

This isn’t just something that people in the “old days” did, this is the same thing going on today when people worship anyone other than God.

Paul talks about Gentiles sacrificing to demons, their false gods, in his day (1 Corinthians 10:20-21), and warns believers not to join in demon worship as it has no place with the worship of God.

And, again, lest we think this only applies to “other people,” Paul has this warning in 1 Timothy 4:1:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

This describes an apostasy where those who profess Christ, those who play church, will be seduced to follow doctrines with demons behind them.

In our day we can see this happening. People are chucking Scripture for the latest social constructed morality, the latest social justice cause, the latest fad sin we’re supposed to pretend is not only ok but actually virtuous.

Demons abound. They are not possessing people and making their heads spin while projectile vomiting. Nope. Instead they are in charge of publishing at “Christian” publications. They are editors. They are speakers, pastors, cool, hip church leaders.

“Test the spirits” is not a command for a simpler time. Satan is a liar and his lies and philosophies abound. You better have your head on straight and your mind constantly renewed by God’s word. If it were possible, even the elect would be sucked into it.

We are told to be on guard as we have an enemy roaming about. We are told that demons are real. Usually this devolves into spooky science fiction realms rather than biblical awareness.

Be careful what you’re worshipping and what you’re putting in your head. Demons want to eat you for lunch. Their main tactic is to get you to believe pretty much anything other than God.

Satan’s first attack was, “Did God really say that?” We are not ignorant of his devices. He’s still asking you that and quickly filling in your doubt with his lies that sound so appealing and yet have disastrous results.

What are you worshipping? If it isn’t God as revealed in the Scriptures, then you are worshipping a demon and his lies.

Doctrine Is All Wet

Right before Moses dies, he delivers a song for Israel to sing. It’s recorded in Deuteronomy 32. The second verse is cool:

Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As raindrops on the tender herb,
And as showers on the grass.

His teaching, which could also be translated “doctrine,” is like rain, dew, raindrops, and showers. His doctrine is all wet! The rain and dew fall on the herb and the grass.

What effect does rain and dew have on herbs and grass? It makes them healthy and grow.

How cool is that?!

Many people criticize doctrine and teaching, they relegate it to the sidelines: if we get around to it, if after all our songs and skits and blather we might have a few minutes at the end to teach.

In the last days they will not endure sound doctrine/teaching.

The result is that there is no moisture, there is no dew to cause growth and health. The vines will wither and the grapes won’t grow. It’ll just be dead, brown, useless vegetation.

We need doctrine and teaching if we want to grow. Doctrine isn’t outdated, nor is it boring and irrelevant. It is the very source of our spiritual life.

Let the doctrine and teaching of scripture soak you thoroughly and grow, grow, grow!

Why Did it Take so Long for Israel to Conquer the Promised Land?

Israel took over the Promised Land rather slowly, in fact it took so long they kind of lost interest and never finished. Joshua died when there was still more to go. It took forever.

Ever wonder why it took so long? I found a verse that tells why and you’ll never guess what the reason for the slow progress was!

Was it because Israel needed rest? Nope.
Was it because God wanted to test them further? Nope.
Maybe they didn’t have enough faith? Nope.
Maybe it was too hot and not enough water? Nope.

Here’s the answer from Deuteronomy 7:22:

And the Lord your God will drive away these nations from you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you.

I don’t know, I think that’s fantastic! God, like, totally thinks of everything!

If Israel had wiped out the bad guys quickly, there would have been dead bodies everywhere, which would have brought in mean, nasty meat eating animals everywhere.

Plus, while Israel was busy pursuing bad guys, much of the land would have sat idle with no one in it leaving shelter and provision for animals.

So, in order to keep the animals at bay, God had the whole process take time.

I don’t know, I think that’s so cool. I can’t even explain why. He just thinks of everything! Next time something is taking forever for you, maybe it’s because God is keeping animals from eating you. Could be, you never know!

Deuteronomy and Romans 9

Christians like to argue about Romans 9 and Calvinistic concepts of salvation. There are also other Christians who don’t like to argue about Romans 9 and Calvinistic concepts of salvation, but they have to because the other Christians who like to argue about Romans 9 and Calvinistic concepts of salvation won’t stop talking.

So, alas, here we are. I was reading Deuteronomy 6-7 and was thinking about Israel based on what these chapters cover. Israel was chosen to be God’s people (Deuteronomy 7:6). The reason they were chosen goes back to Deuteronomy 6:10—God swore to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would create a nation from them and give them the Promised Land.

The reason God needed a people was because back in Genesis 3 God told the serpent that a seed of the woman would crush his head. A human was going to defeat Satan, therefore the human needed to come from somewhere, some human family. Abraham would be the father of that family. Israel would exist because of the promise made to Abraham.

God reiterates in Deuteronomy 9:5 that Israel’s success is not because they are righteous and awesome, but because God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Much of the beginning of Deuteronomy is recounting the deliverance from Egypt, the rebellion in the wilderness due to their refusal to take the land in faithful obedience from the start, and then looking forward to eventual conquest in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey.

What does this have to do with Romans 9 and Calvinist stuff? We’re getting there. Probably. This is why it’s hard to understand these subjects because the Bible is a big book and you have to have an attention span, yo.

Romans 9-11 is largely about Israel. God choosing Jacob to be the father of the 12 sons who would be the 12 tribes of Israel. It talks of hardening Pharaoh’s heart so God could deliver His people. In other words, it’s reiterating what Deuteronomy is talking about.

Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, wilderness wandering, and possession of the Promised Land are physical pictures of the spiritual reality of salvation.

We are all born in slavery to sin and the Devil, we are members of the kingdom of darkness.

In salvation the believer is delivered from this slavery, yet is left to wander and struggle and sometimes rebel and fail because although we are saved, we still have a flesh and we’re still in a fallen world with sin, we are sinners surrounded by sinners. We keep moving ahead with the Lord to a better time coming.

The Promised Land is the full realization of salvation; it’s when everyone is delivered from sin, living in eternity with the Lord, having been made like Him when we see Him as He is.

This whole thing with Israel happened because of a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Our salvation is because God made a promise with Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

God chose Israel because of promise to Abraham. But simply being born to Abraham didn’t guarantee anything. Not all who are of Israel are of Israel (Romans 9:6).

For instance, Joshua and Caleb were the only two people from the original generation of freed from slavery Israel that made it into the Promised Land. They did so because they had faith. In order to be part of the chosen people, you need faith.

In a general sense, all Jewish people were part of the chosen genetic race of Israel. But in a spiritual sense true Israel were those who had faith.

God has chosen a people to be part of the Body of Christ. This group was chosen, promised, and guaranteed before the foundation of the world. If you want to be part of that chosen people, then believe!

The one part of Romans 9-11 that speaks of individual salvation is in Romans 10. For example, verse 9, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Or verse 13, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:16 says it all boils down to obeying the Gospel. Romans 10:18-21 goes on to say that both Moses and Isaiah talked about another people who were promised entry. These were a chosen people promised to Christ.

God chooses a people. If you want to be part of the people, whether Old Testament Israel or the New Testament Body of Christ/Church, then you believe and obey what God has revealed.

The Bible is a big book. Romans 9-11 quotes the Old Testament a lot. In order to understand those chapters a good grasp of the OT is necessary. That’s my bit of it I’ve been chewing on. Hope it helps.

Free Salvation Has a Cost

It’s time once again for Pet Peeve Corner!

I don’t know why it’s in a corner. That’s just where I put it.

Anyway, I was surfing the interwebs and came across this statement:

“Everything has gone up in price except salvation. It is still a free gift paid in full by Jesus.”

These sorts of pithy statement always annoy me even if they might be truish. It’s not that it’s false, it’s just that it’s not entirely giving the full story.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That’s Romans 6:23, which is in the Bible. Eternal life is a free gift. Other verses in Romans 5 speak of salvation being a gift, the righteousness, justification, grace, and the whole deal are part of the free gift offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am not arguing that point.

What I am arguing is that the gift has no cost!

Wait, what now? How can it be free and yet have a cost?

Good question, one you should ask Jesus because He very clearly said you should count the cost if you want to follow Him. Luke 14:27-32 talks about the cost, how the one who follows Christ has to deny self and pick up his cross.

A builder building a building needs to count the cost lest he fall short of completing the project and look dumb. A king going to war has to count the cost lest he mess up his kingdom.

Following Christ has a cost.

So how can there be a cost if salvation is free?

Several years ago there was a show something about Makeover, where this team would come in and build a gigantic house for a poor family or a family that had tragedy strike them. It was a nice gesture and somewhat entertaining.

Now that the show has been off the air, you can look up these houses on the internet and find out that often these families could not afford to live in these free houses! There was property tax raises as these houses were drastically improved, often the nicest house in the neighborhood driving up the neighbor’s taxes too, plus utilities went up to heat and electrify these mansions. And, as we all know, new things get old and fall apart. The happy façade of the new house soon became broken and they had no money to upkeep all the new gizmos.

The house was free. The cost was high to have that free house.

Now, this is not exactly equivalent, but it gives a good idea.

Yes, salvation is free. But if it’s free, why do so many reject it? Because the cost is high. Hebrews 11 is all about faith and how this great cloud of witnesses suffered because they had faith. You’ll be the next one in that line.

No, you do not earn your salvation or work for it. You receive it as the gift it is. But before taking the free gift, understand the cost that comes with it. The Gospel will mess with your life. You will give up your old sense of fun. You will probably ruin relationships. Standing for truth and righteousness will have a cost.

There is a reason why most don’t take the free gift: it costs too much.

I dare say the cost is getting higher in our world. Persecution is becoming an increasing possibility, one all Christians should consider as inevitable. It’s coming. Is it worth it to you?

Even if there’s no major persecution, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer for it to some degree. It’s inevitable. Is it worth it?

Count the cost of the free gift. It aint getting cheaper.

Making Sense of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

One of the parables that has confused me, or been obscure in its meaning to me, has been the parable with the vineyard owner who hires the guys to work during the day. The guy who works all day gets the same wage as all the other guys who work fewer hours.

Typically the conclusion is about God’s grace giving us more than we deserve and the thief on the cross makes an appearance.

I don’t know. That conclusion doesn’t cut it for me. If the point is God’s grace giving more than we deserve, why did the first guy not get more?!

How come he doesn’t get grace? He gets robbed.

Yes, there is the point that God is the one who gets robbed by giving the same wage for lesser amounts of work, I see that. God can do what He wants with His stuff, I get that point too.

But still, what about the first guy? Why does he get the same as the last guy? No one answers this question.

I especially ask this question because in another parable talking about reward for service, the Parable of the Talents, each reward is given equal with services rendered. The reward matches the effort. No effort equals no reward; much effort equals much reward.

If the point of the Parable of the Vineyard means the opposite: that less effort equals more reward and more effort equals less reward, which one do we go with?

Are we talking about salvation or about rewards for service?

I read an interpretation of the Vineyard Parable that had an insight I’d never heard before.

In Matthew 20:2, the beginning of the parable, it says, “When he had agreed with the laborers for one penny a day.” “Agreed with” means they had a deal, they told him how much they wanted for their labor and he gave what they asked for.

To all the other guys he hired he said, “Whatever is right I will give you.” They apparently had nothing to do with the wage set; they just trusted the owner would do right. Only the first guys made an agreement.

Their take on the parable is that if you trust God He will give you more. If you ask Him for a deal, if you negotiate the price, you’ll sell yourself short. God gives abundantly more than we ask or think.

He pointed it to the context before the parable (always a good sign when someone points out the context!), which is the last verse in chapter 19, “But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” This is the conclusion of the parable as well, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). This parable is explaining what was said in chapter 19.

Matthew 19 is where the rich young ruler asks Jesus what to do to be saved. Jesus tells him to sell all his stuff and give to the poor. He went away sad. Jesus said it’s impossible for rich men to enter the Kingdom. The disciples ask, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus says all things are possible with God, which presumably means not that rich people will be saved, but that there will be rich people who will give away their stuff!

Then in Matthew 19:27 Peter says, “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Peter is setting the conditions, he wants to know the wage he’ll get for giving up his life to be a disciple. Three verses later is “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Don’t worry Peter, I’ll take care of it, seems to be what Jesus is saying. Trust me. You’ll come out just fine!

So, in conclusion! If you go into discipleship or faith with a mindset of, “What will I get out of this?” Don’t expect much because you’ll settle for less that God would give. But if you go into it, doing what is required of you, the Lord will make sure it was well worth your time.

I like this interpretation. It makes way more sense than the simplistic “God’s grace gives more than you deserve” as that wasn’t true for everyone in the parable.

The point instead seems to be along the lines of cutting deals with God. Just trust Him. Setting conditions and preset wages and deals shows a lack of faith, a selfish motive, and insecurity. It’s like a prenuptial agreement! Why are you going into marriage thinking about what you’ll get if it ends? Something aint right.

So, there ya go. Not sure I explained it well, but it makes more sense in my head. Hope it helps!

How the Bible Says to Get Less Stress and More Patience

Everyone wants less stress and more patience. The world says you can get this by earning money with your passions, vacations, material comforts, and the latest “spiritual” sounding solution that cures everything: meditation.

Some of these things might help, in fact, they probably do help many, which is why people do them. But do these things really take care of stress and bring patience, or do they just reward selfishness?

The Bible says believers should not worry and be patient. Most Christians think this patient non-stress comes by repeating a verse. I know many people who repeat a verse to themselves during stressful times as though that will bring the peace that passes understanding.

Again, it might help temporarily, but is that really all there is? I hear lots of talk about “remembering the promises” and so forth, which again is fine, but is our bedrock of peace just from remembering and repeating stuff?

Surely there is more to it!

Indeed there is. The problem is that no one wants to do what the Bible actually says to do in order to eliminate stress from your life and develop patience.

The Bible’s answer is basically summed up like this:

If you want less stress and more patience start by getting rid of all your stuff. Follow that up by loving Christ more than any other human being. Top it off by pursuing righteousness and eternal values.

There is no other way to get lasting peace. All the stuff you own is what is making you stressed and impatient. If I didn’t have money invested in the stock market, I wouldn’t be stressed about interest rates and market measures. If I didn’t own a business I wouldn’t be concerned about the latest laws and taxes foisted upon businesses. If my entire concern in life was the opinion of Jesus Christ and living to please Him instead of trying to please people and keep up with em, I imagine my patience level would go up.

Next time you are impatient or stressed, nail it down to what exactly it is that is causing the stress. More than likely it’s a person or thing, and more than likely, if it’s a person, the person annoys you because they are messing with your things!

The virtues of Jesus Christ are not pick and choose. They are a package deal. There are not multiple fruits of the Spirit; there is one fruit of the Spirit. You start to see them in your life when your life looks like following the Spirit rather than living for things of the world.

If you want the fruit of the Spirit in all its fullness, then stop living for stuff.

“You haven’t sold all you have, so shut up, man.” I hear ya. I’m not telling you to follow me. I’m telling you what Christ said. Matthew 6:24-34. Read it. I didn’t say it; Your Savior did!

We will each have different levels of stress and different things that kick that stress off. In all honesty, owning a business has been massively less stressful for me than being a pastor! Like, not even close.

My measure on these things is not yours. We will all stand before the Lord. When things become overbearing for me, I typically try to eliminate those issues somehow, knowing they have too large of a grip on me.

Make the cuts. Put away childish things. Be a man. Put off what trips you up. Lay aside every weight, not just sin, anything that slows you down.

When you make these cuts and replace them with seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I guarantee you stress will melt away and patience will replace it, right along with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. They go together and there’s only one way to get em.

Jeremiah And Christian Happiness

Keeping verses in context is how you understand their point. It’s also how you eliminate simplistic, happy conclusions.

I’m not convinced life is as happy as people make it sound, and I certainly doubt when Christians tell me their life of faith is unspotted happiness. It doesn’t ring true.

I came across a verse the other day that was happy, but it also stood out in its context. Here’s the verse:

Sing to the Lord!
    Give praise to the Lord!
He rescues the life of the needy
    from the hands of the wicked.

–Jeremiah 20:13

How happy and nice! Now for the context. Here are the verses right before it:

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
    so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
    their dishonor will never be forgotten.
Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
    and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

–Jeremiah 20:11-12

These verses are about wanting God to kill the bad guys. Do some vengeancing, Lord! And here are the verses right after verse 13:

Cursed be the day I was born!
    May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
    who made him very glad, saying,
    “A child is born to you—a son!”
May that man be like the towns
    the Lord overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning,
    a battle cry at noon.
For he did not kill me in the womb,
    with my mother as my grave,
    her womb enlarged forever.

–Jeremiah 20:14-17

Go ahead, make a happy Bible study out of that one!

Jeremiah is known as “the weeping prophet.” He had a rough gig. The people he preached to were already doomed, the writing was on the wall, they were toast. But individuals could save themselves from the coming judgment, but most refused the offer. Jeremiah was rejected and persecuted because of his attempts to save a few.

It was a ministry doomed to failure. If you look up the phrase “not listen” in the Bible, you will notice that the Book of Jeremiah has the most uses and it’s not even close!

God is so fed up with their not listening, that He says He will no longer listen to them! Don’t bother praying, God won’t intervene. He already showed them how to be delivered, either do that or get toasted.

Jeremiah lived in a tough time, a sad time, seeing the downfall of the people for whom God had done so much. The covenant comes to a crashing halt. Jeremiah weeps.

I find it hard to imagine Jeremiah going along with the modern happy Christianity of our day. I believe he would say with James, “Let your laughter be turned into mourning.”

Lives are falling apart, but we’ve made peace with sin. We not only don’t fight materialism, we’ve all but embraced it and called it “God’s blessings.” Jeremiah would see right through it.

If Jeremiah taught your next Bible Study group, would you return? Would you desire to hear more?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said there is wisdom in the house of mourning and stupidity in the house of mirth. I’d much rather hear from Jeremiah than any guru hopped up on some notion of happiness.

However, no one wanted to hear Jeremiah even in the midst of in your face sadness, I can’t imagine anyone heeding Jeremiah’s message in our time of affluence and comfort.

We’re missing something. The Bible never once says that happy comfort leads to spiritual growth, or that spiritual growth leads to happy comfort.

What it does repeatedly say is that tribulation leads to spiritual growth and spiritual growth leads to tribulation. Hard to get people out of their happy material life to go hear that message.

So, Jeremiah and his ilk get ignored while judgment stands at the door.

Knock knock.

Faith In God Or Acceptance By People

Each of us desires acceptance. There’s nothing wrong with that desire, but where you turn for that acceptance can produce all kinds of wrong!

If you desire acceptance from people, you will do whatever it takes for their acceptance. You will honor their opinions and fold under their peer pressure.

If you desire acceptance from God, you will do what it takes to get His acceptance. You will honor His opinion and follow His guidance.

You can’t do both.

Here are two passages that make this point:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

–John 5:44

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

–Galatians 1:10-11

Desiring acceptance from people is done by external show. You will follow fashion and fads. The way you talk, act, and look will be shaped by who you desire acceptance from. I’ve seen people do very weird things with their hair and clothes and skin to appear part of some group or another.  

The passage in John, which quotes Jesus, pretty much says if you desire glory, honor, and acceptance from people you cannot believe. That’s pretty strong!

What’s keeping you from faith in God, from obeying His Word? Odds are it’s because you think you’ll look stupid in front of other people if you actually went with it. Everyone knows we got here by random evolutionary processes, only stupid people believe God created the world. Everyone knows various notions of sin are outdated and patriarchal, only stupid people live their life according to an old book written thousands of years ago.

So, to save face, to make sure no one thinks you’re weird, you will reject what God says. Oh sure, you might take some respectable parts of the Bible, the couple verses that seem nice (don’t judge, love one another, care for the sick and poor, etc), but you’ll make sure to define the words the way you want so you don’t have to do anything too radical or fanatical.

You may tell people you believe in God, that you are interested in “spiritual things,” but big whoop! Be specific! Anyone can say general floaty things, but do you believe to the point of obeying what God has said in His Word?

If you want acceptance from the world, you must follow the world. If you follow God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, your life will be transformed. The world will not recognize you. You’ll feel ostracized, out of it, and dumb.

For the short time of life, that will not feel great! But in eternity it’ll feel fantastic.

You have a choice: believe God, His Gospel, and His Word, or be accepted by people and honored by the world. One or the other. What’ll it be?

Speculating About Methuselah

I remember hearing about Methuselah when I was in Sunday School. Pretty much the only fact I remember is that he was the oldest person in the Bible. There isn’t much else to know about him as the Bible gives little Methuselahic detail.

But that’s never stopped people’s speculations before, why should it stop us?

Methuselah was the son of Enoch, who walked with God and was taken to heaven. Methuselah was so old it is probable he knew Adam, which is cool.

Methuselah had a son named Lamech who had a son named Noah, who built the ark.

Interestingly, if you do the math in the genealogies, Methuselah died the same year as Noah’s flood.

Which raises a question: did he die in the flood? The Bible says no righteous people were outside the ark when the flood came. One would think, if your dad was a guy who walked with God so much God took him to heaven, and your son was the chosen righteous one to preserve humanity through the flood that you were a pretty good guy yourself.

If so, perhaps God graciously allowed him to die shortly before the flood came.

No one really knows and it probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but it’s fun to think about. I’m kind of bummed I was never told any of this in Sunday School. Then again, I probably was told it and wasn’t paying attention. That is, in fact, the more likely scenario. I accredit some of my spiritual maturity to the fact that I wasn’t paying attention in Sunday School. Less weird stuff to overcome don’t ya know.

Anyway, that’s all. Have a fantastic day.

Help! I Can’t Stop Judging People’s Doctrine

Hi, my name is Jeff and I’m a theological criticizer.

I have a problem, a serious problem, one I can’t shake even if I want to, and in all honesty, I’m not even sure I want to: I criticize the theology of everyone.

Just today I heard a Christian song. It had the word “grace” in it a lot. It used big words and was doing a fine job of sounding deep and theological. People cry out for new worship songs with doctrinal depth, so I’ve noticed new songs having bigger words in it. The problem is that if you know what the words mean you can tell they are just stringing them together with no real concept what they are talking about. I did not like the song.

I then heard a guy talking and I could tell within seconds he was a Calvinist. Then he kept talking, as Calvinists do, and yup, he came right out and said Calvinist stuff: you can’t believe; God has to make you believe. You can’t do anything good and the only good you do you didn’t do it anyway, God did that through you. Calvinism through and through. I do not like Calvinism.

I read part of a Christian book where the author said they are not disciplined in their writing, they write when they are inspired to. They write in a way like John did on the Isle of Patmos, “Write what you see.” Oh man. The author either doesn’t think John was inspired or thinks she is. Either way I have a problem. I don’t like it when people put their words on par with Scripture, or say stuff like God spoke through them. I do not like blasphemy.

I’m well-schooled in the Bible and I know a fair bit of Church History and various doctrinal camps. I’m well read and have talked to many Christians. I know what people are talking about. I don’t have to think about what I’m hearing to come up with judgments; the judgments are just there. And here’s the thing, my judgments are right.

I know that’s arrogant, but no really, I’m not saying I’m right all the time, I’m saying I knew the guy was a Calvinist before anyone else did because I’ve listened to Calvinists. I heard it and he then went on to say he was a Calvinist. Like, yeah, I know. My judgment was right.

The Bible tells me to test the spirits, so I do. Most of the spirits I hear are wrong. I try to act with grace and composure even while knowing my judgments. I try to not be a jerk and arrogant, but my brain notices stuff and I know where the stuff comes from. I just know stuff. I can’t help it. It’s just there.

Sometimes this gets in the way of my worship. But I can still benefit. Even the author who claimed to be inspired like John the Apostle who wrote Revelation, she said something later that I thought was good (although it was in a quote of another author!). I’m still reading the rest of the book. I give people a hearing even after identifying their particular brand of heresy. I’ve learned to learn from all sources, even if the learning is just coming up with arguments against their stupidity.

But I know I’m too judgy. I know I am and I don’t know what to do about it. My judging has kept me out of trouble. My judging has even helped other people. On numerous occasions I was able to warn others that the person you are listening to is crazy. Later these people would come back to me and say, “You know, you were right, that person was crazy.” Yeah, I know.

So, what to do? Is this the spiritual gift of discernment? Or is this my flesh being too arrogant and proving that knowledge does indeed puff up? I don’t know. But I know I can’t stop, it’s automatic at this point.

Whatever advice you give me about this, I will judge it. I know what verses you’ll use already anyway. It’s nothing I haven’t heard and judged already. You can at least relax and know that I judge my own theology as well. I’ve changed my views on many doctrines because of me analyzing the words coming out of my mouth and realizing I don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s a good thing. It does not prevent me from being corrected or taught.

I do get tired sometimes. Tired of judging and finding fault. But I think the real thing I get tired of is hearing people completely botch the Scripture. I wouldn’t have such a big problem with this if other people said better stuff. So, who has the problem in the end anyway?

We all do. Grace, patience, and love. We all need that. I’ll do my best and you do yours. We’re all in this together. Let’s press toward the mark and mind the same rule and count on God to correct us where we are wrong. I will fight my battles and you fight yours. Deal? Cool.

Read the Bible for Understanding

Although most Christians say their doctrine is from the Bible and the best way to read the Bible is to keep the context, there is still much doctrinal disagreement between Christians. Why is that?

Most people aren’t actually reading the Bible, most are repeating what they heard someone else say about the Bible. Few Christians have read it, even fewer have read it with any kind of understanding what the whole book is talking about.

For many it’s actually impossible. They have been so ingrained with their doctrinal camp that they don’t even see the words in the Bible. Their doctrinal camp has closed their eyes to any verse that disagrees. They know all the loopholes to avoid inconvenient verses. They have their verses that cancel out the pesky ones. When most people read the Bible (when they actually do), they only see verses that back up what they already believe.

Even many who encourage you to read verses in context don’t really mean it. What they mean is, “hear the verses in the context of our interpretation of Scripture.”

To read a verse in context means to hear it according to what the author means. In other words, when you come across a phrase you don’t understand (and you should come across a number of them), ask yourself, “Why is the author talking about this? Why did he bring this up?” Then go back and read until you understand why the author brought that up.

There’s always a reason why. The Bible is very logical and God is trying to be understood. Verses are not to be understood in isolation. Yet most people have doctrinal beliefs and then look up verses in a concordance that sort of kind of support their view and then claim that their doctrines are “biblical.” In reality they are just man-made ideas with a few biblical phrases stuck to them.

Why are those phrases there? They were there before your doctrinal camp was! I imagine Paul and John and Jeremiah meant something when they used those words.

We would be much better served to read the actual words of the Bible and do the work to figure out the overall flow of the book rather than adhering to some guy’s interpretation of the book.

Stick with the words on the page. Read them literally, as if God actually means what He said, and analyze why those words are there. You’ll figure it out with the Spirit’s help. Pray for wisdom and be humble, be teachable, and let the Word teach you.

Misapplying the Book of Job

Modern applications of the Book of Job are not realistic and miss the actual point. Again, most of modern biblical application is based on self-help, psychology, and humanism. A veneer of happiness covers our applications and belittles the reality of the fight of faith. Job is a classic example.

The application of Job goes like this:

In the midst of your suffering, happily say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Happiness has become a virtue in modern Christianity. It used to be fringe, your best life now stuff, but now it’s just Christianity. Happiness is in. Mourning is out. Any degree of sadness is a lack of faith. I’ve even heard some say that negative emotions like sadness and mourning are sins. This is sheer lunacy, and, ironically enough, the opposite of one of the main points of the book of Job.

Job is not about being happy during suffering. The New Testament links patience with Job, so clearly we know that’s one application. But patience is not bemused acceptance. Patience is endurance. Patience is a battle and a race. It’s not some other-worldly, Zen state of living above it with lofty notions carried about on clouds. Patience is slogging it out and going one day at a time.

There are three phrases from the book of Job that make it into every shallow Bible Study on Job:

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

“Where were you when I laid the foundation?”

Perhaps running a close fourth is “Curse God and die,” but that one doesn’t get much serious treatment. It should. I’ve seen several marriages fall apart because one person decided to take their faith seriously. Does your love for God pass your love for your spouse? Jesus said it should. But alas, that doesn’t fit into happy Christian marketing styles, so we skip that one.

We are told that when terrible things happen to us, we should fatalistically say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Get over it. Suck it up. Fatalistically submit to God’s treatment, smile, and quit whining.

I’m always amazed at this application, typically not stated quite as cynically as I just put it! But the idea is always there. “God wants you to be happy. Grin and bear it for Jesus!” The point is there, Job did say it. I’m not arguing the tremendous nature of what he said there. It is amazing. Not sure I’d have come up with that.

Job says this in chapter 1 verse 21. Job says one sentence to his oh so helpful wife in 2:10. His next words are in chapter three. Chapter three verses 3-19 are Job complaining that he was born! He goes on in some detail about how he would have been more blessed if he had died as an infant! I mean, ok, you can talk about patience and stuff, but let’s be real! Yes, Job said a great thing in 1:21. He keeps talking for an entire book though! By my count, Job’s words fill 20 chapters of the book! And, like, read what he said! And this is the main problem with so much of our surface Bible studies: we don’t actually read the Bible. We read the two phrases that back up the happy point the happy teacher wants you to get. Job said a lot of stuff. If you want to understand his point, read all that he said!

The second phrase is in 13:15. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Does anyone know that this is not the entirety of the verse? Does anyone know what the next phrase is? Have you ever studied this verse in a Bible Study, or just had the phrase thrown at you? Look at the verse:

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my waysbefore Him.

Yeah I’ll hope in Him, but we’re gonna have some words! I won’t go down quiet! I need some answers! This is, in fact, one of Job’s primary laments throughout the book: he just wants an audience with God. Can I ask some questions? Make some statements? Isn’t there someone who can go between and sort this out? Because I gotta admit, this doesn’t seem right.

Job is a hurting man. He wants answers. He’s convinced he didn’t do anything that deserve this treatment, and, according to what is revealed, he’s right! Like, that’s not his opinion of himself, that’s God‘s opinion of him! His uprightness is exactly why God chose him to be picked on! Job wants to argue.

Here’s the cool thing the rest of the Bible reveals: we do have a go between. You can pray and Jesus Christ knows our suffering and was tempted in every way like us. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf even though we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Suffering hurts. Life can be painful. To tell people that we need to be happy like Job in the midst of it is mind boggling. Read the book, not just the two phrases Bible Study books point out.

This is, in fact, one of the amazing things about the applications of Job. Applications are always about you and your suffering! In other words, when people read the book of Job, they see themselves as Job! No one ever sees themselves as Job’s friends! Yet the very application of the book of Job that most Bible Studies give you is one that sounds a lot like Job’s friends! “Hey, you know, you shouldn’t be whining like that. No one wants to hear it. Suck it up and put on a smile. Cover that pain with clichés and move on.” It’s truly incredible. Job’s friends sinned in what they said, God said that. Job did not sin with any words that came out of his mouth. None of them. He was not wrong for wishing he’d never been born. He was not wrong for wanting to take up his case with God. All of his words were just fine in God’s mind. All of Job’s friends’ words were wrong to apply to Job. Yet the shallow application of this book is always telling people how not to mourn! Fascinating. God had no problem with Job’s questions about Him, but God did have a problem with the friends defending Him! Think on that one!

The third phrase is a quote from God: “Where were you when I laid the foundation?” God’s dialogue basically says, “Yeah, I’m God. I can do stuff. Who are you?” Job takes that as the answer too. He determines to say nothing. All his arguments melt away immediately.

God never explains what was going on. Did Job ever know his suffering was actually a compliment? Have you ever heard an application of this book that says, “You might want to be careful growing in the faith. Two of the most faithful people ever, Job and Jesus, were absolutely throttled. Be careful about having faith, people!” Of course not, but doesn’t that seem like a legitimate point to discuss? It won’t be though because it’s not happy. We like to believe that when we grow in faith we get health and wealth and material blessings out the nose. Funny how the people listed in Hebrews 11 did not get that, most received brutal treatment in this life. This is one of the points of the book of Job: Don’t expect faith to work out well down here. This isn’t the only life!

Yet as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last, He will take His stand on the earth.Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I will see God,

            –Job 19:25-26

Another application of Job is that no one knows entirely what God is up to. You don’t and I don’t. So let’s stop lecturing everyone like we know what’s best for them. Instead, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Keep your lectures and your sanctimonious words spoken into other people’s pain. They aren’t helping. Do something helpful, bear some burdens, and be sympathetic. Life hurts. Be who you’d want near you when suffering hits you, because it’s not far off.

Job is not about you and all your list of health problems God gave you because you’re so strong. Stop already. Job is a real book about real suffering, real confusion, real pain, and real unhelpful counsel! Job says a lot of things that don’t sound patient, happy, or spiritual. His friends point that out constantly. They’d fit in today’s church nicely. We’ve put an impossible standard on Christians in their mourning. I know Christians who were not allowed to mourn. Things did not turn out well for them. Covering pain is not healthy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a group of people who would surround you with grace, acceptance, sympathy, and love during times of struggle? Wouldn’t it be great if you could be that for others who are hurting? I’ve got news for you: You’re not Job; you’re one of his friends. If you don’t weep with those who weep, you’re missing the point of Job.

Misapplying Esther

Many common applications of the Bible are rooted in psychology, self-help, and humanism. There are two Bible books that are interpreted in this way commonly and send me to the brink of insanity for their complete botching of the point: Esther and Job. Today we’ll look at Esther.

The application of Esther goes like this:

Esther was put in the right place at the right time to deliver God’s people. You have been put in your place and time by God to rescue those in your life as well.

Undoubtedly there is some truth here. I won’t say that God has nothing to do with your life or your place and time. At the same time, the point of the book is much bigger than this.

Furthermore, I know folks who think they are the Guru of All Things and God has appointed them to save everyone. People generally don’t like being around these self-appointed saviors. There are few things harder to take than a-person-who-is-not-Jesus determined to be your God-sent messiah.

The actual point of Esther is about God keeping His covenant. The people of Israel entered into a covenant with God where obeying the law would give them prosperity in the Promised Land. If they didn’t keep it, the land would dry up and reject them until they are taken into captivity. But even in captivity, if they follow His law He will provide for them. Esther lives during the time of captivity. Israel blew their covenant and bad guys have taken over. But according to the terms of the covenant, if they return to God, He will provide for them.

Mordecai does God’s will. He keeps himself separate from the Medes and Persian society and doesn’t bow before Gentile rulers because he only bows to God. His niece goes along with his plan to get her into the king’s house. One thing leads to another, and she is nicely situated for some delivering. The phrase repeated over and over is, “for such a time as this.” The best way to understand any biblical phrase is to take it in context.

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

            –Esther 4:13-14

So, again, here’s the shallow application we hear over and over: Esther is faced with a choice, and to convince her to intercede, Mordecai tells her she was put there by God for such a time as this. You too have been placed by God in your time to save those around you.

Using the context, let’s look at a couple statements just in these two verses.

1. Esther doesn’t want to do this, so Mordecai backs her into a corner. You’re going to die anyway. Note also that he says if you don’t do it someone else will! That’s a huge point. Mordecai knows that God will protect His people; that’s what God does. Esther can be the one who does it, and if she doesn’t, someone else will. This knocks some edges off of the specialness of you modern Bible studies push! He wants Esther to do it because if she doesn’t her whole family will die. Guess who is in Esther’s family!? Mordecai may have some skin in this game!

2. Notice that Mordecai doesn’t say that God put Esther in that place for such a time as this. He said, “Who knows” whether you’ve been put in this place for such a time as this. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to go forward with it.

If you look at what Mordecai is saying, he’s laying out odds. Esther is afraid if she goes to the king that he will put her to death. Mordecai sys, “you’re going to die for sure if you don’t!” If she doesn’t do anything, there is a 100% chance she’ll die. If she intercedes, there’s a 50/50 chance she’ll die. So basically, it boils down to this: there’s a 75% chance you will die, and a 25% chance you will live. If you do nothing; 100% you’ll die. If you try, it might work. Might as well try for the 25% shot! She did and it worked!

Mordecai puts forth his reasoning in humble terms. He’s not pumping up Esther, God’s appointed vessel of deliverance, he’s laying out odds. If you don’t do it, someone else will. Who knows if you’re the one who can deliver, might as well give it a shot and then you’re family will survive too. Those are not the terms in which our Esther applications are handed out! Oh no! Our applications are mostly about self-esteem and how God needs me and so does everyone else! God actually made me to save you, so shut up and let me save you!

None of that fits with what’s going on in this book. The point of the book is that God will take care of His covenant people with or without you. Want to be part of the plan? Then by faith do your part and see what God does. There’s humility there, not self-esteem boosting, I’m the center of God’s plan of salvation, messiah complex arrogance.

Notice at the end of the book it is Mordecai who is put in the place of actual authority! He became second only to the king. What Esther did was initially out of self-preservation and desperation. The benefits of her actions are that she is alive and her people are saved. Mordecai is the one who works the whole situation. Without his actions Esther never would have ended up in the place she did, she never would have interceded, and he is ultimately the one who gets promoted.

I suppose many in our day would take this as proof of male-chauvinism or something. Patriarchy at its worst! Actually, it’s a picture of our service to Jesus Christ. We obey Christ’s will, we lay down our lives for Him, and in the end He is given the glory. Esther did a great thing and by faith delivered her people from a desperate situation. She gets our praise and our kudos, deservedly so. Ultimately what she did worked for the glory of the one in charge of her, Mordecai. When we serve the Lord, we get to have a place in the honor roll of faith and we will be rewarded for our spiritual work. But ultimately, the praise does not go to us, it goes to Jesus Christ, and we are happy to have had a part.

Esther is not about self-esteem boosting, self-actualization, center of God’s plan, messianic complexes, now go out there and save the world you precious jewel of a person! It’s about humble service, losing your life so that others might gain.

What “Eat My Flesh” Could Mean

When Jesus said, “Eat my flesh,” He was communicating deep truth. He was also, it seems to me, saying an extreme thought in the most poke you in the eye way possible. His statement separated the true disciples from the false.

We also know that there is an allusion to Communion, partaking of the bread and cup. Clearly that ordinance is wrapped up in here as well.

And, to go further, there is the spiritual reality of Christ being in us, we ingest Him and thus become Him. You are what you eat!

There is also a fellowship nature involved as well. Since all believers partake of the same bread and cup at the same time, all are unified around Christ.

A friend of mine brought up another aspect that I found intriguing.

He was reading in Leviticus and noticed how the priests were granted to eat the flesh of the sacrifices. Regular people couldn’t do that, but the priest could as it was set aside for them as part of their inheritance/pay.

Could Jesus perhaps also be alluding to the priesthood of all believers? This idea is stated most clearly in 1 Peter 2:9 where we are told that we are a royal priesthood. We all have access to God, we don’t need a human mediator.

As the priests, who went between the people and God, ate from the sacrifice, so to now do all believers eat from the sacrifice, the body and blood of Jesus, and have access directly to the Father.

Hm, makes ya think!

It’s cool to see connections like that in the Bible. One must be careful not to press things too far, but clearly there are layers of meanings in many types in the Bible.

I like this one and will think on it some more.

Avenge Not Yourself

We’re all familiar with Romans 12 and how we’re not supposed to be conformed to the world. We think we do this when we don’t drink and don’t do weed and we stand against weird sexual sins.

Although that might be part of it, the rest of the chapter gives a different idea. Most of the ideas can be summed up with Paul’s command, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves.”

This is a mighty radical statement. If you’re not blown away by it, I dare say you’re not hearing it.

When they serve your coffee wrong, do you get all up in their face? Do you use a tone of voice that conveys how stupid they are? Knowing they will throw it out if you take it back, should you just drink it?

Oh come on, give me a break! You think Paul is talking about wrong coffee orders?

No, that’s not all he’s talking about, but he’s clearly telling you to act differently than the world. I’ve seen how people treat those who serve them. It aint nice.

“Avenge” mean to retaliate, to get back at someone, to vindicate one’s right. It basically means to bless and curse not those who misuse you. We’re not just being called to not do something. Paul goes on to say we let the Lord do the avenging while we go out of our way to love those who wronged us.

It just goes from one level of insane to another.

You know you’ve heard him right when everything within you objects to what you’re being told to do. Here’s a quote from Donald Barnhouse:

“Never avenge yourself.” The natural heart will spout a stream of objections, but the answer of the Bible is, “never avenge yourself.” There is no way around it. It is a flat statement that has no loopholes. It does not say, “Never avenge yourselves except under such and such conditions.” It says, “Never avenge yourself.”

That is indeed what it says. When you’ve been robbed, attacked, criticized, cut off, interrupted, disrespected, when your rights have been trampled. It even applies to the most egregious of insults, when you are absolutely right and yet misused, even then, don’t avenge yourself.

Then the topper: let it go, let God deal with it, and show your adversary nothing but love and provision. Not just happy thoughts and a smile, but food if they are hungry and drink if they are thirsty.

Yes, give them actual things.

We are called to love people. Love goes above and beyond, even to the point of laying your life down for someone else’s benefit. Kind of like your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did for you!

He’s our example. We all love talking about what He did for us and we love this teaching when others do it for us, but it gets real annoying when I’m supposed to let things go and do nice things for people who are clearly stupid and wrong and have accused me of false things.

Never avenge yourself.


Love all the time. Esteem others better than yourself. You can be offended by this teaching. We Americans have been inundated our whole lives about our rights. Be not conformed to the world. One huge way to do that is by giving up your rights.

I pray you understand what Christ did for you. If it has meant a lot to you, if what He did changed your life, then show others that same love so that their life might be changed by Christ too.

No one said following Christ would be easy. In fact, that’s why most Christians think following Christ is optional or at best explained away with nuanced circumstances and loopholes.

Don’t do that. Be like Christ. Commit your life into the hands of the Righteous Judge. Love. Forgive. Show mercy. Avenge not yourselves.

Did Israel have Freedom After Leaving Egypt?

When we think of release from slavery we think freedom. You cast off the tyrant boss/owner and do whatever you want. Many people have this conception of Christian liberty—I’m no longer under the law; I can do whatever I want now!

Israel cried out to God when they were enslaved in Egypt. God heard their cries and sent Moses to deliver them.

It is interesting to note that never once did God use the word “freedom” or “liberty” or anything like that when speaking of release from Egypt.

In fact, when Moses told Pharaoh to “let my people go,” typically he added, “so they may serve the Lord in the wilderness” (see Exodus 4:23; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3,7).

That is fascinating!

It’s also weird that Moses tells Pharaoh, “We’re just going out there to do some sacrifices.” He never once fully said, “We’re gone. Check ya later.” It wasn’t quite a lie, but it certainly wasn’t a full disclosure of truth.

Pharaoh, who was no dummy, knew they were going to take off, which is why he was reluctant to let them go. “I know what you guys are up to” was behind much of what he told Moses.

The Exodus is a type of spiritual salvation. God delivers you from the bondage of sin and death, but before you get full deliverance in the Promised Land, you wander in the woods and suffer a while. The Christian Life is wilderness wandering, following the Lord through the junk until we reach heaven’s perfection.

Salvation is not about doing what you want and it’s now ok because Jesus loves you. Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Freedom, its true sense, is not unbridled fleshly license. Freedom is serving God!

Your flesh thinks that’s the stupidest thing it’s ever heard, but your flesh is stupid.

God knows what is best. Obeying Him brings life and peace and joy more abundant. Fleshly indulgence causes gross hangovers, guilt, and other heavy things.

Israel’s freedom from slavery was nothing more than a freedom from a bad taskmaster to a good one. It’s the same for us. You gotta serve someone, might as well serve a perfect and righteous someone.

If freedom means I obey me all the time, well, it might be fun, but I’m also an idiot. Part of the reason I came to Christ for salvation was because I was tired of being dumb, tired of being me. I wanted no longer I, but Christ.

Part of salvation is the renewing of the mind, which is every thought brought captive to Jesus Christ. Captive is not free! We are servants of Jesus Christ. Free to serve our great God, Savior, and Lord.

Listen to the true, righteous God; it’s the best freedom out there.

Can God Change His Mind?

“Immutability” is the big theological word that describes God’s unchangingness. The doctrine is based on passages like Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” and James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”

Unfortunately, many have taken this doctrine to an unbiblical extreme by saying God doesn’t change His mind or plan. Apparently God has every detail of every molecule’s existence planned from eternity past and there is no shifting of the plan.

The problem with taking immutability to mean God’s plan doesn’t change is that it makes many verses not mean what they say. There are multiple times when God changed His mind, or repented of something (Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; Judges 2:18; 1 Samuel 15:35; etc).

The biggest shift in the Bible was the change from the Old Covenant to the better New Covenant. Clearly one must admit huge changes in how God acts and intervenes in the two covenants.

Every believer was a vessel of wrath heading toward destruction until the point of their salvation. Things changed, thus what God does with you and how He’s related to you has changed.

God didn’t change. God has revealed what makes Him change His mind about you: your repentance and faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t change that plan.

From the beginning God has been a God of justice and doing the right thing. He’s very consistent about how He works. He’s consistent about how He changes His mind.

If God’s plan doesn’t change then there is no point for any prophet to ever prophecy. But prophets to prophecy! Their main point is calling people to repent so as to not undergo God’s judgment. Jonah eventually warned Nineveh of coming doom. They repented and God changed His mind, He relented on the judgment, much to Jonah’s annoyance.

Immutability does not mean that God doesn’t change His actions; it means He doesn’t change His character. Who He is is very dependable, the most dependable thing in existence.

I change. Who I was as a four-year old is not even close to who I am at 48! Let’s all be thankful for that. People change and people die. When the believer dies, they will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. But God, who is not bound to time or space, does not grow or change. He’s the same as He ever was. He is not slack concerning His promises.

But again, don’t let this lead you to think He won’t be merciful to you or He won’t hear and respond to your cry of distress in time of trouble.

The Bible clearly says that God doesn’t change. Stick with that. Trust Him because of it. But don’t stretch this out of place to think the way He acts doesn’t change. If you do, God becomes cold and hard, implacable, and unresponsive. This is not the view of God you want, it’ll destroy your love for Him, your desire to pray, and any number of other things.

Don’t let twisted theology ruin the vitality of your faith. God is love, always has been and always will be. He loves you and wants to show you His love. There are things you can do to facilitate that! Go for it, He’s waiting!

Evil and God’s Presence

Several times I’ve heard people say “God cannot look at sin” or, “Sin cannot exist in God’s presence.”

I understand the intent of these statements, and maybe there’s a grain of truth present, but I think the statements create bad conclusions and are not technically consistent with Scripture.

The number one verse used to make this point is Habakkuk 1:13,

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

Well, there ya go! It says it right there! God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil and He can’t look on iniquity. How much clearer can it get?

Well, a little clearer anyway.

The rest of the chapter is about evil people and God’s ultimate judgment upon them. The verse right before says these sinful people are headed for God’s judgment and correction. If God is going to judge and correct; clearly He sees evil and iniquity.

If God could not see evil, then He’d be a very bad judge! On what basis is He judging people if He doesn’t see what they are doing? Is God a blind grandfather doling out gifts in His naïve view of kids?

If God knows my lying down and getting up, I’m pretty sure He knows everything else I’m doing, including my sinful stuff. The Habakkuk verse is more along the lines of God isn’t just gonna sit there doing nothing about it. He’s calling on God to get moving with the judging! A point I readily concur with!

OK, but what about sin not being able to exist in God’s presence? Or about sinners not being able to be before Him?

Consider the book of Job! Satan reports to God what He’s been up to. Satan does not melt in fiery combustion in God’s presence. Satan walks away just fine, fully able to pick on Job. God was in the presence of evil people all the time. God can handle your dirty, sinny self.

What is grace other than God being able to exist with sinners? The life of Jesus Christ is pretty good proof that God can handle being in the midst of sinners, Jesus was accused of being the friend of sinners, in fact.

There will come a day when all sinners will appear before God. They won’t instantaneously dissolve into nothing; they will consciously be aware of their sin and be judged by God.

The idea that God can’t see or be in the presence of sin is overstating things to the point of undermining the testimony of Scripture.

God can melt the sinner if He so chooses, but God is also gracious and loving and can limit the full expression of who He is for His purpose.

None of what I’m saying here is meant to belittle the seriousness and grossness of sin. My attempt is to use the Bible to understand and better state the point. Sin is bad. God is angry at the wicked every day. But the wicked also often survive into tomorrow. God is aware of who the wicked are; He knows what they are doing. God also desires all wicked people to repent and believe the Gospel. He limits Himself so that might occur.

If you don’t think that God can see evil, then you might be tempted to think He doesn’t see your sin. You might be terrified to come to Him if you think no sinner could exist in His presence.

But it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. God is good. He wants all sinners to come to Him. That’s kind of what He’s waiting for. He knows who you are and what you do, yet holds out love anyway. God is love. He can handle your sin; it’s not keeping Him from you. Don’t let it keep you from Him.

Is Your Soul a Weaned Child?

Right after Psalm 130 about fearing the Lord because He’s the one who forgives, comes Psalm 131. It’s a short Psalm, three verses, and beautiful. Here’s the entirety of the Psalm:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.

The stretch of Psalms here are called Psalms of Ascent. They were sung on the way up to the temple in Jerusalem. They were sung in a row. Marking iniquities, getting forgiveness, and fearing God are all humble things.

At this point his heart is not exalted and proud, and his eyes are not raised up, looking down in condescension on everyone else. He doesn’t walk around in great matters, meddling in issues he has no concept about. “Too high” means marvelous, wonderful things beyond his power.

He knows his role and he stays in his lane.

Wow, do we need more of this in our day!

Proud people are constantly messing in other people’s business. They think they are the people and wisdom will die with them. If they were in charge, they’d have all the world’s problems solved pronto.

Humble people understand the limits of their powers and thoughts. I can tell you how to solve inflation, but do I really have a clue? If you or I were president, would we really have the slightest idea what we were doing?

I think this is one reason very few humble people are in politics! Who in their right mind thinks, “Yeah, I think I should run the most powerful country in the free world.” Only crazy people!

But this isn’t just about politics; it’s about all kinds of stuff. Your predictions about how things will go, your plans made on incomplete information, and so many of our lectures and witty one-liners. We have no idea.

If we saw our sin, we’d shut up more.

You would quiet yourself as a well-fed baby. What an image!

When our kids were little you could tell when they were hungry because they got angry and screamed. They just lost it. Then they’d get fed and they were the happiest little creatures on the planet. So calm, no fussies. So sweet.

That’s how your soul would be if your hope was in the Lord and you saw your sin and need of forgiveness.

Our pride forgets about our sin. It justifies our actions and we give ourselves a break. We think we’re better than others whom we do not justify and routinely credit the worst possible motives to. Evil people. Let me tell you what’s up! Let me fix you!

Humble people know they need fixing. They know they have no idea. God is the Father; I’m just a kid. Childlike faith. Dependence on Him rather than self-assured lecturing of others.

How’s your soul? Does it act like a well-fed baby; or is it screaming and crying and telling others what to do so you get your food?

Be humble. Hope in the Lord. And chill.

Our Attitude Toward God’s Forgiveness

We are sinners. I know we know this. Doesn’t cost anything to say it. But since we’re sinners and have basically come to peace with that, plus we’re surrounded by other sinners, sin has lost its seriousness.

Everyone’s doing it. What’s the big deal?

Here’s the big deal according to Psalm 130:3, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” If God kept track of our sin, which He does, but provides no way to remove it, then we’re doomed. Thankfully, He does provide relief and an escape from sin.

Before we get too carried away being happy again, “Yeah! God forgives me, now I can sin again!” Think about what was just said.

If there is no way for God to remove my sin, then I am doomed. I’m done. Toast. Literally.

But there is a way for sin to be removed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is fantastic. So, what should our response to this sin removal by God be? I’ll let Psalm 130:4 answer that, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

Maybe not what you were expecting. Perhaps you think forgiveness means joy and peace and happy. That is included for us, but if this forgiveness leads to more sin, to taking advantage of who God is, then you’ve missed it.

If God is the only one who can forgive sins, if Christ is indeed the only way to the Father, the only means by which sin can be dealt with fully, then this should lead us to fear God. There is nowhere else to go with your sin. He’s it. That demands our fear.

“Fear” means awe, dread, astonishment, and to be terrified. A massive degree of respect, awe, and fear should fill our hearts. Do we understand forgiveness?

We can’t unless we see the seriousness of sin. We don’t fear God; we take advantage of Him. Israel and the church have both excelled at making a mockery of God’s means to deal with sin. Israel went through the motions of sacrifice and worship, but their heart was far removed. There was no fear; there was simply the gaming of the system.

Christians do the same thing. We say the prayer and get baptized, then we return to our sin. Sure we sing our songs and keep our couple holy days, but we do this to relieve our guilt so we can get back to sinning.

We’re playing games with God’s forgiveness. Taking it for granted, turning grace into lasciviousness. We’re sinning so grace may abound and feeling great about it the whole time.

Where does Psalm 130 go next?

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Are you looking for the Lord, or did you rush by Him quickly on your way back to sinning? Are you waiting for Him as one who has a sleepless, miserable night and longs for the dawn? Is your hope in His word?

Or is He a game? A genie in the bottle to rub the right way so you can indulge your flesh’s wishes some more?

Do you know with whom you deal?

Does Your Sin Crush You?

After David got busted by Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, David wrote Psalm 51. It’s a beautiful psalm of contrition and repentance. The guiltiness of sin leads to the beauty of forgiveness.

David, being the king of a people in a covenant with God based on obedience, suffered mightily for his sin. Thousands of Israelites died because he gave an occasion for the Gentiles to blaspheme.

The downside of the Old Covenant was the system of physical curses and blessings for keeping God’s Word. I don’t know how long most of us would last if we lived under that same covenant.

The giant plus side is that the Old Covenant was not about salvation. When it came to David’s eternal salvation, no sin would separate him from God, even adultery and murder.

Seems hard to imagine that’s the case. It reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the guy who hires workers throughout the day, then pays them all the same regardless of how long they worked. In the end, it’s the boss who got robbed!

If David hadn’t sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah, there would be no Psalm 51 in the Bible. So, I guess, if I can say such a thing, we can be thankful for David’s sins!

The two verses that stand out are 16-17:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

What can a guy do after he sins? How can he make up for blowing it so bad? The flesh suggests running away, pretending it didn’t happen, going silent. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, go find a convenient bush to hide behind. But God will come looking. Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

“Confess” means to “say the same thing as.” God already knows what you did. Be honest about what you did too. He already knows. You have no alternative but to talk to Him about it. If you don’t, He will force the conversation at some point. Every son the Father loves, He chastens.

Admit your sin to the Lord since He knows it anyway. But then what? Shouldn’t I make up for it somehow? Shouldn’t I work it off? Pay some kind of penance? That’s the natural urge. When I’m rude to someone, I try to make it up to them. Shouldn’t I do that with God?

What exactly are you going to do to make up for sinning against the Lord? What are you, a single human being, going to do for the Creator and Lord of the Universe that will make up for your sin? Give him a couple bucks? Kill an animal? A food offering? He doesn’t need anything. What’s He going to do with dead animals?

God has no pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings. If He did, then yeah, I’d bring it. But God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). But David didn’t obey, so now what?

Sacrifices in the Old Testament were not for salvation. Sacrifices were part of the Old Covenant system established for the prosperity of Israel. If they kept the Law, they would be blessed in the land; if they broke the Law, they and their land would be cursed.

By doing sacrifices they had a physical cost to put the covenant back in order. In essence, the physical sacrifices were completely stupid to any non-Jewish observer. Why give up your food? It was part of the curse of sin: if they didn’t obey they would suffer physically, part of that physical suffering was the loss of good animals. No supper for you!

But sacrifices never took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Sacrifices never accomplished salvation. People have always been saved by grace through faith, regardless of what covenant you lived under. Don’t confuse what Israel did to maintain their covenant with salvation. Much error has been brought into church because of this confusion.

God does not desire dead animals; He wants you humble. David says his sacrifice is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. God will not despise that.

If your sin makes you run from God, then you are still holding onto pride. You think you can carry on without God. If your sin makes you work off the guilt, then you are also stuck in pride.  Pride, and its cousin self-pity, go hand in hand. Both keep you from actually dealing with the problem.

If you face your sin, see it for what it is, and say the same thing about it as God does (confession), it will lead to a broken spirit. “Broken” means crushed, crippled, wrecked, quenched. Smashed to bits perhaps.

This is not the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 3:15, “thou shalt bruise his heel,” but it has a similar meaning. Christ was crushed for our sin. Our sin can quench the Spirit as well. Quench and crush are two possible definitions of “broken.” This is God’s attitude toward sin. If we confess our sin, we have the same thought about it as God does: a crushed and quenched spirit.

“Contrite” means collapsed, crushed, broken in pieces. Very similar idea to broken. It doesn’t require much more elaboration. This is what sin should make us feel.

How does this jive with the modern emphasis on grace? If I’m already forgiven, already saved and loved by God, why would sin make me feel so bad? It’s not the end of the world!

If your sin doesn’t bother you, then you don’t know who God is. It’s not a religious related guilt; it’s a complete disgust about what you just did in light of who God is. It has nothing to do with appearances or people’s judgment of you. It’s a total immersion in your stand before the Lord.

My sin in front of His glory, holiness, and perfection. If God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness make sin not bother you, I suggest you don’t understand the seriousness of sin, or the cost of your forgiveness, or the character of God.

We should feel the same way about our sin as God does. Jesus suffered and died for our sin. He was crushed and quenched by it; we should be too.

I know this flies in the face of our modern happy Christianity where Jesus did all the heavy lifting and I just get health, wealth, happiness, and my best life now, but the Bible should carry more weight with us than the opinions of other sinners. Sin doesn’t bother us because we compare ourselves to other sinners, because we’ve made peace with our sin and justified most of its evil away.

Get before the Lord with your sin. Being broken and contrite will be the result. Look at Isaiah before God. Look at Job when he sees the Lord. That’s what broken and contrite looks like.

It’s no happy-happy “it’s ok because I’m forgiven and Jesus loves me!” It’s a total awareness of the glories of God and the grossness of what I just did. God will take your genuine brokenness without contempt. He will look on it favorably.

See your sin for what it is before the Lord and don’t be afraid to feel that.

BOOK REVIEW: Gentle and Lowly

I’ve been reading Gentle and Lowly: the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers, by Dane Ortlund. I’ve heard this book praised by many people, not all from the same theological background either.

One of my hobbies in life is to analyze things that “everyone” likes. I enjoy being contrarian! I know that if many people like something, it’s probably wrong!

So, those are my upfront admissions! You know where I’m coming from.

The point of the book is that Jesus is a lot more loving than we think. He bases his points on Puritan writings, which I find slightly ironic. Puritans are Calvinists. Calvinists are the ones who have beaten wrath and judgment into our heads.

One of the reasons people don’t think God is as loving as the Bible says is because of Calvinism! Their stress on wrath and justice in the Gospel has diminished love. You can look at all the verses in the Bible that mention the Gospel and you will see love associated with it way more than wrath or justice. Yet Calvinism has majored on those and minored on love.

So, for a guy to use Calvinist writings to prove God is loving and not so wrathful is kind of odd. You will also notice he can’t quote a ton from most of them!

If Calvinism hadn’t taken over the Gospel, this book would not have been necessary.

At the same time, I also think people like the book because it emphasizes love and mercy. Both are fine things, but in so doing he does kind of make it sound like sin isn’t that big of a deal. I know that’s not the author’s point, I’m not accusing him of anything, I actually like most of the book as it is a needed corrective of the Calvinist wrath motif. But I do know people are hearing him that way.

“God loves to be merciful” sounds to most people like, “Should we sin that grace may abound? Absolutely yes, go for it!”

I think the two reasons people like this book are because for once a Calvinist emphasizes love, and his emphasis sounds like an ok to go sin.

Me, being a not-Calvinist, heard his Calvinism throughout the book. He never harped on it much, so it was not a hurdle to my enjoyment. Then I got to chapter 22! He let it all out in this chapter!

How much less could we comprehend what it meant for God to funnel the cumulative judgment for all the sinfulness of his people down onto one man. But reflecting on what we feel toward, say, the perpetrator of some unthinkable act of abuse toward an innocent victim gives us a taste of what God felt toward Christ as he, the last Adam, stood in for the sins of God’s people. The righteous human wrath we feel—the wrath we would be wrong not to feel—is a drop in the ocean of righteous divine wrath the Father unleashed.

After all, God punished Jesus not for the sin of just one person but many. What must it mean when Isaiah says of the servant that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)? What was it for Christ to swallow down the cumulative twistedness, self-enthronement, natural God hatred, of the elect? What must it have been for the sum total of righteous divine wrath generated not just by one man’s sin but “the iniquity of us all” to come crashing down on a single soul?

So, there ya have it! Calvinistic wrath in all its glory.

God “unleashed” “divine wrath” on Jesus. It would be more than the wrath we would feel toward a child abuser. God views Jesus as worse than a child abuser is the idea. The “sum total of righteous divine wrath” “came crashing down on a single soul.”

There are no verses that say any of this. Yes, he includes Isaiah 53:6 that our iniquities were laid on Christ, no argument there. But the whole divine wrath on Jesus is a complete abstraction. The Bible nowhere says that God the Father had wrath toward His Son. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Isaiah 53 has several mentions of God being pleased with the Suffering Servant. There is no wrath. Why would God be upset with Jesus for doing the most loving, sacrificial work ever done to save us from our sin? It makes no sense.

Several times Ortlund says Jesus suffered hell. Again there is no place in the Bible where it says Jesus went to hell for us. The KJV uses “hell” sometimes instead of “the grave,” but other than that, there is nothing about Jesus going to hell. “Today you will be with me in paradise” is the only mention of where Jesus went after His death. Maybe he’s being metaphorical with the hell talk. That’s my best take, otherwise it’s all speculative.

During his explanation of suffering God’s wrath, Ortlund doesn’t quote many verses. There’s a reason for that! Here’s one snippet he throws in to give seeming biblical support:

And in venting that righteous wrath God was not striking a morally neutral tree. He was splintering the Lovely One. Beauty and Goodness Himself was being uglified and vilified. “Stricken, smitten by God” (Isaiah 53:4).

Isaiah 53:4 has more words in it that Ortlund leaves out:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

There are some key words in here he conveniently leaves out: “we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God.” See, that’s not saying Jesus was stricken and smitten by God; it means that’s how we viewed it. When Christ was on the cross He was being mocked. “He saved others, he cannot save himself.” This was their ultimate victory. They overcame and killed the one who claimed to be equal with God. Humanity’s view is that God was against this so called Messiah. Is God really for a guy who we just nailed to a cross? I don’t think so! God is clearly against this guy.

So, where does all this orgy of God’s wrath on Jesus come from? It comes from extrapolating a lot out of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ortlund talks about this passage for a few paragraphs. Allow me to quote his opening phrase about Jesus being forsaken:

“It’s speculation.” (pg. 200).

Yup, it is!

The whole God’s wrath on Jesus angle is speculation, because it says it nowhere in the Bible. If the point were clear, Ortlund would not have to speculate. But he does.

If you read the context of Psalm 22, which begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You will note that the forsakenness is dealing with physical death. As the chapter goes on you’ll see many prophecies that were fulfilled while Jesus was on the cross. You will also note that the Psalm ends with a clear understanding that he’s not forsaken by God. Yes, he’s forsaken to the point of physical suffering, but essentially he knows he’s ok. His feeling is not the full story.

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard (Psalm 22:24).

Jesus did suffer, but God did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted. He wasn’t really forsaken. It looked like He was, we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, but in the end the Lord was with Him and heard His cries.

I guarantee you the thought of God when Christ was on the cross was not wrath against Jesus; it was sorrow. If our sin grieves the Holy Spirit, how much more must it have grieved God to see what was going on here?

In the end, this chapter refutes the entirety of the rest of Ortlund’s book. Ortlund tells me several times that God is my Father and the Father loves His sons. God only has love and mercy and compassion toward His kids. Except of course for His one Son who never did anything wrong; He blasted Him with His wrath! If God can be that upset with His one perfect Son, what chance do I have?

That’s exactly why Ortlund wrote this book, to balance out the wrathful extreme of Calvinist doctrine. I like that people like the book because he’s right when he’s right. He just can’t bring himself to admit that it’s Calvinism’s gospel that caused the problem in the first place!

Oh well. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

God was never wrathful about His Son this I know, for the Bible also tells me so.

Stick with the Bible. You’ll have a much better understanding of God.

Isaiah 66:2 and You

God is way far above us. I know we know that in theory, but like, no really, He’s way above us. If I were as far above you as God is above us, I guarantee I’d let you know on a regular basis!

When I beat my kids at Candy Land or some other dumb game when they were 5, I’d let em know they lost and I won! Little did they know I cheated the entire time just to make it go quicker. I was so far above them, they had no idea I was totally fooling them! Ha! Losers!

If I can’t handle that sort of superiority, wow, you better be glad I’m not on God’s level.

We’re told that we are made in God’s image. Does that mean my gloating and pride in my superiority is from God? Nope. The concept of superiority and betterness is from God, but sin, resulting in pride, is what takes any degree of superiority I have and turns it into fleshly pride.

But God who is infinitely above us, is not tainted with sin and has no fleshly pride, nor does He grind our faces in our inferiority. A great passage to illustrate this is Isaiah 66. Verse 1 says God resides in heaven, there’s no dwelling place on earth that we can make that would contain all He is. Verse two says the reason why is because God made everything!

The one who made all things does not need us to rearrange the things He made into a nice building for Him. He’s fine without our efforts!

OK, so now what do we do? If there’s nothing I can do to house Him, if He doesn’t need me, why would He pay attention to me? If I were so superior to you that I didn’t need you, I’d ignore you. There wouldn’t be really anything you could do to get my attention. Who needs you?

But God does pay attention to people, but not the people who can build Him stuff or do great things, which is merely rearranging stuff He made. Verse two lets us know who the all-superior God pays attention to:

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Wow, what a verse.

Want God’s attention? It’s not by “doing great things” for Him. You might get my attention by doing great stuff for me, but that’s because I need stuff. God doesn’t. The way to get His attention is by being completely unable to do anything, by being inept, by understanding I got nothing.

“Poor” here means afflicted, needy, weak, depressed, and lowly. Not too impressive. But it gets worse. “Contrite” means smitten, maimed, or lame. The only other place this Hebrew word is used is in reference to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son that David wanted to honor. Mephibosheth is described as being “lame in his feet.” His feet were broken, they didn’t work. That’s the only other usage of this word! God listens to people with lame hearts.

How do you know you are poor and lame? Is it an emotional state that proves it? No, that’s not it. It’s also not some kind of mopey, sad countenance, trying to act the part. It’s a genuine understanding of lack and humility. You know you need something outside of you. It’s demonstrated by trembling at God’s word.

Do you tremble at God’s word? Do you thirst for it as a new born baby craves milk? Do you submit your will to how God says to do things? Like, even the parts in the Bible you don’t like?

Being broken hearted and weak, resulting in complete dependence on God’s word, those are the people God pays attention to. Fascinating stuff. Do you believe this? Do you tremble at these words?

So many Christians think faith looks like health and wealth, your best life now, a happy materialism with Jesus. But faith looks like dependence on God and His word because you are broken and weak and have no alternatives.

God, who is so far above us, does not choose to associate with people who think they are above others. The God who is so far above us likes to associate with the lowest of the low. While competing for dominance and preeminence down here, we get further from God. You cannot serve God and mammon.

And, here’s the real kicker: the proof you are poor and contrite and tremble at God’s Word is that you become more like God. That’s why Paul tells us in Romans 12:16 to associate with people in a low position. He tells us elsewhere to esteem others better than ourselves.

People who are poor, contrite, and tremble at God’s word associate with those who are lower. Spiritual strength never results in holier than though aloofness, it always results in bearing the burdens of the weak; that’s how strength is shown.

God, the ultimate source of strength in the universe, condescends to men of low estate: you and me. When you get that, you relax and quit the rat race. You depend on Him. You also have compassion on those around you that others have no use for, those who are lame, and weak, and depressed, and lowly.

Wow. What a God. What a charge to keep. Man, I need humility.

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