Saturday, November 28, 2020

Advent 2020 - The Only Hope That Can Pierce The Darkness


Luke 1:46-49 "And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name."


        This coming Sunday begins Advent Season 2020. In the traditional celebration, each Sunday of Advent carries a theme which culminates on Christmas Eve with the lighting of the "Christ Candle". Tomorrow will mark the first theme of Advent - "Hope". How we need hope! The account of the incarnation of the Son of God is centered around "hope in God", who alone can save sinners (see Isaiah 43:10-11; 46:9,10; Jonah 2:9; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:8-10). As our church will light that first Advent candle, I'll mention how the lighting is often referred to as "lighting the prophet's candle". Truly, the Word of God, as delivered to the prophets and apostles, brings hope into places where the words of men bring only despair.

       In reflecting upon how God's prophetic Word brings hope, I want us to consider how the Holy Spirit operated as the Spirit of prophecy in the Christmas narrative of Luke's Gospel. Revelation 19:10 explicitly refers to the Holy Spirit by this title:

"Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (NASB)

      It is appropriate to capitalize "spirit", since in the Greek text the word for "spirit" has the definite article "the". The 1599 Geneva Bible follows this suggested pattern:

"And I fell before his feet, to worship him, but he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and one of thy brethren, which have the testimony of Jesus, Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy."

         A remarkable study to undertake is the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Advent or first coming of Jesus Christ. In both his Gospel and "Acts of the Apostles", Luke mentions the Holy Spirit more often than any other Biblical writer (some 50 times or so). Understanding the Holy Spirit's prophetic ministry illuminates how God prepared history for the arrival of the incarnated Son of God (see Galatians 4:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21). An immediate life-practical application is this: to find hope in Jesus Christ now as we eagerly await His soon return. Certainly, reception of what the Bible reveals about Jesus is made possible by the Holy Spirit.

What is prophecy?

        Before we move on, a question must be answered: what is prophecy? Prophecy exhorts God's people to be alert and ready. Prophecy "foretells" or speaks about things yet-to-come. This act of God through the Bible also "forthtells", that is, it tells us how we ought to live in the present while anticipating what He will do. Prophecy reminds the Christ-follower of their true identity in Him. Prophecy speaks to the present by pointing us to what lies ahead. Prophecy reminds us from whence we came and to not repeat the mistakes of past generations of God's people. The Holy Spirit is the chief agent behind all prophetic declarations in the Bible.

The main thought of today's post

Truly then, the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Christmas". As Advent season starts with lighting the so-called "Candle of Hope" or "Prophet's Candle", this post will explore how the Holy Spirit brought hope through the revelation of God's "written word" in human words to point the way to God's "Living Word" in human flesh - Jesus Christ (see John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-11). The Spirit of prophecy points to Christ (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). Let us note the following truths.

1. Promises to God’s people - the basis of the prophetic hope of God's Word. Luke 1:67-80

        There are a total of five prophetic songs in Luke 1-2. The second of these is that by John the Baptist's father - Zacharias. Luke 1:67 explicitly describes his response to John the Baptist's birth:

"And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying."

        Now we don't have the time to lay out the full meaning of this incredible prophetic utterance. However, a brief outline will need to suffice for now.

a. God's promise of a king. 1:67-71
b. God's promise of a blessing. 1:72-75
c. God's promise of a people. 1:76-79

2. Person of Christ - the focus of the prophetic hope of God's Word. Luke 1-2

        The basis of prophecy is God's promises. The focal point is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most famous song of the five songs recorded in Luke's Gospel is what is termed: "The Magnificat" in Luke 1:46-55. This title is due to the first word of the song as found in the Latin Vulgate translation, "magnificat", which means "exalts". The purpose of Mary's song is to call attention to the One who now resides in her womb. Like Zacharias' song, we will only give an outline of the contents of what Mary exclaims as she visits her cousin Elizabeth.

a. Mighty Savior. Luke 1:46-49
b. Merciful Lord. Luke 1:50-56

         Several places in the New Testament remind us of the fact that the Holy Spirit, by way of prophecy, points to the Person of Christ (Luke 24:44; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The Holy Spirit's task is to point anyone and everyone to Jesus Christ - the great Savior and great Lord (see John 16:8-12). In a world full of COVID, fear, anxiety and uncertainty, we find the Lord of Heaven and earth walking to us in the pages of scripture as truly man. He does not merely bring hope - He is Hope incarnate.

3. Purposes of salvation are revealed by the prophetic hope of God's Word. Lk 2:25-35

       We have noted how the Spirit of prophecy utilizes the promises of God to point to the Person of Christ. As we look at one more prophecy in Luke today, we consider briefly the words of Simeon. Simeon is described as having waited for the time when He would behold Israel's deliverer with His own eyes. Older generations of the past used the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible to assign a Latin title to Simeon's prophetic declaration in Luke 2:29-32, namely: "nunc dimittis". This Latin phrase corresponds to the first two words we can translate as: "now release".

        Think of how God's salvation purposes release those who receive His wonderous grace such by faith. Release from guilt (Romans 5:1). Release from the penalty of sin (Ephesians 1:7). Release from alienation from God (1 Peter 1:18). Release from future judgment (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Release from Satan's tyranny (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Release from the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).  Such "releases" deliver the only sort of hope that transcends the bleakness of our time. 

       Simeon is expressing how beholding the Savior has set Him free. He had hoped for nearly all of his life. For a significant portion of his time on earth, Simeon's hope seem delayed. As the great Baptist preacher Adrian Rogers once remarked: "God's delays are not to be taken as God's denials". God kept His word to Simeon. Simeon not only beheld hope; he "held" hope in his arms! 

       The purposes of salvation are concentrated in a Person - a Divine Person in Whom is united truly Divine nature, able to save, and truly human nature, capable to save.  Jesus came to be human in order to reconcile sinners to a Holy God. As man, He was born, lived, died and arose from the dead. He is our hope (see Colossians 1:27). 

Closing thoughts

        The Spirit of prophecy spoke through these events and people. Luke's record captures the wondrous reality of the Holy Spirit's work to make clear the advent of the Son of God in frail humanity. Would we, this advent season, heed "The Spirit of prophecy", Who shines for the only Hope that can pierce the darkness.

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Cause For Celebration And A Challenge To Consider: Happy Reformation Day, October 31, 2020


       I begin today's post by quoting from Paul's letter to the Church at Rome in Romans 4:1-3:

"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

       This Saturday, October 31, will mark a significant date on the calendar. Many people may think of "Halloween" when I mention October 31st. However, there is a far greater set of reasons to celebrate. An event of historic proportions occurred over 500 years ago that would shape the course of Christianity even to this day - the Protestant Reformation. 

The big deal that led to the Protestant Reformation

      What was the Reformation? In 16th century Europe, cries for reform in the Medieval Catholic Church had ensued for centuries. Within the church, 14th century Christian thinkers such as John Huss and John Wycliffe were preaching sermons which urged people to "return to the Gospel" proclaimed by the first-century Christians by "returning to the Book" - the Bible. Moral, spiritual and theological corruption invaded the church in Europe through centuries of accumulated human tradition and high Biblical illiteracy. Roman Catholic scholars such as Desiderius Erasmus (who would become a major theological opponent of Martin Luther, the historically recognized initiator of the Protestant Reformation) was even urging the need for reform.  

       Early 16th century Germany was ripe for the actions of Martin Luther when he nailed a public document to the door of the church in Wittenburg Germany, challenging Roman Catholic leaders to a public debate over the abuse of Pope Leo X selling documents which promised less time in purgatory  to pay for the construction of the then new St. Peter's Basilica (Church) in Rome. This peddling of lessening people's time in purgatory was known in those days as "selling of indulgences", since the Roman Catholic Church taught that an over abundance of merit before God was "indulged" or available at the appropriate price. Many people sought to purchase these documents with the thought of their dead loved ones having an easier time in the after-life. Astute thinkers like Martin Luther knew that this idea was not taught in scripture (that is, indulgences and Purgatory itself), and thus needed addressed. 

How the Reformation got to the root of major spiritual problems and the point of this post

      The Reformation would soon get to the root of the problems abounding in 16th century European spiritual life: what has ultimate authority (the Bible or the church)? How is a person "justified" or made right before God (is faith alone in Christ sufficient to receive salvation or is participation in the church's sacramental system needed to attain righteousness)? 

      The two issues of ultimate authority for Christianity and how a person is made right with God ever remain top areas of contention in our world. As we think about October 31, all Bible believing groups, including Southern Baptists, are deeply indebted to what God did through the Protestant Reformation that began on October 31st, 1517. Today's post is aimed at issuing forth two direct challenges to Southern Baptists and all other Bible believing groups about Reformation Day, October 31st: 

1. A rejoicing challenge.
2. A take back challenge. 

1. The Challenge to Rejoice 

      So why rejoice over Reformation day, October 31st? Three reasons....

a. The recovery of "sola scriptura
    or "scripture alone"

      First of all, as mentioned already, the root or "formal cause" of Luther's "call for reform" had to do with ultimate authority in the Christian life and church. Martin Luther had become a professor of theology in 1512, tasked with the responsibility of expounding books of the Bible to theology students. As he wrestled with lack of peace in his own soul, the matter of ultimate authority would throb in the backdrop of his mind. Yes, Luther would come to terms with the "material cause" of the Reformation - the doctrine of justification or "how a person is made right with God" - in his preparation of lectures on Paul's letter to the Romans. Yet, in the years following his "Tower experience" conversion in 1515, Luther would champion the view of Jesus and the Apostles: Scripture alone. In short, "sola scriptura" affirms that the Bible, not human tradition, constitutes the grounds of authority that shapes life, explains the after-life and addresses the conscience.

To sharpen what Luther was needing to address in the Reformation, the big question was this: is it the Pope and his statements concerning who went to heaven and who did not constitute the ultimate authority for the church, or is it sacred scripture that God alone revealed to communicate matters pertaining to this life and the one to come?

As Martin Luther wrestled over such questions, his conclusion was - Scripture alone! Doubtless, other forms of authority such as church leadership, conclusions from reason and other forms of knowledge had their place in Luther's thinking. Yet, all of those said authorities were subsumed under scripture. Luther and other Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox and others affirmed the "magisterial" role of scripture in its relationship to reason, tradition and church leadership.

b. The recovery of justification by 
    faith alone or "sola fide" (faith 

      The second reason to rejoice over October 31st and Reformation Day is due to the recovery of the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone (sola fide). In contrast to the man-made traditions of the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, Luther and those after him re-asserted the Biblical truth that faith by itself is both the necessary and sufficient means of receiving the gift of salvation. Old Testament passages such as Genesis 15:6 and New Testament passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 affirm "sola fide"  or salvation by means of "faith alone". Thus, justification by faith alone became the central doctrine, "the stuff" or "material cause" driving the vehicle of the Protestant Reformation. The doctrine of scripture alone (sola scriptura) was Luther's fuel in the engine that drove His call for reform - Justification by faith alone (sola fide). Luther himself noted that Justification by Faith is the one article upon which the church rises or falls.

c. Recovering the truth about the Biblical concept of the church

      The third reason to celebrate Reformation Day, October 31st, is because the Biblical concept of the church was recovered. As Martin Luther denounced the Roman Catholic Church's system of indulgences, a second question emerged: how is a man or woman made right with God? A church that does not derive its authority from the scriptures nor teaches the Biblical concept of the Gospel - justification by faith alone, cannot be deemed a true church. 

        Roman Catholicism of 16th century Europe, as well as today, communicates faith to be necessary for salvation - however it teaches that faith by itself is not sufficient.  According to Rome, one must participate in the Roman Catholic church system of baptism, confession, penance and Mass to be deemed right by God and to stay right.  The Gospel in the Reformation's recovery of the church shined forth not as a candle but as a brilliant sun. If God had not raised up men like Martin Luther to spark the Reformation movement, then the recovery of Biblical authority, justification by faith in the Gospel and the necessary truth of the local church may had turned out quite different.
        So we need to answer the challenge to celebrate Reformation day due to what God did in calling us back to the Bible, the Gospel and the Church. 

2. The Take-Back Challenge: Let's take back October 31st and celebrate God's Word, the Gospel and Jesus' mission for His church

       It is time to take back October 31, and use this day to proclaim the truth of scripture and the reformation, sparked on October 31, 1517. Truly the message of the Reformation is a message about "after darkness, light" (post tenebras lux).  Gospel Light, not darkness, should characterize our lives as Christians.  

      October 31st has been for years a time for paganism to observe one of the so-called "spirit nights" on their yearly calendar.  Rather than promoting a day of darkness and wickedness, witches, ghosts and goblins, Christians need to take a God-centered event like the Reformation and remind themselves of how God led His church back to the Bible, the Gospel of justification by faith alone and recovery of the Biblical concept of the church.  
        The Reformation was about calling forth people from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.  Someone once said: "It is more effective to light a candle than merely curse the darkness".  Let's light the Gospel light and shine the glory of the Gospel.  As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Envisioning Christian Spiritual-life Formation

The Potter & The Clay | The Blog of Patrick Vincent

      In recent years I've given increased thought to what entails "Christian spiritual-life formation". When I say "spiritual-life formation", I simply mean those spiritual practices which enable Christians to grow in their faith as they cooperate with God in daily-living. As one journeys back through the millennia of Church history and the Old Testament, we can find precedents for this idea. For instance, God had prescribed seven "festivals" for the Jewish people to initiate a spiritual-life cycle that would correspond to the agricultural cycle of "sowing and reaping" (see Leviticus 23). In the New Testament, we find Jesus taking one of those festivals, "The Passover", and transfiguring it into what we know today as "The Lord's Supper" for frequent observance by His church. 

      Individual Biblical-spirituality was situated within the larger framework of God's covenant-dealings with His people. The increasing secularization of society and development of non-theistic forms of spirituality demands a fresh understanding, preaching about and practice of Biblical spiritual-life formation.  

Envisioning Christian spiritual-life formation by way of a "Christian spiritual-life toolbox"

     As a pastor, I intend to begin a new series of messages that will center around an idea I call: "A Christian spiritual-life toolbox". The goal of the lesson series (Sunday night, twenty minute messages), is to provide a resource which small groups could use in future studies and to equip people in-person or online with tools for Christian spiritual-life formation. The series itself will likely contain roughly twenty messages, twenty minutes in length, followed by a time of discussion/Q&A and ending with prayer and reflection. Each time a message is presented, the rhythm of each service will begin with adoration, proclamation, exploration (the discussion time) and application (closing with prayer for renewal to exercise oneself spiritually in that particular area). There are four key areas of Christian spirituality for Christian spiritual-life formation:

1. Church-life.
2. Relational-life (i.e. small-group life).
3. Word-life (i.e. time in the scriptures).
4. Prayer-life. 

     Each of the above four areas represent four aspects of spiritual-life and development that intersect with the work of the Spirit in making the Christian more like Jesus Christ in thought, word and action (otherwise known as "sanctification"). What follows below are likely lessons and messages in the series (it is quite likely we will do the whole study in four "installments", with possible addition or deletion of messages). As I give further thought to what we will likely cover in this series, it also reflects the details of how I envision Christian spiritual-life formation.

1. Church-life.

*The benefits of congregational singing to the Christian life.

*The benefits of preaching to the Christian life.

*How evangelism with others can benefit the Christian life.

*The benefits of celebrating Lord's Supper and Baptism to the Christian life.

*The benefits of practicing giving to the local church to the Christian life.

2. Relational life.

*Christian mentoring as a must for Christian growth.

*Discipleship is at the heart of Christian growth.

*Why Sunday School is needed in the weekly spiritual diet.

*Building a strong marriage and home.

*Biblical friendship and praying for one another.

3. Word-life. 

*Knowing how the Bible is put-together.

*Basic Bible-study skills as a way of building faith.

*How to construct a soul-winner's Bible.

*What does it mean to "hear God through the scriptures"?

*The steps from meditation to application of God's Word.

*How you can know the Bible is the Word of God.

4. The prayer-life.

*How confession of sin enhances spiritual-life formation.

*The art and practice of stillness before God.

*What to do while you are waiting on God.

*How to pray the scripture.

*The power of prayer and fasting.

*The effectiveness of a thankful life.

*Steps to the Spirit-filled life.

*If revival is going to start, it must begin with me.

*The steps toward developing a daily devotional life.

*The value of praying with others to the Christian life.

      My hope and prayer is that this study would stir my heart and others toward a deeper and wider walk with Jesus Christ. As I preach the series, I intend to do future blog-posts on some of the messages, as well as provide video links for anyone interested. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Symphony And Unity Of The Bible As Seen In "The Great Marriage Theme"

Brunette Bride & Groom Wedding Cake Topper | Party City Canada
John 3:27-29 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full."

Introduction: The unity and symphony of scripture

        We recently have explored how the theme of "the great wedding" ties together the Bible's message of salvation. Additionally, this same theme has shed light upon predictive Bible prophecies of Jesus' return to retrieve believers unto Himself in "the rapture of the church". It truly is amazing to see the symphony and unity of the Bible. When I say "symphony", I mean all the various strands of truth that convey God's revelation of Himself in Scripture. When I speak of the "unity of scripture", I mean the incredible consistency of the message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The "marriage theme" is one of those themes that demonstrates both of these traits of scripture. 

          Today's post is going to explore this theme further by taking as its point of departure the early days of Jesus' ministry in John chapters two and three. John 2:1-11 and John 3:22-36 represent bookends that expose readers to the theme of Jesus Christ as the Heavenly Bridegroom that came to redeem His bride. The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes this point about Jesus and the "bridegroom" theme:

"In Jesus’ growing influence, John found his own joy fulfilled. He illustrated this for his disciples by referring to a custom at Near Eastern weddings. The friend of the bridegroom was only an assistant, not the main participant in the marriage. The assistant acted on behalf of the bridegroom and made the preliminary arrangements for the ceremony."

The commentary later notes:

"His joy came when he heard the bridegroom coming for his bride. John the Baptist’s work was to prepare for the arrival of Christ, the “Groom.” John baptized only with water, not with the Spirit. Therefore Jesus must become greater and John must become less. This was not merely advisable or fortuitous; it was the divine order. John willingly and with joy accepted Jesus’ growing popularity as God’s plan."

       The Biblical theme of the "Divine Wedding" was used by God to portray His redemptive purposes in the Bible. In a more specific way, we want to see how this overall theme applies specifically to understanding the identity of Jesus Christ in John 3:22-36.   

1. The Old Testament's use of the "bridegroom theme"

        It is no accident that the most famous passage on salvation in the Bible - John 3:16 - occurs in the same chapter as John the Baptist's declaration of Jesus as the Bridegroom for the people. In the Old Testament, God planned to marry Israel as His wife (as portrayed in His promises to the patriarchs).  His covenant with them on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20) and His repeated appeals for them to be faithful as a spouse to her husband (see  Hosea 2:20-23) pervade the message of the Old Testament scriptures (also see Jeremiah 2:1ff). 

       Old Testament books like "Ruth" unite the marital language of the Old Testament with the concept of a "Kinsman Redeemer" who takes on a bride that was married to a near blood-relative that passed away so as to preserve that man's bloodline (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In such ancient contexts, widows had no way of redeeming themselves, and so not only did the "law of the kinsman-redeemer" preserve the dead man's lineage, but also protected the living widow. Such marital language is used in the Old Testament's pointing forward to Jesus, who came to redeem for Himself a bride that, metaphorically speaking, was formerly married to the deadness of sins, trespasses and the kingdom of darkness (see Ephesians 2:1-4 and 5:22-25). 

       The Old Testament unfolds this "marital" language in many more ways as it speaks of the relationship between God and His people (see Psalm 45 and Song of Solomon). With the great "marriage theme", we do come across unexpected "twists and turns", such as  the abrupt theme of divorce representing the breach of covenant by the people to God (see Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 2:2). The sad treachery of Israel is thankfully not the final word. Glimpses of promises of restoration sit on the horizons of the prophets. 

       Through prophetic predictions of a new Covenant and coming Messiah (Ezekiel 36:25-26; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-31), Yahweh revealed His plan to restore unto Himself His people (see again Hosea 2:20-23). What all this means is that God's Sovereign purposes to restore His people were not going to fail. 

2. The appearance of the Heavenly Divine Bridegroom to achieve salvation for His people

      John the Baptist's remarks about Jesus being the "bridegroom" begins to unfold how it is God is going to restore unto Himself a people.  What surprises us is that God Himself, in the Person of the Son, was going to experience incarnation as the Groom who would offer Himself to Israel as her Messiah. Redemption is pictured in the New Testament as God's desire to restore broken fellowship with a people who rejected Him! 

3. The Tragedy and Triumph of the Bridegroom in redeeming His people

       As the reader journeys throughout the Gospels, we see the following thoughts developed regarding the presentation of the Son as "The Groom for His people":

A. The Divine Groom rejoices in coming for His people. Matthew 9:15; John 2:1-12

B. The Divine Groom rejected by His people. Matthew 22:1-5

C. The Divine Groom renders His life on behalf of His people. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27

4. The surprising climax of the Bridegroom redeeming His people

       The New Testament's unfolding of this amazing theme centers almost exclusively on the Groom - The Son. However there is another twist, a surprise unforeseen by the Old Testament and faintly unfolded in the Gospels: namely, the mystery of the church (see Ephesians 3:9-10). The Son who rejoiced, was rejected, rendered His life to crucifixion and raised from the dead will return once again. Passages such as Revelation 19:7-21 portray how the Son is looking forward to retrieve His Bride - The Church. Furthermore, the current project of God the Holy Spirit involves calling forth, one -by-one, sinners to saving faith - which amounts to sinners saying: "I do" to Jesus. When we put together all that we have considered up to this point, and then consider how the remainder of the New Testament explains this theme, we discover the following:

A. The Bride is being prepared for her groom, (with Israel being set aside at this present time) - Romans 11.

B. The Bride will be presented to the Son as His bride in heaven the rapture - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 19:6-7.

C. The Bride will be presented here on earth at His second coming (at which point He will restore Israel) - Matt 25:1-13; Rom 11:25-26; 1 Thess 4:13-16.

D. The Groom will reign on earth with His Bride the church, along with Israel who will be folded into His bride to be at the end of His reign on earth - Revelation 20.

E. The Groom and Bride will be married for all eternity, thus completing God's purposes in presenting a bride, composed of all of those whom He chose, called and were converted by faith to His Son - Revelation 21-22.

Closing thoughts:

       So when we consider all of the above observations with what John says in the opening text of John 3:27-29, we can see why he was so excited. Truly the promises of redemption and restoration were decisively revealed in the life of the incarnation of the Son in Jesus. This grand "marriage theme" conveys to us the symphony and unity of the Bible, as well as the identity of Jesus. May we all fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of Faith (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Getting Ready For The "Big Day": Tracing The "Great Wedding Theme" Through Scripture

Nearly half of Japanese people who want to get married 'unable to ...
Introduction: Getting ready for the "Big Day"

       When Debi and I were getting ready for our “Big Day” (i.e., our wedding day), she had made me 31 paper hearts with individual messages of love and encouragement. I can recall how in the summer before our wedding, she and I wrote daily letters to one another. For us both, the "Big Day" was ever on our minds. We still to this day have that container, with all those hearts. Such memories help me to get a sense of the much greater anticipation Scripture conveys as it directs our attention to what I call "the great marriage theme" of the Bible. 
16 Best The Marriage Supper of the Lamb images | Marriage supper ...
       With those thoughts in mind, we turn to Revelation 19:7-9, where we find a vision of celebration of the future “Marriage Supper of the Lamb”. In the last posts, we looked at God's RSVP and how it was He prepared history for the arrival of the Son of God, the intended Bridegroom for the Church He would come to redeem. Revelation 19:7-9 tells us the following vision of the great, future, "Marriage Supper of the Lamb" in the following words:

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

           As we saw in the last couple of posts, this passage presents the Church as complete and perfect, ready for eternity with her Bride-groom, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this post, I want us to once again see how the Church is brought to the point we find here in Revelation 19:7-9, with particular reference to what Jesus is doing in Christians now to get them ready for their "Big Day". From Revelation 19:7-9, we will hop over to John 13 for the remainder of this post, which appropriately we will call: “Getting Ready for the Big Day”. 

       As we will see again in today's post, you and I have been invited to be part of Jesus’ Bride – the Church, by grace through faith, to what author Sinclair Ferguson speaks of as "the great celebration". 

How the marriage theme gets us from Old Testament to New Testament
God of Jacob, God of Israel - Part 2 | Rapture Forums
          To review from the last couple of posts, God issued a call to a people to become a nation. He redeemed her out of Egypt and prescribed the Passover celebration to remind her of what He did and to point ahead His intention for her to worship Him (see Exodus 5:1 and Exodus 12). Once Israel was gathered at Mount Sinai, we find God repeated His identity as Her Redeemer. He then revealed the Law or, what the New Testament refers to as the "Old Covenant" to provide a context in which they and Yahweh could relate to one another. 

      As we often see when studying scripture, God never relates to His creation nor His people apart from such binding agreements or covenants. God, for instance, created all that we see by way of a "binding-agreement" or "covenant of creation", pledging Himself to sustain and bring all He made to His intended purpose (see Jeremiah 33:25). Whenever God dealt with Adam and Eve, He did so by way of a "Covenant of works" (see Genesis 2; Hosea 6:7) and then later a "Covenant of Grace" (see Genesis 3:15, 20-21). Other examples of God's covenant method of dealing with His people include Noah (Genesis 8-9), Abraham (Genesis 12,15,17) and David (2 Samuel 7:13-16); so too when it came to the nation of Israel. After God revealed the Ten Commandments, we then see Moses and the leadership have a feast before God on the slopes of Mount Sinai (see Exodus 24). 
Ancient Jewish Wedding Procession - YouTube
      What emerges in the retelling of the Exodus is the extraordinary pattern of an ancient Jewish wedding scene, namely, a betrothal feast (in this case, the Passover); followed by the "Groom-to-be" or "Bridegroom" going ahead of the Bride to build a dwelling (God's words about "going to the mountain to celebrate a feast to Him) and then the groom retrieving His bride and marrying her (the scene in Exodus 19-20). It is later in the prophetic books we discover that God envisioned His covenant with Israel as that of the formation of a Husband and wife relationship (see Jeremiah 2:1; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2). Jeremiah 2:1 specifically likens this historic event to a wedding: 

“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.” 

       Tragically, Israel would reject Yahweh and per Isaiah 50:1.  He and Israel would metaphorically have a divorce. However, God pledged to restore Israel. When we come to the New Testament, we discover God sent His Son to be the Bridegroom to call forth individual sinners to believe and become part of His church, His bride. Ephesians 5:25 summarizes this point: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 
Do You Love Jesus, But Not the Church? | Desiring God
     God, as the Person of the Holy Spirit, is gathering specific sinners from every nation to be part of the Bride of Christ, to get ready for His return and to bring Israel back to Himself (see John 16:7-11). What follows from here will continue on with this wider theological framework of "the great marriage theme" and explore the specifics of  Jesus' commencement of the New Covenant meal – the Lord’s Supper, as His pre-wedding meal to His Bride, the church. Here is what we will discover today…

1. Jesus paid for believer’s future with 
Him. John 13:1-30

2. Jesus’ provisions for believers as they 
await Him. John 13:31-38

3. Jesus’ promise to retrieve believers 
to live w/ Him. John 14:1-3

The great marriage theme and what Jesus is doing for Christians in this present age to get them ready for their "Big Day"

       As we expound John 13:1-14:3, we will find how the text corresponds quite nicely to three stages in an ancient Jewish wedding that I alluded to earlier: 

1.  Bridegroom’s betrothal to the bride.

2.  Bridegroom’s building of a home for 
     the bride. 

3.  Bridegroom returning to retrieve his 

This will aid us as we explore how God is getting believers ready for their “Big Day” in which they’ll be retrieved by Jesus. Let's note the following main points that help us unpack these truths which each correspond to the ancient ritual of a Jewish wedding.....

1. Jesus paid for believers’ future life with Him - John 13:1-30 (This corresponds to the Bridegroom’s betrothal to the bride).
The Crucifixion of Jesus - Facts About His Death on the Cross
      In a typical Jewish wedding pattern, the first stage was what was termed "betrothal". This is where the Bridegroom would make a journey to the home of his intended bride and negotiate terms of marriage with the bride's father. What follows is a summary of this first stage (and notice how Jesus' institution of His New Covenant meal, "The Lord's Table", flows nicely with this ancient ritual.

A. 13:1-14, Pronouncement of Love. 

     Just as God the Father in the O.T. commenced the Passover to express His intent to redeem and love a people that He would, metaphorically, make His wife (i.e. Israel), the Son would transpose that original covenant meal into our New Covenant meal, expressing His intent to redeem and love His Church. You can see this in John 13:1-4. Jesus also expresses this Luke’s version in Luke 22:15-16

 "And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

In ancient Israel, a groom-to-be would declare his love publicly to His betrothed by saying something to the effect: "She is my wife, and I am her husband". Betrothal's purpose was to make a legal covenant what would create a legal marriage (but without the physical intimacy, which would occur roughly a year thereafter when the bridegroom would return to retrieve His Bride and take her to the home He built for her and have the public wedding ceremony and feast).  

B. 13:4-17 (esp vvs 5-7) Payment of the Bride-price.

          Jesus’ foot-washing not only gave the disciples an example of the type of humble, self-sacrificial love they are to have for one another, but also to typify the humility He exercised in His incarnation. Philippians 2:5-7 spells this out:  “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

      The point of Jesus' incarnation was three-fold: to provide perfect righteousness through an actively, obedient humanity; to destroy the Devil's works as the Second Adam and to provide atonement for sins through His substitutionary death on the cross. As we read in Acts 20:28, the work of Jesus on the cross would pay the price for His Bride, the Church. Furthermore, passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 remind believers that they "are not their own, but have been bought with a price". 

C. 13:1-30 Prescribing the New Covenant Meal.
         As a Jewish man would had went to the bride’s parents and gave them the “bride-price” to take care of the Bride while He goes away to build them a home, the parents would put on a public betrothal meal. The bride’s younger female attendants would had been invited. They would play a key role in helping her get ready for the unannounced coming of the Bridegroom a year later (see Mt 25:1-10). The betrothal meal would signify that the groom and bride were in a legally binding covenant relationship. Jesus even tells His church to “celebrate this until I come” (1 Cor 11:26). 

2. Jesus’ provisions to believers as they wait for Him - John 13:31-38 (This corresponds to Bridegroom building a future home for he and the bride, and what He provides the bride as she waits for His return).

 60+ Education Gifts to Add to Your List | Getting Smart
     Whenever a Bridegroom would leave his betrothed bride-to-be, he would disappear for roughly a year to build their future home. In the first century of Jesus' day, multiple generations of families would have a family compound, wherein each generation would build their house onto a pre-existing structure of the "Father's house". When the bridegroom had paid the "bride-price" in the betrothal ceremony, included in that payment was provisions for the bride while he was gone. We can see how Jesus had provided for Christians and thus, His church, while He is currently away "preparing a place for us" at His Father's house. Here in John 13-16, we find some of these spiritual provisions for the Christian:

*John 13:1-30 Practice of Lord’s Supper 
  and Baptism.

*John 13:34a Power of God’s Word.

*John 13:34b-35 Personal love for one 

*John 13:36 Pain and suffering. By trials and testings, the Christian is made pure and, counter-intuitively, stronger in their faith (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

*John 14:26-27 Person of the Holy 
Spirit. He was sent to give strength and aid in our journey from the world of sin to the throne of God, what the Apostle Peter describes as our "pilgrimage" or sojourn (see 1 Peter 2) as a Kingdom of Priests called forth from "darkness to light".

3. Jesus’ promise to retrieve believers to live with Him - John 14:1-3 (This corresponds to Bridegroom returning to retrieve His bride. The doctrine mentioned here is the “rapture” of the church, wherein Jesus will “catch-away” Christians.).
   Is the Rapture in the Bible? - Saint Innocent Orthodox Christian ... 
           Now we will only skim the surface of this final thought, since a whole other post could easily devote its time to unpacking the doctrine of the rapture of the church. Suffice it to say, Jesus is the first to mention what is called "the doctrine of the rapture" or the “catching away” of the church (the word "rapture" derives from a Latin root meaning "to snatch, to sieze", which corresponds to the underlying Greek term translated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as "caught-up"). 

      In ancient Jewish wedding practice, the bridegroom would come at an unannounced time to retrieve the bride. He would had been 12 months constructing their home. We pick up this language of "going to prepare a place" and "coming again to receive you unto Myself" in John 14:1-3. Jesus' words were not only intended to encourage His disciples, but also us reading them. This truth is very encouraging for the Christian, as we see in other "rapture" passages below.

A. John 14:1 The rapture is a comforting truth. 

        That is, it strengthens our faith. As Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 states: “Therefore, comfort one another with these words”.

B. John 14:2 The rapture is a clarifying truth. 

         That is, it brings focus to our faith. Phil 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

C. John 14:3 The rapture is a certain truth. 

     That is, it stabilizes our faith. 1 Cor 15:51-52  "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed".

Closing thoughts: The Bridegroom is coming soon to retrieve His Bride, the Church, for "the Big Day".

The ultimate groom checklist for your wedding day!
      We won't go into the timing of the event of the rapture, which again is another discussion all in itself. Rather, the rapture or "catching away of Christians" is closely connected to the formal second coming of Jesus to earth at the end of this age. How closely we distinguish these two events, and whether there is a span-of-time between the rapture and Jesus' second coming are questions that inform the discussion of the placement of the rapture in discussions on Biblical eschatology (i.e. "study of last things"). What we can say, in closing, is that the rapture metaphorically represents that next-to-the-last stage in the Jewish wedding cycle, with the final step being that of the wedding feast and consummation of the relationship. Revelation 19:7-9 is where we find ourselves in the final stage of this glorious truth. Indeed, the Christian looks ahead to the day when their Savior comes to retrieve them for their "Big Day". 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Part Two - Notes from a recent sermon on Revelation 19:7-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 entitled: "God's RSVP" Doris Home 50 pcs/lot Gold Rsvp cards with white ...

       In the last post, we looked at some notes from a recent sermon I prepared on the subject of tracing the great "marriage theme" through the Bible. This sermon, entitled: "God's RSVP", represents a short series devoted to grasping the message of Revelation 19:7-10, wherein God invites sinners to become part of the "Bride of Christ" and to prepare for what will be "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb". The main passage for this sermon derives from Jesus wedding parable of Matthew 22:1-14. In this post, I'm halfway through the sermon. My prayer is that the last post and this one helps unify the scriptures in our mind as we consider what God is doing in our world at this time. For those wanting to review the last post, simply click here: For those who would like to hear the sermon as it was preached this past Sunday, click on the video link here:

     In what follows, I continue on in points two and three of the sermon, detailing out the overall message of the New Testament and then the personal invitation of God to you.

God now calls the nations to receive Him. “God’s RSVP to the nations, N.T.” Matthew 22:8-13

        Whenever we come to the N.T, we begin to see “how” the nations and Israel will somehow fit together in God's continuing redemptive plan. The sending of the Son to the earth was to present "The Bridegroom" first, followed by what would be the emergence of a whole new revelation - namely that of the "The Church". As we discover, the whole New Testament is designed to set up the narrative of God gathering together a Bride for His Son. What follows below is a thumbnail sketch of this unifying concept. 

a. Majesty of the Bridegroom. 

Per Jesus in Matthew 22:8-10, we see Jesus presented as the Bridegroom John 3:29 - "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete."

b. Mystery of the Church revealed. 

      Per Jesus Matthew 22:10. Since Jesus is the Bridegroom, who is to be His bride? The church. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:9-10 - 

"and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places." 

        Although I won't have time to tease out the implications about the mystery of the church in the sermon, it nevertheless follows that the point is vitally important when we consider the distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel is a wife whom Yahweh is going to restore at the second coming of Jesus and whom, right now, is temporarily set aside to "make jealous" as a result of the nations coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah (see Romans 11). The Church as a people are described in this present age, not as "the wife of the Son", but rather, "The Bride" (see Revelation 19:7-9). As a matter of clarity, the Apostle Paul compares his role as an Apostle to the nations as one preparing the church to be presented as a "chaste virgin" to her Bridegroom - Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1-3). 

c. Mission of the church (till Jesus comes). 

       Per Jesus Matthew 22:11-13. The church is to be the bride of Christ. A brief consideration of ancient Jewish wedding practices sheds much light upon what we see going on in the New Testament with respect to Christ and the Church. As I have studied this incredible background, consulting such resources as the "Jewish Encyclopedia" gives a view of all this through Jewish eyes. Also too, great expositors of prior years such as Dr. John Walvoord, Dr. Dwight Pentecost, Dr. Renald Showers and other commentators validate the little summary which follows. In the Jewish wedding imagery, we find three stages: 

#1 Betrothal (preparation time, this age, Christ has went to the Father’s house to get things ready for us).  

#2 Coming for the Bride (we’ll cover in later weeks, the rapture of the church) to bring bride to His home to finalize marriage. 

#3 Marriage supper (again, later message), we find in Revelation 19:7-9. For now, the Spirit is calling one-by-one, sinners from every nation to be part of the bride. We must note that in this present age, there will be those “in the church” which are not “in Christ”.  Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

       This three-stage scenario for Jewish weddings will prove helpful as we tie together today's sermon with what will follow in the remaining two sermons I plan on preaching from Revelation 19:7-9. 

God is calling you to respond to Him in faith. “God’s RSVP to you today” - Matthew 22:14

      In the sermon, we have covered Matthew 22:1-13. We have noted the grand-scale "marriage theme" of the Old Testament into the New Testament to visualize God's RSVP to Israel and then the nations. What needs to be done now is to get this "Big Picture" down to our level. Matthew 22:14 is a short verse which, if handled correctly, can enable us to capture Jesus' personal invitation to each one of us. 

      Now as I consider how we will bring this message down the homestretch, and as I appeal to the Holy Spirit for aid at this point, a question arises: what do we do with this final verse? It presents to us the two pillars of Biblical salvation: 

A. God’s Sovereign purpose of grace and...

B. Man’s responsibility to believe. 

       That both are true, this we affirm. How both are true at the same time, that I cannot tell you. I sometimes will explain these by three questions. 

Why do some not get saved? Because they’re unwilling. 

       Whenever you see “many are called”, this tells you God will issue the call, but not all will respond, because those who won’t respond do so of their own choice. The great 19th century preacher C.H. Spurgeon notes that the outward call of the Gospel reaches the intellect and men may pay respect to Jesus, yet they won’t commit to Him. They want benefits, but not the Benefactor. There must needs be that inward call which gets past these external ears. What I often like to do is find scriptures which present both God's work in salvation and mankind's need to respond. Acts 13:46 states -

"And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles."

Why do some get saved? God’s purpose of grace. 

      When you see that phrase: “few are chosen”, that tells you that salvation is of the Lord’s doing. 

We read in Acts 13:47-48 these words - 

"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

           So we have seen the first two questions when considering God's Sovereign work in human salvation and man's need to respond by faith. Now let's consider the final question, which will also bring this message to a close with a final appeal to the reader...

What must I do to get saved? Believe in Jesus.

       Luke writes these words of Paul to the Philippian Jailer's question about how to get saved in Acts 16:31 - "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved". This dear friend, is God’s appeal to you. Would it be that this Gospel call penetrate beyond your physical ears into those inward ears of the heart. Jesus would often say: “He who has ears, let Him hear”.  May that be said of you and me - that we have responded to God's RSVP.      

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Part One - Notes from a recent sermon on Revelation 19:7-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 entitled: "God's RSVP"

How to RSVP by Post to a Wedding Invitation – Monoset

       In today's post I want to share notes from a current sermon I'm preaching from the book of Revelation. My main text is Revelation 19:7-10 (with emphasis on 19:7-9). Revelation 19:7-9 is what I refer to as "God's RSVP". We all know God is working even in this time of a worldwide pandemic. His invitation to sinners to respond by faith to His gracious call is ongoing even at this time. In the passage, we find these words as follows:

"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

     As I began studying this passage, I realized that John is showing us a vision of a completed process. The Bride in the vision (i.e. "The Church") is portrayed as having completed her journey with God in sanctification. She is viewed as composed of individual believers whom received glorified, resurrected bodies and which are free from sin in Heaven. 
        What I began to ask myself was this: what all brings believers to the point of what will transpire in Revelation 19:7-9? More importantly: why is John putting this forth as an invitation for people to respond in faith to the Gospel in this present age? Such questions prompted me to begin tracing what I call "the wedding theme" through the entire Bible. What follows in this post (and the next post) entails the process of preparation in thinking through the scriptures for this sermon. I hope too that readers will find their appetites whetted for God's Word and for Jesus' soon return. 

         To begin this first sermon (which will likely be the first in three overall sermons), I can recall the wedding invitation Debi and I had nearly 24 years ago. An RSVP was included. I had always wondered what "RSVP" meant? "RSVP" derives from a French expression, "répondez s’il vous plaît", for "please reply". 

       For me, reflecting back on our preparation (let me correctly say, my wife's preparations!) caused me to see how God always issues a "RSVP" to fallen sinners - whether Israel in the Old Testament or sinners scattered among the nations today. I can remember as the time approached, we were wondering why not everyone on our list had responded. It was an invitation. We don’t know why everyone didn’t “RSVP”. 
        Revelation 19:7-10 issues a Divine RSVP (it is worth reading Revelation 19:7-9 to hear the words of God's invitation). After having read this marvelous text, what I want us to do is slingshot over to Matthew 22:1-14, where we will camp in the remainder of today's sermon. As we will spend the remainder of our time in Matthew 22:1-14, we will begin to consider how God is calling forth sinners to become part of the Bride of Christ – the church. As we will discover, when God issues a RSVP for salvation, none are interested. His gracious working, by the Spirit, is required for anyone to respond (more on that later). 

              Now, why this focus upon the "wedding theme"? Well, this theme of “the marriage between God and His people” provides a lens to better understand Biblical salvation as presented throughout scripture. In this message, we will look at how God prepared history for the arrival of His Son – the Bridegroom, and how the Lord Jesus is now calling sinners to become part of His bride – the church. The relevance of this message is in how you and I need to respond to this Divine RSVP. 

      What I want to see happen in this message is a connection between the whole Bible to that of Revelation 19:7-9. In the second message, I plan on detailing how God is preparing the believer for what will be that glorious meeting with the Bridegroom - the Lord Jesus Christ - spoken of in Revelation 19:7-9. Then in the third sermon, we will focus particularly on Revelation 19:7-9 to culminate the grand vision of the wedding theme as intended by God in His Word.
1. God called a people that would reject Him. “God’s RSVP” to Israel, O.T. Matthew 22:1-7

a. God’s calling began. 

       God's invitation to sinners and His desire to have a redeemed people began in the Book of Genesis. The Old Testament uses the metaphor of marriage as signifying a marriage-of-sorts between Yahweh and Israel. The Bible often uses metaphorical language to depict God's adaptation of the revelation of Himself to His people's understanding. Metaphor as a vehicle of communication doesn't make what He reveals any less true. 

       As I had one professor explain to me years ago, a metaphor is an "implied comparison" between two unlike things. The intended affect of metaphor helps us to connect to what is true about God. If I say for instance: "it is raining cats and dogs", you would know I'm speaking metaphorically (afterall, we don't see poodles and kittens on weather maps!) The affect of my figurative way of speaking would bring about the affect in you that, "indeed, it is raining a bunch!) God does this often too, since we are finite people. 

      There are those instances, of course, when God makes known direct statements about Himself (such as He being "all-knowing" in Psalm 139). Now I likely won't cover these thoughts in the sermon, however, it helps me to think through why God would reveal marriage in the first place - because the institution tells us something true about His love and devotion to His people. Whichever mode God communicates, the idea of metaphorical language is to convey God's desire for relationship with those whom He calls to Himself. This idea of God making a covenant with His chosen people to redeem them and commission them to be a light to the nations is a major point of the O.T. 

      God’s ordaining of marriage in Genesis 2 set the tone for this wondrous metaphor. Literal marriage’s intent is to picture what is spiritually the case between God and His people. Later, We see His calling of Abraham in Genesis 12. It would be in Genesis 24 that Abraham would send his servant to fetch a bride for his son of promise, Isaac. Now at this point I won't spend too much time on the details we find in Genesis, only to say that the "marriage theme" sets the stage for God's formal covenantal arrangement with Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19-20.

b. God’s calling reissued. 

        In the sermon, we will turn to Jesus' marvelous summation of the Old Testament account of God's dealings with Israel as a husband with his wife. Spans of centuries are passed over in the first three verses of Matthew 22. Per Jesus in Matthew 22:1-3, we find God sending his first group of servants or slaves to His people Israel, which derived from Abraham and the patriarchs. Servants (i.e. prophets), such as Moses and Samuel, we could classify in that first group. They were rejected and thus, God was rejected as Israel’s King. We could say Jesus' recounting would cover the contents of the Old Testament from Exodus to 1 Samuel.

c. God’s calling, final notice. 

      Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:4-6, we see God sending a second group of servants (David, Elijah, Major and Minor Prophets). They too were rejected. The attempts of Yahweh to convince Israel to remain loyal to Him is metaphorically a husband trying to convince his increasingly estranged wife to come back to him. God's love ever extends to fallen sinners, captured within the small picture of what was going on in Israel throughout the remainder of the Old Testament revelation.

d. God’s covenant broken, promise of restoration. 

       Per Jesus again in Matthew 22:7, God would send first, the Assyrians in 722 b.c. and then, the Babylonians, beginning in 605 b.c., to exile the people (respectively the Northern Kingdom of Israel and then Southern Kingdom of Judah). The one feature of the "marriage theme" that some may find shocking is that Yahweh would experience the pain of divorce. God was metaphorically pictured in the O.T. as having issued a Bill of Divorce to Israel for her unfaithfulness (Isaiah 50:1). 

       Per Hosea 2, this metaphor of God as a husband and Israel as His wife is featured (one of several spots in the O.T. prophets). Why the Divorce? Israel had broken covenant. However, God would then issue prophecies and promises of Israel’s restoration. Yahweh’s wife, Israel, will be restored to Him in the earthly reign of Messiah. God says at the end of Hosea 2:23 “And I will say to those who were not my people, Your are my people! And they will say, “You are my God!”. The O.T. states what will take place (Israel’s restoration). It even hints at the nations somehow having involvement. However, it does not say “how” (part two of this sermon will cover the New Testament's teaching on the church, which will explain the "how", in the next post).

      God never ceases extending His invitation to fallen man – the O.T. gives us an example in the heart of the Father. If one can keep in mind that the Old Testament is summed-up as "God's initial calling"; "God's calling reissued"; "God's calling - final notice" and "God's covenant broken and promise of restoration", then the general purpose of the Old Testament to New Testament truth should come into view.

More next time....