Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How God prepared for Jesus' Arrival - P2

In yesterday's Blog we considered how God had been working behind the scenes in the 400 year time period between Malachi and Matthew.  In today's blog we continue noting the remarkable events that transpired in preparation for the arrival of Jesus Christ.

1. The World's first Bible Translation to be used by the Apostles
In 275 b.c a Governor in the Greek speaking city of Alexandria Egypt desired to gather 70 Jewish scribes together to begin the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek.  This project was called the "Septuagint" ("sep-too-a-jint" meaning "The seventy") and made this effort the first time the Bible has been translated into another language.  By the days of Jesus, the Old Testament in Greek was regularly used.  In fact, this translation is the one used in virtually all Old Testament quotations in the New Testament. 

2. The Roman Roadway System, perfect for doing missionary work
It was through Rome that the Roman roadway system - stretching some 50,000 miles throughout the Mediterranean world-came into being.  According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, this roadway system took over 200 years to build! That system would make it possible for The Apostles to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rome had instituted a policy called "Pax Romana", which simply meant they were willing to tolerate the existence of other lines of thought and the exchange of ideas (providing of course you gave homage to the Emperor).  These factors set the stage for what would become the missionary activity of the early church.

3. The Jewish Synagogue, ideal for spreading God's word throughout every city
Over time Judaism saw itself being de-centralized.  In every town Jewish centers - called "synagogues" (translated roughly to mean "gathering places") sprang up.  In order to have a Synagogue, as long as you had 100 Jewish men and a copy of the Old Testament scriptures, you could form a synagogue.  This set-up would make it easier in time for Christian missionaries - like the Apostle Paul - to go into a given city and speak at the local Synagogue.

Thank you Lord for the times and seasons you orchestrated to set the stage for the arrival and sending of God the Son, Jesus Christ.  As I close today's blog, I remind the reader of Galatians 4:4, which summarizes everything we have been exploring: "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How God Prepared for Jesus' Arrival - Part One

Last week I had preached a message on "Scripture's Bird's Eye View - Part One - The Old Testament".  In that message we saw ten themes for the Old Testament - functioning as ten theological torches that mark the road of redemption running from Genesis to Malachi.  We noted the tone, the perspective of the Old Testament, to be that of "Pre-Cross". 

In this blog I want to explore the time that existed between Malachi to the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew.  In your Bible, you will find a blank page between those two books.  Trust me, that blank page was anything but blank in the plan of God.  Some 400 years lie between Malachi and Matthew, wherein God was preparing Israel and the world for the coming of Pre-existent God the Son, Jesus Christ. 

Many call that period "The Silent Years" - Silent because God did not reveal anything in terms of written scripture for that period of time.  Though God's voice was silent, though His face of glory remained hidden for that time, His hand of Sovereign guidance (that is, Providence) was clearly at work.  Below are some events and people God was orchestrating together to prepare the time for the coming of His Son.  Today we will note the first three of those events, with a continuation in tomorrow's blog.

1. How God set the right world climate for Jesus' arrival
Daniel predicts in his book about this period of time, as well as our current period, the massive change and shifting of empires and nations by God.  At the end of the Old Testament we see the ending of the Babylonians and the beginning of the Persians.  The book of Esther rounds out the Old Testament with the people of God being under the dominion of Persia.  Daniel saw a vision of these empires in the great statue of Daniel 2.  He saw a head of gold - Babylonia and he saw a chest and arms of silver - Persia.

2.How God prepared for the language of the New Testament
However Daniel saw two other features of this massive statue - namely a belly and thighs of bronze and legs made of iron.   History bears out that these last two features reference the empires of Greece and Rome.  Greece conquered Persia under Alexander the Great.  It was through Alexander that the spread of the Greek culture and language took place.  It was because of the spread of Greek that the Apostles would write the entire New testament in that same language.  Rome then came after Alexander's death and conquered Greece.  Rome would be used of God in the days of Jesus. 

3. God spares Jerusalem - the city where Jesus would be crucified hundreds of years later
History records for us an interesting meeting between Alexander the Great and Jaddus the Jewish High Priest in Jerusalem.  As Alexander was conquering the land around Israel, he and his army approached Jerusalem.  According to the first century Jewish Historian Josephus, Alexander the Great sent a message to Jaddus to surrender or face defeat.  Jaddus' replied that he could not surrender, due to the fact that he had submitted to Persian rule.

History then tells us that Alexander began to approach Jerusalem, and as he drew near, Jaddus came out to meet Alexander the Great.  When Alexander saw the High Priest and his fellow priests dressed in white, and the name of God stamped in gold on the High Priest's mitre (his hat or turban), Alexander's heart began to soften.  Apparently the High Priest had read in the book of Daniel about Greece conquering Persia.  Alexander was so moved by this man, and was so impressed by what he heard from the text of Daniel about himself, that he chose to spare Jerusalem. 

Application for your own life
The God of the Bible prepared from all eternity for Christ's arrival.  History is a demonstration of that fact, and the Bible is the flawless revelation of how God was to bring His eternal purposes and historic plan together in Jesus Christ.   Remember, dear friend, that God's silence does not always mean God's absence.  God's deeper work a lot of times is operating in our lives so that we can be prepared, through His word, for a more profound walk with Jesus Christ.  Tomorrow we will continue exploring how God has prepared for Jesus' arrival.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Old Testament's Converting Power

      Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 3:15: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ.”  The Greek text of this verse is rich in Old Testament imagery.  It reveals quite literally, these texts “have the inherent ability to make me comprehend the wisdom of salvation” (author’s translation).

I remember one time hearing of theologian R.C Sproul’s testimony of how he was brought to Christ.[i]  It was of all passages Ecclesiastes 11:3: “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”  Sproul comments about how suddenly God showed him that he was that tree, dead, and lying on the ground, in need of salvation.  Sproul wryly points out that he is probably the only person in the history of the church that was saved as a result of that passage.
Clearly the mark of Divine Inspiration lies in the scripture’s ability to affect someone’s salvation.  The Old Testament has this quality.  In the famous passage John 3:16, John appeals to the holding up of the serpent in Numbers 21 to highlight the significance of Christ’s impending crucifixion that is recorded at the end of the Gospel of John. 
Perhaps the most dramatic example of the effectual (the ability to affect) nature of the Old Testament’s ability to bring about salvation is by noting the Apostle Peter’s Preaching on the day of Pentecost.  Peter quotes at length no less than 6 Old Testament passages in unfolding the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s resurrection and the need for salvation.  3,000 people get saved, and the church is officially born.  Truly this demonstrates a sample of how effective the Old Testament can be in God calling men and women to Jesus Christ.

[i] Dever Mark, J. Ligon Duncan III, R. Albert Mohler Jr., C.J. Mahaney: Preaching from the Cross.  Crossway Books.  Wheaton, Illinois.  2007

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Old Testament's Explanation of the Cross

Why did God the Father have to send God the Son to die on a cross?  Why did God the Son voluntarily do this?  Why was there no other option but this one?  The Old Testament gives us two reasons behind God’s plan of salvation: Consider the pattern and the prophecies. 
a.    God’s Pattern for salvation was set in the Old Testament
Concerning God’s plan of salvation to save sinners, the pattern for innocent substitutes dying in the place of guilty people was set in Genesis 3:21, when God provided coats of skin for Adam and Eve.  The blood itself is the physical emblem of the soul.  In Leviticus 17:11 we read: The life of the flesh is in the blood…”  In the Hebrew text this can literally be rendered: “The soul of the flesh is in the blood”, indicating the physical connection between blood and the human soul.  When Christ came to die on the cross, He fulfilled this picture by shedding His own blood, which alone is the source of salvation and must be applied by faith in the lives of those so affected by the Grace of God (Ephesians 1:7). 
b.    God gave Old Testament prophecies detailing the event of the cross
No other chapters in the Old Testament predict the necessity and the event of the cross like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.  Psalm 22:1 describes the very words Jesus would utter at the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Verse 8 of the same Psalm also tells us what the scribes would say to Jesus as they passed by the cross.  In Psalm 22;14, we see reference to Jesus’ bones being out of joint, a common trauma associated with crucifixion.  In verse 18 we see how the soldiers would be casting lots for Jesus clothing. 
In Isaiah 53:5 we see prediction of the Messiah being wounded, bruised and receiving stripes on His back.  In 53:9 we are told he would be laid in the borrowed tomb of a rich man, fulfilled in Matthew 27:57. 
Remarkably, the torture described by these two chapters occurs centuries before the crucifixion (Psalm 22 occurs 1,000 years and Isaiah 53 occurs 700 years before the event).  Furthermore, crucifixion as a form of punishment was not to be invented until the Romans conquered Greece some 450 years after Isaiah’s time. 
Focusing on these Old Testament texts enables us to see that the cross was not an accident, but central to God’s plan for history. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Practical uses for the Old Testament

      Practical usages of the Old Testament


Who has not heard Psalm 23 quoted or referenced at a funeral service?  What do you do when you or someone you know loses a child?  You turn to 2 Samuel 12:23 where David, in grief over the death of his son, states: “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”  Most throughout church history have appealed to this text to conclude that a child who suddenly passes away before the age of accountability is ushered safely into the presence of God.  Jesus of course maintains this consistency of this truth by noting the unique grace that children have before ditinguishing between righteousness and unrighteousness (the age of accountability) in passages such as Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that (J)their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

What happens when you are facing anxiety, or uncertainty?  Passages such as Zephaniah 3:17 reminds us that God rejoices over us with singing, and quiets us with His love.  Psalm 55:22 tells us: "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."  In the New Testament, Peter mentions this antidote to worry - "casting one's cares upon the Lord", in 1 Peter 5:7. 
How about guidance for making decisions or knowing God’s will on a given matter? Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all of your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 24:6 tells us that: “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counselors there is safety.” 
Appealing to the wisdom of scripture in our decision making is re-echoed in passages such as Philippians 2:15-16 "so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."  These are but a few examples of the Old (and New) Testament’s ability to capture the wide spectrum of human emotion responding to life situations. 
Principles to effective application of the Old Testament
1. Every New Testament Doctrine has an Old Testament Testament Example
As you grow more familiar with the contents of the Bible in your study and reading, you will begin to see how the Old Testament gives concrete illustrations of truth that becomes fully developed in the New Testament.  For instance, I know that the life of Abraham gives a concrete illustration of the walk of faith which is fully unfolded in the New Testament book of Romans (especially Romans chapter 4).
2. Whenever you are studying anywhere in the Old Testament, find the connection to Christ
Though I may not find Christ in every verse of scripture, yet from every verse of scripture I can find my way to Jesus Christ.  The aim of the Old Testament is to point us to the One it anticipated.  As in the study of the New Testament, the Old Testament carries that same quality of being used by the Spirit of God to bring us to a meeting point with Jesus Christ.  (Please compare John 5:39).
3. Be aware of the distinctions between the Old Testament and New Testament
As much as I advocate the unity of all scripture, there are some differences that you as a Bible student need to keep in mind when determining how to apply Od Testament truth.  First, is the concept repeated or reinforced in the New Testament?  Animal sacrifices for instance ceased in the New Testament because of Christ's work on the cross.  Though they can be valuable in illustrating what He's done, yet it would be quite inappropriate for the Christian to perform them.
Second, be sure that your application of Old Testament truth does not conflict with explicit New Testament teaching.  Understanding that the nature of God's revelation of His truth is progressive in the Bible, I need to make sure that when using an Old Testament text, that I have connected it to a New Testament verse that speaks on the same subject.
More points could be brought out, but I hope this aids you, dear Christian, in your walk with the Lord. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Knowing Christ in the Old Testament

I can’t think of any more important reason for studying the Old Testament than in the fact that Christ Himself is known through its pages.  For instance, Luke 24:44-45 records these words of Jesus to His disciples following His resurrection:  “And he said unto them, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me.’  (45) Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” 

Though I might not be able to find Christ in every verse of scripture, yet from every verse of scripture I can find my way to Christ.  It is no wonder that throughout Christ’s ministry He did everything in fulfillment of the Old Testament.  When He was born, nearly 100 Old Testament passages were fulfilled.  In the course of His ministry the Four Gospels allude or reference over 600 Old Testament scriptures.   Jesus tells us this in John 5:39 “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” 

We learn from Genesis 3:15 that as the “Seed of Eve” He would become involved in a cosmic battle with Satan, and accomplish victory.  We know from Proverbs 30:5 and Psalm 110 that God the Son has been eternally by the Father’s side.  According to Isaiah 6 and John 12:41, this “Son” is as much God as the Father is God.  Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7 tells us that in being God, somehow He would become a man by being virgin born and someday ruling on the Throne of David in Jerusalem.  In Isaiah 55:1 He makes a passionate plea for all those who thirst and are hungry to be filled.  If for nothing else, getting to know Christ through the study of the Old Testament is strong enough reason to survey its contents. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Awe of the tremors of God's Holy presence

Have you ever experienced an earthquake?
Earlier this week the news had reported an earthquake occuring in the middle of Virginia.  My sister-in-law, who lives near Philadelphia, several hours away from the epi-center, told my wife that things on her wall were shaking.  I can recall my own experience of an earthquake when we had lived in a town North of Tulsa.  There had been a confirmed magnitude 4.3 earth tremor with its epicenter in Norman Oklahoma, several hours from where we had lived.  At the time I working in a church building, when suddenly the books on the shelves "rubbed" against one another.  Even though this event was small in comparison to many earthquakes we hear about, still it was enough to cause excitement and wonder.

What happens when God is on the moveIn Amos 1:1 we read these words: "1The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake." Notice the underlined words?  Amos, a shepherd, was beginning his ministry in a time where there had been a great earthquake in Israel.  Other prophets, such a Zechariah, speak of this same earth quake in Zechariah 14:5.  What was going on that made this earthquake occur?  In the simplest terms: God was on the move. 

A king's wrong move
According to commentators and ancient Jewish Historians such as Josephus, a King, Uzziah (who we read about in 2 Chronicles 26), had entered into the holy place of the temple grounds.  Now though he was King, he was in a place where he should not had been.  According to history and 2 Chronicles 26, when Uzziah made this fatal mistake, God struck him with leprosy.  Apparently at the exact same moment a huge earthquake struck Jerusalem, causing a major crack to open up the roof in the temple, letting light in, where then Uzziah was struck with leprosy.  It was in that same year that Uzziah would die.  Isaiah 6:1 records these words: "1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." 

How often we ignore the tremors of His Holy Presence
When my own "earth shaking experience" occured that morning near Tulsa, I thought of how many times does God move in our midst? How many people miss the "tremors" and "seismic shifts" that occurs when He moves?  Some people I had talked to at that time had not even realized there had been an earth quake.  However by the end of the day, everyone knew, due to news reports and media outlets.

Lets never lose the awe of God

Now I suppose by next week, the earthquake in Virginia will begin to fade into memory.  But I would bid the reader not to treat God in that same fashion.  Rumblings are taking place.  In some ways it is disturbing what is going on in our churches, our lives and our cities.  However, three prophets, Amos, Isaiah and Zechariah, were called by God to report all they saw and heard.  Holy God is desiring sole allegiance and covenant unity with His people.  May we never lose the awe and fear of our Holy God. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Praise the Triune Creator

Today we want to consider the work of the Trinity with respect to creation.  When we think of what the Bible has to say about the Triune God's creation of the universe, we can note the following distinctions:
1. The Father Sanctioned Creation
-Psalm 33:6  6By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
-Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the Hevaens and the Earth
Clearly the created order was already in the mind of the Father.  It was by His decree that all things visible and invisible came into being.  The Heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).  Why is the universe so big?  Because it takes an entire universe to approximate for our limited understanding what a glimpse of the Father's eternal glory must be like. 
2. The Son Structured Creation
-John 1:3 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
-Colossians 1:17  17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
-1 Corinthians 8:6 6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Christ is called in John 1 "The Word".  In Jewish thought and Greek thought, "The Word" (or the Logos) was what was believed to structure and hold together the entire universe.  The New Testament especially tells us that the Logos is not just a principle, but The Person of Jesus Christ.  Anywhere we see God speaking forth, we can accurately say that it is God the Son in conjunction with the Father, whose life and nature He shares.
3. The Spirit Sows life into the creation
-Psalm 104:30  30Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
-Genesis 1:2 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
-Ezekiel 37:6 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
It is the Holy Spirit who animates all of creation.  He not only is the origin of physical life, but also spiritual life (John 3:1-5; 1 Peter 1:23).  God, the Living God is the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17). 
Let us therefore give praise to the Triune Creator.  For from Him, and through Him and to Him are all things! (Romans 11:36)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to Adore the Trinity

The Trinity is meant to be adored
Paul's last words to the church at Corinth are found in 2 Corinthians 13:14 - "14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." This final statement was very important to Paul, since throughout His letters to the church at Corinth he was dealing with issues that threatened their fellowship and intimacy with God.  He wanted the Christians at Corinth to have direct interraction and empowerment from the Triune God. 
So who is the God of the Bible?  Passages such as Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us that He is One God whom were are to love with all of our hearts, souls and strength.  Furthermore, the Bible tells us that in being one God in His existence, He is Three-fold in His identity.  Passages such as the one above and Matthew 28:18-20 tell us that the God of scripture is identified as The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Father, the Son and Holy Spirit have co-existed with one another for all eternity.  Each one is His own center of personality while having in common the same undivided eternal inward life.
A recommendation when contemplating the Trinity
More could be said about how this One God can exist as three, co-eternal, co-equal persons, however I think it is helpful when contemplating the Triune God to begin with His works, followed by His names and then finally arrive at a point where we can adore His very nature.    
1. God's work
When we say His works, we speak of the activities of the Triune God in relationship to His creation in general, and His people in particular.  In the above passage, we see three distinct areas of God's overall work of relating to His people - grace, love and communion.  All three are one great work, with three incredible properties.  This work of the Triune God, in anchoring the Christian, is a loving, gracious communion.  Thus the work of God here points us back to it's author - who being One in existence, acts within that existence as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. God's names

The names of God point to His character.  Scripture mentions hundreds of them. In this passage, we see When we speak of His names, His names help us identify various features of His character.  It is not enough just to know the works of God, but as Psalm 103:7 states, there is that deeper level of know God, namely His ways.  I have found the names of God to be helpful, since He often revealed His names in contexts where He was revealing His character.  In this text we see three: Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Thus God is One in character, and three in identity.  No conflict exists within God.

3. Adoring God's nature means knowing Him, not comprehending Him

After we have begun with God's works, and proceeded to note His names, we can finally begin to know God.  When we do this, we realize that our goal of comprehending God will never be met, since God's glory is beyond comprehension.  We can legitimately know God, but never comprehend Him.  I can for instance know how a light works when I enter a room - simply flick the switch.  However I may not fully comprehend all the laws of physics, mechanics and engineering that it takes to make the switch work.  In a much more profound way it is the same when it comes to developing a deeper appreciation for the Trinity.  The only proper response is worship and adoration (Psalm 100). 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Adore the Triune God

When salvation takes place, what changes with regard to our understanding of God?  We go from knowing Him as the Creator from whom we are separated, who is all powerful, knowing and wise, the Judge of all men (Romans 1:18-20) to the Blessed Triune God.  

It is the Holy Spirit who touches our heart, and show us the Divine Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 16:8-14).  The Holy Spirit, who is God present working here on earth (Acts 5:3-4) aims to enlighten the eyes of unbelievers who are otherwise blinded to the truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).  The Holy Spirit is God inside the believer.  God the Holy Spirit does His work of revealing the true identity of Jesus Christ through the scriptures.  By the scriptures I discover the Jesus Christ is God with us.  He is God revealing the identity of God the Father, and He is man, identifying with me in my humanity (Hebrews 1:-7).

By the combining work of God in us (The Holy Spirit), God with us (Jesus Christ) I arrive at the blessed communion of God the Father, God above us.  Now understand, this is not the work of three gods, but three Divine persons who share in the same undivided life.  The Bible refers to this Divine shared life "The God Head" (Romans 1:18-20; Colossians 1:16ff).  Thus we worship One God, who is Three co-eternal, co-equal persons, who are identified as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I come to adore the mystery of the Father, the Majesty of the Son and the Mercy of the Holy Spirit.  I come to awe in the wonder of the Father, the Work of the Son and the ways of the Holy Spirit.  By God the Holy Spirit I see by faith God the Son and Hear by faith the voice of God the Father.  God the Father loves God the Son, in whom I am connected by humanity to his humanity.  God the Son is loved and the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son.  
Today, let us adore the Trinity.  We proceed by the Person of the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the Deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.  In approaching Jesus Christ we by faith identify with His humanity, and partake of His Deity, making us partakers and sharers in the Deity of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  God is our drink, our food and our breath.  Bless His Holy name.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Tower of Babel: Present and Future Considerations

Isaiah 41:21-23 "Present your case,” the LORD says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,”
The King of Jacob says. 22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;
As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; 23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together."

In yesterday's blog we began looking at the accuracy of scripture in matters of history and current evidence as it pertained to the Tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis 11.  The overall aim of this small series of blogs is not only to shed some light on that event, but to also demonstrate the reliability and accuracy of the Biblical text.  The above text gives a test and challenge to anyone claiming Divine origin for any document or truth: namely say something accurate about the past, the present, the future and point it all to the God of the Bible. 

We have seen that the Bible alone can do this, since in comparison to outside historical sources and current evidence, the Bible does indeed demonstrate accuracy and reliability.  What of the future?  What does the Bible have to say about the future in light of what took place at the tower of Babel?

From Babel came forth Babylon 
Throughout history Babel would become the Empire of Babylon.  We read of this empire in the Bible books such as Daniel, Jeremiah and Habakkuk.  Other Bible books mention the taking of the Jews into Exile into Babylon, along with their return from that exile in Ezra and Nehemiah.  Babylon was begun by Nimrod, and remerged again in Daniel's day under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. 

Babylon is a picture of the current world system opposed to the believer
In 1 John 2:15-17 we see a description of the Christian's three-fold enemy: The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life.  The lust of the eyes parallels mankind's desire for material possessions, an economic idolatry.  The lust of the flesh corresponds to mankind's desire for power, political idolatry.  And the Pride of life speaks to man's desire for religion without the God of the Bible - thus religious idolatry. 

Babel and its rebellion sets forth the pattern in which humanity, apart from God's grace is lost and in darkness.  It also explains the three-fold rebellion that mankind had and still has against God: economic, political and religious: Economic in refusing to acknowledge God's ownership of their lives; Political in refusing to acknowledge His kingship and religious, refusing to trust in Christ by faith alone. 

The Christian's walk through this world requires the power of the Spirit, the cross and the scriptures, as well as other Christians, since this world system, a "babylon of sorts", is hostile to the Christian.  It is our responsibility to be salt and light, and to let our light so shine before men so that they may see our works and give praise to the Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

Babylon as the system will give away to Babylon the Great
After the Perisans had conquered the Babylonians, Babylon as a historical empire faded off the scene.  However In Revelation 17 and 18 we see prophecies concerning the arising of a future empire that the Bible calls "Babylon the Great".  Babylon the Great can be best understood under three headings: Economic, Political and Religious Babylon.  In those two chapters, the world system will be unified under one man, the Anti-Christ, who will be the head over the economic, political and religious interests of mankind.  Just as in Genesis 11, mankind will once again attempt to unite together in rebellion against God. 

With the Bible accurately making sense of the past, as well as explaining why things are presently, we can rest assured that the description of the future is also trustworthy.  Thankfully, Christ will return to defeat Babylon the Great. All true Christians will not have to suffer the doom recorded in those chapters. (Please compare 1 Thessalonians 1:10)  If anything, whatever is done for man's glory in earth will past, but whatever is done for Christ will last. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Tower of Babel: Evidence of Scripture's Accuracy

Genesis 11:4  They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

How accurate is the Bible
In today's blog I want us to briefly consider how accurate and reliable the Bible is in explaining historical events, present situations and future realities.  We will be using the tower of Babel as our case study, noting how all that proceeded from that one event is proof that the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel really did happen.  The Bible alone can be termed God's book, since its reliability and accuracy is unmatched. 

1. Historical sources confirming the existence of Babel
When we read Genesis 11, we are seeing the combined efforts of all men who were descended from the bloodlines of Noah's sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.  With the context of Genesis 10 as a backdrop, we know that in all, 70 different nations were represented.  Nimrod, the leader of this rebellious movement, concucted not only the building of this tower of Babel, but also the raising up of the Babylonian city, culture and lifestyle. From this one man, and one movement, would derive all of the religious, political and economic efforts of mankind in rebellion against God.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 11:8 "So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city."  Thus this great tower, representing humanity's economic, religious and political anarchy, was ceased in its construction.  Mankind dispersed, speaking different languages.  But how historical was this event?  Was it true?  Consider the testimonies throughout world history that refer to this tower:

1. We have discovered sources upon which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the King who reigned in Daniel, had made efforts to reconstruct the tower of babylon which is spoken of in Genesis 11.

2. Herodotus, a Greek Historian writing in 450 b.c, speaks of the existence of a mound of ruins in Babylonia in his day.  He describes the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon", one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, as being associated with this site. 

3. Strabo, another Greek Historian, writes in his book "Geography" a physical description of all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean world in the 1st century A.D.  Writing in around the days of Jesus, Strabo describes the ruins of a tower that was 1/4 of a mile at its base and over 600 feet high.  Strabo calls this tower the tower of Jupiter of Belus.  Belus is Greek designation tower the world "Babylon" or Babel.

Clearly these sources outside of the Bible, composed by men who were not sympathetic to scripture, confirm the existence of this tower.  The ancient Babylonians used the term "Babel" in reference to what they believed to be "a gateway to the gods".  However the Bible reveals that the term "babel" ended up referring more to "confusion".  Indeed, if God had not stepped in and judged mankind at Babel, mankind would had destroyed themselves. 

2. Present day evidence for the existence of Babel

With historical testimony affirming the accuracy of the biblical record, what about current-present day evidence?

1. We know from the most recent studies in linguistics that scientists have traced the origins of all modern languages to the area surrounding modern day Iraq and Baghdad - the ancient site of the Tower of Babel.  In fact Linguists divide the earth's nearly 7,000 language groups into two general language families - both of which derive from the descendants Noah's sons: Hamio-Semtic (from Ham and Shem, all of the Middle Eastern and Asiatic Languages, like Chinese and Hebrew for instance) and Indo-European (from Japheth, all of the European and Mediterranean languages, such as Russian and Greek). 

2. The existence of "towers reaching to the heavens" existing all over the world tells us that man, though dispersed, still carried the rebellious message of Babel in his heart.  In Egypt, we have the Pyramids; in Mexico, the mighty Aztec Zigurrauts; In South America, the Mayan ruins; each of these being but examples of shrines devoted to men placing themselves as objects of worship and idolatry. 

3. Google Earth is a website where one can download pictures of any place on earth.  If you type in the site just South of Modern day Baghdad, Iraq, you will arrive at the ancient site of the tower of Babel. This site, called "Etemenanki" (tower of Marduk), can be found and viewed as a rather large mound of stone and ruins some 60 or so miles South of Baghdad.  

So clearly then we have evidence that we can view in our current day and time that this event had occured, and that it also explains the existence of other objects and sites throughout the world.  Once again the Bible is affirmed as being fully reliable and accurate in matters of history and science.  As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:18: "18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

In tomorrows blog, we will look at the future realities described by scripture that speaks of the world's present situation in light of prophecy connected to Babylon the Great and the Tower of Babel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How God is the Christian's Mighty Fortress

The Bible describes seven ways in which the Lord works in preserving and sustaining the Christian.  I have found these verses to be helpful in reminding me of just how close God is to me even when I don't feel that He is close.   As a Christian you can have the confidence from these texts that you are not only "God called" but "God walled".

1. The Lord is always with us (Matthew 28:20)

2. The Lord is above us watching over us (Ephesians 1:20-21)

3. The Lord is beneath us holding us up (Deuteronomy 33:27)

4. The Lord is before us leading us as the Good Shepherd (John 10:4)

5. The Lord is behind us protecting us from our past (Exodus 14:19; Psalm 23:8)

6. The Lord is around us on every side (Psalm 34:7)

7. The Lord is within us, enabling us to live the Christian life (Galatians 2:20)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hope for the Weary Soul

I can trust God when....
EVIL SEEMS TO HAVE THE UPPER HANDPsalm 37:1-4 1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.  3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.  4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

I FEEL OVERWHELMEDRomans 8:28 28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I AM DISCOURAGED2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

I AM AFRAIDPsalm 27:1 1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

I AM ANXIOUS1 Peter 5:7 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

I NEED GUIDANCEProverbs 3:5-6  5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

MY BURDENS SEEM HEAVYMatthew 11:28-30 28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

God the Great Missionary's Mission

Christianity's personal Great Commission
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.  20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.  21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

In this past several series of blogs we have been sketching out the Eternal Career of God the Great Missionary.  Today we will be concluding our brief look at God the Great Missionary by noting  how God aims to use Christians in His activity as the Great Missionary.

The Triune God - The Author of Reconciliation

Note the three phrases I underscored in the above text.  2 Corinthians 5:17-21 stands out as the believer's personal great commission.  If we identify the Great Commission's pedigree beginning at Genesis 12:1-3 and being reitterated by Jesus to the Apostles in Matthew 28:18-20, then we can say that it is being personalized here in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.  The theme of course is reconciliation.  God's act of reconciliation was His idea from Eternity.  There is no contradiction between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 

It wasn't that God the Son was alone in His compassion towards unsaved human beings, with God the Father being unwilling and angry and the Holy Spirit having to decide between the two.  Rather all three Persons of the Trinity, sharing in the same undivided divine Life as God, chose to act.  The Father planned reconciliation, the Son purchased reconciliation and the Holy Spirit applies reconciliation by gifting folks with faith and repentance to believe on their Reconciler.

God's use of believer's in His mission

 From the three underlined phrases above, I want you to note the three aspects of how God the Great Missionary desires to use all true Christians in His great missionary cause:

1. The Mission's purpose is supplied by Him 5:17-18
-God is desiring to take those whom He has set His affections upon and make them new creatures.  If any man be in Christ refers to the reception of such truth by faith.  The purpose of all this, the gifting of faith and the actual reconciliation of believers to their Savior is all from God. 

2. The Mission is personal  5:19
-God has given us this ministry of reconciliation.  This reveals just how personally involved God desires every Christian to be in this endeavor to reach the world for Jesus Christ. 

3. The Mission is powerful  5:20-21
-The most remarkable thing about this text is that it is God who is making the appeal through us.  Missions truly alligns Christianity with the heart of God. 
-To realize that the salvation of sinners is not up to us, but up to God, and that He so chooses to work through those willing to allign with Him is both a humbling and encouraging truth.
-To realize that God not only indwells Christians at salvation, but desires to work through believers reveals His intent from all eternity, to have a redeemed group of human beings through which He can display the riches of His glory.  May everyone who names Christ in their hearts and on their lips manifest His name in their lives.  Let us all be His mouth and hands and feet in reaching this world for Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Great Missionary's Plan to Reach the Nations

Genesis 12:1-3 1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:  2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This text is where we find the first mention of a specific strategy for God's mission to the world.  Certainly we can note  the following features of this incredible text:
1. He called a particular man - Abraham
2. He had a particular place for this man to go - Canaan
3. He desired to make a particular nation from this man - Israel
4. He desired to use this nation for a particular purpose - Be a blessing
5. He had a particular goal in mind - His glory
God's glory is defined in terms of the word "blessing".  It is when God gives Himself to be enjoyed and treasured by a people who are affected to trust in Him.  In a span of just three verses God was to lay out His entire missionary strategy in the Old Testament.  Through Abraham's Son Isaac and grandson Jacob would come the nation of Israel.  God's program for the nations was to be funnelled through tiny Israel.  The Bible says that in ancient times God had orchestrated the number of the nations on earth in accordance to the number of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8).  Ultimately God the great missionary desired to use redeemed human beings as His voice and hands.  Although Israel would ultimately fail in its mission set by God, God's will to reach out to the nations would not fail.  Furthermore, Romans 11 tells us that God still has a plan for restoring Israel in the future. 

How do we know that God still wants to use redeemed human beings as his hands and voice in reaching the nations?  Matthew 28:18-20 represents Jesus' great commission to His church: 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Note the similarities to the pattern we found in Genesis 12:1-3:
1. He called a particular people - The Apostles
2. He has a particular place for them to go - The world
3. He desired to make a particular people from their preaching - Disciples
4. He desired to use disciples, the church, for a purpose - be a blessing
5. He has a particular goal in mind - His glory
He desires to use Christians as His voice and hands to reach out to a world needing to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bible's Greatest Missionary

What is a missionary?  A missionary is one who is sent to communicate a particular message to a particular people on behalf of the God of the Bible.  The word “mission” itself comes from a Latin word “missio”, which in its most ancient meaning referred to artillery that was “shot out” to a given target. 

Next question: Who is the greatest missionary recorded in the Bible?  Some may say the Apostle Paul, who wrote two thirds of the New Testament and was declared to the “Apostle” or “Missionary“ to the Gentiles (that is, the non-Jewish Nations).  Others may name a prophet like Moses, who was “sent” to the Jewish people in Bondage in Egypt.  Though these are good suggestions, they are not even close.  The greatest missionary in the Bible is none other than God Himself. 

In fact the first mention of missions in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:8-21.  The circumstances follow the great rebellion of Adam and Eve against God’s command to them to “not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and Evil”.  This command is the foundation behind what Bible teachers call “The Covenant of works”.  It was an arrangement given by God to man whereby Divine blessing and eternal benefits would be granted conditioned upon man’s obedience.  If Adam and Eve would had fulfilled the Covenant of works, they could had eaten from the tree of life, and entered into eternal communion with God.  Instead they chose to heed the voice of the serpent, and the Covenant of works was broken.

What was needed was another covenant, another arrangement.  God would have to be the one to do the work.  Man would never and could never attain right relationship with God through obedience.  It was going to have to be a covenant of grace, whereby God would extend Himself to man, with man receiving such grace by faith alone.  It is in this context we find God, the great missionary pursuing man.  Below is a brief outline of what God did, and is still doing today in His great missionary activity in this world.  Genesis 3:8-21 provides the seeds for understanding the missionary activity of God throughout the rest of scripture. 


1. God seeks after the sinner Genesis 3:8-14
-Notice how the man and the woman hide from God.  God is the one calling after them.  God is the One who comes down to them.  They are lost, needing to be found.
-Notice how man blames God.  Man has no interest in reconciling with God.  He is content to remain where He is.  God is the one needing to affect the reconciliation

2. God states salvation to the sinner  Genesis 3:15
-This verse is the first verse we see referring to God’s promises of a Redeemer.  “The Seed” is a term that when traced throughout the scriptures, through 334 prophecies and promises, leads to Jesus Christ.
-This verse also contains what would remain the course of history, the great conflict between the people of God saved by Grace alone through faith alone and those who persist in their rebellion and unbelief.
-The salvation that begun in a garden would find its resolution in another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemene.  In the first Garden Old Adam failed and refused to allign with God's will.  At Gethsemene the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, alligned his human will with the Father's Divine will and agreed to pay for our salvation.

3. God sends Grace to open the sinner’s eyes Genesis 3:20
-Adam calls his wife “Eve”, the mother of living, in response to the promise given through her in Genesis 3:15.  This is what I term his confession of faith
-The Bible is pretty clear that faith is a gift given by God, whereby we are set free to freely trust in Christ and confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9)

4. God supplies a Substitute to die in the sinner’s place  Genesis 3:21
-God provided coats of skins from two animals He killed in place of Adam and Eve.  This sets the pattern of the innocent dying for the guilty and the blood being the payment in appeasing the wrath of Holy God.
-God’s clothing of Adam and Eve meant He reckoned to them the fitness to be in His presence due to the innocent life of those slain in their place.  This is what we called “imputed righteousness”.  This is the cornerstone of salvation.  God’s declaration of this truth over us the moment we believe is what is termed “Justification by Faith”.

Thank you Lord for being the Great Missionary!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Noah, The Ark, and the Flood: Why its Important

The Biblical account of Noah, the Ark and the flood in Genesis 6-9 has important implications for the Christian life.  Below are some key reasons as to why we need to consider it more closely.

1. Jesus uses the Flood to explain the end times
Luke 17:26-27 26And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.  27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.  Without a doubt Jesus was drawing parallels between the culture of Noah and the days preceeding His second coming. 

2. Peter uses the Flood to explain Earth’s Past and Future
The Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3 warns his readers about how there will be scoffers in the last days who will ridicule, among other things, the reality of the historic worldwide flood recorded in Genesis.  He writes in 2 Peter 3:3-7 3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,  4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:  6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:  7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 

The world-wide flood for instance can explain why geological features of the earth took moments, not millions of years, to form.   In fact the world-wide flood event has been used by specialists called "Creation-Scientists" to explain everything from the existence of comets, to the craters on the moon, to the tilt of the earth to the possible explanation for the dissapearance of dinosaurs.  The evidence for a world-wide flood (see last blog) can be a useful in counter-acting the humanistic world-view of evolution.  Websites such as "" are great tools that utilize the flood in describing the history and destiny of our world in light of the scriptures. 

3. It shows that God never forgets His people
Genesis 8:1 tells us that God remembered Noah.  This idea of God remembering His people is quite pervasive throughout the Old Testament.   When God is "remembering”, He is bearing forth upon Himself and in Himself the name of His people.  When one does a word study for this word "remember", it speaks of a continual granting of kindness, graciousness and compassion in extenuating circumstances.  The idea of God remembering somebody occurs in key theological and historical events throughout the Old Testament:

Gen 19:29 – God “remembers” Abraham      Gen 30:22 – remembers Rachael
Exod 2;24 – remembers the Israelites             1 Samuel 1:19 – remembers Hannah
Job 14:13 – The cry to remember Job              Psalm 132 – the cry to remember David

Undoubtedly this idea carries its way into the New Testament, where Christ’s resurrection is the prime example of “remembering”, since God did not forsake his body to see decay (compare Peter’s comments in Acts 2:27 on Psalm 16:6-8)  Indeed Christ's promise to never leave nor forsake His people is embedded in His committment and love for them. (please compare Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5)