Archives For April 2007
God knows us completely. He knows our stories; he knows our failures, our sins. He knows it all. It’s sometimes tempting to think that because we all got up and took showers this morning and put on nice clothes that we are all gathered around this table because we are fairly decent people. It’s easy to think that God likes us because we’re somewhat likeable. But the gospel is clear: if we piled up all our best traits, and took fifty baths, and bought the most expensive perfume, and spent 50 years caring for poor people and sick infants, it would amount to a pile of manure and dirty rags. Paul says, if anyone had a case for boasting he did, and he counted it all rubbish; it’s nothing compared to the exceeding riches of the glory of God. Compared to God’s holiness and righteousness we are all poor beggars, covered in filth. God knew all our worst thoughts, our worst actions, our worst sins, he knew them all, and he still invited you here. This means that you are forgiven. This meal is the Eucharist, the thanksgiving. And the reason we are giving thanks is because we are here. How is it that we are here? How is it that a righteous and holy God let us within 100 yards of him? He has done this because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Your sins are forgiven. You are washed. You are clean. You are healed. You are clothed as royalty, as sons and daughters of the King. So come with thankfulness. God knew you and all that you were; but God has removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. So come eat and drink and believe.
Opening Prayer: Gracious Lord, you know that we like to talk about you a lot. We use lots of big words, and we are quick to deceive ourselves, thinking that knowing about you is the same as knowing you. Present yourself to us today, even now. That we may know you and the power of your salvation, and thus bear your Name and image in true righteousness and holiness, through Jesus Christ, Amen!
My Name Yahweh
Moses has just gotten in hot water with the elders of Israel and has brought his case before the Lord (5:20-23). God’s response is initially to tell Moses his name (6:2ff). Of interest here is the fact that God is not talking about mere knowledge of his name; the patriarchs use the name “Yahweh” throughout their narratives. Some modern critics take this to mean that an original (now lost copy of Genesis did not include the name Yahweh). But there is a simpler explanation in the text (v. 8). This means that there is some knowledge of Yahweh that will be new: the fact that he is a God who delivers his people and keeps promises (6:6-8). Yahweh is the God who redeems with “an outstretched arm.” Yahweh is the God of Exodus. God’s word does not seem to affect Israel’s view of Moses because of “shortness of breath” and “hard labor” (v. 9). And Moses asks God how his words will have any affect on Pharaoh if his own countrymen aren’t (v. 11-12).
The Family of Moses
We need to do a little bit of math here to understand the genealogy correctly. We know that God promised Abraham that his descendents would be in bondage for 400 years (Gen. 15:13). However, here in Exodus 6 we find that 400 years has not elapsed between Levi and Moses (vv. 16, 18, 20). If we add these years end to end we get 407 which some have taken to mean that this is merely a symbolic number. But the Apostle Paul gives us some inspired commentary on this chronology in Galatians 3, indicating that the 400 years should be reckoned to begin from the covenant made with Abraham (Gal. 3:17). If we estimate the chronology (not being sure exactly when people were born during their father’s life) we might estimate that Israel went down into Egypt proper about half-way through the 400 or 430 years (cf. Ex. 12:40-41). Based on Exodus 12, we must conclude that “bondage in Egypt” refers to the entire time Abraham and his descendents lived in the land as strangers under foreign domination (which would have been Egypt primarily).
Why this Here?
Many modern commentators have concluded that this genealogy is yet another evidence of scribal cut-and-paste sloppiness. “O shoot, we forgot about that bit… ah, just throw that in here.” But the context suggests that the writer of this text knew full well what he was doing when it was placed here. First, we know that this genealogy precedes the beginning of the heart of the “showdown” between Yahweh and Pharaoh. The genealogy makes sense here to introduce the main characters. Secondly, God has just declared who he is in terms of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (6:3-4, 8). The genealogy here clearly illustrates that for God to be Yahweh, the promise keeping God, the God who delivers his people, he must act now (it’s the fourth generation cf. Gen. 15). Notice also that this passage is concerned to record the “heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites” (v. 25). Also notice the redemption of Israel is not coming through the oldest sons of Jacob: Reuben and Simeon. It’s coming through a younger brother (remember Joseph), and it’s coming through the liturgical tribe. It’s not the royal tribe (Judah); it’s the tribe given the task of teaching Israel and leading her in worship.
As God to Pharaoh
The text indicates after the genealogy that it’s at this time that this same Moses reminded God that he was not a good public speaker (6:28-30). But Yahweh responds by saying that he has made Moses God to Pharaoh (7:1). Yahweh said something similar when Moses protested that he was not a good speaker. Yahweh told him that he would be as God to Aaron his brother who would speak on his behalf (4:16). The set up is a little different here, and Aaron is described as Moses’ prophet. But Moses is said to be God in both of these cases. Clearly, Moses is not becoming Yahweh himself, but Moses because of his interaction with and knowledge of Yahweh is being made God to Aaron and Pharaoh. From this angle, this should remind us of Adam in the garden. He was created in the image of God. Additionally, Adam enjoyed perfect communion and interaction with God. His communion with God was so perfect that he could be said to be God to the world. Perhaps this is what the Psalmist refers to in Psalm 82 when he refers to the “children of the Most High” as “gods.” Thus, Moses is a picture of righteous image-bearing, the image restored. He does this because he knows and speaks with Yahweh.
Conclusion & Application
Jesus is called the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) and the “express image” of His person (Heb. 1:3). And Paul tells us that in Christ, we and the whole creation are being renewed and remade. In particular it is that image that must be renewed, and therefore this is what God has predestined us to: to be conformed to the image of the new Adam, the Lord Jesus (Rom. 8:29). But how are we conformed to that image? By knowing God in Christ (Jn. 17:3, 1 Cor. 2). And the NT ties this “knowing God” to imaging God (Eph. 3:19, 1 Jn. 4:7-8). Therefore we may rightly say that God has made you God to the world. This is not a call to some kind of arrogant, power-tripping lifestyle. This is actually a call to a ministry of redemption through dying. And in fact, the apostles over and over again insist that we have already died (Rom. 6:2-8, 2 Cor. 5:14, Col. 2:20, 3:3, 2 Tim. 2:11). That means that this is a call to faith. Moses didn’t have a great job, telling the most powerful man in the world that he was going down. We are all called to die to one another. But this should come as a great joy in this season as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. For if God has raised him from the dead we know that God will surely raise us up as well.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God and Father, we thank you that in Jesus Christ we have died. And we thank you that because you raised him from the dead, you have also raised us to newness of life. We thank you that in Him, we have been called this ministry of reconciliation, a ministry of redemption. Grant us grace to know you, to know your Christ and him crucified, that your fullness may dwell in us that we may be present you truly to the world.
Throughout the Scriptures and particularly in the prophets it is abundantly clear that God deals with his people covenantally. And the basic conditions of this covenant are that God promises to bless faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the obedience that flows from it and he promises to curse unbelief and disobedience. This week we have witnessed yet another horrific tragedy in our nation, this time on the campus of Virginia Tech. We are not inspired prophets, and therefore we are not called upon to make particular judgments or declarations regarding particular people or events. Yet, this is an opportunity to consider tragedy in general, and it will not do for God’s people to respond by shrugging their shoulders and acting as though everything that happens in this world is a grand, inscrutable mystery, sort of like being confused and astonished when a wine glass shatters after being thrown to the ground.
We are a nation full of millions of Christians and we are a nation which supports a multi-billion dollar pornography business, a nation that has slaughtered millions of unborn children, a nation that celebrates the perversion of homosexuality, and the list goes on. We must recognize that Christians are keeping all of these industries and perversions running. And Christians are holding memorial services for this week’s tragedy praying together with Muslims and Jews and Buddhists, praying to some idol in their imaginations. Surely there are faithful Christians affected by these events, surely they will cry out to the Father of our Lord Jesus, and they will be comforted. But Allah will give no comfort, the god of the Jews cannot come near, Buddha is dead and buried, and the god of the dollar bill is deaf to all their pleas. Jeremiah says, “O Lord are not your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; you have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, surely these are poor. They are foolish…” (5:3-4) When a nation on this earth is full of people called by the name Christian and they are simultaneously participating in all manner of idolatry, perversion, and violence we cannot act confused or surprised when disasters and tragedies begin to afflict them. This is the biblical pattern; sin will be judged; God is not mocked.
So what must our response be to all these things? First, we must cry out to the Triune God to have mercy and compassion on those who were affected by these events to give them comfort and peace because we worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the God of all comfort. And we must ask God to have mercy on us as a nation and plead with Him to grant us reformation. Secondly, we must reject all syncretism, every attempt to water down the Christian God. We are Trinitarians. We worship God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. All other gods are idols. Finally, we must insist that sin always ruins lives and reject all Darwinian psychobabble that tries to find the ultimate causes of these events in psychological evaluations. Sin is the problem with this world, and unconfessed and unrestrained it always ends in sorrow, darkness, and death. And therefore we must begin with ourselves, confessing and forsaking all that we have added to our nation’s plight, all that is contrary to the Word of God, every way in which we have broken covenant and not lived by faith.
This morning we have considered the importance of the fear of God. We here at Holy Trinity often emphasize the festive nature of this table, the great joy that we should have in fellowship here with one another and with the Lord, the head of this table. But mingled with this deep, robust joy, must also be a hearty fear and reverence of God, especially here. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11: “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” So what is our response to this warning? Our response must always be faith. If you know that there is sin in your life, if you know there are things you need to make right with another brother or sister, or some sin you need to deal with, repent of the sin now. Put it down, tell God its name, and ask him to forgive you, and determine to make it right by God’s grace. This warning is not a fencing of this table. If you are a baptized Christian you are summonsed to this table, your place is set. But Jesus is here dealing with us, and therefore fear. Do not come here believing that this is some ritual to trifle with, but come here with believing hearts, know that God is good and that he is ministering his grace to you now. And as you do so recognize that this is God’s goodness to you. The fear of God always drives us to joy because we know that God is good and his mercies endure forever. Some come eat, drink and rejoice with trembling, repent of your sins and come. You are God’s people, and he rejoices over you.
This is the Second Sunday in Easter. The Resurrection is something so huge, so marvelous that we can’t help but continue to celebrate even after all the chocolate and candy has been taken down in the grocery stores. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the gospel, and therefore it is central to all that we are and do. But it is not enough merely celebrate the fact that Jesus came back from the dead (though we must do that). We must also understand what the resurrection means. The resurrection means that our sins are forgiven and we stand before God with a clean conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). Therefore you may not hold grudges against your parents, your spouse, your children, or neighbors. Since you are free before God, you are called to give and bestow the freedom of forgiveness to all others. The resurrection also means that you are declared righteous before God (Rom. 4:25). This means that for all the faults God could justly hold against you, he has determined to only see you through and in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore you must go and do likewise: determine within yourselves that as God has been merciful to you, you will be merciful to others. As God only sees you in Christ and is pleased with you in Him, so you too are called to look upon one another and see one another in Christ and therefore be pleased and thankful for each other. This is the meaning of resurrection: all things have been made new. Therefore live in this newness. Every unforgiving thought, every bitter or resentful sentiment is to claim that Jesus is still in the grave, that he did not rise, and that God has not forgiven you. But Christ is risen.
Perhaps you’ve heard already, but Douglas Wilson has replied to Sam Harris’s best selling book “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Wilson’s reply is “Letter from a Christian Citizen” and promises to be a worthy rejoiner to the conversation.
More information can be found at www.letterfromachristiancitizen.com.
My daughter is small. She has been breathing the air of this planet for a little over eight months, but she is still small. She crouches on her feet like a catcher. Her eyes study her fingers like machines far below maneuvering through the waves rippling in the carpet. Then without warning her legs begin to straighten and she stands up. Her eyes are wide as she looks over at me, almost asking what has happened. I shrug my shoulders and smile. She looks down and back up somewhat astonished with the fact that she is not falling.
My son explains to me that Jesus is NOT God, but that they are friends. My son continues to expound Christological heresies while his small bottom swims around in his oceanic dinner chair. He’s a cute heretic. I cite the song “Praise God” (the Doxology) as proof for my argument that Jesus is in fact God, explaining that the Son became Jesus and was born by Mary. He’s skeptical, and continues to run with the friendship argument. After one more attempt I inform him that he’s wrong and that he must accept that Jesus is God. This is the domestic version of conversion by the sword. My voice indicates that the only acceptable response is “yes sir” and he cheerfully acquiesces. Yet another victory for Christendom.
My daughter used to be in the living room. She was there when I looked last. That was five seconds ago. She crawls. She crawls proficiently. But she is not a sprinter. I’m not sure why she’s no longer in the living room and no where in sight. A moment later my son arrives with the missing piece of the puzzle. More to the point, he’s holding the missing piece under the arms and carrying her manfully through the house. She has a look on her face that is a cross between very pleased and terrified. She loves her brother. He’s her hero. If she were a teenager, posters of her brother doing all sorts of masculine things would decorate her walls. He would be smashing bugs and ants in one picture. In another he would be gallantly riding his stick horse (“Galloping Jack”) down the hallway waving a sword and shouting insults at his villainous enemies. Felicity spends most of her days playing next to and following her brother from toy to toy.
“Read the one about plucking the children’s eyes out!” My son loves the Proverbs. After he heard Proverbs 30:17 there was no going back. Actually, now every time we pull the Bible out, he wants to hear his favorite verse. It really is a fascinating proverb: “The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother will be plucked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by baby eagles.” It’s sort of like the Circle of Life. Only not. Of course it’s one thing for a child’s eye to get the brunt of disobedience, that’s pretty wild. But it’s another thing entirely for the Holy Spirit to explain exactly what will happen to it. A raven will get it, and then, apparently having made a covenant with a local eagle family, will drop a snack off at his favorite, local eyry. My son knows a good story when he hears it.
When God gave the creation or dominion mandate to Adam, the command was five-fold: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over all the animals. In other words, our calling as men and women is to see the world as our calling. We are called to find a patch of the earth and claim it for King Jesus. The early explorers had the right idea, even if they applied it somewhat haphazardly. We’re called to look at the world and find something wonderful, something amazing, something that blows our minds and imaginations and dig in.
If rocks amaze you, then give your life to studying, ruling, and subduing rocks. If words rock your world, then give your life to studying, ruling, and subduing words, languages, and stories. If numbers put the sparkle in your eye then give your life to studying, ruling, and subduing numbers and equations. The world is our treasure hunt. God said to Adam, “Look, there’s this river that flows out of this garden, and parts into four heads a little ways down. Down that one river there is gold and precious stones, and the other one goes to this amazing land called Africa, and those other two… well, I leave those for you to explore.”
It’s so easy for vocation to become only a duty, only a chore, and only a utilitarian means to an end. I have a family I must feed. I have a mortgage I must pay. I have children in college. But these are less than the calling that God has given to us. We’re actually called to our vocations for his glory and our fulfillment in him. And it’s because he has promised to bless us and make us fruitful in our labors that we *get* to feed our family, that we *get* to build and pay for homes, and that we *get* to send our children out into the world to be trained, educated, and equipped to join us in taking dominion. God has loaded the world with treasures, and he’s given us a treasure map in his Word. And he has said, “Go on, get busy.”
This meal like all of our worship is filled with the declaration of the gospel, the declaration that Christ is risen, Jesus is Lord. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he met two of his disciples on the road on the first day of the week, and there he explained to them why it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die. These two disciples on the road were doubting, hurt, and confused. They had hoped that this man Jesus had been the Messiah. This scene is humorous because of course who they are talking to. One wonders if Jesus had trouble holding a straight face through it all. There in front of them was their beloved master explaining why he had to suffer and die and be raised on the third day. But it was not until Jesus broke bread with them at the table that their eyes were opened and they saw that it was their Lord with them. This meal is where the risen Jesus promises to meet us. But he does not meet us without effecting us, without challenging us. He too, meets us veiled in the forms of bread and wine and this thanksgiving. He meets us, explains that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and die and rise again. And therefore his words are simultaneously a blessing and a challenge. He says to you here week after week declaring, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Do you believe this? Then you must know that I am in the business of changing you. I am dealing with you here. So come eat and drink. Come and believe.