Pat Robertson Says God Will Smite the US…

Zwinglius Redivivus

If it forces Israel to give up land to the Palestinians…. Quick question Pat- why does the god you imagine hate the Palestinians so much and only love the Jews?

It’s Pat Robertson again: This time it’s a warning to the US, and specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, that should the US pressure Israel to give up occupied territories in the Mid-East peace plan, God will smite America with natural disasters.

On his latest 700 Club program (see video), the televangelist issued a warning to the Obama administration not to continue on the path of folly by forcing God’s “chosen nation,” Israel, to withdraw from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.

According to Robertson “from a prophetic stands point, every time the United States gets involved in some kind of a pressure on Israel to split their land there’s some natural disaster that happens here in America.”

Read more:…

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The Historical Ignorance of Christian Zionists

Zwinglius Redivivus

Last night, Glenn Beck traveled to Washington, DC to address John Hagee’s annual Christians United for Israel conference where he delivered remarks that were predictably filled with Bible prophecy, doom and gloom, and dire warnings about the need to turn this nation back to God.

During his speech, Beck boldly declared that the United States was “established for the establishment of Israel,” meaning that the United States was established by God specifically for the purpose of re-establishing the nation of Israel.

And, as proof that our Founding Fathers were well aware of this, Beck pointed out that even our dollar bill contains a Star of David, as well as representations of the cloud and fire that led the Israelites while they wandered in the desert.

It’s not true, of course, but that is what happens when you get your history from people like David Barton

– See more…

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More Proof That the Huffington Post is Just Stupid

Zwinglius Redivivus

The royal prince is barely a day old, but already lefties are crossing their fingers in hopes that he’s gay.

Huffington Post hyped what may be the dumbest polling ever this morning – a survey claiming that a majority of Brits would react favorably if the son born yesterday to Prince William and Kate Middleton would come out as a homosexual in the future. The survey was conducted by the “lesbian, gay, and bisexual advocacy group Stonewall” (because, of course, they’d have an unbiased and objective viewpoint).

Yet even the results of the survey are questionable if used to tout supposed public sentiment towards gays. The survey reported that 83 percent of those interviewed would be “very comfortable, comfortable, or neutral” if the little prince was gay; but neutral is a far cry from “overwhelmingly supportive” or even “happy.”

Meanwhile, no one seemed to notice that, if he’s gay, then…

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Joyce Meyer is a Biblical Illiterate and A Theological Dilettante

Zwinglius Redivivus

She evidently has never read that little passage which calls on the people of God to love him with their whole MIND too…


She prefers ignorance to reasoned intelligence because the minute her followers start to think, her money tree will dry up and wither.  Reasoning and confusion go together as much as love and Westboro NOT Baptist NOT Church do.  Or water and oil.  Or fire and ice.  They are mutually exclusive.  Confused people aren’t reasoning and reasoning people aren’t confused.

God told her no such thing, she made it up in her fertilized mind.

[HT Francesca S. on the FB]

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Did You Notice that the Royal Baby Was Never Called a ‘Fetus’?

Zwinglius Redivivus

It was always called a baby.  Unlike all of those babies subject to the butchery of abortion, this baby was never even considered eligible to fall under that sword so it was never dehumanized by being called a ‘fetus’.

The Atlantic has a telling report on precisely that, here.  It notes

This week, as the U.K.’s Prince William and Kate Middleton were expecting their child at any moment, the impending birth received a galaxy’s worth of media coverage. That the child would be heir to the throne was a motivating factor in all this attention, to be sure. I was interested not only for this reason but for a less-noticed one: Countless media reports bore news about the “royal baby.”

Why was this noteworthy? Because this term, to get exegetical for a moment, was not used to describe the future state of the child—once born and outside of the womb…

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Don Carson on Paul’s Conversion

WHAT WAS PAUL’S PERSPECTIVE before he was converted (Acts 9)? Elsewhere (Acts 22:2; Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:4-6) he tells us that he was a strict Pharisee, brought up (apparently) in Jerusalem, taught by one of the most renowned rabbis of the day. For him, the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The LAW insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. Surely, therefore, the insistence that Jesus is the Messiah is not only stupid, but verges on the blasphemous. It might lead to political insurrection: the fledgling church was growing, and might become a dangerous block. It had to be stopped; indeed, what was needed was a man of courage like Saul, a man like Phinehas who averted the wrath of God by his decisive action against the perverters of truth and probity (Num. 25), someone who really understood the implications of these wretched delusions and who saw there they would lead.

But now on the Damascus Road Saul meets the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Whether he had seen him before we cannot be sure; that he sees him now, Saul cannot doubt. And a great deal of his theology, worked out and displayed in his letters, stems from that brute fact.

If Jesus were alive and glorified, then somehow his death on the cross did not prove he was damned. Far from it: the claim of believers that God had raised him from the dead, and that they had seen him, must be true — and that could only mean that God had vindicated Jesus. Then what on earth did his death mean?

From that vantage point, everything looked different. If Jesus was under the curse of God when he died, yet was vindicated by God himself, he must have died for others. Somehow his death absorbed the righteous curse of God that was due others and canceled it out. In that light, the entire history of the Hebrew Scriptures looked different.

Was it not written that a Suffering Servant (see yesterday’s meditation) would be wounded for our transgressions and chastised for our iniquities? Does the death of countless lambs and bulls really take away human sin? Or do we need, as it were, a human “lamb of God,” a human “Passover Lamb”? If the tabernacle and temple rituals are read as pointing to the final solution, what does scriptural texts that promise a new covenant, a great outpouring of the Spirit in the last days (Acts 2:17-21; see Joel 2:28-32)? What place does the promise to Abraham have in the scheme of things, that in Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3)?

Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes.

Dead Fish Swim Downstream

Insights from Thomas Watson:

A Particular Baptist Blog

WatsonTo be holiest in evil times, is an indication of the truth of grace. To profess religion when the times favor it, is no great matter. Almost all will court the Gospel Queen when she is hung with jewels. But to own the ways of God when they are decried and maligned, to love a persecuted truth–this evidences a vital principle of goodness. Dead fish swim down the stream–living fish swim against it. To swim against the common stream of evil, shows grace to be alive.

Thomas Watson (1620 -1686)

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Simcha Didn’t Want the Journalist to Cover the Trial of Joe Zias

Zwinglius Redivivus

Daniel Estrin is covering the trial of Joe Zias, who is being sued by Simcha Jacobovici, and Daniel writes (emphasis mine)

There’s a dark underbelly to the world of biblical archaeology in Israel. The latest saga involves an Israeli-Canadian filmmaker, host of a TV series called the Naked Archaeologist, who believes he may have found the tomb of Jesus, the nails of the cross, and a smattering of other finds.  A retired curator in Israel’s government antiquities department says the filmmaker’s claims and his methods are one big moneymaking scam. The filmmaker says that’s libel, and he’s suing him for $1 million.  The filmmaker did not want me at his trial.  After I met him outside the courtroom last week and told him I would be covering the case, his lawyer filed a motion to hold the hearing behind closed doors. The judge overruled the motion…

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The Ladder or the Cross?

Pastor Tullian offers good insights from the Tower of Babel incident. Just as then, so people’s aspirations  today reflect the same desires: to make a name for themselves, but without God. It is better to be a nobody in the world’s viewpoint and yet to be known of God than for God to ultimately judge those who defiantly follow their own desires in the world, God’s creation.

Here is the link:


Here is the text:


In a deleted scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) tells Vincent Vega (John Travolta) that she needs to find out what kind of person he is before she’ll go to dinner with him. Here’s what she says:

My theory is that when it comes to important subjects, there’s only two ways a person can answer. For instance, there’s two kinds of people in this world, Elvis people and Beatles people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis. And Elvis people can like the Beatles. But nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells me who you are.

There are other important things in life that can tell us what kind of person you are: chunky peanut butter, or smooth? Regular cola, or diet? It seems to me that the same is true when it comes to reading the Bible. Do you read the Bible as a helpful tool in your climb up toward moral betterment or as the story of God coming down to broken, sinful people?

In a very real way, our lives are defined by how we answer that question. Specifically, our lives are defined either by a cross or by a ladder. The ladder symbolizes our ascension—our effort to “go up.” The cross symbolizes God’s descension—his coming down.

There is no better story in the Old Testament, or perhaps the whole Bible, for depicting the difference between the ladder-defined life and the cross-defined life than that of the Tower of Babel.

In Genesis 11:4, the people make a decision. “Come, let us build ourselves a city,” they said, “with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” This is humanity in a nutshell. We want desperately to be known, appreciated, lauded, and extolled. We want to secure our own meaning, significance, and worth. We give our all to these objectives.

But then something funny happens.

After the people go to work to build this tower that reaches “to the heavens,” v.5 says, “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” I find this verse to be a great and sobering picture of our futile attempts to “make a name for ourselves,” to do something great in our own power. The momentous achievement that the builders are so proud of is so small and insignificant to God that he has to “come down from heaven” to even see what they’re up to. All their efforts, all their hard work, have resulted in a tower that not only doesn’t reach the heavens, but that can’t even be seen from them!

None of our best attempts and none of our self-righteous strivings (and make no mistake, that is exactly what they are) can get us up to God.

We are like the tower-builders: addicted to a ladder-defined life. We think that a life of ladder-climbing is a life of freedom: free to move at our own pace, up or down depending on our decisions, responsible for our own progress. We climb our ladders for the same reasons that the people of the world built their tower: to make a name for ourselves, to ensure our own legacy, to secure our own value. We love to imagine that we’re on a higher rung than someone else, a better father than someone else, a more accomplished follower of Christ than someone else. But ladder-climbing actually and inevitably leads to slavery. Paul Zahl, in his great book Who Will Deliver Us, describes the ladder-defined life like this:

If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth. My identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth…conversely…if I do not perform, I will be judged unworthy. To myself I will cease to exist.

The life of slavery happens when we try to “do it ourselves.” We become imprisoned by our failures (often real, sometimes perceived) and to ourselves, we cease to exist. This isn’t freedom, it’s bondage.

But there is good news: our towers of Babel don’t remain standing.

God loves us too much to leave us in the hell of unhappiness that comes from trying to do his job. Into the slavish misery of our ladder-defined lives, God condescends.

His first act is an act of judgment. He scatters them—he dis-organizes them, literally. God takes away their faith in themselves, the very misplaced faith that enslaves them. When everyone in the world spoke the same language, God came down in judgment, breaking the world apart. But at just the right time, he came down again, this time to reconcile that sinful world to himself. He replaces our ladder with his cross. His final descent was to save us, and to set us free.

So how do you read the Bible? Is the Bible a manual for living the ladder-defined life? Or is it the announcement of the one who came down and hung on a cross in order to rescue us from our efforts to make it on our own?

God is not at the top of a ladder shouting, “Climb.” He is at the bottom on a cross whispering, “It is finished.”

Don Carson on Ananias and Sapphira

THE ACCOUNT OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA, whose names are recorded in the earliest Christian records because of their deceit (Acts 5:1-11), is disturbing on several grounds. Certainly the early church thought so (Acts 5:5, 11). Four observations focus the issues:

First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. When many people are converted and genuinely transformed, when many are renewed and truly learn to hate sin, others find it more attractive to be thought holy than to be holy. Revival offers many temptations to hypocrisy that would be less potent when the temper of the age is secularistic or pagan.

Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sapphira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. Apparently there were some members who were selling properties and donating all of the proceeds to the church to help in its varied ministries, not least the relief of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the man called Barnabas was exemplary in this respect (Acts 4:36-37), and serves as a foil to Ananias and Sapphira. But these two sold their property, kept some of the proceeds for themselves, and pretended that they were giving everything.

It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit — as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. In this sense it was a supremely presumptuous act, betraying a stance so removed from the God-centeredness of genuine faith that it was idolatrous.

Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. It was not enough that Ananias pulled this wicked stunt himself. He acted “with his wife’s full knowledge” (Acts 5:2); indeed, her lying was not only passive but active (Acts 5:8), betraying a shared commitment to deceive believers and defy God.

Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay. When God walks away from the church and lets the multiplying sin take its course, that is the worst judgment of all; it will inevitably end in irretrievable disaster. But when God responds to sin with prompt severity, lessons are learned, and the church is spared a worse drift. In this case, great fear fell not only on the church but also on all who heard of these events (Acts 5:5, 11).

It is written: “He whose walk is upright fears the LORD; but he in whose ways are devious despises him” (Prov. 14:2).

What Is Tell Qeiyafa? David’s Palace? Or…

Archeological News

Zwinglius Redivivus

Israel Finkelstein writes

There are several options regarding its territorial affiliation: Judah according to Garfinkel; a late Canaanite entity in the Shephelah (Naaman, Koch) ;or a north Israelite entity which had its hub in the highlands to the north of Jerusalem (Finkelstein and Fantalkini). This is a true dispute, with many interesting possibilities for historical reconstruction.

The notion that it must be David’s Palace is just one possibility among many, and the least convincing so far as the evidence of the site itself offers.

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Rome Never Changes: Salvation By Works Through Indulgences

Dr. Jim West rightly observes the unchanging stance of the Institutional Roman Church.

When Christ stated to Peter that He would build His church on the rock of The Father’s revelation to him, Peter, Christ spoke of a spiritual body of Christians composing an organism. Christ did not authorize setting up an institutional hierarchy to control entrance into heaven or less time in an non-existing purgatory. Paul tells the Corinthians that there is “One Body”. This “One Body” is all believers known by Christ from His crucifiction until now. So according to the authoritative Scriptures, its better to think of the church not as an organization, but an organism. This definition of the church pictured as and organism is true both on the local level and universally. Paul wrote to a church and said they were members of one another. On the universal level the church is called a body.

Jim West’s post concerns false practice, my comments show that no warrant exists to their (Rome) supposed authority.

Zwinglius Redivivus

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis‘ tweets.  The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.  The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century.

But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away.  “You can’t obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian daily…

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Sola Gratia

Tullian examines grace to Noah at Liberate:


We Don’t Find Grace, Grace Finds Us



I love the introduction to Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible.  A piece of it goes like this:

“Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but…most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean. No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.”

She’s right. I think that most people, when they read the Bible (and especially when they read the Old Testament), read it as a catalog of heroes (on the one hand) and cautionary tales (on the other). For instance, don’t be like Cain — he killed his brother in a fit of jealousy – but do be like Noah: God asked him to do something crazy, and he had the faith to follow through.

Running counter to this idea of Bible-as-hero-catalog, I find that some of the best news in the Bible is that God incessantly comes to the down-trodden, broken, and non-heroic characters. It’s good news because it means he comes to people like me — and like you. It’s very interesting to note that even the characters we think have spotless records (like Noah) need the direct intervention of the true “lamb without blemish.”

Noah is often presented to us as the first character in the Bible really worthy of emulation. Adam? Sinner. Eve? Sinner. Cain? Big sinner! But Noah? Finally, someone we can set our sights on, someone we can shape our lives after, right? This is why so many Sunday School lessons handle the story of Noah like this: “Remember, you can believe what God says! Just like Noah! You too can stand up to unrighteousness and wickedness in our world like Noah did. Don’t be like the bad people who mocked Noah. Be like Noah.”

I understand why many would read this account in this way. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that Noah “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9)? Pretty incontrovertible, right?

Not so fast.

Let’s take a closer look. You can’t understand verse 9 properly unless you understand its context.  Here’s the whole section, verses 5-7:

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’”

Now that’s a little different, isn’t it? Look at all the superlatives: every inclination, only evil, all the time! That kind of language doesn’t leave a lot of room for exceptions…and “exception” is just the way Noah has always been described to me. “Well,” I hear, “Everyone was sinful except Noah. He was able to be a righteous man in a sinful world…it’s what we’re all called to be.” But that’s not at all what God says! He says, simply and bluntly, that he “will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.” No exceptions. No exclusions.

So what happens? How do we get from verse 7 (“I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created…for I regret that I have made them.”) to verse 9 (“Noah was a righteous man.”)?  We get from here to there – from sin to righteousness — by the glory of verse 8, which highlights the glory of God’s initiating grace.

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).

Some read this and make it sound like God is scouring the earth to find someone—anyone—who is righteous. And then one day, while searching high and low, God sees Noah and breathes a Divine sigh of relief. “Phew…there’s at least one.” But that’s not what it says.

“Favor” here is the same word that is translated elsewhere as “grace.” In other words, as is the case with all of us who know God, it was God who found us—we didn’t find God. We are where we are today, not because we found grace, but because grace found us. In his book Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis recounts his own conversion with these memorable words:

“You must picture me alone in my room, night after night, feeling the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had come upon me. In the fall term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most reluctant convert in all England. Modern people cheerfully talk about the search for God. To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.”

It took the grace of God to move Noah from the ranks of the all-encompassing unrighteous onto the rolls of the redeemed. Pay special attention to the order of things: 1) Noah is a sinner, 2) God’s grace comes to Noah, and 3) Noah is righteous. Noah’s righteousness is not a precondition for his receiving favor (though we are wired to read it this way)…his righteousness is a result of his having already received favor!

The Gospel is not a story of God meeting sinners half-way, of God desperately hoping to find that one righteous man on whom he can bestow his favor. The news is so much better than that. The Gospel is that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Sinners like Noah, like you, and like me are recipients of a descending, one-way love that changes everything, breathes new life into dead people, and has the power to carry us from unrighteousness to righteousness without an ounce of help.

So, even in the story of Noah, we see that the Bible is a not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes whom we are commanded to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail; they make huge mistakes; they get afraid; they’re selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness.

Yes, God is the hero of every story—even the story of Noah.

Lessons from Patched Wineskins and Old Bread

Don Carson identifies several insightful lessons that can be drawn from the account in Joshua 9 when the Gibeonites deceived Israel’s leaders in making a treaty with them. Carson’s words are very timely especially today when, in general, Christians are biblically illiterate. As Dt. 29.29 states: “Secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we might obey all the words of this law.” It should be noted that  God’s word is for our benefit both individually and for the community. We don’t fulfill God’s law because it affects God somehow (except his grieving over our self-hurt), no, God is our helper and His words are a help us too. Here are Dr. Carson’s words (link appears at the end):


THE ACCOUNT OF THE GIBEONITE DECEPTION (Josh. 9) has its slightly amusing elements, as well as its serious point. There are the Israelites, poking around in moldy bread and holding serious conversations about the distance these emissaries must have traveled. Yet the sad fact is that they were snookered. What lessons should we learn from this?

First, many believers who have the courage to withstand direct assault do not have the sense to withstand deception. That is why in Revelation 13 the dragon has two beasts — one whose opposition is overt and cruel, and the other who is identified as the false prophet (see the meditation for December 22). That is also why in Acts 20 Paul warns the Ephesian elders not only of rapacious wolves that will try to ravage the flock of God, but also of the fact that from among their own number men will arise who will “distort the truth” (Acts 20:30). Such people never announce what they are doing: “We are now going to distort the truth!” The danger they represent lies in the fact that they are viewed as “safe,” and then from this secure vantage they advocate “progressive” positions that distort the Gospel. The deceptive power may be tied to such overt tricks as flattery — the very device used by the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:9-10). In our day, deception becomes all the easier to arrange because so many Christians are no longer greatly shaped by Scripture. It is difficult to unmask subtle error when it aligns with the culture, deploys spiritual God-talk, piously cites a passage or two, and “works.”

Second, the failure depicted in 9:14 has haunted many believers, and not only the ancient Israelites: “the men of Israel sampled their [the Gibeonites’] provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.” Doubtless their inquiring of the Lord would have been direct; perhaps the priests would have resorted to Urim and Thummim (see meditation for March 17). We shall never know, because the people felt they did not need the Lord’s guidance. Perhaps the flattery had made them cocksure. The fact that their decision was based on their estimate of how far these Gibeonites had come makes it obvious that they were aware of the danger of treaties with the Canaanites. The failure must therefore not be taken as a mere breach of devotions that day, a hastiness that forgot a magic step. The problem is deeper: there is an unseemly negligence that betrays an overconfidence that does not think it needs God in this case. Many a Christian leader has made disastrous mistakes when he or she has not taken time to seek God’s perspective, probing Scripture and asking him for the wisdom he has promised to give (James 1:5).

Independence Day (by Kevin DeYoung)

Kevin DeYoung shares his thoughts about the founding concepts of the U.S. He rightly notes our hypocrisy too in the point about 3/5 personhood that African Americans had to endure at one point in this nation’s history. The writings of Frederick Douglass, especially the parts relating to how Christian slaveholders were the worst masters, should be studied by all Christians. Perversion of the truth of the Bible happened all through Israel’s history and culminated in the punctiliousness self-righteousness and synagoge control of the Pharisees. The Institutional Church and Christian groups reflected Israel’s failures as well in denying justice to others throughout history. The link appears at the end:


These Self-Evident Truths

It has often been said that America was founded upon an idea. The country was not formed mainly for power or privilege but in adherence to a set of principles. Granted, these ideals have been, at various times in our history, less than ideally maintained. But the ideals remain. The idea persists.

If one sentence captures the quintessential idea of America, surely it the famous assertion contained in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Almost every word of this remarkable sentence, 236 years old today, is pregnant with meaning and strikingly relevant.

The United States of America began with the conviction that a nation should be founded upon truth. Not simply values or preferences, but upon truths. Self-evident truths that were true, are true, and will remain true no matter the time, the place, or the culture.

And central among these truths is the belief that all men are created equal. No one possesses more intrinsic worth for being born rich or poor, male or female, artisan or aristocracy. Of course, this truth, as much as any, unmasks our history of hypocrisy, for 3/5 of a person is an eternity from equality. But truth is still true. We all come into the world with the same rights and the same dignity-whether “gated community” in the world’s estimation or “trailer trash.”

These unalienable rights, we must note, are not granted by the Declaration of Independence. Our rights do not depend upon government for their existence. They are not owing to the largesse of the state or the beneficence of any institution. The rights of man are the gifts of God. The Creator endows; the state exists to protect. These unalienable rights can be suppressed or denied. But they cannot be annulled. We possess them-no matter what kings or parliaments say or presidents and congress decree-by virtue of being created in the image of our Creator.

And what are these rights? The Declaration mentions three: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Obviously, these rights are not untethered from all other considerations. Life should not be lived in a way that means death for others. Our pursuit of happiness should not make others miserable. The Declaration is not calling for anarchy. It believes in government, good limited government rightly construed and properly constrained. But the rights enumerated here are still surprisingly radical. No matter how young, how old, how tiny, how in utero, or how ill, every person deserves a chance at life. Every one deserves a chance at self-governing. Everyone has the right to pursue his self-interest. There’s a reason the Founding Fathers did not wax eloquent about safety and security. It’s because they believed freedom and liberty to be better ideals, loftier goals, and more conducive to the common good.

I understand the dangers of an unthinking “God and country” mentality, let alone a gospel-less civil religion. But I also think love of country-like love of family or love of work-is a proximate good. Patriotism is not beneath the Christian, even for citizens of a superpower.

So on this Independence Day I’m thankful most of all for the cross of Christ and the freedom we have from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But I’m also thankful for the United States. I’m thankful for the big drops of biblical truth which seeped into the blood stream of Thomas Jefferson and shaped our Founding Fathers. I’m thankful for our imperfect ideals. I’m thankful for God-given rights and hard-fought liberty. I’m thankful for the idea of America.


Caption translation (roughly): We don’t see things as they are, we see matters from our point of view.

Another way to express the same point when it comes to reading God’s word is to read the revealed text in the setting of the Bible as a whole. The Bible was given as a gracious gift to help us (all humanity). To read the revelation anachronistically (wrenched out of its historical context) ignores the part of humanity to whom it was originally intended. It then becomes all about us currently instead of the love towards us from God to recreate us in the image of Jesus the Messiah.

Zwinglius Redivivus


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Rachel Held Evans Confused


Derek Rishmawy examines classifications (faulty in this instance) Evans uses to justify acceptance to what the Bible clearly prohibits. Derek labels her analysis as eisegesis (I agree with Derek). We must carefully study the Bible and make valid inferences and be willing to reexamine our positions without clinging to biases. Here are Derek’s words:


Beliefs Are Not Set in Stone, Except for When They’re on Tablets

Rachel Held Evans believes we shouldn’t be too scared about changing our minds on religious questions, as these things aren’t always “set in stone.” Addressing religious believers in light of the SCOTUS decisions on gay marriage, she encourages us to realize it’s possible to shift your beliefs without being a culturally-accommodating flip-flopper. Her biblical paradigm for this? Peter and Cornelius.

Breaking through years of religious training regarding Gentiles, the Apostle Peter included the Roman centurion Cornelius when he encountered his sincere faith, learning to not call impure what God names as clean. Just as the theological conversions of Paul, Augustine, and Luther have been a blessing to church history, Evans encourages us to model Peter’s example of open-mindedness and inclusion–especially as we think about same-sex attraction.  ”A person of conviction is not one who is unyielding to change, but one whose beliefs evolve based on new information, new movements of the Spirit, new biblical insights and, yes, new friends.”

In reading Evans’ piece last week, I was grateful for the basic point she made that Christians ought to be ready to have their beliefs challenged and corrected at some point. As we seek Christ, who is the Truth, pilgrims with fallen and finite minds must be open to theological correction; we are still in via, still on the way. As such, shifts shouldn’t simply be chalked up to mere accommodation or calcification. To think you’ve got it nailed when it comes to God at 25, 45, or even 85 is simply hubris.

You’re Not Peter

That said, I’m not convinced Peter’s encounter with Cornelius is an adequate model for Christians reconsidering their position on same-sex relationships within the Christian body. Ironically enough, it highlights a number of reasons for caution against breaking with 2,000 years of the Church’s scriptural teaching on this point:Peter Baptizing the Centurion Cornelius by Fra...

1. No New Revelation – One clear distinction between the two situations is that no special revelation has happened with respect to same-sex relationships. Peter wasn’t transformed by a mere experience of the “sincere faith” of the Other he had despised, but was given a supernatural revelation and confirmation in the form of a vision and the Spirit empowering Cornelius with visible, supernatural signs, so that as an authoritative apostle, he could testify to God’s acceptance of the Gentiles by faith. As far as I know there aren’t any apostles, witnesses of the risen Christ, walking around having experienced new, authoritative revelation on this issue. We should be careful not to act is if there has been.

2. Sexual Attraction is Not Race – Without fully elaborating on this point, the analogy problematically presumes a Biblical equivalence or adequate similarity between sexual attraction and race or ethnicity. I’ll just say that even when inborn, sexual attraction is not equivalent to race or ethnicity. My Arabness is not something I act on in the same fashion as my sexual and romantic inclinations. That is an increasingly common category mistake that does injustice to the complexity of both race and sexuality, especially within a Biblical framework.

3. There Was a Plan For Cornelius 

What’s more, the Scriptures have always testified to the future-inclusion of the Gentiles as Gentiles within the covenant people of God. Passages could be multiplied ad nauseum, but Isaiah presents us with a vision of God’s plans for the nations:

It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3)

Being a Gentile was never sinful per se, but only as it was connected to idolatrous practices that inevitably went along with being outside the covenant. In other words, the Israelites were commanded to be holy, different from the Gentiles because of election and the unrighteousness of Gentile actions, not because non-Jewishness was inherently unrighteous.

Peter’s experiences with Cornelius then, are a personal, experiential confirmation of a movement already foreshadowed in Scripture. They are a pointer to revelation, not a contradiction or modification of it, but only of the extra-biblical traditions that had grown up alongside it. As difficult as it is to accept, there is no such prophecy, foreshadowing, or hinting that homosexual behavior is something that will one day be sanctioned and blessed for God’s children.

4. The 1970s Were Not Eschatological – Following this is an insight from Katherine Greene-McCreight: the Sexual Revolution is not a new eschatological event. Cornelius’ inclusion, along with the rest of the Gentiles, was brought about by the eschatological turning of the ages. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the particular covenant with national Israel was fulfilled, pouring forth into the always-intended blessing of Gentiles joining Jews in being built up into Christ. (Rom. 4; 15:8-12; Gal. 3; Eph. 2:11-22) Nothing similarly climactic has happened in salvation history to suggest a new administration of God’s covenant is in place, which includes behaviors clearly forbidden to God’s people in both Old and New Testaments. In that sense, unlike Peter, we’re not standing in a eschatologically-new situation calling for a radical revision of Christian theological ethics. The 1970s were a big deal, but not that big.

5.  About Those Conversions… –  Which brings me to the theological repentance of Paul, Augustine, and Luther. Paul’s conversion of attitude towards the Gentiles was, as with Peter, the result of scales falling from his eyes in light of the Risen Christ, to see past his own religious nationalism. It was an authoritative revelation that shifted his perspective, not a new experience of diversity. Augustine changed his mind on a number of issues, but in his Retractions you see that it’s constantly a process of going back to the Word and letting it correct his earlier Manichaeism and Neo-Platonism. Luther’s theological reformation was an attempt to recover what he believed had actually already been revealed, but was covered over by years of scholastic teaching.

While Paul’s conversion was qualitatively different from Luther’s and Augustine’s, all were transforming encounters with God’s Word, Incarnate, written, or both. Paul’s was inspiration, and we could say Augustine and Luther’s experiences were illumination of what had already been said. We need to make sure that when we change our minds about something on the basis of “new biblical insights, movements of the Spirit, and new friends” we don’t turn God into a confused deity who contradicts himself because he’s changed his mind.

6. Already Included–In Christ – Finally, and this one is probably the most crucial to understand, the New Testament already includes those with same-sex attractions on the same grounds as it does everybody else–union by faith with Christ whose shed blood purchases forgiveness and whose Holy Spirit sanctifies us from all uncleanliness. The Gospel is for everyone. Really. God’s family is open, adopting new sons and daughters with all sorts of struggles and backgrounds. I too shudder at the idea of calling impure that which Christ calls clean. I too think the grace of God extends far and wide–if it didn’t, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

What I also don’t want to do, though, is blunt the Gospel and its promise of new Creation that says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) I would hate to look at my brother struggling with same-sex attraction and say, “Yeah, that’s true of everything except your sexuality.” No, the Gospel gives us a better, if not always easier, hope than that.

Sometimes God Hands Out Tablets 

Evans quotes Rob Bell from his book Velvet Elvis:

“Times change. God doesn’t, but times do. We learn and grow, and the world around us shifts, and the Christian faith is alive only when it is listening, morphing, innovating, letting go of whatever has gotten in the way of Jesus and embracing whatever will help us be more and more the people God wants us to be.”


The times might change, but God does not. Amen to that.

We need to be careful about who we listen to though, and be a bit wary of too much “morphing [and] innovating” with the times. People trying to hold on to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) in order that they might not be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Eph. 4:14), need to discern whether it is God’s Spirit speaking through his already-revealed Word, or another spirit that needs to be tested.

While not all religious beliefs are set in stone, God put plenty in print. I recall that some of them were even on tablets.


Jesus Paid it All

Another insightful analysis of the wonders of grace and of the gospel at Liberate:


Just as when God gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, He stated that He was their God and had delivered them from Egypt, now here are laws to live and thrive by their keeping. It was the same with the woman caught in a sin that Jesus tells her to sin no more. Here are Tullian’s thoughts:


God Threw a Stone



As I’ve said before, God speaks two words to the world. People have called them many things: Law and Gospel, Judgment and Love, Critique and Grace, and so on. In essence, though, it’s pretty simple: first, God gives us bad news (about us), and then, God gives us Good News (about Jesus).

This is perhaps most clearly seen in another incredibly well-known (and incredibly misunderstood) passage of Scripture: Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in the act of adultery.

The scribes and Pharisees catch a woman in the act of adultery, and drag her before Jesus. Can you imagine a woman who ever felt more shame than this one? Literally caught in the act of adultery? Unfathomable. They tell Jesus of her infraction, and remind him that the law of Moses says such women should be stoned. Then they issue a challenge: “What do you say?” They’re trying to trick Jesus into admitting what they suspect: that he’s “soft” on the Law.

Boy, were they wrong.

Confronted by this test, Jesus bends down and writes in the sand with his finger. Now, we aren’t told what he writes, but I think it’s instructive to look at the only other instances in the Bible where God writes with his finger. The first is obvious: The inscription of the 10 Commandments on the stone tablets. The second, though, is less well-known.

In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar is having a huge party, at which “they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (v. 4). Suddenly, a hand appears and begins writing on the wall. When Daniel is called in to translate the writing, this is what it is revealed to say: “Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” There can be no doubt that these are three words of judgment—i.e. Law. “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” Has a more chilling word of judgment ever been uttered?

So the two other times God wrote with his finger, he wrote law. I don’t think, therefore, it’s a stretch to think that when Jesus writes in the sand with his finger, he’s writing law. I like to think that perhaps Jesus wrote, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Certainly, whatever he wrote, the function of his writing is clear: it serves to reveal the sin of those gathered.

Far from being “soft” on the Law, Jesus shows just how high the bar of the law is. How do we know? Because the scribes and Pharisees respond the same way that all of us respond when we are confronted with depth of God’s inflexible demands—they scattered. Beginning with the oldest ones, they all, like the rich young ruler, walked away defeated.

When Jesus and the woman are left alone, and she acknowledges that no one remains to condemn her, Jesus speaks his final word to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). This is where the story gets misunderstood.

“Aha!” we cry. “See! Jesus tells her to shape up! He leaves her with an exhortation!” But look at the order of Jesus’ words:First, he tells the woman that he does not condemn her. Only then does he instruct her to sin no more. This is enormous. He does not make his love conditional on her behavior. He does not say, “Go, sin no more, and check back with me in six months. If you’ve been good, I won’t condemn you.”

No. Our Savior does so much better than that.

Jesus creates new life in the woman by loving her unconditionally, with no-strings-attached. By forgiving her profound shame, he impacts her profoundly. By refusing to condemn her, he sets her free to do what she has no doubt already pledged to do on her own: leave her old life behind.

Like the adulterous woman, we are all caught in the act—discovered in a shameful breach of God’s law. Though no one on earth can throw the first stone, God can. And he did. The wonder of all wonders is that the rock of condemnation that we justly deserved was hurled by the Father onto the Son. The law-maker became the law-keeper and died for us, the law-breakers. “In my place condemned He stood; and sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah, what a Savior.”

The Parable of “The Good Samaritan” Reconsidered

Tullian Tchividjian contends the context of this parable speaks of the vertical relationship to God instead of a horizontal one between people and how Christians have failed to understand it historically. Despite my initial acceptance of his view, upon further reflection, I must disagree with his thoughts here and maintain that the parable does speak to interpersonal relationships. I will leave his post but answer why I don’t agree with his interpretation.

Jesus says that He came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 15.24) when the Canaanite  woman asked for her daughter’s healing; so how could He self identify with a “Good Samaritan?” Further, He tells the woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar: “Salvation is of the Jews.” The woman notes that Jews and Samaritans have no dealings among themselves when Jesus, the Jew asks her for a drink of water. It would be a strange connection then in our parable for Jesus to liken Himself a Samaritan when He is addressing this Jewish lawyer. For these reasons I feel the parable speaks to human horizontal relationships.

Who is the Good Samaritan?

Dying Gaul

For every good story in the Bible there’s a bad children’s song. This is the one I remember for the Good Samaritan:

The man who stopped to help, right when he saw the need; he was such a good, good neighbor, a good example for me.

On the surface, this little ditty may seem harmless. The problem, however, is that Jesus wants us to identify with every person in the parable except the good Samaritan. He reserves that role for himself.

“You should be like the Good Samaritan.” If you grew up in church or Sunday School, you probably heard this a thousand times. In fact, even outside the church, the parable of the Good Samaritan is used to exhort neighborly love and concern for the downtrodden. This parable is perhaps the best known story Jesus ever told  after the parable of The Prodigal Son. It is, however, also the most misunderstood.

You know the story: a man is walking down the road when he is set upon by robbers, who mug him, beat him, and leave him for dead. As he lies, suffering, in the roadside ditch, a priest and a Levite, in turn, pass by on the other side of the street, preferring not to get their hands dirty. It is the hated half-breed—a Samaritan—who comes to the man’s aid, setting him on his donkey, taking him to an inn, paying the inn-keeper to take care of him and promising to return to see that his needs are attended to.

You also know the common interpretation: don’t be like the priest and the Levite, too concerned with themselves to help another. Be like the Good Samaritan – be a good neighbor. In other words, our preachers want us to (at least eventually) identify with the Good Samaritan, the hero of the story.

The parable of The Good Samaritan is the second of the great commandments in narrative form: love your neighbor as yourself. In fact, Jesus tells the story to answer a lawyer’s question about who his neighbor is. The lawyer, trying to trick Jesus, asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to follow the laws he already knows so well: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Then, “seeking to justify himself,” the lawyer asked Jesus a follow-up question: “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answers him by telling the parable of The Good Samaritan…and we miss the point completely.

If Jesus had been asked, “How should we treat our neighbors?” and had responded with this story, perhaps “Be like the Good Samaritan” would be an acceptable interpretation. Instead, Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He was asked a vertical question (a question about a person’s relationship to God) rather than a horizontal one. The lawyer was, after all, seeking to “justify” himself. This parable must, therefore, be interpreted vertically. It’s about justification, not sanctification.

The context puts Jesus’ final exhortation to “go and do likewise” in perspective. Remember, this is the same Jesus who told his audience at the Sermon on the Mount that they “must be perfect, as [their] Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What Jesus is saying in the parable of The Good Samaritan is that, to inherit eternal life, you must keep God’s law perfectly—which includes loving your neighbor as yourself. No wiggle room. You must always love perfectly, sacrificially, selflessly—not just on the outside, but on the inside too. You must, in other words, always want to love perfectly, sacrificially, and selflessly. You must never hurt anyone—physically, emotionally, relationally. And you must always help everyone—physically, emotionally, relationally. You must never harbor grudges. Never. You must never seek retribution. Ever. You must never want to seek retribution. When someone cheats you, instead of trying to get your stuff or money back, you have to give them more. You have to turn the other cheek to your most aggressive enemies. You must love perfectly.

“Go and do likewise” is, therefore, not a word of invitation to be nice. It’s a word of condemnation in answer to the laywer’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Far from telling the story to help us become like The Good Samaritan, Jesus tells this story to show us how far from being like The Good Samaritan we actually are! Jesus’ parable destroys our efforts to justify ourselves; to find a class of people we can call “neighbors” that we actually do love. In destroying our self-salvation projects, the story of The Good Samaritan destroys us. Jesus brings the hammer of the Law (“Be perfect…”) down on our self-justifying work.

In a rich irony, we move from being identified with the priest and the Levite who never perfectly love our best friends “as ourselves,” much less our enemies, to being identified with the traveler in desperate need of salvation. Jesus intends the parable itself to leave us beaten and bloodied, lying in a ditch, like the man in the story. We are the breathless bruised. We are the needy, unable to do anything to help ourselves. We are the broken people, beaten up by life, robbed of hope.

But then Jesus comes.

Unlike the Priest and Levite, He doesn’t avoid us. He crosses the street—from heaven to earth—comes into our mess, gets his hands dirty. At great cost to himself on the cross, he heals our wounds, covers our nakedness, and loves us with a no-strings-attached love. He brings us to the Father and promises that his “help” is not simply a one time gift—rather, it’s a gift that will forever cover “the charges” we incur.

Yes, Jesus and Jesus alone is the Good Samaritan.

“All souls are mine” says The Lord: Generational Curse Broken

{As I was looking up ideas as to the meaning of the proverb found in Ezekiel and Jeremiah I came across a good and succinct explanation on the blog: Pastor Josh’s Ramblings and share it here}

The Proverb of the Sour Grapes

The Proverb of the Sour Grapes
Ezekiel 18:1-4

Out text begins with an eye-catching proverb that had become popular in Israel and represented popular opinion.
Even today some people hold to the false belief that this proverb represents, but God has seen fit to occupy an entire chapter refuting this false doctrine.
The end result of the chapter is that we find ourselves wholly responsible for our own sins before God and not for the sins of someone else.Let us begin by reading just the first four verses of our text:

Ezekiel 18:1 ¶ The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?
3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. 

The first element of our text that strikes our eye is the proverb about the sour grapes.
Have you ever eaten sour grapes?
Have you noticed the aftertaste?
This is what is referenced in the proverb, that after effect of the sourness.
The people were saying that a man might commit a certain sin, symbolized in the proverb by the sour grape, and his children would be predetermined to suffer under the guilt of that sin and even carry God’s judgment for their father’s sin.

It is a common belief among people even today and is called by different names – Generational Sin among those superstitious Christians who have adopted this doctrine, Generational Curse among the occultist religions from whence this doctrine came.
The result of this false teaching is manifold:
1. It produces a sense of hopelessness in the follower of God regarding real spiritual freedom.
2. It produces a sense of unfairness regarding the nature of God.
3. It produces a lack of self-responsibility among those who hold this teaching.

God debunks Israel’s false doctrine in one powerful sentence:
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Every man must give an account of himself before God.
Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Every man suffers under the guilt of his own sins alone:
Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Every man is determined by his own actions to suffer the eternal penalty for his sins.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death;

The first and foremost truth of this chapter is that every man must answer to God for his own sins.

This is not to say that our sins do not have an impact on those around us, including our children:
Let us take a moment to discuss this.
So often we see a man who is abusive and disrespectful to his wife in the home:
When he has a son, often that son grows into a man that treats his own wife in the same shameful manner.
When he has a daughter, she grows up to marry a man that treats her as her father treated her mother.
Why is this?
Surely we can see that this is learned behavior.
The son takes the role model of his father and follows the pattern that was set for him.
The daughter accepts in her heart that such is the role of a woman and marries an abusive man.

It is the same with other sins that seem to continue from one generation to another.
A son sees the wandering eye of his father and justifies his own lustful heart to act in the same manner.
A girl sees the idolatrous ways of her mother and learns to depend upon idols as well.

Truly our sin does impact the next generation by way of example.

Our kids are watching and learning about how the family is supposed to operate, and they will often carry the same weaknesses and strengths into their own family.

HOWEVER, we must draw a definitive line here:
The son is not guilty of his father’s sins until he commits the same sin himself.
Never in the Bible are we encouraged to confess the sins of our fathers, such an injustice would cast doubt on the fairness of God.

Certainly I have inherited a sinful nature as every man has since Adam, but there is no sin that my father committed that has a generational hold on my life.
I make the decisions and the choices to sin or do right in my life and I bear full responsibility for my decisions.

There is a positive side to this doctrine as well:
The next verses in chapter 18 outline the life of a man that is just and follows the law, living by what is right in God’s eyes.
He does not worship idols or commit adultery.
He is not unclean or oppressive to any.
He pays his debts and lives peaceably.
He gives to the hungry and comforts the needy.
He defrauds no one and is just in his business dealings.
Verse 9
Ezekiel 18:9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.

It is clear that just as God judges the individual sinner for his individual actions, so He blesses the individual who lives uprightly before Him.

Now here is a question:
Does that man’s righteousness cover the sins of his children?
Read on:
Ezekiel 18:10 ¶ If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things,
11 And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife,
12 Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination,
13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.

Clearly the answer is that the son is responsible for his own actions.
The son exercises individual soul liberty and decides to sin – “The soul that sinneth it shall die”

Now, what about that man’s son?
Will he bear the sins of his father?
Read on:
Ezekiel 18:14 Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like,
15 That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife,
16 Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment,
17 That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.

Such is the just and fair judgment of God.
The next verse tells us that the father alone will bear the penalty of his actions.

There is much hope here in these verses that I want to point out to you this morning:
Have you had a father whose sinfulness has cast a pall and a shadow across your childhood?
You are not destined to follow in his steps and you are not guilty of his sins.
Have you had a mother whose sinfulness has caused nothing but pain in your life?
You are not guilty of her sins.

This was a shock to the people of Israel who had so bought into the traditional false doctrine of generational sin and generational guilt that they had stepped away from the one-on-one personal responsibility that keeps a man or a woman righteous before their God.
Ezekiel 18:19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Now we get to an even more bright and hopeful passage.

What if I have found myself following the pattern of sinfulness set by my father?
What if I have modeled the same weaknesses and poor judgment that my mother laid out before me?
What then?
Am I now destined to follow these proclivities?

Look to the following verses for hope:
Ezekiel 18:21 ¶ But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.

Praise the Lord!
Did you hear that?
If I confess my sin now, repent of my ways and follow the Lord, my iniquities will be remembered no more.
He will never even mention them to me!

This wonderful doctrine is consistent throughout Scripture.
It is not just an Old Testament promise to a limited group.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

How could God be so merciful?
Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

God is much more desirous that you repent than that you suffer the penalty of your sins.
2Peter 3:9 ¶ The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
1Timothy 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Know this, that your past righteousness will not keep you from judgment any more than your past sin will keep you from grace.
Ezekiel 18:24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.
25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.

This warning does not indicate that a saved person can lose their salvation, but that we are all under God’s government and will answer for our actions.
Do not think, as some have stated, that your righteous living builds up credits against which you can draw in times of sinfulness.
Righteous living is a requirement not a freewill deposit we make in the bank of Heaven.
The only righteousness that has built up any real value in the bank of heaven is that of Jesus Christ.
He made a deposit there that covers the sins of the whole world for those who will accept it as payment for their sin.

That said, we must understand that He still rules from His throne and chastises the errant and rewards the obedient.

One more time now let us drive this truth home again:
Ezekiel 18:27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?

Our God is ready now to accept your repentance.
You need never repent for your father’s sins – that Freudian philosophy is not from the pages of scripture nor anywhere affirmed by this book.
You are encouraged to take responsibility for your own actions and revel in the freedom to make the right choices now, for you do have that freedom.

God will judge us for our own actions in this world and reward us for our own actions in the next.
Ezekiel 18:30 ¶ Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

There is one more aspect at which we have only hinted in this sermon:
Your own righteousness could never cover your previously committed sin, and you could never be absolutely perfect from this point on.
You will falter and fall.
There must be a more perfect righteousness that gains us a position in heaven.
This is where Jesus comes in.
When your righteousness was not good enough, He offered his own for you to wear.
Will you accept it today as your only way to have a relationship with God?

Then and only then will you be freed to live a life of purity and holiness before Him.

The World and Worldliness Defined

It is helpful to see exactly from Scripture what the world consists of since our thinking often becomes muddled. I propose to show that self-righteous, supposedly “do-gooders” are worldly.

1Jn. 2.15-17 gives the qualities of worldliness:

Do not love the world or anything in it. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you.Here is what people who belong to this world do. They try to satisfy what their sinful natures want to do. They long for what their sinful eyes look at. They brag about what they have and what they do. All of this comes from the world. It doesn’t come from the Father.The world and its evil longings are passing away. But those who do what God wants them to do live forever. (NIRV)

Notice that all the “things” are internal: 1. sinful nature (flesh in some versions). 2. The “longing” of the eyes. 3. The “bragging about what they have and do” is pride, an internal state.

Too often the message from the pulpit is something like this: “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew; and don’t go around with those who do.” Sometimes it is also other lists or even “try harder.” These recommendations are powerless unless one recognizes that as Christians we become a new creation and that the same faith that saved us operates to sanctify (becoming progressively holy) us as well:

You received Christ Jesus as Lord. So keep on living in him. Have your roots in him. Build yourselves up in him. Grow strong in what you believe, just as you were taught. Be more thankful than ever before. Make sure no one captures you. They will try to capture you by using false reasoning that has no meaning. Their ideas depend on human teachings. They also depend on the basic things the people of this world believe. They don’t depend on Christ. (Col. 2.6-8 NIRV)

What does the “world” look like? Jn. 7.1-7 clearly defines those who are “the world”:

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He stayed away from Judea on purpose. He knew that the Jews there were waiting to kill him. The Jewish Feast of Booths was near. Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You should leave here and go to Judea. Then your disciples will see the kinds of things you do. No one who wants to be well known does things in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him. So Jesus told them, “The right time has not yet come for me. For you, any time is right. The people of the world can’t hate you. But they hate me. This is because I give witness that what they do is evil. (NIRV)

Here it shows that the Jewish religionists were murderers motivated to do so because Jesus had exposed their evil. Jesus labels them “the world.”

These were religious authorities of the one true faith: the Jews. However they missed the need for a rebirth (see Jn. 3.1-15 and especially v. 10 where Nicodemus was supposed to know this from the Torah). They needed heart circumcision not only flesh circumcision:

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. (Le. 26.40-42 ESV).

Also Ez. 44.7-9 alludes to everyone needing heart circumcision even though it speaks of foreigner here, it is clear that it was required of every worshipper to have a new heart:

In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. Instead of carrying out your duty in regard to my holy things, you put others in charge of my sanctuary. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites. (NIV).

R.C. Sproul: “Does God Repent?”

Here is a good explanation on the bible passages where it is stated that God repents about a course of action (courtesy of Ligonier Blog) 


To “change one’s mind,” in the New Testament means to repent. When the Bible speaks of my repenting or your repenting, it means that we are called to change our minds or our dispositions with respect to sin—that we are to turn away from evil. Repent is loaded with these kinds of connotations, and when we talk about God’s repenting, it somehow suggests that God has to turn away from doing something wicked. But that’s not what is always meant when the Bible uses this word.

Using a word like repentance with respect to God raises some problems for us. When the Bible describes God for us, it uses human terms, because the only language God has by which to speak to us about himself is our human language. The theological term for this is anthropomorphic language, which is the use of human forms and structures to describe God. When the Bible talks about God’s feet or the right arm of the Lord, we immediately see that as just a human way of speaking about God. But when we use more abstract terms like repent, then we get all befuddled about it.

What About Moses in Numbers 14?

There’s one sense in which it seems God is changing his mind, and there’s another sense in which the Bible says God never changes his mind because God is omniscient. He knows all things from the beginning, and he is immutable. He is unchanging. There’s no shadow of turning within him. For example, He knows what Moses is going to say to him in Numbers 14 before Moses even opens his mouth to plead for the people. Then after Moses has actually said it, does God suddenly changes his mind? He doesn’t have any more information than he had a moment before. Nothing has changed as far as God’s knowledge or his appraisal of the situation.

What in Moses’ words and actions would possibly have provoked God to change his mind? I think that what we have here is the mystery of providence whereby God ordains not only the ends of things that come to pass but also the means. God sets forth principles in the Bible where he gives threats of judgment to motivate his people to repentance. Sometimes he spells out specifically, “But if you repent, I will not carry out the threat.” He doesn’t always add that qualifier, but it’s there. I think this is one of those instances. It was tacitly understood that God threatens judgment upon these people, but if somebody pleads for them in a priestly way, he will give grace rather than justice. I think that’s at the heart of that mystery.

Is God confused, stumbling through all the different options—Should I do this? Should I not do that? And does he decide upon one course of action and then think, Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all, and change his mind? Obviously God is omniscient; God is all wise. God is eternal in his perspective and in his full knowledge of everything. So we don’t change God’s mind. But prayer changes things. It changes us. And there are times in which God waits for us to ask for things because his plan is that we work with him in the glorious process of bringing his will to pass here on earth.

Some Notes on the Earliest Manuscript of Paul’s Letters

Papyri is ancient Egyptian paper that could take over a year to produce. It was cheaper than animal hides but would not generally last as long. It was exported from Egypt to lands in Europe and the MidEast. It served as media for the copied writings of Scripture in Egypt and elsewhere. The manuscripts that were stored in the desert regions of North Africa could survive thousands of years due to the dry climate.

In 1976 I was able to examine the Bodmer Papyri in Switzerland traveling to its repository while in Europe as an apprentice church worker. Textual transmission and its study has fascinated me for 40 years. Dan Wallace, a leading textual scholar, has just examined the Chester Beatty p46 manuscript and reports his findings on his blog.

Daniel B. Wallace

The publication of P46 in 1935–37––then, and now, the oldest extant manuscript of Paul’s epistles––has not ceased to pique the interest of biblical scholars. Beginning with the plates and text published by Kenyon (1936, 1937), and continuing with the virtual birth of reasoned eclecticism with Zuntz’s magisterial The Text of the Epistles: A Disquisition on the Corpus Paulinum (1953), and reconsiderations of its date (Young Kyu Kim, “Palaeographical Dating of P46 to the Later First Century,” Biblica 69 [1988] 248–57), this priceless document has made its way to the front lines of biblical scholarship for a long time. Though Kim’s suggestion that Chester Beatty Biblical Papyrus II was written before the reign of Domitian (81–96 CE) has been refuted, the consensus continues that it was produced c. 200 CE.

Where Are the Pastoral Epistles?
One curiosity of this papyrus is that, in its current state, it lacks the pastoral letters…

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Centered in God

Pr.4.27In the future when my building activities are complete (there is light at the end of the tunnel), I plan on showing from the Bible the many ways the walk with God is like a traveling on a highway.

The land of Israel is very hilly and thus difficult to traverse efficiently. Without a highway the pilgrims travelling to the three required feasts yearly would either have to travel over the hills and valleys in a straight line to Jerusalem or, conversely, follow the meanders of valleys on a relatively level area. Neither option was ideal especially when traveling with the elderly or very young along with their flocks and herds, the pack animals and wagons.

Two main highways existed in Israel from ancient times: the Via Maris that was near the coast of the Mediterranean and the Kings Highway in the TransJordan region. A feature of the ancient highways was a built up roadway with a ditch in either side for drainage of the winter rains. The Bible draws upon this imagery to teach lessons about the spiritual life: Go not to the right or the left, turn your foot from evil (Pr. 4.27).

Don Carson at the Gospel Coalition Blog has posted a devotional on Dt. 9 that shows two opposite extremes to avoid: paralyzing fear and haughty self-reliance. In this case the highway of walking with God would be humble obedience:

IF DEUTERONOMY 8 REMINDS THE Israelites that God is the One who gave them all their material blessings, not least the ability to work and produce wealth, Deuteronomy 9 insists he is also the One who will enable them to take over the Promised Land and vanquish their opponents. Before the struggle, the Israelites are still fighting their fears. God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you” (Deut. 9:3). But after the struggle, the temptation of the Israelites will be quite different. Then they will be tempted to think that, whatever their fears before the event, it was their own intrinsic superiority that enabled them to accomplish the feat. So Moses warns them:

After the Lord your God has driven them out before you do not say to yourself,
“The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my
righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the
Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteous-
ness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but
on account of the wickedness of these nations . . . to accomplish what he swore
to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not
because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good
land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people 
(Deut. 9:4-6).

And the evidence for this last point? Moses reminds them of their sorry rebellions during the wilderness years, starting from the wretched incident of the golden calf (Deut. 9:4-29).

What shall we learn? (1) Although the annihilation of the Canaanites fills us with embarrassed horror, there is a sense in which (dare I say it?) we had better get used to it. It is of a piece with the Flood, with the destruction of several empires, with hell itself. The proper response is Luke 13:1-5: unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish. (2) It may be true to say that the Israelites won because the Canaanites were so evil. It does not follow that the Canaanites lost because the Israelites were so good. God was working to improve the Israelites out of his own covenantal faithfulness. But they were extremely foolish if they thought, after the event, that they had earned their triumph. (3) Our temptations, like Israel’s vary with our circumstances: faithless fear in one circumstance, arrogant pride in another. Only the closest walk with God affords us the self-criticism that abominates both.

The Prophet

The Prophet

(I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. 

Dt. 18.18).*

Groucho Marx quipped “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”  No human is so one-dimensional as to not have characteristics that round them into a complex whole. If God made us in His image, how much more is The Builder multi-dimensional. God has revealed to us facets of his nature in Psalm 62.11-12a that seem to counter balance each other. God has declared one principle; two principles I have heard: God is strong, and you, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love.

At Sinai, God revealed his power but it terrified the people so another side of His nature would be needed to communicate with them.  The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you—from your fellow Israelites;  you must listen to him. This accords with what happened at Horeb in the day of the assembly. You asked the Lord your God: “Please do not make us hear the voice of the Lord our God any more or see this great fire any more lest we die.” The Lord then said to me, “What they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command.  Dt. 18.15-18.

The question is: “In what aspect will this Prophet be like Moses?” A cursory web search of similarities between Moses and Jesus leaves out the need alluded to in the text of the softer side (if you will) of God’s nature: “what they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites.” In my search of how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of another like Moses, many websites had lists of up to 50 different ways that compared Jesus to Moses but no site (in my search) listed the meekness or humility that characterized both leaders which the text almost demands: “what they have said is good. I will raise up a prophet like you.”

Numbers 12.3 describes Moses’ character: Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth. God’s powerful majesty was revealed by the sounds and events at Sinai, and the people were rightly terrified. God would raise up a meek messenger who would demonstrate sacrificial love. Isaiah 42.1-9 portrays this “servant”:

Here is my servant whom I support, my chosen one in whom I take pleasure.

I have placed my spirit on him; he will make just decrees for the nations. 

He will not cry out or shout; he will not publicize himself in the streets.

A crushed reed he will not break, a dim wick he will not extinguish;

he will faithfully make just decrees. 

He will not grow dim or be crushed before establishing justice on the earth;

the coastlands will wait in anticipation for his decrees. 

This is what the true God, the Lord, says— the one who created the sky and stretched it out, the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it, the one who gives breath to the people on it, and life to those who live on it: “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from dungeons, those who live in darkness from prisons. 

I am the Lord! That is my name!

I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols.

Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass; now I announce new events. Before they begin to occur, I reveal them to you.


It is significant in the first sentence a clear reference to the Trinitarian unity is mentioned in regards to this “servant.”

Additionally, this “servant” will be “a covenant mediator.” Israel already had a covenant in the Law of Moses: “Keep my statutes and my ordinances, which a person is to obey in order to live in them. I am the LORD.” (Le.18.5). A New Covenant, however, was promised, which would usher in a more personal relationship with God (see Je. 31.31, Mt.26.28, IICor.3.6, He. 8.6, 9.15, et al.).

A question might arise as to the timing of this covenant with Israel and Judah. In my mind the covenant was instituted at Pesach (Passover) when Jesus died and inaugurated at Shavuot (Pentecost) when the “promise” was given (see Ac.1.4: the Father’s promise is the New Covenant’s presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers- the “other comforter”). All male Israelites were to appear before the Lord at the three principal feasts. So, particularly at Shavuot when the crowd heard the many native languages from their homelands, these dispersed Jews who came to observe the feast probably constituted all the tribes of Israel. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples to commemorate the blood of the Eternal Covenant which He was soon to spill but The Father and Jesus sent the Other Comforter at Shavuot as the promised relationship of The New Covenant.

* All Scripture from the NET Bible.

Jews and Christians: Coming to faith

Good thoughts and refutations by Bography. The comparison between Moses and Paul in their callings is spot on.

OneDaring Jew

On the RoshPinaProject Messianic Jewish site appears a report on Eddie Beckford, a Christian missionary in Israel, who was found guilty of attacking a group of (Jewish) anti-missionaries. The Messianic Jews (followers of Jesus/Yeshua) defended Beckford while the Jewish camp said he’d got his just desserts. Nothing – predictably – was resolved. Most people, naturally (because that is human nature), have fixed views, where no argument, no matter how clear, is going to persuade. I said most people; there are, though, a minority who – upon hearing a different view, even an opposing view – change. There’s also no lack of pride and prejudice in the human soul.

Although I hadn’t read anything on the Beckworth affair, I added – as is my wont – my titbit to the conversation, because like Lady Catherine de Burgh in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I must have my share.”

I quoted Stuart…

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Signs, Shadows, and Symbols

From the Gospel Coalition blog of Don Carson. Much of the Bible is in the form of parables that invite further examination of underlying concepts that point to a truth only found by careful digging. As Proverbs urges: if you look for her (wisdom) as for silver, then you will find the knowledge of God. Dr. Carson is right: “reflect long and often on the connections.”


Numbers 11; Psalm 48; Isaiah 1; Hebrews 9

Numbers 11Psalm 48Isaiah 1Hebrews 9

ONE OF THE WAYS GOD TALKS ABOUT THE FUTURE IS . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.

Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.

One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.

So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).

As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.