Archive for May, 2012

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Leave Alone, well enough…

May 30, 2012

“But I don’t feel alone”, you might say, “I have a great family, many friends, I love my church and I never really feel isolated.” First off, praise God in His mercy He has allowed you to enjoy what few in this world have for any long period of time. There are three VERY important things to remember if you find yourself in a period of emotional relational satisfaction.

First, give God the glory everyday for the blessings you have received, rightly ascribe glory to Him in your situation. The fact that you feel satisfied relationally is not due to the fact that you’re so stinkin cute, or that you’re the nicest person on the planet. The fact that you experience the blessing of good relationships is because God has so blessed you, do not add to this blessing the sin of pride by trying to take the credit for what you enjoy.

Second, Be a comfort to others who are less fortunate, there are two ways to comfort:

-One, take care of those who have, through circumstances or situations, lost relationships and now are experiencing isolation and loneliness. Being part of a community, ie the church, or your family, comes with responsibilities. Both Paul and James admonish those in the church to look after widows and orphans, those who are truly without anyone to rely upon. This can occur by inviting a widow in your neighborhood over for dinner, taking the time to have conversations. This might even mean adopting an orphan who has no one to call father or mother.

-Two. Be sensitive to those around you who may be less secure in their relationships and may not be as satisfied. This is akin to the weaker brother/stronger brother discussion in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:13, we do not flaunt our freedom in the face of others, we don’t lord over others, rather we are sensitive to the fact that we may have those among us who need prayer and care.

Third, Be on your guard. Loneliness is not something that we leave in the dirt behind us when we reach some plateau of relational perfection. Many things can suddenly afflict us with a sense of isolation and a feeling of loneliness. Outside factors can contribute to sudden isolation: deaths, being fired, being dumped, being betrayed, business travel. Inner factors can also lead to the lonely experience: sin against God, harboring bitterness and resentment, fatigue, illness, and anger can all make us feel isolated from God and others. The Bible calls us to be sober-minded and prepared for action. In times of plenty we take in a harvest and store up provision for times of famine. Build your life around the Word of God and take comfort from the promises contained therein, commit them to memory for there will come a time when you will need to call to mind the promises of God. Those who meditate on the Word of the Lord day and night will be like trees planted by streams of waters, able to weather any draught. (Psalm 1)

Continually live in Christ, striving to enjoy the peace of God that passes all understanding, His peace will guard your hearts and minds. (Phil 4:7) Remember to put away all matters of deceit and strife, anything that puts difficulty between yourself and others, so that you might continue to enjoy the body of Christ, being of one mind with others, having among yourselves the mind of Christ. (Phil 2:5-11)

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Alone No More: His Provision for Us…

May 30, 2012

Fighting loneliness.

Loneliness grows out of isolation, whether that isolation is real or just perceived.  Ultimately our human relationships are greatly affected by and governed by the state of our relationship with God.  It is the goal of the enemy, since the beginning, to separate us from God and from each other.  From the moment Eve sinned and Adam ate the fruit,  they hid from one another and from God.  They covered themselves with leaves and hid behind bushes.  Prior to sin all existed in peace with one another without shame, living in harmony with God.  Post sin, we hid in shame from each other, and hid in fear from God.  God, being gracious and abundant in steadfast love, gave us the law, and the prophets pointing to the ultimate reconciliation to come through the gift of His Son.

God does not want you to be alone, God does not want you to FEEL alone, He has literally moved heaven and earth to reconciled you with Him for His glory.

He has given us His Son so that we are not isolated from Him.

He has given us His Spirit, so that we might feel His presence internally forever.

He has given us His church, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we might always have a family no matter where we are, so that we might feel His presence externally forever.

He has given us His word as a record of His power and promises to sustain us in down times, so that we might reflect on His promise to Never leave us, nor forsake us, to be with us always even to the end of the age; these promises insure that we might intellectually experience His truth forever.

All of this is done that we might humble ourselves underneath this truth, casting our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Consider that the next time you feel alone, the omnipresent God of the Universe, knows you, Loves you, calls to you, and CARES for you.

Here are eight  Biblically prescribed solutions for loneliness

(From: http://www.christinyou.net/pages/loneliness.html)

1. Regeneration, reconciliation with God. Col. 1:21,22

2. Confess known sins – I Jn. 1:9

3. Accept God’s forgiveness – Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14

4. Forgive others – Eph. 4:32

5. Recognize and affirm the presence of God in Christ – Josh. 1:9; Ps. 23; Isa.                         41:10; 43:2; Matt. 28:20; Jn. 16:32; Heb. 13:5

6. Accept the work of the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of Christ –                           Jn. 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7

7. Participate in the fellowship and community of the Body of Christ, the Church –                         Heb. 10:25

8. Participate in the functional ministry of the Body of Christ in using your spiritual                         gifts – Rom. 12:4-6; I Cor. 12

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Only the Lonely: Our Need, His Provision…

May 29, 2012

“Loneliness was the first thing that God’s eye named not good.” – John Milton

(Photo Credit: The National Geographic)

From the very beginning of time, recorded in scripture, we see that mankind was created to reflect the image of God.  Fundamental to making that image complete was the creation of relationships.  “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR own likeness…” (Gen 1:26)  God is a relational being, a Triune God who is three persons in one being, each one relating to each other in perfect harmony.  Mankind reflects this relational reality.  God look out upon His good creation and behold it was all good.  The earth beneath; the sky above; the birds in the skies; the fish in the seas; all of it was very good.  And yet one thing in the litany of divine creation was not good.  After creating man from the dust of the earth and tasking him with the dominion of earth, it was determined that it was “not good” for man to be alone.

Now it is important to note that the Bible does not record that man was lonely.  There is no sign that Adam wandered about God’s good creation bemoaning his status.  Eden represented perfect harmony between man and creation, God and man. It was God who looked upon the scene and determined that man needed suitable help.  So man and woman were created in the image of God to exercise dominion and aid each other in the multiplication of the image of God across creation.

We were created to be together.  Men and women, in marriage.  Parents and children in families.  Brothers and sisters in harmony.  Individuals in communities, clans, cities, nations.  This tendency to group is as evident in natural general revelation as sunshine and seasons.  Every corner of the globe reflects man’s tendency and propensity to gather into groups, multiply and exercise dominion over their space.  This is seen in marriage, which is by far the most universal human cultural institution.  All of this was greatly effected by the Fall.  The Fall radically reoriented all human relationships. As we see in Genesis 3, the very act of procreating became marked by pain, and all relationships fell victim to enmity and strife.  Brother’s would kill brothers, Husbands would rule over wives, wives would undermine their husbands.  The contention would spread out into cities and towns and entire nations through wars and feuds.  But from the outset, a seed was planted and promised, One who would crush the head evil and shatter the scepters of the wicked.  One who would draw all nations to Himself and break down barriers of political and relational strife.  Upon the cross, there was such a man.

We need each other because we were created to be in relationships, reflecting the image of the triune relational God.  Where sin marred this reality of our relationships, the gospel of God’s grace literally breathed new life into the dry bones of our communities.  The Gospel is power.  Power to overcome the greatest strife, power to dissolve the most intractable debates, and power to sooth the deepest hurt.  God sent His son to that we might have life, abundant life, together in a body called the church.

Christ, himself reflected this, in that He did not act alone.  Supernaturally He was attended by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, doing nothing apart from their will or ability.  Naturally, He formed a community, calling disciples and tending to His family.  He equipped not individuals, but groups.  His great commission was not given to any one man, but to the whole body of those who called upon Him as Lord. Through Jesus all of our constructed barriers are removed and our relationships are restored; so that, whether we are rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, Servant or master, we are all one in Christ Jesus.  We have now a foretaste of what is to come, when we will exist peacefully together in relationships living solely for the glory of God.

So it is not good for you to be alone.  If you are alone in spirit, know that there is One who stands ready to rush in and provide eternal comfort to your forlorn soul, if only you would call upon Him, confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord.  If you know God but are alone relationally, then seek out the other members in the body of which you are apart, the church.  For they exist, as your brothers and sisters, to share your burdens as well as your joys; to give you a foretaste of Godly community to come.d

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The Mighty Have Fallen: Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

May 29, 2012

Part 4 Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

In the past three posts we have introduced the concept that there is a textual and thematic connection in scripture which serve to give us a picture of the means and method of Evil’s opposition to God and His chosen Messiah.  We have looked at the characteristics of Evil opposition in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, and we have examined a heightened type of this opposition in the Absalom Narrative in 2 Samuel 15.  Now we turn our attention to the presence of this opposition in Isaiah 14.

Isaiah 14:12-20 is often used as a text to describe the character and even origins of Satan.[1]  For our purposes we will assume the majority position that this passage in Isaiah, while directed at the king of Babylon, is also alluding to the fallen one, Satan.[2]

The passage comes in the middle of a taunt that Israel is to direct, by order of Yahweh, at the king of Babylon.  Here Babylon is the force in opposition to God’s anointed.  Many of the elements needed for evil opposition are present.  Pride, self-exaltation (14:13), murder (14:17) and a certain demise. (14:19)  Verse 19 shall be our primary focus.  I maintain that Isaiah has Absalom prefigured in this passage and especially in verse 19.  While one could certainly argue that the pride and self-exaltation on display would be common to any number of opposition narratives within the Bible; verse 19 serves to narrow our focus and tie this text to Absalom’s narrative.

Verse 19 is as follows:

       “But you have been cast out of your tomb

Like a rejected branch,

Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,

Who go down to the stones of the pit,

Like a trampled corpse.

(Isaiah 14:19 NASB)

While the Hebrew text does not support many lexical links between this passage and 2 Samuel 18, we will explore the conceptual similarities at work.  In Isaiah, we have one who is cast out; who is like a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain;”  who is “pierced with a sword;” and is thrown down, buried in a pit, with stones.  Within this verse we see a four elements that the two texts share in common.  First we can see that the figure is cast out. Absalom was cast out as he fled from the scene of battle. (2 Sam 18:9)  Second, Samuel describes Absalom as being caught in the branch of a tree, figuratively clothing the branch of a tree with his slain body.  Third, He is pierced with a sword by Joab.  Fourth Absalom is buried in a pit covered with stones. (2 Sam 18:15,17)  Ultimately he is denied the right to be buried like a king, failing to be united with his royal heritage in burial. (Isa. 14:20)

These similarities are striking and serve to add meaning to both the text in 2 Samuel and this text in Isaiah, which allows the careful reader to see a greater nuance in the reproach against the King of Babylon.  Though he is like Satan in his pride and Absalom in his actions, he shares the fate of both.  He will be cast down, and meet his end like those who are a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain,” “pierced with the sword”, “buried in the pit.”  A certain end for one who opposes Yahweh.

Is Isaiah 14 speaking of Satan when it describes one “fallen from heaven… cut down to the earth…”? Most likely yes.  Is Isaiah 14 recording a taunt from Israel meant for the king of Babylon? Yes.  Is it also giving us a picture of evil opposition as seen in the Absalom narrative?  I believe that it is.  But it is also giving the reader a picture of another opposition scene.  I believe that both the Absalom narrative and the Isaiah passage, in addition to reflecting meaning on each other, serve to craft an image of a greater opposition yet to come.  We will now look how both of these passages serve to reflect and inform the narrative of Christ’s betrayal at the hand of Judas.


[1] “It is possible that there is a reference to the fall of Satan… Isaiah uses language that seems too strong to be referring to any merely human king.” Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2000. 413.

[2] It is true that some commentators disagree with this assessment and view the exalted language as mere poetic imagery, (See John D.W. Watts Word Biblical Commentary on Isaiah 1-33, Waco: Word Pub. 1985. 212.)  Watts argues that there is little linking the account of the fall of Satan in Rev 12 with the description here in Isa 14.  It seems more plausible that this passage as pointing to Satan, “not directly but indirectly, much like the way the kings of the line of David point to Christ.” (See Geoffrey W. Grogan. Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 6, Isaiah. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1986. 105)

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Et Tu Absalom?…

May 26, 2012

Part 3: Absalom and David…

The story of Absalom’s rebellion, for our purposes, begins in 2 Samuel 15.  David is king over Israel.  Absalom has a desire to become judge over the people of Israel. (15:4)

-Absalom deceives his father, gaining permission to go to Hebron, ostensibly to make an offering, but his goal is to have it proclaimed throughout the land that “Absalom is king.” (15:10)

-Once Absalom leaves, the King (David) flees Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley, and arrives on the Mount of Olives to weep and pray. (15:23,30)

-Chapters 16-17 describe Absalom’s efforts to curse, pursue and kill David as well as David’s flight from his son.  In Chapter 18 David raises an army, led by Joab, and defeats Absalom’s forces. (18:7)

-Absalom flees, his head is caught in a tree and he was hanged. (18:9)  Joab arrives, pierces Absalom with the sword and buries him in a obscure pit covered with stones. (18:15, 17)

-Absalom’s revolt is unsuccessful and David returns as King, arriving at the city gate, and all the people came before him. (19:8)

All the threads of evil opposition are present within this story.  There is one to be opposed, a type of the messiah, in this case King David; and there is one actively engaging in opposition.  Absalom’s action is rooted in pride, and manifests itself in self-exaltation, deceit, and murderous desire.  In these actions he displays opposition to God’s anointed king and implicitly opposition to God Himself.  This opposition is his end, both in practice and in fact.  He succumbs to a bruised head, is cast to the ground, and denied the burial reserved for those of royal pedigree.

In isolation within the biblical text this story would seem exciting but rather benign.  But what I hope to show is that there is far more at work in this narrative in light of two other biblical texts.  The evil represented in the actions of Absalom is nothing less than Satanic opposition of God’s anointed, which points forward to the ultimate act of opposition against Christ.  To bolster this claim it will be helpful to look at the Absalom narrative in light of a chief text used to describe Satanic opposition, Isaiah 14:12-20; and later to examine in it relation to Christ’s betrayal by Judas.

In the Next Post, Part 4 we will examine evil opposition as outlined in Isaiah 14.

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The Character of Evil…

May 25, 2012

 

The character of evil opposition to God and His anointed is marked in the narrative of scripture by a source, a means, and a certain end.  The source of evil opposition to God is seen in pride.  Pride is the root of evil.  Those who oppose God and his anointed are in essence saying that they know better, and that God’s way is not good enough.  This is seen in the opening chapters of Genesis, where the “crafty” serpent puts forth an alternative command to God’s law.  Creation was given the best and utmost good to worship in God, when that good was rejected for the lesser worship of self, pride appears.  “Pride lies behind all transgressions,”[1] and is the key indicator of evil’s presence.  Good angels, and arguably the good man Adam (pre-fall) remained free of sin and evil as long as they would, “cleave to Him who supremely is.”  “If we ask the cause of the misery and of the bad, it occurs to us, and not unreasonably, that they are miserable because they have forsaken Him who supremely is.”[2] It was pride that led Eve and Adam to trust in their own judgment rather than to listen to God.

God curses the Serpent and prescribes a curse that will dictate the course of history.  Enmity will exist between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.  This enmity or opposition will be rooted in pride, but will be carried out in a number of ways.  While source of evil opposition is singular; the means it uses to accomplish its mission are many.

For our purposes we are going to focus on three means by which evil opposes God and His creation: self-exaltation, deceit, and murder.  One could argue that within chapters 3-4 in Genesis we see all three of these played out.  Adam and Eve seek to exalt themselves and be like God, knowing good and evil. (3:5) The Serpent deceives Adam and Eve. (3:4,13)  Cain succumbs to sin, seeking to avenge his honor (exaltation), and murders his brother (4:8), and then attempts to deceive God. (4:9)  We see these same means at work ad nauseum before the flood as the whole of mankind became irreconcilably wicked.  After the flood, in the persons of Nimrod (exaltation; Gen 11:4); Jacob (deceit; Gen 27:30-35); Joseph’s brothers (murder, deceit; Gen 37); Pharaoh’s opposition to God’s people (murder Ex 1:16; exaltation 14:1-31) to name just a few.  Evil is sourced in pride, it is carried out by means of self-exaltation, deceit and murder, and it has as its end the opposition of God.

If the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then it should of little surprise that the chief end of evil is to oppose God and to rob His creation of joy.[3]  This end, however is two-fold; it is a goal and a destination.  It is a goal in that from pride comes the desire to exalt one’s self, to deceive others and murder to achieve the goal of opposing God.  But this end is also a destination as all those who oppose God’s anointed are cursed and destined to be crushed.  Those whose end it is to oppose God, will in fact, meet their end in the process of opposition.

God prophesies as much to the serpent about its seed.[4]  God promises as much about those who oppose Abram.[5]  God displays as much to the wicked in Sodom, Pharaoh in Egypt, Dathan against Moses; the Philistines in Canaan etc.[6]  Those who act in pride, through self-exaltation, deceit, and murder to oppose God, will be crushed and meet their end. These threads of action are woven throughout the bible.  At times, as in the above examples, only one or two threads are present.  But when multiple threads are present a specific picture of opposition emerges and evil can clearly be seen.  Nowhere in the Old Testament text are more threads present than in the narrative of Absalom’s opposition of David.

In the next post, Part 3, We will focus on the David and Absalom narrative and pick at the threads to unravel the story.


 

[1] Schwarz, 117.

[2]  Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 7298-7300.

[3] The Westminster Shorter Catechism 1647, Question 1:. What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God,  and to enjoy him for ever.

[4] Genesis 3:15 “He (the seed of the woman) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise him on the heal.”

[5]Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”

[6]Genesis 19; Exodus 14;  Numbers 16; 1 Samuel 4

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.