Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision

2646As promised, I am going to start doing book reviews. These book reviews are meant to be an introduction to a resource. I cannot guarantee that they are all going to be particularly great, but I will try to provide my honest assessment of these materials.

This month’s book review is Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision by Karl Deenick. This book is the 45th volume in addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series from InterVarsity Press. This series of books seeks to interact with the contemporary scholarship to help evangelicals to better understand their Bibles. It focuses on a wide variety of topics ranging from examples of preaching in the New Testament to understanding the concept of original sin. Continue reading “Righteous by Promise: A Biblical Theology of Circumcision”

Advertisements

Trust is the Most Important (Isaiah 49-51)

Book of Isaiah

After telling the Israelites that they will be set free from captivity in Babylon, He reclaims them to be His servant nation. He starts with how intimately He knows them, “The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (49:1, NLT). The Lord tells the people that He has given them the strength to do whatever it is required of them, to be His servants. Then, just as He had before, He begins to give His people promises for their redemption. He knows that they will have pain and He will remember it. “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls.” (49:16, NLT). He will bring them back to their former glory, but not for them. They shall become a beacon to the nations that point back to God, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles,” (49:6, NLT). It will be His power that accomplishes this restoration, not the work of man. God asks of His people, “Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior? Who can demand that a tyrant let his captives go?” The answer is a resounding nobody. Yet God reveals, “The captives of warriors will be real eased, and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved. For I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood. All the wold will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (49:24-26, NLT). None can claim this same power that He wields, therefore, if it happens than it can only be God who has done it. God continues to describe His awesome power. “Why was no one there when I cakes? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called? Is it because I have no power to rescue? No, that is not the reason! For I can speak to the sea and make it dry up! I can turn rivers into deserts covered with dying fish.” (50:2, NLT).

Isaiah seems to take a break from speaking the words of God for a few verses and starts talking about being God’s servant in His own life. He states how morning after morning He is woken up and given new understanding for God’s will. He has to carry it out no matter what. This has lead him to being persecuted, beaten, and mocked for simply following the Lord’s instructions. Yet he has one bit of encouragement for his fellow Israelite, “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side! Who will declare me guilty? All my enemies will be destroyed like old clothes that have been eaten by moths!” (50:9, NLT). He knows though, that men become proud and begin to claim that they are doing things by their own power, not God’s. But God has words for these people as well. “But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from [God]: You will soon fall down in great torment.” (50:11, NLT).

God brings forth a call for the people of Israel to trust in Him. Humanity has always had a problem with being able to trust the Lord, so He shows them ways that He has been faithful to them. He speaks of Abraham, who was old with no children and now exists as a once great nation (since they are now in Exile). He then looks to Moses, where He brought His people out of the land of Egypt. Yet the problem with trust seems to be what others think. God says, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? … Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and ager now? It is gone!” (51:12-13, NLT). Yet his people know they have suffered His wrath before. God tells them, “See, I have taken the terrible cup from your hands. You will drink no more of my fury. Instead, I will hand that cup to your tormentors, those who said, ‘We will trample you into the dust and walk on your backs.'” (51:22-23, NLT).

We live in a world that stands against God. We cannot argue this fact. We constantly see laws being made that make being a Christian harder, we see laws being made and court cases being won against allowing the presence of God into our public lives. I know that the topic of homosexuality is very controversial, but it is a perfect example of this. The Bible teaches one thing, and the  world says something different. The beginning of Creation is another perfect example; the Bible says one thing, the world another. The list could go on and on. But God consistently offers us salvation for those who trust in Him. Paul writes to us in his letter to the Romans, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is agains us? … But in all these things [tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (8:35)] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31 & 37, NASB).

This is not a call to blind faith that simply pulls things from Scripture and trusts others to know what is right. We are called to question everything, and discern what God’s will for us is (Philippians 1:9). Yet there are things that God is clear about and that the Bible teaches. If we are to believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed and infallible, this leads us to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions, especially if we have listened to the world too much. God said to His people, “Why are you afraid of mere humans?” Maybe this call is to stand up for what is true. Take a stand against the world. We may lose friends and make enemies. But people can only attack our bodies, God deals with our eternal souls. Who should you be more scared of, man or God who spoke you into being?

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 109-110

 

Also in this Series

God is Our Savior (Isaiah 40-44)

Book of Isaiah

**Personal note** Sorry for my lack of posting. Life got super hectic for awhile (ie. moving, business, still trying to figure out having a new baby, etc.). However, recently my problem has become that my usual time for blogging has gotten super busy now that I am working on a job change. Anyways, I am going to be trying out some new times for blogging. I will get this blog back on track and finish us the Book of Isaiah so we can talk about something new! Thank you for all your understanding.

 

Isaiah opens this section by addressing all of God’s people (Northern and Southern kingdoms), in order to give them comfort during a long hardship (probably the Exile). The call is for people to return to God because He remembers them and is there to take care of them. Before we get to that point, God reminds them that even though people change, He doesn’t. “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (40:6-8, NLT). He knows that they have had problems, and He knows that more are to come. Yet He reminds them to stay faithful because He does not change. Isaiah then switches gears somewhat to tell us about the greatness of God. God says “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” (40:25, NLT). Through the preceding verse we know that none can compare to our God. Isaiah mentions that God has held the oceans in His hand, measure the entire heavens with His finger, knows the weight of the world and all its mountains and hills. None can advise God, and He doesn’t need advise. Isaiah even states, “He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand” (40:15, NLT). But then Isaiah brings it all back around for the ultimate comfort. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depth of his understanding. He give power to the weak and straight to the powerless … But those shoe trust int the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (40:28-29, 31, NLT).

The Lord then turns to the idols of the nations and asks them to make a case for themselves. The nations become prideful when they are successful in conquering, or outlasting other nations, yet none of them realize where that power comes from. They attribute it to their made up gods and say that they are greater than the God of Israel. God tells His people, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discourage, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (41:10, NLT). He provides for them a miracle to prove to the other nations that He is God. “I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.” (41:18, NLT). God shows the other nations that He provides for His people. He asks the idols to perform something, do a good deed, tell of the past, or tell of the future, and none of them respond. None of the idols can stand in comparison to the God of the Isrealites. He says to them, “See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.” (41:29, NLT).

God sets His sights again on the future. He begins to talk about a servant that He has chosen to serve Him. God says, “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations. You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.” (42:6-7, NLT). “I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way.” (42:16, NLT). God is seeking to correct His people. He goes on to discuss how they have become blind to His ways and are no longer keeping them. This is the reason for His servant to come. He will send His servant to correct Israel’s mistakes and bring them down a new path that will be unfamiliar to them, but is they one they should have been on all along.

God moves beyond a servant, and begins promising a savior. “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you.” (43:2, NLT). He speaks of bringing the people back to Israel, and tells them that they are to be His witnesses before all other nations. They are to proclaim, “There is no other God — there never has been, and there never will be.” (43;10, NLT). He promises to bring them victory over their sins. He goes on to talk about how they stopped presenting Him with offerings, but instead burdened Him with their sin. So He says to them, “I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (43:25, NLT). God then returns to the topic of the foolishness of idol worship. speaking to the people about how useless it is. “The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, ‘Why, it’s just a block of wood! I bunted half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. Ho can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?'” (44:19, NLT). The answer is, of course, NO! God says to His people, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered you offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (44:22, NLT).

There is certainly a lot in these chapters of Isaiah. I feel as though each one deserves a post on their own. But there is a central theme here, God is always there for us. God was looking into the future and knew what was soon to happen to His people. They were going to continue to rebel, and not listen to the Prophets. This behavior ultimately lead them to be exiled into the land of Babylon. Yet, He wanted to give His people every opportunity to turn around and come back to Him. He promises them a Savior to come and pay the price of their sin. We live in a world where that price has been paid. When Jesus was hung on the cross, it was not simply for all the sins of the world that had happened up to that point. It wasn’t for all the sins of the people alive and around at that point. It was for every single person who ever lived, and will ever live. I love that tradition shows us that Christ was crucified on top of a hill. Not just any hill, but a hill that overlooks Jerusalem, and Israel for that matter. I love the imagery, because it says to me that Jesus had the perfect view to see through time and see me. He could see me and he knew that he was paying the price of my sins.

The same can be said of you. Christ saw you and knew that he was paying the price for you to be free. Paul writes, “and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1:20-23, NLT). Christ saw you on that day and is calling out to you. Will you respond to him, and say “Forgive me of my sins, Lord”, or are you able to come up with something on your own to justify yourself to God? I promise you nothing will succeed.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 107

 

Also in this Series

He Keeps His Promises (Isaiah 13-16)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, God turns His sight upon Babylon. At this time they were not a powerful nation. They were still a part of the Assyrian Empire. But He knows they will be a people who are against Him. They, like Assyria, will even think that they are better/higher than God. However God promises destruction upon them as well. “Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms, the flower of Chaldean pride, will be devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them.” (13:19, NLT). Because of its pride, Babylon will be overrun by God’s wrath. God goes on to describe how He will display His might to the people of Assyria and Philistia. Then the Lord turns His sights upon Moab, a long time enemy of the Israelites. He tells them, “Even the waters of Nimrim are dried up! The grassy banks are scorched. The tender plants are gone; nothing green remains.” (15:6, NLT). God had threatened Moab before, but the important point is “Within three years, counting each day, the glory of Moab will be ended. From its great population, only a few of its people will be left alive.” (16:14, NLT). The people of Judah saw all of these prophecies made against other nations (except Babylon) come true in their time before the Exile.

I find some peace in knowing that God keeps His promises. Sure the ones He gave in this reading were destructive, and not exactly something I want in my own life. Yet it is still nice to know that He will keep those promises. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses wrote, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9, NASB). This says to me that, even though God proved His follow through with these destructive promises, He still remains faithful to you and I for simply believing in Him. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB). God keeps that promise too. We haven’t been left alone to figure things out on our own. God gave us a way for salvation. It is found in Jesus Christ, and God will keep that promise until the end of time.

Also in this Series

 

No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

The Letter to Smyrna

seven_letters_title_widescreen_16X9

Today’s message is quite short. Jesus is speaking to the Church in Smyrna. Smyrna is located in what is currently known as Turkey.

Jesus offers them encouragement through suffering about to come their way. Their biggest enemy was going to be the Jews. The is constantly a theme through the early days of the Gentile Church. Not that the Jews were against it, but Paul always speaks against Jewish practices in the life of a Gentile Christian. Jesus says to the Church, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life… He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11, NASB).

What does this mean to us today, you may be asking. Well, it seems to me to burst the bubble of the “Prosperity Gospel”. This is teaching that if you believe in Jesus, life is going to be easy-breezy. You won’t have any hardship or troubles. If you do, than you don’t believe in Jesus hard enough. This teaching is completely against the actual teaching of the gospel. Jesus says that we must pick up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). He goes on to discuss how suffering is apart of the game. All, but one, of the twelve apostles died a martyr’s death during the first century AD.

But Jesus offers us the same comfort he did to the Smyrnans (I’m not sure that’s what you’d call them, but it works for me). We must be faithful to Christ through the hard times. He doesn’t promise to lead us only through the good times; he’s also there in the bad.  If you are going through rough times, it’s even more important to keep your faith.

Reminds me of a hymn called God Will Take Care of You. Take a listen below