“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands
“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands
One of the most profound parts of the Christmas story is the small phrase “In those days.” This concept comes up repeatedly in the Nativity story. In those days there was a powerful Roman Caesar, a cruel Edomite king, a young virgin girl, an elderly Jewish priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, a righteous but clueless man named Joseph, startled shepherds in the fields, Magi from the East, a devout man named Simeon, an old prophetess named Anna, and John the Baptist. In those days…
God’s timing has always been perfect and will always be perfect.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” (Ps. 139:16)
“He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live… so that men would seek Him…” (Acts 17:26-27)
“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman born under the law” (Gal. 4:4).
“The mystery… to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment…” (Eph. 1:9-10).
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…” (Rom. 5:6).
“He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” (1 Tim. 2:6).
“The time has come… Repent and believe…” (Mark 1:15).
The coming of the Messiah was with exact timing. God does all things with precise timing.
Historians point out some elements of the exact timing of the arrival of the Messiah:
Pax Romana (Roman Peace)
For around 200 years (BC 27-180AD) there was remarkable peace or lack of war in the Roman empire. This provided a safe passage for the Messiah and His message.
Julius Caesar was killed and his stepson Octavius, later named Augustus, established peace by powerful armies and began taxing people to pay for those armies. He traveled with 23 legions—23,000 men. This tax is what is spoken about in Luke 2:1. Augustus also began the practice of deifying the Caesar. A practice the Jews and Christians resisted.
During a period of 700 years the Romans built 55,000 miles of roads. These roads were built to move troops and maintain order in the kingdom (similar to our modern interstate system of highways).
The Roman roads were:
- straight, the Fosse Way only veered a few miles in 180 mile length
- paved with stone, had bridges, and drainage
- marked with signs and mapped
- protected and patrolled
- taxed and tolls were collected
- durable, it was the 19th century before roads of this quality and scale were built again
The Romans thought they built roads for the glory of the empire, but in reality, they built them for the glory of God. The Roman roads enabled the Gospel to quickly spread throughout the Roman Empire.
All the way to the British Isle and Germany and France, which affects many of us to this day.
At the time of Christ, the entire Roman empire spoke and wrote the Greek language and used Greek logic. This enabled the good news of Jesus to spread.
The Greeks came first then the Romans. The Greeks by way of Alexander the Great introduced language, culture, and logic. The Romans used Greek culture and language but established Roman government and military might.
There were two Greek languages used, Classical Greek and koine/Common Greek. The koine Greek used Phoenician or Hebrew alphabet.
The Greeks, following Aristotle’s influence, introduced inductive inference/reasoning (e.g. Geometry). Also, reasoned arguments like:
- All humans are mortal, I am a human, Therefore I am mortal.
- All have sinned therefore I am a sinner.
Sometime about 300BC in Alexandria Egypt, the Old Testament was translated into koine Greek. Tradition says by 72 translators. This translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX. Again, this prepared the way for the Gospel—God’s Word in man’s language. There is little to no doubt regarding the OT text because of the scholarship of these translators.
Beginning around 600BC, the Jewish people began to emigrate to the Mediterranean basin and eventually into all Europe and the Middle East. This was the initial channel for the Gospel into the cultures of the world.
In the first century (at the time of Christ), there were more Jews living in Alexandria Egypt than in all Judea (see Acts 2:7-11). Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD and all the inhabitants killed and the Jews were driven out of the land. The land was renamed Syria-Palestine. So, Jews emigrated to North Africa, Persia, Caucuses, India, China (Kaifeng) North Europe, and eventually the Americas.
The North American Jews are the most intermarried of all the groups. According to DNA, the North European Jews came from four Germanic women. It is thought Jewish merchants followed Roman legions to Germania and married local women.
Synagogue is a Greek word. Before the coming of the Messiah, the Jews began to develop the concept of the “spiritual temple” as opposed to the actual physical Temple in Jerusalem. So there were synagogues in all the towns and cities of the Roman empire. The priest became rabbi (cf. Mark 1:21).
This kept Judaism alive in all the diaspora. There were two distinctives:
- Calendar – Sabbath and Feast days (The Greeks and Romans did not have a weekend in their calendar)
- Diet – kosher diet
Also, many Gentiles began to enter Judaism. For example, Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2. It was first to these synagogues that the apostles went with the Message (cf. Acts 17:1-4).
“In those days…”
Someone has said: A miracle is an event with precise timing that brings glory to God. This was part of the miracle of Christmas. “In those days…”
Our whole lives are made up of a series of miracles, from arrival to leaving this world. God is still orchestrating all the events of the world and in our individual lives—for His Glory and our good.
As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
The second appearing of the Lord will also be with exact timing. As Matthew 24:36 says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
What is God doing with precise timing in your life today?
Colossians 1:9 should be our prayer: that God would fill us with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
May we all have confidence in the Lord’s good timing this Christmas. As God did long ago—He makes all things beautiful in His time!
Amy, my missionary daughter, has had to wait for a visa and I have had to tell her repeatedly, you need to be patient, this is often the hardest thing for missionaries to do—be patient and wait for the Lord.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).
“In those days…” shows us our days are in God’s hands. And God is faithful.
 See Matt. 1:18-19 for Mary and Joseph, Matt. 2:1 for King Herod, Luke 1:5 for Zechariah and Elizabeth, Luke 2:1 for Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:8 for the shepherds in the field, Luke 2:25 for Simeon, Luke 2:36 for Anna, and Luke 3:1-2 for John the Baptist.
 Romans was wrote in precise Greek language and logic.
 Aristotle was born near Thessalonica (384-322BC). He was the tutor of Alexander the Great. What bearing does this have on Acts 17:11? Also, note: Very little of Aristotle’s writings remain yet no one doubts the authenticity of his work. Yet many doubt the Scriptures?!
 The apostles went to the Jews first (see Acts 17:1-4).
*Photo by Ivana Cajina
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends?
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends? How can we as the Church in exile stand strong and share the love of Christ?
I was reading about and thinking about dandelions the other day. I want to warn y’all, what I’m about to say is a little controversial and some of you may disagree. But, I think dandelions are cool. And actually pretty.
Dandelions, and this may not surprise you, have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant. And, did you know, every part of the dandelion is useful? The root, leaves, and the flower. They can be used for food, medicine, and dye for coloring.
Dandelions have had quite an impact and have actually helped a lot of people. Birds, insects, and butterflies consume the nectar or seed of dandelion. Dandelions can be used to make wine and used as a substitute for coffee.
There have been times when dandelions have been appreciated for what they are, but that is not the season we’re in right now in America. We’re in the season of trying to kill dandelions and we spend a lot of money collectively on pesticides to do so.
But, as we know, dandelions are very resilient.[i]
In some ways, church history parallels the history of the dandelion. The church has had its season when it’s been celebrated. When people have seen the benefits of the church. The church, however, has also had its seasons when people have wanted to kill the church, even willing to use pesticides.[ii]
The Church in America is in exile. And more and more that is being made empirically clear. Of course, theologically it’s always been clear.
The book of Daniel has a lot to teach the Church in exile. How can we stand tall and bright like a dandelion when the whole world bows?
How can we be like dandelions? How can we be like Daniel and his friends? How can we stand when many want to cut us down? How can we adapt and even populate and grow in this often hostile climate? (Timothy Keller has some very helpful thoughts on that question here)
How are we, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to be faithful in a faithless world? Answering these questions is one of the main purposes of the book of Daniel.[iii]
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends?
Romans 15:4 tells us that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.” Daniel has a lot to instruct us about living in exile. We’ll particularly be considering Daniel chapter 3 here.
In Daniel 3 we see the King, Nebuchadnezzar, sets up a huge idol. It’s ironic because God, the true King, is the one who sets up kings. We see 8 times in Daniel chapter 3 that the king “set up” the idol (Dan. 3:1-3, 5, 7, 12, 15, 18). But in Daniel 2:21 we see that it is God, the real King, that sets up kings:
“He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
So, the first lesson for us if we are to stand is to see that it is God, the true Lord, who is Sovereign.
Second, we must see the prevalence of idolatry.
We may not see actual idols all over in America, but they are there. The truth is: an idol is most massive and mighty when never mentioned. Satan, the father of lies, would like to cover our eyes to our culture of idolatry. We’ll continue to bow if we don’t know we’re bowing.
So, we must see that idolatry is the cultural air we are breathing. We are not immune. We are not untouched. Idolatry is not just out there. It is very often in our own hearts. Therefore, we must search and destroy every idol in operation in our hearts.
What even is idolatry? The New City Catechism says, “Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.”
Four questions to help you find your idols:
- What brings negative emotional responses?
- Where do you put your hope when things go well and when things go wrong?
- Who do you compare yourself to?
- How have you turned good things into ultimate things?
Third, be present to bless.
Notice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to comply with idolatrous practice but they aren’t wholesale against Babylon. They worked hard in the government and were a blessing to Babylon. That’s us too. We need to “come out of Babylon” as it says in Revelation 18:4. But, that means we need to not partake of Babylon’s value system. We’re not to partake of the sins of the world as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:10, we are not to leave the world.
We’re in Babylon, to bless Babylon. We have different values than Babylon but were not to always just bash Babylon or the Babylonians.
Fourth, die rather than partake in idolatry.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are explicitly commanded to bow an idol, which is a clear violation of the 2nd of the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:4-6). Listen to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response: “Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18).
They were willing to die rather than take part in idolatry. Very often I’m afraid we might be closer to the opposite of that. We’re more than willing to die for our idolatry.
We, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, should die rather than partake in idolatry. As it says 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Dear friends, flee from idolatry”!
Fifth, we may face various fires.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced literal fire and each remained strong in the Lord. You have or will face fire as well—mockery, judgment, or various other obstacles—but as Christians, we can stand because we know Jesus stands with us.
We can stand when we stand in Him. We can refuse to bow, when we bow to Him.
Further, our fellowship with Christ is often nearest and dearest in the furnace of affliction; I suppose that is because all distractions are burned away. In those moments we can know, deeply know, the One who matters most.
But, sixth, no matter what we face, we know God is with us.
Over and over we may be cut down but because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can stand tall like a dandelion; strong, resilient, and bright. And point to the One who is the One True Lord of the universe.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, remember: God doesn’t promise that He will necessarily keep His people from the fire. But, He does promise that He will be with His people in the flame (Ex. 3:12; Is. 43:2; Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 13:5; 1 Pet. 4:12-14). Ultimately we see Christ faced the ultimate fire so no matter the fire we face, we can face it with hope. We can face it standing on His promises. God’s promise to be with us finds its fullest fulfillment in Jesus, who is Immanuel—God with us.
How should we respond to the God who is with us through the fire and through the flame? How should we respond to Jesus who waded into the fire of affliction? How should we respond to the One who went through the furnace of the wrath of God completely alone? How should we respond who did all that for us?
We should bow to Him in reverent submission and we should lovingly share the news with “all the peoples, nations, and languages” that He alone is worthy of our worship.
Remember dear brothers and sisters, today the world says bow to every idol, but on the last day everyone—every tribe, language, nation, and tongue—will bow to Christ the King (Phil. 2:10-11).
Let’s bow now. Let’s bow in reverent submission. Jesus is worthy of our worship—of all worship!
So, as you drive around or mow and see dandelions, think about God’s sustaining and persevering power that He gives. He is with us no matter what we face! So, we can stand like resilient dandelions, unbending, pointing to the Creator who alone is worthy of worship.
[i] Most of this was taken from Jen Kerr.
[ii] And actually, in the world today, each of those things is a reality simultaneously depending on where you are. We just happen to live in a place and time in America where “dandelions” seem to be less and less popular.
[iii] The narrations in the book of Daniel of God’s power in the midst of severe opposition serve an important purpose: the encouragement of exiles.
*Photo by Amy Earl
What is the book of Revelation?
What is Revelation?
If Revelation were a movie what genre would it be? Comedy? Nope. Definitely not. What kind of movie?…
It would be in the genre of apocalyptic. The apocalyptic genre is about disaster and destruction. As far as movies go, it’s kind of a serious and science-fiction-ish genre.
Interestingly, these types of movies are getting more and more popular. In the pre-1950s there were 4 movies in that genre. In the 1960s there were 25. And from 2010 through 2019 there were 101 movies in that genre.
So, the genre of the book of Revelation is really popular right now. But the book of Revelation tells us the true story.
“The book of Revelation is the ultimate action thriller. Anyone who loves a great novel will certainly love this book. It contains drama, suspense, mystery, and horror. It tells of rebellion, unprecedented economic collapse, and the ultimate war of human history. Revelation is a book of astounding drama and horror, but also of hope and joy. It culminates with a happy ending, as sin and death are banished forever (21:4; 22:3).”
Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Therefore, there’s a lot that came before it. And a lot that is important to understand, from Genesis to Jude, that informs our reading of Revelation.
I know some people that read books and go straight to the back and read that first. I don’t understand that. It doesn’t make sense to me. I do, however, eat pizza crust first so maybe you think I have no room to talk…
But the point is understanding the beginning parts of the book is important to understand the conclusion. This is especially important when we consider that there are some 278 allusions to the Old Testament in the book of Revelation, and that’s in a book that is 404 verses long (some commentators say over four hundred allusions)!
Revelation is a revelation, prophecy, and letter
Revelation 1:1–3 shows us a few important things about what kind of book it is. It tells us who the divine author is: “Jesus Christ.” We already talked about if it was a movie what type of movie it would be, but as a book, it is actually in three different genres…
Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” The term revelation (Greek ἀποκάλυψις, apokalupsis) here means “uncovering” or “revealing.” And that’s what the book is, it’s “an ‘unveiling’ of unseen spiritual forces operating behind the scenes in history and controlling its events and outcome.”
Brian Tabb says,
“Apocalypses have two principal functions: (1) they encourage and comfort believers during severe trials… and (2) they challenge readers to adopt a new perspective on reality in the light of coming judgment and to live accordingly.”
Revelation 1:1 goes on to say that it is also a prophecy in part by saying that it is about “the things that must soon take place.” Richard Bauckham says that
“Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet’s contemporaries about their own present and the future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophet’s contemporaries and to continue to direct later readers to God’s purpose for their future.”
So, Revelation was both for the contemporary audience and for us the future audience.
John wrote “to the seven churches that are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4). So, Revelation is addressed to first-century churches. It’s a letter. But it’s also a revelation. It’s revealing the truth of the spiritual cosmic battle that’s unseen by the physical eye. Revelation is also prophecy. It’s telling us what is and what will happen.
Revelation’s Wild Imagery
In the book of Revelation, you have beasts and you have Babylon. You have terrible bowls and a terrible dragon. You have persecution and plagues. You have what is pure and what is putrid. You have what is right worship and what is wrong. You have death and the second death. You have earth and the new earth. You have now and you have later. You have the Lamb that’s the Lion.
In the book of Revelation, you have things as they really are. Revelation is a revelation of the way things are. It’s a disclosure. A revealing. It’s the truth made literally seen through symbols.
It’s the uncovering. The unwrapping of a Christmas present. The truth of what was inside was hidden and unclear until the package is unwrapped and opened.
“Revelation is not a riddle to be decoded by experts or marginalized by those in the pews. It is a book – indeed, the final book – of Christian Scripture meant to decode our reality, capture our imaginations and master our lives with the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
That’s what Revelation’s wild imagery is for. It paints a true picture for us through powerful symbols.
Revelation “is not a secret code that allows believers to decipher the timeline of Jesus’s return.”
 John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near, 25.
 The ESV Study Bible.
 Brian Tabb, All Things New.“Revelation, with regard to both content and construction, is one of the most exquisite of all apocalypses both Jewish and Christian” (J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation: Introduction, Translation and Commentary, 3).
 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 152.
 “The book of Revelation was written to seven churches as both encouragement and challenge. An apocalyptic letter, it relies on visions, symbols, and Old Testament references to reveal the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise given to Abraham in Genesis” (https://bibleproject.com/learn/revelation/).
 Brian Tabb, All Things New [New Studies in Biblical Theology]. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition).
Photo by Sincerely Media
We’re Listening… To Something.
We all listen to something.
We all listen to something. Or we all get our idea of what we should do, be, and care about from somewhere. Whether Cosmo Magazine, the Wishbone app, Ask.fm, whatever you watch on Netflix, or whatever is said on Snapchat through BuzzFeed.
Should we listen to Taylor Swift, Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, and DJ Khaled and receive “truth” from them? Or what about YouTube and Vine stars, Shawn Mendes, Tyler Oakley, Miranda Sings, Logan Paul, Jenna Marbles, and Hannah Hart?
Where is truth to be found? Popular and charismatic leaders?! Bernie Sanders? Barak Obama? Donald Trump? Joe Biden?
What about Adolf Hitler? Well, we automatically say no to some of those people especially Hitler. But that wasn’t always the case. Hitler was a gifted leader that actually brought what looked to some people like really good change.
But what do we know about Hitler? He was a moral monster. And he was fallible. That is, he was not perfect. And the thing is, neither is Cosmo Magazine, or Kanye, or Trump, or… whoever or whatever.
Yet, we’ve seen that we all listen to something/someone. We all get guidance for what we should do, how we should live, who we should be, from somewhere. But what that thing is that gives us guidance is super important.
Let’s take Hitler and Nazi Germany as our example again. Remember Hitler Youth? What were they taught? And I am not necessarily just talking about formal education. I am talking about what was the cultural air they breathed in? What did they believe and why?
They believed, or it would seem most of them believed, that the Nazi vision was their vision, their great dream, and destination. Was the Nazi vision, however, the correct vision, the correct hope?
I think and hope we would all clearly agree that they were wrong. And what happened as a result? Mass death, pain, and destruction. Essentially they got bad directions and arrived at a living hell.
Where we get our vision for life and prospering is important. Very important.
Where we get our “directions” is extremely important. And it is extremely important that those directions are correct directions. If not we will be led astray in innumerable ways.
[[Can I just say as an aside that we must fight against the temptation of geographical or chronological snobbery. America and the 2000s does not have the market on truth. We cannot use ourselves as the infallible measure of truth, can we? If so, couldn’t we justify anything we do in light of the fact that after all we’re right, we know what’s right? Couldn’t we end up a lot like Hitler and Nazi Germany? Our location on the planet and our time in history does not mean we have arrived, it does not equal truth. If we think it does then we are setting ourselves up for something bad.]]
How do we know how to think about sex and pornography and why do some of us desire to look at it so much and yet feel dirty, weird, or guilty after we do? What explains that? What about aspirations? What we should do in life? What about the point of life? What’s it all about? What about… and a thousand other things? We’re getting these answers somewhere, or trying to, but is it the right place? Is whatever we’re listening to giving us the correct answers?
We all know it’s important to get the correct answers to our questions, right? We know that from any test we’ve ever taken at school. Well, when it comes to life’s big fundamental questions, likes some of the ones we just looked at, it’s like twenty-thousand times more important that we get the correct answer. Failing a test at school, so to speak, does not at all compare to failing life.
So, why do we need a foundation? Well, first, let’s look at what a foundation is. The foundation, what a house sits on, is typically concrete. A foundation makes the house solid. It keeps it from moving.
Actually, the old farmhouse that I grew up in does not have a concrete foundation. It has cinderblocks on one side of the house and like two metal braces.
The house has shifted over the years. You can tell especially by looking at the doorframes and hallways.
The house was not built on something solid, it does not have a good foundation so it is liable to collapse.
Do you see the connection? It’s the same way with our lives. We need a solid foundation to build on. We need something sturdy that won’t shift with time. We need truth.
[[Did you know that even before the Fall, before the world was plunged into all sorts of chaos because of sin, we still needed instructions from God? God talked to humans before the Fall and told them a few things. Did they listen? No. And what happened? The Fall. The fall of everything… It is vital that we have guidance. That is innate within us since the beginning. Yet, we also see it’s vital we get it from the right source]]
Scripture is our foundation. Why? Because it is the truth.
Scripture all over the place claims to be the truth but it also shows itself to be the truth. Jesus who historically verifiably rose from the dead believed in the infallible Word of God and He said that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to guide us in all truth. That’s just what we see in the rest of the New Testament. And Peter said that the Apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture.
Plus, if God hasn’t spoken then truth is relative. We make our own truth. You make yours, I make mine. Basically, then, there is no truth. Adolf Hitler was not wrong. He was just wrong to us. However, we innately know that there is right and wrong. That is because there is a God that made the universe and He has written the law on our hearts.
The law on our hearts, our conscience, however, is not very specific. It teaches us that it is typically wrong to kill. It teaches us a few restrictions like don’t kill and don’t torture dolphins for fun. But it leaves other things out, like positive things we should do. Our conscious doesn’t tell us what to live for or what is absolutely right and wrong…
That’s partly why Scripture is so priceless. The Bible repeatedly says that it is worth more than gold, even much fine gold. And it is! So, let’s look at a brief theology of the Bible…
The Word is True (Ps. 19:7, 9; 119:142, 160; Jn. 17:17)
God’s Word comes from God, the highest authority. The one who knows because He is all-wise. We have His words. And we need His words.
God’s Word corresponds to reality. It tells us what is real. It is true to life. True to the way of life and the way things work. Thus, it makes sense that it is correct.
The Bible is true and so it gives factual and accurate records of events. It is true to reality. It tells us about the world, and us in the world. Truth is not relative. There are things that are right and wrong for all people at all places at all times
C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Bible is true in that it explains reality to us. It accurately tells us why the world is the way it is. The Bible gives us the proper lens by which to see the world. The Bible gives us a worldview that corresponds with reality.
God’s Word is true and it is also eternal. It does not end. It does not stop being the truth. Everything else we read will pass away. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, cnn.com, espn.com, textbooks, novels, the Washington Post. One day the last Facebook status ever will be posted and Snapchat will end. But the Word of God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).
The Word is Enlightening (Ps. 119:44-45, 105, 130; Prov. 6:23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
God’s Word directs us how to live. It is a lamp to our feet. Without God’s Word we would be in darkness. We would not know where to go…
God, as we have said, has all-wisdom. He knows how the world operates and was meant to operate. Thus, if He tells us things we should do and things we should not do it makes sense for us to listen to Him. He knows! God’s word is a light because without it we are blind.
The Word is Shaping (Ps. 119:9, 11, 165; Is. 55:11; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12)
Because the Word is true and brings light and direction to our lives we see it shapes us and our lives. It shapes the way we live and think about things. It also convicts us. As 2 Timothy 3:17 says, “It makes us equipped for every good work.”
“The Word God breathes goes forth from Him and does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes all that He sends it out to do” (Is. 55:11).
“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of every man’s heart” (Heb. 4:12).
The Word is Precious (Ps. 19:10-11; 119:72, 127)
The Bible, God’s truth, is precious because without it we are lost. We could have all the money and gold in the world but not understand how to think about money or gold, how to use money and gold. The Bible is precious because it tells us about the world that is beyond the 70ish years that we have here.
The Word is Life-giving (Ps. 119:144; Matt. 4:4)
Without the Word we die. That is what the Bible says. What does that mean?
It means we need the Bible to live. We need God’s life-giving truth every day. It is not something that we can do without.
To this day, man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). The Bible is not a map you pull out every so often to see if you’re still on track. The Bible is our oxygen tank and we are scuba-divers. We need God’s Word to live. What God breathes out, we need to breathe in.
The psalmist said, “Give me understanding that I may live.” The word of God is serious. It’s a matter of life and death.
The Word is Saving (Rom. 10:17; James 1:21-22)
The word helps us persevere. It sanctifies us and ensures we don’t fall away. But for it to have that effect on us we can’t just hear the word, we have to be doers of it. The Bible helps us to continue in the faith so that we do not fall away and prove that we were never truly in Christ.
Remember that children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”? That song is actually quite profound and amazing. How do we know that Jesus loves us? It’s because “the Bible tells me so.” Without the Bible we are lost. Lost in every way. The Bible is our foundation.
What are you listening to?
Noah’s Ark and the Bible’s Narrative Arc
“…the whole earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen. 6:11b-12).
The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.
So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?
Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).
But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).
It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.
But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.
Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).
Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff), as He does, to bring salvation through judgment. God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.
Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.
Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.
When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).
Encouragement in Exile (A Sermon)
I want to say at the start that I understand it can be hard to sit there and be engaged. I’ve been there. I want to challenge you, however, to lean in and listen. The events we’re talking about here may be some 2500 years in the past but they have amazing significance today.
Plus, the book of Esther is an amazing book. It is a true work of literature. There is a heroine, suspense, irony, reversal, and surprising coincidences. Basically everything you’d want in a story.
The book of Esther tells “the story of events surrounding the rescue of the nation of Israel from the threat of extinction while it was in exile in Persia… The more profound and universal purpose of the story is to explain how God’s providence can protect his people.”
Whoever you are, wherever you come from, and no matter where you are spiritually, this year has likely brought many challenges to you. I believe the book of Esther offers some much-needed perspective on things.
As we saw the last two weeks, God’s people are in exile, under the reign of king Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus, as the King of Persia, has a ton of wealth. So he shows his wealth by having a party for 180 days (1:4). With that much partying it is no wonder that he seems to be somewhat of a drunk and pushover. However, it appears that he’s trying to combat his pushover persona (but not his potential alcoholism!) with the help of his friends and so he makes an example of his wife Vashti who did not obey his every whim.
In Herodotus’ Histories, it says that that the “king of Persia could do anything he wished.” And so, that’s what he did. He gets rid of his old wife and throws a lavish beauty pageant to find the most beautiful and pleasing bride in the kingdom (2:2-4). In somewhat of a Cinderella story, the king “fell in love” with Esther or at least more than all the other women and so he put the royal crown on her head and made her queen (v. 17).
Israel is in Exile. God’s people are not in the Promised Land. They have a foreign ruler. And can you imagine, that ruler was allowed to do “anything he wished.”
We too are in exile, we too are not home. It may be different than Esther’s exile but we are in exile too. We see this truth in Scripture in various places. For instance, 1 Peter 1:1 talks about us being “elect exiles” and verse 17 tells us how we are to conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. First Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Philippians 3:20 reminds us “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 13:14 says that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
So, just as Esther was in exile, we as Christians are in exile too. This book is relevant and has a lot to encourage us in the midst of the challenges of exile.
More and more our exile is a very visible reality. The Public Religion Research Institute did a study on religious affiliation in America. Here are their findings:
“The American religious landscape has undergone substantial changes in recent years… One of the most consequential shifts in American religion has been the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans… In 1991, only six percent of Americans identified their religious affiliation as ‘none,’ and that number had not moved much since the early 1970s. By the end of the 1990s, 14% of the public claimed no religious affiliation. The rate of religious change accelerated further during the late 2000s and early 2010s, reaching 20% by 2012. Today, one-quarter (25%) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest ‘religious group’ in the U.S.”
The study also found “about two-thirds (66%) of unaffiliated Americans agree ‘religion causes more problems in society than it solves.” They also “reject the notion that religion plays a crucial role in providing a moral foundation for children.”
It is not just America, however, that is becoming increasingly less affiliated. The Church in America also has less and less commitment.
One recent study conducted by Barna Group for the book Faith for Exiles found that out of the around 1,500 people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine that grew up in the church (as Christians) the majority no longer go to church. 22% are now considered “ex-Christians.” 30% may identify themselves as Christians but they no longer go to church. 38% describe themselves as Christians and have attended church at least once in the last month but do not have the core beliefs or behaviors associated with being a disciple of Jesus. Only 10% were found to be regularly involved in the life of the church, trust in the authority of Scripture, affirm the death and resurrection of Jesus, and express a desire for their faith to impact their world.
Dedicated Christians are more in more considered odd. Christians are more and more on the fringes of society. If things don’t change, these trends will just continue in the future. The reality of our exile status will be felt more and more.
So, friends, Esther has a lot to teach us about our exile. Let’s go to the first scene…
1. Haman’s Plot (Ch. 3)
Scene 1 starts with Haman, the antagonist or bad guy of the story, being promoted (3:1). It seems like he’s promoted because the beauty pageant was his idea.
Haman soon became furious at a Jewish man named Mordecai because he would not bow down to him. But instead of just taking it out on him, Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom (3:5-6). So, we see a big problem introduced in the plot.
Haman decided which day the Jews should be destroyed on by casting a lot. Lot is the word “pur,” so that’s where the name Purim, the Jewish holiday, comes from. Because Haman cast lots to decide what day the Jews would be destroyed on. However, as Proverbs 16:33 reminds us the lot (pur) is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. And so we see, even when the name of the LORD is not mentioned we see God is sovereign over human affairs and He will keep His promises to protect and bless His people. He will not let His people be wiped out.
Haman was so eager to destroy the Jews that he offered to pay the king ten thousand silver talents, the
equivalent of eighteen million dollars today, of his own money if the king would allow him to destroy the Jews. The king agreed and a decree was sent and Haman and the king sat down to drink (again).
Then in Esther 3:13-15 it says, “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.”
Things clearly are not looking good. What can possibly be done? Let’s look next at…
2. Esther’s Plan (Ch. 4-5)
In scene 2 we see Mordecai appeal to Esther (Ch. 4). Mordecai hears about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews and so he talks to Esther about it. Mordecai says, in Esther 4:12-14, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:12-14)
Imagine how scary that must have been for Esther. She could be totally rejected, she could be killed. Yet she moved forward. She just had one thing to say to Mordecai. She said: “Hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I will also fast. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (4:15-16).
In the next scene, scene 3, we see Esther before the king (Ch. 5:1-8). Esther has her first banquet with the King. Esther goes to the king and says, “Please join me for a feast that I prepared and invite your friend Haman too” (5:4). Then, at the feast, Esther says let’s feast again tomorrow and we’ll talk more then (5:8).
(It’s funny, is Esther delaying? Is she nervous? Is she buttering him up? We don’t know…)
In scene 4 we see Haman’s exaltation and anger (Ch. 5:9-14). After the feast, Haman leaves and he is joyful and glad. But then he sees Mordecai on the way home and he doesn’t rise in respect before him or tremble before him. And so Haman is ticked off and his wrath is renewed (5:9).
Haman was able to contain himself, however, and made it home. When Haman was home he had his friends over and was talking with them and his wife. He was recounting how good everything was going and he told them that he even got to hangout with the king and his new bride (5:12). “However,” he said, “It’s all pointless to me, so long as I see Mordecai still alive” (cf. 5:13).
So, his wife and friends said, “Build a frame six-stories high and have Mordecai executed on it.” When Haman heard that idea, he said, “That’s it!” And with great excitement he had the structure built so that the entire city could see Mordecai his enemy impaled.
Haman was haughty. He thought he could have Mordicai and all the Jews murdered and get away with it. But, next we see…
3. Haman’s Downfall (Ch. 6-7)
In scene 5 we see Mordecai’s triumph and Haman’s fall (Ch. 6-7). As we flash to scene 5, we see Esther getting herself together and preparing for her talk with the king.
But, the king couldn’t sleep. So, he did what any self-respecting king would do, he asked for a bedtime story.
The king gave orders for the book of memorable deeds to be brought and read to him (6:1). And before the
king got bored and fell asleep the story was recounted how Mordecai protected the king from an assassination attempt (6:1-2).
And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been given to Mordecai for what he did?” The king was told that “Nothing had been done” (v. 3).
That’s when, guess who walked in?…
Haman walks into the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai impaled.
However, before Haman could ask his question, the king asked him a question. The king said to Haman: “What should be done to the man whom the king wants to honor?” (v. 6)
And Haman thought to himself, “Who would the king want to honor more than me?!” (v. 6).
So Haman said to the king, in 6:6-9, “For the man whom the king wants to honor, I would get the royal robes out, and the best horse that the king has, and your favorite royal crown. And I would give it to him. And I would have a parade for him and lead him through the street and say: ‘This is what happens to the person that the king wants to honor!’”
Then the king said to Haman, “Great! Good ideas! Now hurry; and go do all that you just said for Mordecai the Jew! Do everything that you just said! (v. 10)
Haman clearly is not doing very well.
Haman eventually goes home (“rough day at the office”). And his wife and friends concur that this is not a good situation… Obviously.
Haman can’t hide in shame. He has a feast to attend, Esther’s special feast to which he is a very special guest.
At the feast, Esther makes a request of the king. She says, in chapter 7 verse 4, “Please let me keep my life and the life of my people.” “For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated” (7:4).
Then king Ahasuerus said to queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?!” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! [Pause for effect…] This wicked Haman!” (7:6)
Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.
The king stood up in his anger from his wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from queen Esther. But, the king returned from the garden just as Haman was falling on
the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence?!” (7:8)
At this point, Haman had no hope.
One of the servants said, “The six-story structure that Haman prepared for Mordecai is standing at Haman’s house ready to go.” (7:9)
And so, Haman was executed on the stand that he had prepared for Mordecai (7:10).
Wow. What a reversal. What unexpected deliverance. Of course, the stories not quite through but that’s all we’re covering until next week. So, let’s look at the…
Closing Scene (Takeaways Until Next Time)
There is so much to be gleaned. There are four takeaways I want to spend the remainder of time looking at.
1. God uses People
Esther is the unexpected star of the story. Ironically, Esther means, “star” and she was the star. There are 37 references to Esther by name. “Esther is an orphaned, exiled female. She is a most unlikely leader. Her only qualification is that she has won a beauty contest. Yet she joins a long line of unlikely heroes in the history of Israel.”
God uses unlikely people and deliverers in unexpected ways. It’s actually kind of His standard operating procedure. God used Moses, a man with a stammering tongue. God anointed David to be king, the youngest and most unexpected of his brothers. God uses small armies to bring deliverance. God puts His treasure in jars of clay so that it will be clear that the power and glory belong to Him (see e.g. 2 Cor. 4:7). And God uses the foolishness of the cross to bring salvation and shame the “wise” (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31).
Where did the rescue come from? Esther? Mordecai? Xerxes? God? God uses means to accomplish His ends!
What we do matters. Our lives and our decision matter eternally. They ripple through the corridors of time. There was and never will be a meaningless moment. John S. Dickerson in his book,The Great Evangelical Recession, has said:
“The stakes are eternal. The victims or victors are not organizations or churches, but souls that will live forever… We can feel a bit like Frodo, the hobbit, in The Lord of the Rings. We are tiny creatures entrusted with an impossible task—to rescue humanity from unthinkable evil… All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
My family used to live in the D.C. area. We saw where the plane hit the Pentagon on September 11th. Leah and I have been to New York city and have seen where the Twin Towers used to be. We have been by the monument in Pennsylvania that commemorates the passengers in the plane that went down in on September the 11th instead of careening into the White House.
Think about the decisions that were made in that plane on that fateful day. Think about the weightiness of those decisions. Think about the effect of those decisions upon themselves and upon all of America.
We don’t often see the impact of our decisions that starkly but what we do or don’t do matters. It matters for us. It matters for others.
What we do matters. It matters eternally. God uses mere humans as His mouthpiece. God uses humans to do His will.
Friends, our lives matter, our actions matter, our voices matter.
If we knew a millionth of the magnitude of our lives we’d be moved to wonder. Our lives and our every action have significance because this world and this life is not all there is.
And for Christians, this is multiplied ten-fold. We are mouthpieces, ambassadors, commissioned by the one true God.
God gives us wit, wisdom, and human will. Will we use what God has given us? Will we rise to the occasion and work to reach this lost world with the good news of Jesus? Or, will we just sit back? As we’ve seen with Esther, it won’t be easy and it will be scary but who knows whether you have not come to this place in your life and this place in history for such a time as this (cf. 4:14)?!
Friends, let’s live fierce purposeful lives because we have purpose. Our lives matter more than we can know.
That, too me, is very challenging and very encouraging. The other side of the coin, however, is very comforting and encouraging too. Let’s look at that now…
2. God is Sovereign
Haman has such hatred of the Jews he contrives of a pogrom and even bribes the king the modern equivalent of somewhere around $18,000,000 so that he can exterminate them. It does not look like rescue is going to come. How could it when the wicked one in power is willing to go to such lengths to destroy?! What hope was there really?…
Friends, if God’s not sovereign and He doesn’t save then that leaves it to you to save and be sovereign. If God is not Lord, then you have to be lord. It falls to you. Everything falls to you. You then have to govern the universe, at least your universe. You then have to rescue yourself or there will be no rescue…
In Esther there are 250 appearances of the Hebrew word for “king” or “to rule” and zero explicit references to God. The only other book that doesn’t explicitly mention God is the Song of Songs. In Esther it looks like Satan, “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 12:31 cf. Eph. 2:2), is in charge. But, he’s not. There’s someone unseen and unmentioned who really rules. And it’s Yahweh, the Creator and all-powerful One. He is God. He is in charge. We may not see Him. But we know Him. And we know He’s the boss.
The truth is though, from our perspective God is often not in view. We don’t see Him. And it looks like there is no hope. No rescue. We only see ourselves and earthly rulers. We either tremble in fear or we place our hope in them or we do both. We often think about earth and those who seemingly rule on earth. But the reality is, as Esther shows us, that there is someone orchestrating everything behind the veil…
In the book of Esther we see that God is present even when it seems like He’s not. “The book of Esther asks us to trust in God’s providence even when we can’t see it working. That requires a posture of hope, to believe that, no matter how horrible things get, God is committed to redeeming his good world and overcoming evil.”
And so, we need to trust like Mordecai. We must not bow down to any earthly powers. And we need to fast and pray and ask others to fast and pray in times of need. We need to rely on God even when He seems absent. We need to lay our lives down in service to God with a heart that says, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Especially as we consider that Jesus did perish to purchase our salvation.
As Mark Dever has said, “How could little orphan Esther end up as queen, Mordecai as prime minister, and the exiled Jewish people in prosperity, popularity, and safety!” Only because God is the one truly on the throne of the universe. How could salvation come through the death of Messiah Jesus, because Jesus is Lord and the Son of God.
Our hope is in a Ruler, in a King. But, He is no earthly ruler. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one and only Sovereign. As David Platt has said, “This world is not a democracy. This world is a monarchy, and God is the King.”
Sometimes when things look the worst, is when God shows His power the most. Actually, at the end of all things, when Jesus comes back, things are going to look very bad and be very bad. But then Jesus is going to show up on the scene. And He’s going to vanquish His foes. He will arrive not on a lowly donkey but on a white horse of war. He will destroy His enemies with the sword of His mouth (Rev. 1:16; 19:15, 21). There will be no Haman, no human, and no supernatural force to stand in His way.
Elliot Clark said this in his helpful book, Evangelism as Exiles:
“Hope for the Christian isn’t just confidence in a certain, glorious future. It’s hope in a present providence. It’s hope that God’s plans can’t be thwarted by local authorities or irate mobs, by unfriendly bosses or unbelieving husbands, by Supreme Court rulings or the next election. The Christian hope is that God’s purposes are so unassailable that a great thunderstorm of events can’t drive them off course. Even when we’re wave-tossed and lost at sea, Jesus remains the captain of the ship and the commander of the storm.”
That leads us to our next consideration…
3. God Punishes His Enemies
Another important thing Esther teaches us is that God always punishes His enemies. We also see that God will certainly deliver His people. Therefore, we can be comforted in our struggles, courageous in our obedience, and confident and joyful in our waiting.
It must be said, however, that if you are an enemy of God, that is bad news. The worst news.
But we can have hope. Even though we’re all naturally enemies of God because of our wrongdoing. We can have hope because…
4. God Saves in Unexpected Ways
The book of Esther amazingly goes from fast to feast! God brings about all sorts of unlikely plot twists. Here’s a picture that shows us the plot of Esther:
God rescues in unexpected ways. He always has.
The story of Esther is intricately and intrinsically linked to the cosmic story of rescue. It is through the deliverance that happens in the book of Esther that the deliverance from Messiah Jesus can happen. If Haman’s pogrom would have succeeded then God’s promise would not have. God, however, keeps His promises. He did and will provide the rescue we all need. Jesus, the Messiah, the Promised One, was born of a woman, as a Jew, and a descendent of David. Jesus did strike a death blow to Satan, the serpent of old, when He died on the cross and rose victorious over death and sin, and He soon will send Satan to the fiery pit.
So, just as Esther brought rescue, Jesus brings eternal rescue. Esther and Jesus are similar in some ways but also very different. Unlike Esther, Jesus had “no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected” (Is. 53.2-3). And unlike Esther who brought an amazing plot reversal akin to resurrection, Jesus actually brought resurrection, and final victory over Satan, sin, and death. So, Esther is good and we’re thankful for her but Jesus is clearly much better.
Esther brought reversal—from Jewish destruction to Jewish deliverance, from Mordecai being impaled high above the crowd to Haman being impaled high above the crowd, from a pogrom against the Jews to Jewish peace. But Jesus brings ultimate reversal. The dead shall rise. In the end, the last shall be first, and the first last. Those who weep will be comforted and rejoice.
The ultimate reversal is that victory comes through the cross. God works, and has always worked, in unexpected and glorious ways.
Lee Beach, the author of The Church in Exile, has said, God “is able to use marginalization and weakness for his missional purposes, and the church in the post-Christendom age needs to embrace this very Esther-like perspective at its core as it seeks to be the people of God in a foreign culture.”
So friends, even as we face challenges in the changing world that we find ourselves in, we know that we serve the LORD who is all-powerful even when we can’t see Him. Even when we can’t see Him present, we can trust His promise. He will be with us. He will help us.
We know that He, in Messiah Jesus, has already provided the rescue we most need. So, we continue to live faithful lives in hope and trust.
Lastly, I have a challenge for you. One recent study by the Pinetops Foundation has said, “The next 30 years will represent the largest missions opportunity in the history of America. It is the largest and fastest numerical shift in religious affiliation in the history of this country… 35 million youth raised in families that call themselves Christians will say that they are not by 2050.” What if God strategically raised you up for such a time as this? What if God want you to be on mission in exile?
To be honest, I don’t know what God is calling me to do about this. I don’t know what he’s calling you to do about this. But, perhaps, God has brought you to this point for such a time as this (cf. 4:14)? I want to take some time for us to pray and reflect on what God is leading us to do about the 35 million youth raised in Christian homes that are projected to leave the path of life for the path of destruction.
Esther took her life in her own hands, risked it all. What might God be calling you to?
Let’s take some time and ask our Father what He would have us do.
 Ryken, Ryken, Wilhoit, Ryken’s Bible Handbook, 207.
 Of course, it may not mean that the party was 180 consecutive days.
 Herodotus, Histories, 3.31.
 Haman is an Agagite which means he was a Canaanite which were longtime enemies of the Israelites. This comes into the plot of the story later on but this point is not made explicit.
 Charles F. Pfeiffer, Old Testament History, 489. That book, however, was published in 1973 so the figure would be higher today.
 Herodotus talks about such a book in Histories 8.85, 90.
 “Reversal seems the most important structural theme in Esther” (Dumbrell, Faith of Israel, 300 as quoted in Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 224).
 Lee Beach, The Church in Exile, 79.
 John S. Dickerson,The Great Evangelical Recession, 126.
 Illustrated Summaries of Biblical Books by the Bible Project. “Even though God is never mentioned, Yahweh is King, and the Jews are his people. No plot to annihilate them will ever succeed, for Yahweh made a covenant with Israel and will fulfill his promises to them. The serpent and his offspring will not perish from the earth until the final victory is won, but they will not ultimately triumph. The kingdom will come in its fullness. The whole world will experience the blessing promised to Abraham” (Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 225).
 Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, 462.
 Elliot Clark, Evangelism as Exiles, 42.
 See Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, 457ff.
 See Ibid.
 Beach, The Church in Exile, 79.
 “The Great Opportunity: The American Church in 2050,” 9. This is a study put out by the Pinetops Foundation.
The New Testament on Suffering
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 cf. 24:9, 13; John 15:18-21; Mark 13:13; Rev. 2:10; Heb. 3:6).Read More…
The Work of the Spirit | pt. 10
Tongues are used in a few overlapping ways in Scripture and should be pursued and practiced as outlined in the Bible. Scripture shows us that the problem is not tongues but the abuse of the gift of tongues. I think it should be admitted that even if we do not completely understand the gift of tongues we should not forbid their practice in private or publically when interpreted (1 Cor 14:27-28) because Paul explicitly says “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (v. 39).
Paul actually tells people to be ready to share a tongue (1 Cor 14:26) and he says, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (v. 5). Further, Paul tells us that he spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians (v. 18). Paul said all of this even though “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). Therefore, even though tongues are unintelligible to the human mind unless one is given the gift of interpretation (12:10), to speak in tongues is not wrong or bad (see 14:39); although, it should not be done publicly unless there is an interpreter (v. 28).
Many believe that tongues simply refer to a foreign human language (e.g. Ferguson, MacArthur). Michael Horton says, “We should… understand ‘tongues’ as synonymous with natural languages, which some were miraculously gifted to speak and others to interpret.” This understanding of tongues is simplistic and wrong for at least three reasons. (1) Tongues are used to speak to God. Paul says, the “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (v. 2). In this way tongues, at least the way tongues are used here, may be similar to the groans that Romans speaks of (Rom 8:26-27). (2) If tongues are interpreted they seem to function in a similar way as prophecy thus they are different than a foreign speaker coming into a meeting that needs to be interpreted. (3) Paul says there are different types of tongues (1 Cor 12:10, 28). It seems that tongues (glossia) are used in overlapping ways in Scripture. R. P. Spittler points out that in Scripture we see that tongues refer to three types of overlapping phenomena. He says,
‘Kinds of tongues’ (génê glôssôn, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28) can refer to anything on a glossolalic continuum ranging from (1) prayer ‘with groans that words cannot express’ (Rom. 8:26, NIV; preferable to RSV ‘sighs too deep for words’), through (2) tongues speech in a controlled ecstatic jargon that ‘no one understands’ by someone who ‘utterers mysteries to God’ (1 Cor. 14:2), to (3) charismatic use of a recognizable language never learned by the speaker (Acts 2:8).
Regarding tongues, it must also be pointed out that though tongues are good gifts that are given by the Spirit, tongues are not the marker of maturity. Further, tongues are not linked to a “second blessing” or to being filled with the Spirit. Lastly, it must be understood that even if we do not understand something in Scripture does not mean it is wrong or that it does not continue. I, for example, do not understand, the seraphim. But I believe in them. In the same way, just because we may not understand every aspect of tongues does not mean that tongues do not still or cannot function as a blessing to the Church.
Here is a summary of what 1 Corinthians says regarding the gifts of tongues:
(1) There seem to be various kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:10. 28 cf. 13:1; Acts 2:4).
(2) Tongues are unintelligible and unedifying to the group (1 Cor. 14:2-4, 6, 19) but are edifying to the speaker (v. 4).
(3) Tongues are not a foreign langue but are addressed to God (at least this is the case in 1 Corinthians) (vv. 2, 14-17).
(4) Tongues are not to be shared publically unless interpreted (1 Cor 14:6, 13, 26-33 cf. Acts 19:6).
(5) Tongues themselves are not forbidden but actually encouraged (1 Cor 14:5, 26).
(6) The regulations of tongues show that the tongues speaker is not in “ecstasy” or “out of control” (vv. 27-28).
8 Reasons we need to learn from the Old Testament
If we have the New Testament why do we need the Old Testament?
- All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), not just the texts we like to read.
- All the promises of God find their answer in Jesus so it is important that we understand what the promises are (2 Cor. 1:20).
- When Paul preached to the Ephesian church he preached the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and the whole counsel of God points us to Jesus (Lk. 24:27).
- When Stephen preached in Acts chapter seven he preached the Old Testament (see also the other sermons recorded in the New Testament) which demonstrates the vital importance of the Old Testament.
- The things in the Old Testament serve to instruct us and set an example for us (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).
- When Paul ministered to churches one of his ministries was proving that Jesus was the Promised One, the Christ (Acts 9:22). Paul demonstrated the amazing truth that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah by teaching the Old Testament. We see this all through Acts (Acts 9:22; 13:16ff; 16:13; 17:3, 17; 18:4-5, 19; 19:8ff; 24:25; 26:6, 22-26; 28:23, 31 cf. 18:28). We too must understand what it means that Jesus is the Messiah and that will require learning from the Old Testament.
- Much of the New Testament assumes knowledge of the Old Testament.
- Scripture is so good we need as much of it as we can get, Old Testament or New. Scripture is perfect (Ps. 19:7), true (Ps. 19:9), pure (Ps. 19:8), a light (Ps. 119:105,130), a sword (Eph. 6:17), a hammer (Jer. 23:29). It is better than gold (Ps. 19:10; 119:72) and we need it to live (Ps. 119:144). Scripture gives joy (Ps. 119:111; Jer. 15:16), makes wise (Ps. 19:7), guards (Ps. 119:9), guides (Ps. 73:24; 119:105), sanctifies (Ps. 119:9, 11).
Read and study the Old Testament along with the New. 🙂