Archives For Biblical Theology

An interesting thing happens when we watch a movie or read a book. We are able to simultaneously live amid two realities. On the one hand, we are wrapped into the movie or the book. We lean forward in our seats, clench our fists, perhaps even shed a tear or two.

But, at the same time, we know that it is not real. After all, we paid for a ticket to the show! Regardless, we can effortlessly live between what is real and what is fantasy. In the wisdom and kindness of God’s creative design, we can enjoy refreshment amid our daily life while still living in it. It is something of a recreational vacation without having to travel.

And, we don’t really feel the tension, we certainly don’t ask questions–we just enjoy the entertainment benefits.

I’ve observed a similar dynamic with the Christian life. We know that we sin—even as Christians, we sin. We know also, that God is holy. We have these two realities side by side: our sin and God’s holiness. Do you feel the tension? These two realities don’t seem able to coexist.

How can they?

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The Bible is both motive-reading and future-predicting. We, as finite creatures, can do neither. I cannot tell you what you are thinking, or why you are doing what you are doing. The Bible does.

Why is this? How is this? It is because it is a living book. Like Spurgeon said, I’ve read many books, this book reads me! It is true—the Bible is alive. Scripture says as much:

For 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 the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

The Word is a sword that is all knife; it cuts both ways. It is sharp.

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“It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” (Hebrews 7:7)

Like a shaken two-liter of soda in the hands of a 5-year-old, the story of Melchizedek is fully charged and overflowing in Christological significance. We learn of the uniqueness and superiority of Christ’s priesthood by means of this somewhat mysterious and obscure type from Salem. It is upon this new priesthood that the new covenant is built. For a guy with only a hand-full of Old Testament verses he sure does get a lot of airtime in the New Testament Scriptures.

shutterstock_94042480There is one phrase that arrests my attention in Hebrews 7 however. It is this statement about the inferior being blessed by the superior. In the case of the narrative we are talking about Genesis 14 where Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek.

The context of chapters 13 & 14 include a story of Abram and Lot separating because their hired hands could not get along (Gen. 13.13). Abram went toward the land of Canaan and Lot towards Sodom. Following this a war breaks out and Sodom, along with 4 other kings, are defeated by the 4 king coalition from the north. Consequently, Sodom, and Lot with them, were dragged north towards Mesopotamia. When Abram hears about this he gathers his crew and charges after them. In due time he catches them, battles them, and wins. He takes Lot and all of his possessions and turns around to go home. Abram is legit.

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I once heard someone ask RC Sproul a question. “What is the point of creation?” His answer was, “Holiness.” He nuanced it a bit to include “that people would glorify God by means of holiness.” If Sproul is correct (and I think he is) then this is a staggering statement. God is pursuing his glory through the reflection of his own holiness. The obvious problem here is the reality that none of us perfectly reflect this holiness. When we sin we are failing to be holy as he is holy.

When you think about the divine pursuit and the human problem then the Bible’s tone makes a lot of sense. What you basically have is God speaking and acting in order to procure holiness by waking people out of their rebellion.

How does God do this? How does he get people’s attention? How does he get your attention?

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Sometimes it’s the little things, the small details, that hit the high notes of our praise.

David was on the run from a brood who wanted him out as king. There are thousands pursuing him, as Psalm 3 says. To make matters worse the coup is led by none other than his son Absolom. The king is fleeing the people who were supposed to be loyal we’re pursuing.

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I remember the day I first heard the gospel, it was awesome.  My faithful friend unpacked the message of the gospel to this weary sinner.  I was pierced through.  I needed a Savior and I knew it.  As our discussion came to a natural end, my friend found out that I did not own a Bible.  So as a good friend he gave me the one he was carrying.  It was a green pocket New Testament with the Psalms & Proverbs.  It comfortably was transferred from the pocket of his military cargo pants to my own.  I was and am thankful for my friend John’s kindness and graciousness that day.

However, what I am a little bent about is that Bible.  As I mentioned it was the NT, Psalms & Proverbs.  It did not include the Old Testament Scriptures.  This was a bit of a problem for me.  I had zero Bible knowledge at this point.  I did not know that the Bible had two testaments, I thought ‘Christ’ was Jesus’ last name, and couldn’t understand the purpose for all of these various letters (epistles).  But I read my green King James New Testament as tried to get stuff figured out.

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You may be familiar with the story in 1 Kings 21. Ahab is one of the worst kings in the history of Israel. His lusts knows no bounds. One day he decides that he wants to take the vineyard that belonged to a man named Naboth. He offered to give him another patch of land or even to buy it from him. However, Naboth resisted: ‘”The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” (1Ki 21.3)

Naboth refused because the land was part of his inheritance. We might think that this is dripping with the sentimentality of family. And it may. But more than that, it represents the Hebrew mindset that the land is a gift from God. Naboth can’t just “give it up and take something else.” The land is not like a pair of sneakers or upgrading a phone.

As we read on we see that Ahab’s wife, the notorious Jezebel, does his dirty work. She gets a couple of worthless guys together to accuse Naboth of something he did not do in order to put him to death. This she does successfully. The innocent Naboth is killed outside the city because of a false accusation of blasphemy.

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This is a guest post by Byron Yawn

I recently encountered a blog post discussing the hazards of a “redemptive historical hermeneutic” (RH). The author, a dispensationalist (and friend of mine), was contrasting RH with that of a grammatical historical method (GHI) of interpretation. The post was dealing with Jesus’ dialogue as he walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)   

This particular passage is somewhat of an exegetical battleground in the discussion regarding the redemptive view of biblical interpretation and biblical theology.

As I am currently preaching through the historic books of the Old Testament, hold to a Christo-centric view of the Bible, practice grammatical historical interpretation, am a committed five point Calvinist and a premillennialist to boot (in the tradition of S. Lewis Johnson), I was intrigued. With the current push away from pietism/fundamentalism and the resurgence of law/gospel distinction underway in the church – the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament is back up as a hot topic.

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In the past I have been guilty of treating the Book of Proverbs a little bit like a commute to work. I sped through familiar passages and topics while aiming to get where I needed to go. Often times this destination has been a rebuke that I needed to hear concerning my tongue or some help toward counseling people more effectively. In short, I did not enjoy the commute through Proverbs like I should.

However, I recently begun reading this book on my days off, leisurely making my way through and highlighting along the way. You’ll never guess what happened. I began to see and smell the gospel flowers in full bloom. I heard the chirping birds with their songs of deliverance. The gospel notes are hit surprisingly well in this wisdom book. Some days I feel like Jacob grabbing ahold of that text, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” (Gen. 32.26) God has been good; I’ve been greatly blessed to say the least.

In effort to share and shamelessly disrupt others’ “commute” through this book, I have compiled a short list of verses along with some personal reflections on them. (Note: I quote the verse first and then a gospel meditation in italics after)

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ezra nehemiah emmaus bible church

Preachers love to preach. We love to dive down deep, mining God’s Word for glorious, eternal treasures and then to swim back up to the service, sharing them with our church each week. But sometimes we get a little preacher’s cramp in so far as what to preach next. After preaching through Ezra and Nehemiah, I am thoroughly convinced that pastors, in particular church planting pastors, should prayerfully consider preaching through these books.

Here are some reasons…

New Beginnings: Ezra starts out with the people of God in Babylon. Within a verse or two God is strirring the heart of a pagan King (Cyrus) to send his people back to Israel to rebuild the temple and reestablish the covenant community. It is time for a new day. In particulur for a church plant this helps to show how God works in people and communities to build something new.

Idolatry: The books are repleat with examples of what idolatry is. Everywhere from the neglegence of the weak in Nehemiah 8 to the ignorance of the Sabbath in order to make wine in Nehemiah 13, God shows how the elevation of good things to ultimate things is actually a replacement of what is ultimate, namely the worship and adoration of the Lord God. This primes the pump for a crucial discussion on idolatry.

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The Embassy of Joy

Erik Raymond —  May 30, 2012

On occasion we read international news stories that detail how people seeking safety will make a mad dash to an embassy Whether because of political, legal or some other issue, the people have gotten into some trouble with the local officials and they need asylum. They need protection.

While stories like this pique our interests they seem foreign. They might as well be tales from another world. Most of you reading this blog live in a nation that affords you tremendous safety and privilege. We don’t feel this type of pressure.

At the same time, we do have trouble and we do seek refuge.
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The scene may be hard to imagine: people in the covenant community pawning their fields, homes, and vineyards in order to put food on the table. Worse still, the people that were fronting the money were other members of the covenant community. However, this was the reality for post-exilic Jews in Nehemiah’s day.

Nehemiah would have none of this. In chapter 5 he gets after his people like a spiritual Orkin man. He diagnosises the infestation of selfishness and calls them to repentance. Thankfully, the people respond. In repentance they restore what was taken.

This is a great story of concern and service by a man of God for the people of God. But it doesn’t end there.

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We all have blind spots. We have our issues. Whether we are talking about personal, social, or theological blind spots, we have them. And to say you don’t, is to, well, make my point.

The important thing for us to look for said weaknesses, identify them and replace them. This is living life as a fallen sinner it is reality.

But sometimes our blind spots are our hobby horses. And this is a problem.

I can remember arguing about abortion with a friend who is pro-choice. In the midst of the discussion (it was civil) he called me out on my flippancy concerning life in the various wars that the US is involved in. He had a point. My issue was inconsistent. I had a blind spot.
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I love to preach the Old Testament. I love the challenge and the treasure. Admittedly I also love it because, even though it is growing in popularity, it is not widely done today by Christian preachers.

Having preached through the books of Leviticus, Ruth and now most recently Ezra, I find the Old Testament preaching to be so very helpful to my New Testament preaching. It is probably something of an oversimplification but in the Old Testament you have many narratives that correspond to and illustrate New Testament doctrine.

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One of my favorite statues is in downtown Boston, in Quincy Market. Towering above the crowd on a pillar is a life-sized Sam Adams statue. Engraved on it is this inscription: Fearless and Incorruptible. Now whatever you think of the early American Revolutionary you have got to admit that Adams was, from the perspective of his cause, fearless and incorruptible.


Likewise there are many great reformers in the Bible who fit into such a mold. One of my favorites is Ezra. God used this scribe-priest to bring about substantial biblical reform in Israel. He not only led many people out of exile but he set the cadence for post-exilic life with his biblically saturated life. Privately and publicly he was about the Bible, as he set his heart to study, practice and teach the Law of God (Ezra 7:10). There is little doubt as to why he was so successful, he walked around with ink-stains on his forehead from his hours pouring over the Scriptures. Furthermore, he was courageous (Ezra 7.28) and extremely preoccupied with the glory of God (Ezra 8.21-23). What a guy indeed.

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At the end of Ezra 4 the people who started out rebuilding the temple with a head of steam had fizzled out. They were crippled by a fear of man. As they cowered in discouragement and shame the dust settled on the building project.

So what does God do?

He sends a couple of preachers, Haggai & Zechariah to preach. And do they ever.

God reminds his people that he is for them, is close to them, has a plan bigger than their life, that his Son is coming, that sin will be conquered, that the kingdom will come, and that he will finally and ultimately destroy all of his enemies. In short: God loves and wins through Christ!

If you read Haggai 2.12-15 and Ezra 5.1-3, 6.14-15 you will see that it worked.

Isn’t this a great encouragement to you? Particularly if you are preaching tomorrow, you need to remember that God still uses ordinary means and ordinary men to accomplish extraordinary things!

Through the ordinary means of ordinary men, God used preachers. These preachers gave them a reason to live. They freed them up to live by giving them a kingdom bigger than their own. We shrink-wrap our world and vision to the size of our lives. God used the prophets to increase their kingdom view–from the small kingdom of self to the big kingdom of God in Christ. This gave them reason to live and to die. May God grant us the same as he uses the same ordinary means!

In 2 Kings 8 we read of a woman who had been the beneficiary of the powerful kindness of God through his servant Elisha. The Shunammite woman’s son had died and then God used Elisha to raise him from the dead (2 Kings 4.18ff).

Elisha then warned her that a famine was coming and that it was wise to leave her homeland. This advice was taken. In chapter 8 we learn that she has come back to her land to find it in someone else’s hands. She goes to the King and asks for grace. She asked the king for her land back.

A funny thing happened though. As she entered to make her requests known, the King was having his ears filled with the mighty deeds of God through Elisha. More specifically, God’s mighty deeds to this very woman! (2 Kings 8.4-6). This is absolutely amazing. The King, with a somewhat softened heart, gives the woman all of her land back plus the produce from the fields she would have earned had she been there (2 Kings 8.6).

We can’t help but see gospel themes come to the surface as we consider this.

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I don’t know that I have ever seen an experience that could rival it. There was crying so loud that people could hear it from a far distance away. The crying was strange though, it was mixed with happiness and lament. It was 2,500 or so years ago in the land of Israel. The exiles had returned and had laid the foundation for the new temple. The older folks were wailing with lament because they had seen the previous temple in all of its glory. The younger folks who had grown up in exile were excited and full of joy as they looked ahead to this new temple.

The strange chorus of weeping and wailing punctuates the epic scene in Ezra 3 as the foundation for the new temple is laid.

At the same time we can read of the prophet Zechariah dealing with the attitudes of lament here as well as the forthcoming fear of man in chapters 4-5 of Ezra. One of the big prophetic hammers that Zechariah brings to this party is a statement about what God is doing and the fact that people are not to despise the day of small things.

“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’ ”…For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (Zech. 4.6-7,10)

What is smaller than a group of 40,000 exiled rejects returning to a God-forsaken land, embarking on a building project to bring a kingdom?

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btw, Pats by 4 on Sunday.

I enjoy visiting friends homes and looking for the most obscure coffee cup when they offer. It is fun to try to complete the narrative of their lives from their coffee cups. For better or for worse, cups preach. Maybe the guy is generous with his money or blood (still strange for a coffee cup) or faithful at work. Whatever the case, they tell us a story.

In Ezra 1 we have cups that tell a pretty profound story.

After conquering Babylon the powerful king Cyrus makes a decree to send a bunch of the captive Jews back home to Jerusalem (538BC). Why? To build the temple and get worship going again in Israel. It is amid this dramatic announcement we read:

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Years ago I worked in a financial brokerage. In particular I worked in compliance. We were very meticulous about ensuring that we said and did everything right. One phrase I remember seeing regularly is, “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” In other words, just because a fund or company has done well in the past does not mean that it will do well in the future. Typically this is appended to data that demonstrates solid past performance.

In the Christian world however, this phrase is turned on its head. It is in fact very much non-compliant with the Scripture.

What the writers of Scripture tend to do is unload piles of data upon us to show us that this God who has worked powerfully in the past will in fact do so in the future.

Just this morning I was reading the 77th Psalm in my devotions and I saw this same tactic. The Psalmist is, in the present, crying aloud to the Lord (v.1). He is feeling the pinch. Things are hard.

So what does he do? In both verses 5 & 11 we see him looking at the historical data for present comfort (Ps. 77.5, 11).

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