December 2009

 I never realized that the law was actually an incredibly gracious act on God’s part until I studied the religious climate of Ancient Near East.  Here is a quote from a prayer that was found on a tablet dated to the mid-seventh century B.C.  It is called “a prayer to every god”

May the wrath of the heart of my god be pacified!
May the god who is unknown to me be pacified!
May the goddess who is unknown to me be pacified!
May the known and unknown god be pacified!
May the known and unknown goddess be pacified!
The sin which I have committed I know not.
The misdeed which I have committed I know not.

This dude had no idea what to pray so he prayed to every god, he knew he had made something or someone upset, but didn’t know what he had done or why it was angry.  Whoever wrote this prayer had no relationship or knowledge of his god, had no clue how to enjoy his god, had no clue what angered his god, or even who his god was.  He just knew that he had done something wrong. 

It is in this religious context that Yahweh, the God of Israel says, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). 

 It is the fact that Yahweh graciously revealed Himself and his holiness to Israel through the law that makes Israel say among the nations, “what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:7-8).  The relationship between Israel and God was something unheard of in the Ancient Near East, and it remains the distinguishing mark of God today–He loves his people, he lived with his people, and he suffered for his people.


     The Ten Words, more famously known as the 10 Commandments, has been a very abused and forgotten piece of our Bible.  Remember, God first gave them to us in Scripture not on the plaque that hangs in your kitchen.  It is not a secular moral code that is common to all cultures and religions, it is the gracious direction and covenant stipulations from God for our enjoyment of Him.   Exodus 19:5-6 is why we need to treasure these gracious words of the Lord, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

     The format of this covenant, is much like the format of all covenants occurring in the Ancient Near East.  The suzerain (in this case, Yahweh), initiates a treaty with the smaller and weaker vassal (in this case, the nation of Israel).  There is a historical prologue (in this case, Exod. 19:4, “you yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself”).  There are stipulations laid out (ie. the Ten Words).  And there are sanctions laid out (blessings/curses for obedience/disobedience).

May we be faithful in understanding the role of these gracious words for our lives, even now when our justification does not lay in the old written code but on the blood of Jesus, yet may we be diligent to consider the whole counsel of Scripture in our worship Jesus.

This is a prime time of year to stop and consider the weight of the incarnation of the God-man, Jesus.  Here are a few helpful texts to meditate on by yourself and with your family. 

John 1:1-3, 9-11

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men…The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not recieve him.”

John 17:5-6

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.  I have manifested your name to the people…”

Colossians 1:15, 17, 19

“He is the image of the invisible God…he is before all things…in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”

Consider all of the glory and constant worship that Jesus left in the Father’s presence to come and get murdered by the very people he had created.  Considering the incarnation leads to a healthy consideration of the cross.  That is the heart of the incarnation.  Jesus left the Father’s presence to a cursed world to redeem it.  Do not be lazy about the doctrine of the incarnation, it is a huge piece of our Gospel.  It is the prototype for how we do ministry – we go to be with  those we minister to.  Merry Christmas!

Matt Chandler is a 34 year old pastor in Texas.  He took a pastor job at a dying 160-member church in the heart of the Bible belt.  In 7 years, the church grew from 160 to over 5,000.  His message: the Gospel.  On Thanksgiving Matt had a seizure and went in, found out he had a brain tumor, had surgery, found out the tumor is malignant and the doctors were unable to get all of it.  Things are uncertain, please pray for Matt and his family and his church.  Here is a video from Matt Chandler prior to his surgery.

1) Meditate – Encounter God through the text

     – Soak it into your mind, read it over and over, out loud, to others, etc

     – How can I worship the Father through the text?

     – Where is Jesus in the text?

     – What is the Spirit saying to me with this text?

     – What do I need to repent of with this text in mind?

2) Exegesis

     – Context (sentence, chapter, book, covenant, Bible)

     – Observations (words, themes, form, structure)

     – Meaning (theology, author’s intent)

     – Application (So what?)

3) Repeat

“I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.

I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;they fell under my feet.

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.

They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.

I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.”  (Psalm 18:37-42)

King David was a dude’s dude.  He picked fights, and he “beat them fine as dust”.  Why is this commendable?  Because it was passionate obedience to God.  He was not a weak-wristed church boy.  God “equipped [David]  with strength for battle”.  God “made those who rise against me sink under me.”  And God ignored David’s enemies when they cried to him. 

I commend you men to be like David in his passionate obedience to God.  This is not a license to pulvarize every punk that doesn’t meet your fancy, but it does mean that you can “heap coals on their heads” by giving them water when their thirsty, food when their hungry, clothes when they are cold.  Equally brutal.  King David was a B.C. ultimate fighter who loved Jesus.  What has happened to our men?