Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Puppet On A String?

I serve a Sovereign God with a glad heart. 

The purpose of God cannot be dependent on the proclivity of man - aka “free moral agency.”  That is an affront to a Sovereign Lord. “The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his own name, and this is what he, the LORD God of Heaven's Armies, says:” Amos 6:8a NLT And “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” Romans 9:20 KJV

If I be compelled, then I am compelled by the love of God - which loves not on the basis of the worth of its object. It loves just because it is love.  “For the love of Christ constraineth (compels) us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” 2 Corinthians 5:14 KJV

I believe that all have come short of the Glory of God - including me - and that the whole world lies within the realm of the evil one. One iota short of the Glory of God is total deprivation. If we stand not in need of a Total Savior, then we stand in need of not one at all. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Romans 3:23

I believe that I had nothing with which to commend myself to God - not even a noble will. Only in the providence of God can anyone believe and be saved. “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48

I believe that according to His infinite wisdom He has grafted me onto the tree of life of which His Beloved Son is the trunk - for all that the Father has given to the Son shall come and none shall be cast out. ‘to fulfill the word which He spoke, "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one."’ John 18:9

I believe that his calling of me - although I may have resisted for a while - was irresistible and thus irrevocable. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29 And that we cannot cry “Abba Father!” without the initiation of the Holy Spirit who has been given as an earnest - “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:14 

I believe that I am able to persevere as a result of His perseverance on my behalf and that He is unswervingly able to complete that which He began in me to the praise of His glory. “He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:8 NIV 

We cannot believe in the grace of our Sovereign God and in personal sovereignty at the same time.  R.C. Sproul: “Most Christian's salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man.” And I would add that they do this by way of practice. “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” James 3:11 

For I believe that the Son has set me free - “into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21 The whole world lies in the power of the evil one having been led astray by him and it is only by His a priori action that I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son.

Do these convictions make me an automaton, a robot - a puppet on a string?  Let no man be my judge. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Romans 9:16 ESV

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Augustus Toplady - 1763

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Pits

“Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.” Psalm 105:19

Often when we reflect on the story of Joseph - especially those of us who are preachers and teachers - we are apt to point out what we see as his virtues.  And thus exhort others in a likewise manner. By so doing we miss the whole point and purpose of the saga.  For it is not about the virtues of a man - but the virtue of God.

Matthew Henry comments: “God overruled all to serve his own purpose, of making Joseph an instrument to save much people alive.”  And in so doing - by His own virtue - He preserved alive the Messianic Covenant.

The First Pit

In the Genesis account Joseph utters not a word from the pit - whereas before that he had plenty to say. Perhaps he was stunned into silence by the betrayal and treachery of his brothers.  Or were there Messianic implications here also: “And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” Isaiah 53:7 

This was the beginning of Joseph’s journey into maturity for giftedness and/or calling is not a sign of maturity - timing is. There is a purging that God has to bring about in Joseph - until he came to the point that he realized it was not about him, but God.  “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use (practice) have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:14 KJV

The Second Pit

It is here that he finally comes to the realization that it is not about him, but about God: “Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."  Genesis 41:16  At his later blessing by his father, this source was revealed once again: “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,” Genesis 49:24NIV 

It took two trips into the pit to get Joseph to this point - and to bring him to the point of God’s timing. “God's time for the enlargement of his people is the fittest time. If the chief butler had got Joseph to be released from prison, it is probable he would have gone back to the land of the Hebrews.” Matthew Henry 

It is what happened between the two pits that counts - and it is this that binds them together.

The story of Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38) is inserted right in the middle of the account of Joseph for a reason - for it is THE reason and its sole locus.  It reveals God’s plan to preserve the Messianic lineage - thus fulfilling the Abrahamic blessing: “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  In this chapter we have the account of the conception (let the reader of the record understand) and birth of Perez. “But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she (Tamar) said, "So this is how you have broken out!" And he was named Perez.” Genesis 38:29  A more marked example of sovereign grace hardly exists anywhere else in the scriptures. Certainly it has nothing to do with the virtues of man for there was no virtue in either Judah or Tamar - solely and supremely the virtue of God. The operation of God - in the person of the one whose name means breakthrough - deals a death blow to the vanity of man.

Breakthrough of virtue

The breakthrough of the virtue of the Lord was called forth by the elders of Israel upon Boaz at his intention to take Ruth as his wife. “Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah." Ruth 4:12 The totality herein is recorded by Matthew: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah,...Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.” Matthew 1:1, 3 

The virtue of God is the Son of God. This is the purpose of the story - the predetermined plan of God: “The Book of Life of The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8 Aramaic 

Joseph affirms this when he revealed himself by the sign of the covenant - “Come near to me,” -  to his brothers: "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Genesis 45:7 And returning to the psalmist: “He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” Psalm 105:17 

The Ruler’s Staff

Joseph served as a steward - even a midwife if you will - of the promise that was in the loins of his brother Judah. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh (He whose right it is) comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Genesis 49:10 This hope holds firm from the first book of the Bible to the last: “and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." Revelation 5:5 Judah would have nothing of the plan of his brothers to kill Joseph (nor would Reuben who was the first born): "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?”

Looking again to Psalm 105:19 we see unequivocally that everything that happened to Joseph - both pits - was the word of the Lord to bring him to the place of his ultimate purpose. ‘But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’ Genesis 50:19-21 

God the Father would keep many people alive unto eternal life - as the bride of the Lamb - through the promise of the Messiah who at that very time was in the loins of Judah. Joseph was his sovereign steward - and all that happened to him was of the plan and purpose of God.

“And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.” Romans 9:23-24 

Soli Deo Gloria!