A pair of Kings, from different houses and judgement

Today’s (Wed 31/05/2017) FDRs are 1 Samuel 26 & 27 and Revelation 17 & 18

As we continue our reading in the books of Samuel about two earthly kings from different families we continue to see a stark contrast between Saul and David.  Saul is now under God’s judgement and has been given over to an evil spirit or demon.  Do you remember after which sin God turned His back on Saul?

David is still making day to day decisions with God’s supremacy and will in his mind.  So he chooses not to take revenge opportunities that he comes into but to leave judgement to God.  Given our first impulses many of us will want to react to offences given. Just like David’s men in both the cave and Saul’s tent.  It is hard to restrain the ‘urge’ to strike out at the person who has hurt us.  Perhaps we’ve been passed over for a promotion or the desired cream task has been handed to somebody else! Perhaps our friends have been told a false story about us or our family that they’ve believed!

In the moment we discover that this has happened to us we often want to teach the perpetrator a lesson!

Jesus teaches us that there, in the flash of a thought to take revenge, we have sinned!  How do we remedy this response in us?

Why do you think we see David acting differently?   Look into Jesus’s teaching and the apostles writings about how to keep ourselves from sinning?

As we read our Revelation chapters today, are you struck, as I am, by the immense forces unleashed on  the earth and its people.

We read, hear or see news of apparent threats from North Korea and this country’s testing of missiles that could carry nuclear war heads onto our country.  War heads that can unleash tremendous destruction and desolation.  What will these end-times forces that God is sending in judgement do?  Why judgement?

Whatever you believe the form of these visions in Revelation are, it is pretty clear they depict the end of the world and its peoples.  The way in which these descriptions occur and are written are similar to any other passages in the Bible where God brings judgement on an individual, on a people, on nations and on countries.  As a direct example look at the earlier Samuel passage where Saul is judged as God withdraws Himself and allows an evil spirit to control Saul.

While David’s prime role in the Bible is to continue the line from which the gracious gift of God is made, that of Jesus Christ in the form of forgiveness for our sins.  This is so that forgiveness comes to life personally in our world.  So too we are reminded by Revelation that judgement can and will come to us all.

David’s life, although faulted, becomes an exemplar for our own life.  To live in faith and hope under the glorious grace and mercy of our Triune God.  Our Father God!

I trust this hymn and its words build you up and encourage you as you seek to live as God asks.  I encourage to go into today with these words and your commitment to our Almighty God on your heart and mind.

I, the Lord of sea and sky

May we be blessed by God and bless each other as we seek to walk together as children of God.


Thanks to youtube.com for the clip above.


An Unsettling Laziness

Joshua 17; Proverbs 31:1-9

Israel was called to settle in the Promised Land and to become God’s nation living in God’s country. In these chapters Joshua is apportioning tracts of land to various tribes. Interestingly his own tribe comes to him in 17:14 and asks him for a bit more than the standard allotment, arguing they are very prosperous and strong (of course playing to his expected bias). Land was and still is directly related to potential earnings, so in effect they were asking for a greater slice of the nation’s economy. Joshua’s reply was very direct, basically “If you are so strong go and chop down more trees to clear land and give yourselves wood to build…and while you are at it drive out the Canaanites as you were told to in the first place.” Joshua does not show corrupt favour to his own tribesmen.

The greater story that is unfolding here is Israel’s failure to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land. Rev Dr George Athas explained to us recently that in ancient Middle Eastern worship the homogeneity of social structures in a country (achieved by ethnic cleansing) was a reflection of that country’s purity of worship. By letting some Canaanites stay as slaves the people of Israel perhaps unwittingly displayed the incomplete devotion of their hearts to The Lord. Indeed it is later revealed that these enemies were put in Israel’s path as a test from God (Judges 3:1). It is always amazing that witnessing miracles and blessing after blessing does not translate into spiritual disciplines of a devoted heart. Lest I point the finger at them I should remember how many times that has already been true in my own life, decide in my heart to cling to Him and decide to return each time I wander.


Fellowship with God

Psalm 15

 “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (Ps 15:1)

These opening questions that David asks in Psalm 15 point us to the heart and goal of human existence, the very reason why we were made – and that is to dwell with and have fellowship with God himself. What an incredible goal! But if we know anything about God’s holiness (see Hab 1:13), and our unrighteousness (Rom 3:10-12), the prospect of dwelling with him should actually leave us trembling with fear.

“Where angels bow with veiled faces, how shall man be able to worship at all?” (C. H. Spurgeon)

Some people think it’s a very easy thing to approach God in worship. But this Psalm helps us to see that not everyone can do so. In fact, for the Israelites, only the righteous person, the one who walked “blamelessly”, was fit to worship God in the tabernacle. And it’s the same today, only the righteous person is fit to come before God in worship.

This poses a huge problem for us though, because all of us, without exception, are unrighteous sinners. How can we approach the throne of our supremely holy God?

“There are only two ways that God’s justice can be satisfied with respect to your sin. Either you satisfy it or Christ satisfies it. You can satisfy it by being banished from God’s presence forever. Or you can accept the satisfaction that Jesus Christ has made.” (R. C. Sproul)

For the Israelites and for us today, it’s ultimately Jesus’ righteousness that makes us worthy to come and sojourn in the tent of God. Jesus has made it possible for us to commune with God now, if we trust in his saving work on our behalf. And one day we will have the unbelievable privilege and unimaginable joy of fellowship with God face to face (Rev 22:4)!

As we gather to worship today, we should remember the work of Jesus, and delight in him who has cleansed us from our sin, and so freed us to sojourn in the tent of God.


The Holiness of God

Numbers 4; Hebrews 2:1-4

What does the Bible mean when it says that God is ‘holy’?

R. C. Sproul is helpful here. He suggests that God’s holiness refers to His transcendent separateness. It “describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature” (The Holiness of God, p. 38).

God’s holiness is on clear display in Numbers 4. The passage outlines the duties of the Kohathites, one of the Levite clans. They had the privilege of carrying the most valuable items within the tabernacle, “the most holy things”. So holy were these items though, that, when the Israelites were to break camp, Aaron and his sons had to go in to the tabernacle and cover the items in cloth before the Kohathites could begin carrying them. If the Kohathites so much as touched the most holy things (4:15) or even looked at them (4:20), they would die.

They would die?!

Such a consequence seems almost unbelievable. But it makes more sense when we remember in the book of Exodus, when God says to Moses – “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). God is so transcendentally ‘other’, so infinitely glorious and holy, that to see him in our current state would kill us. In a similar way, these ‘most holy things’, being the items at the central place where God promised to manifest his presence among his people, were invested with a kind of divine holiness.

It’s passages like these that remind me of the value of reading Numbers.

Imagine if we meditated on the truth of God’s holiness more often. Would that change the way we speak, read our Bibles, pray, entertain ourselves?

Daniel Budd

Behind the Veil

Exodus 34

Here at last we witness God cementing the covenant with Israel, being reconciled to His people after the disastrous calf episode. God proclaims the things that are core to His identity – namely love, faithfulness and justice. Amazingly while the relationship is yet uncertain Moses intercedes for the population again saying “let the Lord go with us”. The Lord then confirms the covenant and explains a whole lot of expectations He has of His people for pure spiritual worship and celebration and sacrifice. To paraphrase quite a lot, it’s a Quick Guide to Worshipping Right – No more, no less.

Beginning with purity – leave no compromise on your borders, entertain no idols! The resulting promise is for security and peace. Israel were called to separate their desires from polluters and idols, then to engage their body and soul with feasts of godly celebration – feasts that recalled God’s salvation in the exodus and those that celebrate God’s ongoing new life. By seeking to follow those principles we too can be marking our salvation from sin and embrace the new life that sustains us. We too should involve our whole self in celebrations of purity and life without sin. Exodus 34 invites us to enjoy life that is rich and so avoid being enslaved to the desire for everything lavish. Commentator John Schultz said the celebration of these feasts will be the best protection against “the imitations that the enemy offers in his celebrations of corruption and death”.

James 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

If you haven’t heard it, I can highly recommend Geoff’s sermon yesterday on this passage. James has just been writing to teachers, but this book applies to everyone. He was especially writing to churches that were in the midst of conflict. There’s a strong implication in this verse that some of the recipients of James’ letter were not living up to the lofty heights of their own sermons. If James was writing today he might say “You’ve heard the saying ‘Do as I say and not as I do’? Well I’m saying – do the opposite! Don’t trust what I say unless you see me doing it.” It’s easy to sound wise, but much harder to prove right teaching with good conduct. Yes, the bible is again calling you and me to travel the harder road. Another thought – If wisdom is the way that knowledge fits together, then what an awesome extension it would be to say “you only truly know something once you are living it out!”

v.13b “Deeds done in humility”

A wise person has their strength under control by submitting to God’s Spirit. Did you know that Moses was described as more humble than anyone on the face of the earth? (Numbers 12:3). It reminds me that in today’s Exodus verse God proclaimed himself to be long-suffering, good and stable. “[God] delays the execution of his justice, he waits to be gracious” (John Wesley). Compare this with James’ emphasis on strength restrained and truth embedded in humility.

James does not say to neglect telling truths, but to be careful how we wield that sword. I hate being “bible-slammed” by someone – it hurts because they have ignored the less intellectual parts of me! A godly truth sandwich consists of purity in the middle and peace on each side. Getting it wrong will either compromise the truth or deliver it harshly. Applying this chapter it could even be reasonable for us to evaluate a teacher’s wisdom by the peaceful relationships that surround him or her. Check out v.17 where the word for mercy carries with it the meaning of “tempered justice” – I love that!

So we can see some more overlap between the calls to maturity in ancient Israel, James chapter 1 and James chapter 3. Living a godly life is to strike the right balance between areas that so often get misaligned or cause us to vacillate. By seeking maturity we can find a middle road – a life of faith matched with deeds; covenant relationship matched with acts of whole-hearted worship. We might even begin to notice that godly wisdom is subtle; it’s not the loudest or cleverest argument that wins. True wisdom results in subtle fruit that sustains peaceful relationships. Just as healthy joints in your body will not cause pain, so a wise Christian will not seek to gain attention. Then we might find new depth in Paul’s statement:

“And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Ps. I’ve gained much in this piece from the commentaries of John Schultz, John Wesley and Stephen J. Cole.

Are you opposed?

Today’ Life Journal reading(s) from Malachi 3-4, Psalm 148 and Acts 5.

Opposition has become more and more synonymous with a verbal, demonstrative and sometimes violent stand towards another’s ideas or even their person. If we oppose something, we at least argue against it and often do so in a polarized way.

When we think about opposing God, we might think then of the verbal aggression of the new atheists. Or, we might know of people who are particular angry at God for the injustice that they perceive he has dealt them. Or we might think of those who oppose the message and values of the way of Jesus, like those on the council in Acts 5 who wanted to kill the apostles.

Gamaliel, wisely urged caution saying to them

You might even be found opposing God! (Acts 5:39 ESV)

I guess from our perspective that was obvious. Of course they were opposing God. But we also know that opposition isn’t always so obvious. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes it’s hidden. Sometimes its passive. Sometimes we aren’t fully aware of the things we oppose. Which is perhaps more where other characters in the stories we read today fit in.

Take the people of God in Malachi. They needed some refining (v3). They were standing in opposition to God by robbing him (v5) and speaking against him (v14), something of which they were apparently oblivious (v13). Yet, with the covenant faithfulness of God (3:1-2, 6-7, 10) and repentance of his people (3:16) a great new future arose (3:16 – 4:3).

Or look at Ananias and Sapphira at the start of Acts 5. I’m sure they wouldn’t have said they were opposing God. Peter makes an interesting point

While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. (Acts 5:4 ESV)

The deceit was opposition to God. The consequence was huge!

Or we could look at you and I… At where we fit in this story? As you read the stories today, who did you affiliate with? Who were you angry at? Who did you feel sorry for?

Gamaliel’s words gave me reason to think again. How might I be opposing God? What subtle or passive attitudes or actions am I guilty of? For what do I need to repent and seek forgiveness?

Apart from God himself, the character that I most want to be like in these stories is Peter – himself transformed from his “get behind me Satan” moment to be a bold spirit filled disciple who in opposition to the world confidently said

We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29 ESV)

Trusting we are opposing the right things,

Ron Irving.

We’re not worthy

Today’s life Journal readings are from Ezekiel 8-11 and Revelation 4.

Wayne and Garth (in the movie “Wayne’s World”) made famous the phrase “we’re not worthy!!!” as they fumbled about in the presence of musical greats Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Many of us have probably used the same phrase, with similar joviality, to describe moments in life when we’re in the presence of someone great. But mostly, it remains light and soon passes. To continue on with such talk would very soon become awkward – unless of course they really were of obvious and incredible worth.

In Revelation 4, we get a glimpse into the heavenly throne room (4:2), where we see one seated on the throne surrounded by 4 living creatures (4:6) and 24 elders (also on thrones – 4:4). Whatever we make of all these beings (Matthew Henry says the living creatures are the true ministers of Gods people and the 24 elders are representative of Gods people… 2 lots of twelve representing old and new covenants… Fullness of God’s people) they are obviously significant in the scheme of things – they are after all in the throne room of God!

Rather than speculate on who they all are, it strikes me that in their greatness, they see someone who is obviously greater. These 4 awesome living creatures are so enticed and overwhelmed by the Glory of God that they worship him with never ceasing worship, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
(Rev 4:8).

They don’t stop. These are the closest beings to the living God. Rather than engage in a casual conversation they are consumed by incomparable holiness and respond with worship!

And Heaven joins in!

As the living creatures lead, the elders follow.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
(Rev 4:11)

But in the midst of this wild worship, don’t overlook the small but amazing action of the elders as the enter into worship. In Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down and cast their crowns before the throne. In ascribing worth to the one true God, the one who is truly worthy, they also give up their own right to any crown. It is nothing before him. You can almost hear them, as they cast down their crowns proclaiming “we’re not worthy!!!”

What crown do you carry? What crowns are important to us in our community at FAC? Are we concerned more for our own glory than the Glory of the one who sits on the throne? Or, are we so captivated by the holiness of God, with the complete and utter worthiness of him that we cast our crowns before his throne proclaiming the worth of the one who was and is and is to come?

And will we do that thankfully, voluntarily and unceasingly?

Ron Irving.