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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Study of the Old Testament is Profitable

Old TestamentI am often frustrated with myself for not spending as much time studying the Old Testament as I believe I should. After having read the Old Testament through several times, I still find that most of the time I spend there is in Psalm and Proverbs. When looking at the books of the Old Testament for study, it is good to remember the words of Paul:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

The Apostle was speaking of the Old Testament scriptures when he spoke of “profitable for teaching” in the above verses. The Old Testament, Paul said, was “breathed out by God” and would make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work.” Contrary to some contemporary Christian fads that tend to ignore it – the Old Testament will “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The Old Testament (OT) is a very valuable sacred writing authored by God the Holy Spirit to help us know Jesus Christ and live righteously.

The OT provides us with important knowledge of the nature of sin and the fall of man. There we find the ongoing revelation of God’s covenant of redemption and the Messianic prophecies. The OT helps us to understand the New Testament.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV) Paul discussed in the previous verses the fall of Israel in the wilderness. He notes that although these things happened to Israel, “they were written down for our instruction”. Consider – the OT was written for our instruction. Do you complain when your pastor preaches from the OT? When was the last time you read the OT? “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching. . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV) The Scriptures are not simply the words or thoughts of mere men, they are from God who guided men by His Spirit. The Scriptures are profitable. You must know the truth to be convinced of error, and to do what is right. It is wise to be concerned about your salvation. Look at these verses and let them inspire you to study the Word of God which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV)

The source for the following story escapes me, but I think it brings us to an appropriate conclusion of this article: There was a prophet of God who told his disciples that if they studied the Scriptures, the words would be written on their hearts. One day, a disciple asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The prophet thoughtfully replied, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But the careful study and reading of God’s Word can put it on your heart, and then when your heart breaks, the Holy Words will fall inside.”

Samuel at Gilgal

Jacob’s Ladder

R. C. Sproul:

“Jacob’s Ladder represents a bridge between Jacob’s secular mindset to make it in this world and the reality of Heavenly things.” (The Holiness of God)

All Scripture is Profitable

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

Paul clearly had the Old Testament scriptures in view when he spoke of “profitable for teaching” in the above verses. The Old Testament, he said, was “breathed out by God” and would make the man of God “complete, equipped for every good work.” Contrary to many popular, contemporary Christian ideas – the Old Testament will “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The Old Testament (OT), in other words, is a very valuable document authored by God to help us know Jesus Christ and live righteously.

We look to the OT to provide us with understanding of the nature of sin and the fall of man. We find there the ongoing revelation of God’s covenant of redemption and the Messianic prophecies. Only knowledge of the OT can help us understand such New Testament books as Hebrews and Revelation.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV) Paul has just discussed in the previous verses the fall of Israel in the wilderness. Now he notes that although these things happened to Israel, “they were written down for our instruction”. Think about that. The OT was written for our instruction. Do you complain when your pastor preaches from the OT? When was the last time you read from the OT?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching. . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV) The Scriptures are not simply the words or thoughts of mere men, but of God who guided men by His Spirit. The Scriptures are truly profitable. A man must know the truth in order to be convinced of his error, and to do what is right.

Is it not wise to be concerned about your salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? Look at these verses and be inspired by the Scriptures. Study the Word of God which is “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17 ESV)

I cannot remember the source for the following story, but I think it brings us to an appropriate conclusion of this article: There was a great prophet of God who told his disciples that if they studied the Scriptures, the words would be written on their hearts. One day, a disciple asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The prophet thoughtfully replied, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But the careful study and reading of God’s Word can put it on your heart, and then when your heart breaks, the Holy Words will fall inside.”

The Seal of Baruch

Archaeology and the Bible:

In 1986, scholars identified an ancient seal belonging to Baruch, son of Neriah, a scribe who recorded the prophecies of Jeremiah.

“The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah. . . .” (Jeremiah 45:1 ESV)

The Marcionite Heresy

Heresy and the Church:

Marcion was born around the year 85. He traveled to Rome around 135 A.D. where he became known in the church and began to teach. He thought there were huge differences between the God revealed in the Old Testament (OT) and the God found in the New Testament (NT). He decided to reject the God of the OT because he believed Him to be an evil craftsman who created an evil world. Marcion put together his own bible, excluding the OT, and including only Paul’s letters and Luke’s gospel. He excluded a few parts of Paul’s letters where Paul refers to the OT and references to hell and/or judgment. Marcion’s unorthodox canon forced the church fathers to begin naming the accepted documents. Marcionite churches spread throughout the Roman world until the beginning of the fourth century.

“And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:19 ESV)

Joseph’s Price as a Slave

Archaeology and the Bible:

Joseph‘s price as a slave was 20 shekels (Genesis 37:28), which, according to trade tablets from that period is the correct price for 1,700 B.C. An earlier account would have been cheaper, while a later account would have been more expensive.

Evidence Supporting Jeremiah

Archaeology and the Bible:

In 2005, a Hebrew University archaeologist uncovered a clay seal dated from about 580 BC bearing the name Yehuchal ben-Shelemayahu, who is identified as a royal envoy and court minister sent by King Zedekiah to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37 and 38).

With Christ in View

Written by Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament judges are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ’s sufferings and of Christ’s glory yet to come. The first coming and the second; the Lord’s humiliation and His glorious kingdom; His cross and the crown shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

Have We Excluded Something Important From Worship?

Praise him with trumpet sound;

praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals;

praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150:3-6 ESV)

In the words of R. C. Sproul:

The visual impact of the furnishings and the buildings of both the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was awesome. The eyes were dazzled with a sense of the splendor of God.

Sound was vital to Old Testament worship. The choral compositions of the Psalms were moving to the Spirit. They were accompanied by the full harmony and rhythm supplied by the harp, the lyre, the flute, and trumpets. The piano and the organ are marvelous instruments, but they cannot produce the sounds that the other instruments provide. Hymns and choral anthems are greatly enhanced when they are supported with greater orchestration.

Old Testament worship involved all five senses. The element of touch is missing in most Protestant worship. Charismatic groups emphasize the laying on of hands, which meets a strong human need for a holy touch. Early Christian worship involved the placing of the pastor’s hands on each person with the pronouncement of the benediction. When congregations got too large for such personal attention, the act gave way to the symbolic gesture of the benediction spoken by the pastor with outstretched arms. This was a simulation of the laying on of hands, but the actual touch was lost.

Old Testament worship included taste and smell. The fragrance of burning incense gave a peculiar sense of a special aroma associated with the sweetness of God. One of the first gifts laid at the foot of the manger of Jesus was that of frankincense. Most Protestants reject incense without giving any substantive reason for its rejection.

Taste was central to the Old Testament feasts as well as the New Testament celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The injunction to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) is rooted in the worship experience. The people of God “tasted the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4).

Perhaps we have stunted worship by excluding elements that God once included and deemed important.

Read more here. . . .

No Man can afford to be Ignorant of the Bible

From the pen of Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is necessary for the welfare of the nation that men’s lives be based on the principles of the Bible. No man, educated or uneducated, can afford to be ignorant of the Bible.”

Glory

In the words of R. C. Sproul:

The book of James has an unusual sentence construction that links the word glory with the name of Jesus: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). In this verse the words “Lord of glory” have alternate renditions. Some translations read, “Our glorious Lord.” Still another possible translation reads, “Jesus Christ, who is the glory.”

B. B. Warfield, in his book The Lord of Glory, says, that Jesus was the glory of God, the shekinah. According to the Old Testament, the shekinah was the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The shekinah was a radiant cloud or brilliant light within a cloud that signaled the immediate presence of God. For Jesus to be identified with the shekinah was to be equated with the presence of God Himself. In Jesus we see the full manifestation of the majesty of God.

That the New Testament writers ascribed glory to Jesus was a clear indication of their confession of His full deity. Glory, in the sense it is used with reference to Jesus, is a divine attribute. It is the glory of God that He refuses to share with any man.

The angels sang “Glory to God” at Christ’s birth. The heavenly elders give glory to God around His throne. Why don’t you follow their example and give God glory today in every circumstance of your life?

Find out more about R. C. Sproul’s ministry here. . . .

A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education — the rigorous training of the mind — is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text — especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Continue reading here. . . .

(By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700)

John Calvin On Following The Rule Of God

John Calvin

When Jesus Christ comes into our hearts, we know that we shall be cleansed from our filthiness; for by His grace we are taken for His children. There is nothing from the unbeliever that is not defiled. Without God’s grace, we have no righteousness that allows us to stand before God. Our actions, words, and thoughts are corrupt and not acceptable to God because they are infected by sin. Can such a creature gain righteousness by his obedience to Old Testament law and ritual that has been revoked by God? Can he follow the rules of men to heaven? John Calvin provides us with the answers:

Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him: being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)

[I]t is faith that must cleanse us. Then will all meats be clean to us: that is, we may use them freely without wavering. If men enjoin spiritual laws upon us, we need not observe them, being assured that such obedience cannot please God, for in so doing, we set up rulers to govern us, making them equal with God, who reserves all power to Himself. Thus, the government of the soul must be kept safe and sound in the hands of God. Therefore, if we allow so much superiority to men that we suffer them to enwrap our souls with their own bands, we so much lessen and diminish the power and empire that God hath over us.

And thus the humbleness that we might have in obeying the traditions of men would be worse than all the rebellion in the world; because it is robbing God of His honor, and giving it, as a spoil, to mortal men. St. Paul speaketh of the superstition of some of the Jews, who would have men still observe the shadows and figures of the law; but the Holy Ghost hath pronounced a sentence which must be observed to the end of the world: that God hath not bound us at this day to such a burden as was borne by the old fathers; but hath cut off that part which He had commanded, relative to the abstaining from meats; for it was a law but for a season.

Seeing God hath thus set us at liberty, what rashness it is for worms of the earth to make new laws; as though God had not been wise enough. When we allege this to the papists, they answer that St. Paul spoke of the Jews, and of meats that were forbidden by the law. This is true, but let us see whether this answer be to any purpose, or worth receiving. St. Paul not only saith that it is lawful for us to use that which was forbidden, but he speaketh in general terms, saying, all things are clean. Thus we see that God hath here given us liberty, concerning the use of meats; so that He will not hold us in subjection, as were the old fathers.

Therefore, seeing God hath abrogated that law which was made by Him, and will not have it in force any longer, what shall we think when we see men inventing traditions of their own; and not content themselves with what God hath shown them? In the first place, they still endeavor to hold the church of Christ under the restrictions of the Old Testament. But God will have us governed as men of years and discretion, which have no need of instruction suitable for children. They set up man’s devices, and say we must keep them under pain of deadly sin; whereas God will not have His own law to be observed among us at this day, relative to types and shadows, because it was all ended at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Shall it then be lawful to observe what men have framed in their own wisdom? Do we not see that it is a matter which goeth directly against God? St. Paul setteth himself against such deceivers: against such as would bind Christians to abstain from meats as God had commanded in His law. If a man say, it is but a small matter to abstain from flesh on Friday, or in Lent, let us consider whether it be a small matter to corrupt and bastardize the service of God! For surely those that go about to set forth and establish the tradition of men, set themselves against that which God hath appointed in His Word, and thus commit sacrilege.

Seeing God will be served with obedience, let us beware and keep ourselves within those bounds which God hath set; and not suffer men to add any thing to it of their own. There is something worse in it than all this: for they think it a service that deserves something from God to abstain from eating flesh. They think it a great holiness: and thus the service of God, which should be spiritual, is banished, as it were, while men busy themselves about foolish trifles. As the common saying is, they leave the apple for the paring.

We must be faithful, and stand fast in our liberty; we must follow the rule which is given us in the Word of God, and not suffer our souls to be brought into slavery by new laws, forged by men. For it is a hellish tyranny, which lesseneth God’s authority and mixes the truth of the gospel with figures of the law; and perverteth and corrupteth the true service of God, which ought to be spiritual. Therefore, let us consider how precious a privilege it is to give thanks to God with quietness of conscience, being assured it is His will and pleasure that we should enjoy His blessings: and that we may do so, let us not entangle ourselves with the superstitions of men, but be content with what is contained in the pure simplicity of the gospel. Then, as we have shown concerning the first part of our text, unto them that are pure, all things will be pure. (“The Word Our Only Rule”)

Planned From The Foundation Of The World

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ before time and the world saw our faithlessness and entered into an agreement with His own Son. God pledged Himself in a covenant. Only Christ is our Representative and Mediator. Christ is our Guarantor — all blessing comes in and through Him. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides further insight into this below:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

[I]n [God’s] eternal Council [He] drew up a great covenant called the covenant of grace or the covenant of redemption. Why did He do so? Let me ask a question by way of reply. Why does the Apostle say, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’? There are those who say that the answer is that He wants us to know the kind of Father God is. I agree with that. I remember an old preacher saying once that if you told certain people that God is a Father they would be terrified and alarmed. There are some people, he said, to whom the term ‘Father’ means a drunkard who spends all the family’s money and comes home drunk. That is their idea of a father; it is the only father they have ever known. So God in His kindness, and in order that we may know the kind of Father He is, says: I am the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son is like the Father; but even that does not go far enough, there is much more than that here.

This new description of God is one of the most important statements in the New Testament. Go back to the Old Testament and you will find God described as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’. God also speaks of Himself as ‘the God of Israel’, but now we have ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. This is in order to teach us that all the blessings that come to us come in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a part of that covenant that was made between the three blessed Persons before the foundation of the world. Even the blessings that came to the Old Testament saints all came to them through the Lord Jesus Christ. Before the foundation of the world God saw what would happen to man. He saw the Fall, and man’s sin which would have to be dealt with, and there the Plan was made and an agreement was made between the Father and the Son. The Father gave a people to the Son, and the Son voluntarily made Himself responsible to God for them. He contracted to do certain things for them, and God the Father on His side contracted to do other things. God the Father said He would grant forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration and new life and a new nature to all who belonged to His Son. The condition was that the Son should come into the world and take human nature and the sin of mankind upon Himself and bear its punishment, stand for them, and suffer for them and represent them. That was the covenant, that was the agreement that was made, and it was made ‘before the foundation of the world’. God was able to tell Adam about that in the Garden of Eden when He told him that ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head’. This had been planned before creation, and God began to announce it even there. (“The Everlasting Covenant”)

The Preacher Must Sit Under The Judgment Of God’s Word

James Montgomery Boice

While many may say in our modern times that the Bible contains errors and has many difficulties, these are not recent discoveries. They were known centuries ago to the most serious Bible students: Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and many others were aware of these so-called problems. However, they did not deem them worthy to compel the abandonment of orthodoxy and the Scriptures. The basis for their stand against these difficulties was their own careful study of the Bible and (as they would say) the compelling witness of the Holy Spirit to them through that study. They believed that the Old and New Testaments are uniquely the Word of God and are entirely reliable and truthful. In the article below. James Montgomery Boice touches on this theme:

And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

The important teaching is that the Scriptures had their origin in God; therefore the copies that Peter’s readers had were also to be considered as being from God and thus worthy of their careful study . . . Certainly Peter is not making a distinction between the originals and copies. That is just the point. He is not even thinking in these terms. . . .

Peter is not the only one whose sermons are recorded in Acts, of course. Stephen is another. Stephen was arrested by the Sanhedrin on the charge of speaking “blasphemous words against [the law of] Moses and God,” and he replied with a defense that occupies nearly the whole of Acts 7. This sermon contains a comprehensive review of the dealings of God with Israel, beginning with the call of Abraham and ending with the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. It is filled with Old Testament quotations.

Its main point is that those who were defending the law were not obeying it. Rather, like those before them, they were resisting the Word of God and killing God’s prophets (Acts 7:51-53). . . .

We conclude that each of the New Testament preachers is concerned to proclaim God’s word as fulfilled in the events of his own lifetime. Moreover, his emphasis is on this word rather than on his own subjective experiences or any other less important matter. The thesis that emerges at this point . . . is that preaching that is patterned on the preaching of the apostles and other early witnesses will always be biblical in the sense that the very words of the Bible will be the preacher’s text and his aim will be a faithful exposition and application of them. This cannot be done if the preacher is sitting in judgment on the Word rather than sitting under it. (The Foundation of Biblical Authority. London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979. pp.123-143)

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