Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Gospel in Jonah and why Israel should have taken notice

Many of us know the general story line of Jonah. After all it is a favorite of so many Sunday school teachers and has even made it onto the screen.

Yet how many of us have picked up on the import of the book of Jonah for the nation of Israel? We all know that Jonah was a very reluctant prophet and ran away in the opposite direction when God told him to go and deliver a message to that great wicked city of Nineveh. How many of us though have reflected on the book and noticed the really significant literary markers?

For example have you noticed that in chapter 1:1 it uses the Covenant name of God YHWH, translated Lord and it consistently uses that name for God until Jonah himself gives an account of who he is to the sailors in 1:9. Then he says "I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven." In other words, his God is both one who forms a relationship with Israel, first up through Abraham, and also the All powerful Sovereign Creator of the Universe.

In dealing with Jonah, God comes to him as the Covenant making God, the one who makes relationships with man. It is the covenant God of Israel, the Lord who made covenant promises to Abraham about his descendants being more numerous than the sands, and not just that but that their role was to be a light to the Nations. They were to "evangelise" the Nations and bring them to God. Over and over the nation Israel failed in this duty given them by God. They neglected it and as Jonah symbolises, sometimes they went to extreme lengths not to give that light to the nations of the world.

And where in the Scriptures that the Lord God gave to his people Israel do we first read of the two names of God as Elohim ( transl God ) and YHWH ( translated Lord )? It is in Genesis 1&2. Not two creation stories as such but an account of Creation by the All powerful Sovereign Creator, in Genesis 1 and then in Genesis 2 we see He is the one who makes a covenant relationship with mankind, first up in Adam and Eve.

How does this use of the name of God play out in the rest of chapter 1 and chapter 2?

The sailors could not throw Jonah into the sea to his death as they did not want to be culpable before God for that. so they tried to row to shore but couldn't. And importantly it is said of them that they called upon the Lord. And after Jonah was tossed into the sea, they offered sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
Miraculously we read that the Lord provided a great fish so that Jonah would indeed not die, and the sailors would not then have been culpable of his death.

What we have seen is that even in Jonah's running away, gentiles, the sailors come to know the Lord God and sacrifice and make vows to Him. Exactly the duty of Israel and the Jews as we read about in Genesis 12.

We need in our study of God's Word that He is very precise in the words that He wants His prophets to write down for our benefit. And secondly we need to see thematic markers that link back to earlier doctrinal truths such as Israel's duty to being a light to the Nations as expressed in Genesis 12. This will bring God's Word to bear much more on our lives as they are illuminated by the Scriptures themselves.

Next I will look at Jonah 3. You might like to consider it with the above in mind.

God Bless.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Romans 8 and When will the Creation be released from bondage

In a few fascinating verses in Romans 8 we read about the Creation. Is it not the physical earth that was subjected to a curse due to Adam and Eve's sin in Genesis 3? And yet here in 8:21 that "the Creation itself "(emphatic ) "will be" not maybe, or symbolically, "delivered" ( just as we await the certainty of a resurrected physical body ) "from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God"

This is mind boggling. We know from context that the children of God are those who call out to God "abba Father" 8:15. It is all those who are heirs with Christ, who have received adoption. It is hard not to make it any clearer, Paul says in 8:17 "if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."

And in all this God has subjected the Creation in hope!

And in verse 21 Paul links the Creation's release from bondage with the presence of the children of God, their glorious liberty or release.

So the question that arises for me is "when shall this occur?"

Certainly we do not yet see the Creation released from bondage. It is indeed groaning as he says in verse 22. and then he goes on to speak of the first fruits of the Spirit. An investigation of this use of "first fruits" could indeed bring forth fruit! Paul has used the term in 1 Cor 15 to draw a very apt implication about Christ's resurrection body and our physical resurrected body as guaranteed by His resurrection. For in the Old Testament the first fruits were the first ripe sheaf of the harvest that belonged to God and were to be offered to Him before the rest of the Harvest could be used. Lev 23. And furthermore it was offered the first day after the Sabbath during Passover, which we know was the very day Christ rose from the dead. So is Paul suggesting something along similar lines here in Romans 8? Here in the Spirit we have downpayment, one who helps us while we are yet still awaiting redemption of our body, who helps us in prayer and himself makes intercession regarding the content of what we pray.

Now some may argue that this deliverance from Bondage of the Creation that Paul is referring to is when God creates a new heavens and a new earth. That could be so, but it requires quite a bit of solid argument. When Paul compares the bondage of the earth, he says it "was subjected" and then clearly says that God himself is the one who will release it from bondage. That nature won't restore itself but it is God who will restore it, the very same one 'who long ago subjected it to corruption and futility' as MacArthur says.

This suggests to me it is not speaking here of the new heaven and new earth , though admittedly that whole topic needs fleshing out, still I take it the restoration is of the present creation, not the making of a new one.

And in that case I ask, when will this release from Bondage happen? Will it be on Christ's return as Judge of Heaven and Earth, and as Amillennialists suggest in the quick few seconds or hours that occur before all is wrapped up?

Is it not intriguing that the chapters that many Amillennialists struggle with, namely Romans 9-11 come immediately after this passage? The continuity of thought from Romans 8 on should provoke us to investigate more carefully what is being said in Romans 8 and how that relates to Romans 9-11.

As for me, it seems thoroughly consistent with a 1000 year millennium where Christ as the second Adam reigns as King, fulfilling those great offices of Prophet, Priest and King. A King who fulfills perfectly the role of Adam to be viceregent over all the earth, which Adam gave up in the calamity of Genesis 3.

The peace of a restored Creation are perfectly pictured in Isaiah's picture of the wolf and the lamb lying down together, at peace with one another. Isaiah 11:6

In Christ,