Sunday, December 7, 2014

What is the Kingdom of God - beginning from Acts 1:6

What is the Kingdom of God?

This is one of the most important questions a Christian needs to come to grips with in his study of the word of God. It’s something in the main not grappled with by preachers in the Australian scene. Sydney preachers tend to focus on “the gospel” the good news of Jesus, but then fail to notice that the good news was in the context of the preaching of the KOG. For example, john the Baptist led the way with this message and so did Jesus after him.

Sadly some think the unifying theme of the Bible is salvation history. Yet the Kingdom of God is the one theme that can be said to cover revelation from Genesis to Revelation.

To grapple with this notion and indeed grapple is the operative word, one needs to deal with Acts 1:6.

One cannot pass over it as many preachers do even though sadly they claim to study and preach the word in context yet to considering context is actually something they are selective about. Other don’t ignore it but dismiss it by saying that the disciples were wrong in asking this question. But again though claiming to read the passage in context, one asks where in the passage it is dismissed as a wrong expectation?

Jesus was never short in correcting the disciples wrongly held ideas. Indeed over and over again on the Gospels he does just that with their concept of the Messiah. Mark 8:31-32 for example. He also did it with the religious leaders, and the Scribes and Pharisees by saying they had great zeal but were ignorant. “you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matt 22:9. Or when they went by their traditions instead of the Scriptures,  Matt 15:3. He confronted peoples wrong motives for following him Matt 8:18-22.  He corrects the Samaritan error with “Salvation is from the Jews”.

So what are we to make of Acts 1:6? Hermann Ridderbos and Bruce K. Waltke with conviction state that there is no future for Israel. indeed Waltke announces that there’s no clear passage of Scripture that teaches the restoration of national Israel. However this is exactly what the disciples question in Acts 1:6 claims.

It is truly amazing that someone of Calvin’s stature attributes their question to blindness.  However one must again ask “where in Acts 1 does Jesus say their question was wrong? Indeed all one can say is that Jesus said it was not for them to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Acts 1:7

The context of the disciples Question:

Acts 1 begins with the disciples spending 40 days in in-depth teaching with Jesus about the KOG. It is immediately after this that they ask Jesus the question regarding the KOG and Israel. 1:3. More importantly they ask their question after he’s told them to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. 1:4-5. [ Further investigation required here - for this, the coming of the Holy Spirit, seems to raise the issue about the restoration of Israel. Certainly the book of Leviticus with its cycle of feasts is relevant here, thus The Passover with the sacrifice for sin, yet the feast of Pentecost infers the Holy spirit will be given to unite the people of Israel. Perhaps also ? are the passages in Jeremiah 24:7; 31:30-34, and Ezek 36 when Israel with receive a heart of flesh and the Holy Spirit is given where no man will need to teach his brother but all will know the truth … ] Still even without settling this issue for the moment, we can see the broader context is their having just been taught by Jesus regarding the KOG.

What then they ask is about whether Jesus is going to restore again the Kingdom to Israel. we need to take careful note of what they meant. Restore again implies there was a time when Israel was a kingdom. It’s not referring to “the spiritual reign of kingdom in people’s hearts” but their national physical kingdom of David and Solomon. Cf 2 Sa 7:16 and Psalm 89:3-4.

Jesus’ answer is pertinent. It’s “not for you to know the times and epochs the father has set.” Here many ignore again the words ”has set” which gives affirmation to God’s plan being carried out no matter what and no matter what the appearances suggest. Rather Jesus suggests that what is for them is the plan suggested in Acts 1:8 which is what we find filled out in the rest of the book of Acts. That commission is their agenda. On no plain reading can the words “it’s not for you to know” be understood as a rejection of the idea of a restoration of national Israel.

So here we have a big challenge for the preacher. To deal faithfully with what God says in His Word. To not pass over it or introduce assumptions that the text does not make and which go against the actual plain reading of the text in context.
You might say “But that unravels my understanding of the Kingdom of God as the spiritual reign of the Lord Jesus in people’s hearts.” Well then friend, go back to the Scriptures and investigate afresh the notion of the Kingdom of God.

In Christ

Monday, October 6, 2014

Krakauer on how Chris McCandless died: Into the wild

John Krakauer, author of Into the Wild has written a piece on the New Yorker in which he again investigates how Chris McCandless died.
It makes a case for ODAP poisoning leading to starvation. Yet what is required for the effectiveness of ODAP poisoning is that one be severely suffering from malnutrition, stress and acute hunger. In the end it makes for a tragic story of a self centred life.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Exegetical analysis on Paul's conversion in Acts 9

In preparation for preaching on Acts 9. Saul's conversion I was struck by Paul's response to being blinded and hearing the voice of Jesus.
The first point is that Saul calls him Lord. Have you ever wondered why? Some might think is it the nature of the encounter that convinced him, yet our text hints that it is more. It starts with the voice calling Saul Saul. Why the repetition? Saul was blinded, he wasn't made deaf!
Being a Pharisee Saul knew his Scriptures. He knew how God had called to Abraham who was about to sacrifice his son. Genesis 22:11  Then in Genesis 46:2 God called to Jacob, it's "Jacob, Jacob. - don't be afraid to go down to Egypt" Again in Exodus 3:3 when God calls to Moses from the burning bush .. it's "Moses, Moses." He knew how also when God called to Samuel in 1 Sam 3 it's the repetition of the name again. "Samuel Samuel". [ This pointed calling is also significant in Jesus' words to Martha Martha in Luke 10:38-42 ] Scripture tells us that this repetition was common in the way God called to people for whom He had a significant part for them to play in His Plan. I am not detracting at all from God's self authenticating  authority by pointing this out, merely to say When God himself revealed himself to people in the Old Testament this characterised the encounter.

A second thing that strikes me as unusual is that Saul on having his blindness removed, in the next verse, vs 18, then he arose and even before he'd eaten he gets baptised. Context shows us that this is not Baptism in the Spirit, and anyway such Spirit Baptism would not require one to get up and be baptised before eating! That being the case it is water baptism being spoken of here. What is unusual about this is that baptism was only required of gentiles who wanted to come into the covenant fold of Israel and Worship the God of Israel. They needed cleansing but the Jews did not consider that they themselves needed it. That's why when John the Baptist came preaching and baptising it was confronting to Israel.
We read nothing in our text in chapter 9 that stands out as the reason for Saul to be baptised.
Yet there is a reason when one again considers context. When one remembers that Saul was at Stephen's stoning as recorded in Acts 7 things take on a different perspective.  The witnesses laid their garments at the feet of  young Saul as we are told in Acts 7:58. As John MacArthur says, the fact that the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of Saul, [ following Levitical law ] highly suggests Saul was at the forefront of the proceedings.
Now what had enraged the religious leaders was Stephen's declaration that he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God 7:56. But almost passed over here in Stephen's speech is verse 51. where he calls them a stiff necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears. that is - just like gentiles and what follows is that if they are just like gentiles [ the uncircumcised ] they the Sanhedrin, are in need of cleansing! And this is just what Saul himself had been like!
Paul's Proclamation:

The last "anomaly" in our text, something that confronts us, is found in verse 20 The first recorded proclamation of Jesus to the Jews is to declare Him the Son of God. We know from reading and studying the Pauline letters a bit about Paul, and what figures as central in his teaching is the Messiah, the Christ. But that's not the first word on his lips, something we would have thought would be given his Jewish hearers. Here is something in need of deeper research. Indeed the Son is intimately tied up with the Messiah in Paul's writings, not merely as the same person but in conceptual terms. Now besides being intelligible to the Jews who saw Moses as a son, Israel as a son, angels as sons, more importantly given Nathans oracle in 2 Sam 7:14 God himself would adopt David's Royal descendants as heirs, "his house" of 2 Sam 7:11. Then it has been found that certain circles of the Qumran fellowship link the Davidic Messiah as Son of God. Scripturally, Paul's emphasis in Romans 1:3-4, Heb 1:5, 5:5 are focusing more on enthronement than birth ... see again the specifics of Acts 13:33 concerning this aspect.
In this regard also one cannot again bypass Acts 7 with Stephen's speech where he accuses the religious leaders of slaying the righteous one, who Stephen's declares he now sees standing at the right hand of God, a declaration that enrages the Sanhedrin who take him out of the city and stone him.

This isn't to say the Son does not signify the one of unique standing and intimate favour in God's Work. It is to suggest that enthronement, Jesus as God, is the focus here.

Some of the gems of Acts 9

In Christ

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hermeneutics and Ricoeur - one avenue worth investigating

Ricoeur's teachings on hermeneutics has found a wide reading in the field of hermeneutics, and also specifically in the arena of biblical Hermeneutics. Yet I think one can see parallels between Ricoeur's and that of Schleiermacher's, whose concept of God drove his hermeneutics.

As J I Packer noted about Schleiermacher in 'Scripture and Truth' ed Carson and Woodbridge pg 336.
Schleiermacher's God stirs our feelings but does not tell us things. Schleiermacher conceptualized the impact of biblical and later Christian language on the model of ritual incantation that casts an emotional spell rather than of person-to-person communication that informs. He read Scripture, dogma, and theology as religious feeling evocatively verbalized, just as his English contemporary and fellow romantic William Wordsworth. .. As a romantic valuing sensitivity of response to actual and potential experiences above all, and committed to vindicate religious awareness as part of the good life, Schleiermacher the theologian naturally drew his hermeneutical model from the world of art and aesthetics, and equally naturally turned his back on models from the worlds of philosophy and law, where the conveying of public facts, arguments, and lines of thought is the essence of the communicative process.... The biblical material is not at any point or in any respect the relaying of divinely uttered instruction, even when its writers think and claim the contrary.

What is important about the above statement is that if one has a "God" who only stirs our feeling and does not tell us things then our Hermeneutics is set to follow a certain course. It tells us that God does not speak, He does not call anyone to Covenantal faithfulness because there is no cognitive communication to mankind. it is purely emotion that stirs the feelings.  Thus there is no point in seeking the meaning of the text for the author of scripture does not tell us things or give us facts. It evacuates the text of the personhood of God and the nature of man's personhood. Just as one can eat chili and experience a pleasant stimulation of the taste buds, so another gets indigestion.

Now a similar evacuation of the meaningful communication of God to man happens in Ricoeur's schema.
As you read Ricoeur you see central to his hermeneutical method is that of poetic language. This he believes overcomes the problem that arose with Kant where Kant split the Noumena and Phenomenal, and relegated God to the Noumena. the problem with that was that the Noumena was unknowable, making God unknowlable. however, by suggesting that religious language is poetic, made up of metaphor and symbol, Ricoeur believes he has given a bridge from the noumenal to the phenomenal realm.
Yet truth on his approach escapes us just like it did with Schleiermacher. We are left with paradox. The nature of poetry is that it likewise does not give us facts about things. On his approach don't we presume that the resurrection of Jesus wasn't an historical reality but just a metaphor or symbol to garner feelings in our being?

Apart from the philosophical and theological issues we also have the problem of whether Ricoeur's theory comports with Scripture itself.
After all, what does one do with poetry itself and it appears as a definite genre in Scripture. The Psalms in places reflect poetry which is clearly different to the genre of historical narrative, or gospel commands and exhortations.
In the end doesn't Ricoeur's focus and emphasis that religious language is symbol and metaphor mean that truth has escaped us.
This is not to say Schleiermacher was all wrong. he drew our attention to the empathy etc of the writers and our situation [ see Packer pg 336 ] perhaps then Ricoeour has some positive things to say.
Still if what I outline above is correct then his approach is misguided.

In Christ

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Preaching Noah from Genesis 9vs1-17 Exegesis and Application

When we come to Genesis 9 verses 1-17 what we immediately ask is what is the point of this passage and how we would preach it?
For many, the text is simply Noah and his family get a "fresh start" with God "recreating" after the destruction of the flood with the Lord God forming a new Covenant with them. It's almost like a rerun of Genesis 1 & 2.
Yet is it?
Even though there are parallels between Genesis 9 and Gen 1 & 2, still there is more at play here.

After the destruction of the world by the flood God does again direct man as to his role on the earth "be fruitful and multiply" and as we read this is again mentioned in verse 7. Here one needs to ask "why the repetition?"
Is it merely an emphasis on the new beginning?
I don't believe so. Just look closely at the literary flow of the text.
After the command to be fruitful and multiply in verse 1, God indicates that unlike in the garden Gen 1-2, the animals will now fear mankind, vs 2.
Secondly, now everything is edible, not merely the green plants, vs 3. And given that, one must make sure the animal is dead, that there is no life blood, before eating. vs 4.
Also importantly, if a person is killed by another man or animal they will be held accountable. vs 5-6. Indeed whoever sheds the blood of man [ death  ] will forfeit his life! After this our text repeats the command to be fruitful and multiply! Why?
I'd suggest it is telling you that even though sin will continue, man is to be fruitful and multiply.
After the massive judgment upon mankind because of man's sin, even after that, with a new beginning the sin problem remains. One may have been tempted to give up. In the face of the affirmation that man will still commit evil, that he will still kill his fellow man, man is still called upon to covenantal obedience and be fruitful and multiply.
So we need to ask, What will God do?
Well, the following verses tell us that he will not ever again flood the earth and destroy everything. and he confirms this promise by the sign of a rainbow.
[ as an aside here we note for those who suggest that the flood was local in extent doesn't gel with the text because it makes God to a liar since there have been destructive local floods with great loss of life since then. ]
So how do we go about seeing the application here?
The first is to see God keeps his promises. After the fall Genesis 3, God gave a promise to defeat Satan through His seed. Gen 3:15. The promised one, won't eventuate if all mankind is destroyed. so even though Man does his utmost to destroy each other and break relationship with God, to reject Him, and in all this satan works to stop the coming seed, despite all this God works to fulfil his promise! that encourages you doesn't it? From the beginning God allows nothing to thwart his gracious promises, so that we see Jesus crucified for our sin, for all mankind's sin and resurrected. That God keeps his promises should make us delight in the promise of His return.
A second application here has to do with man created in the image of God. That makes him special so that even though we see in the flood the Sovereign judgment of God, still He will persevere with man, until Jesus, the perfect image of God. it's not an ogre God, a judgmental God but one who also shows great patience and Grace.
Third, one cannot ignore that the commands to be fruitful and multiply is a demand of obedience so that with relationship comes responsibility.

In Christ,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hermeneutics sermon series #1

What I would do perhaps???
1.       Define hermeneutics – simply, it is how a persons reads and interprets the bible, something you already do. the question is how well!

      Technically it is the science and art of interpretation of texts. When it comes to the Bible it is the method in which we approach the Bible to interpret it and then apply it. James I Packer rightly points out the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in this endeavour as it is He who illuminates the Bible for us. Yet there re are also principles we use in discovering the meaning of the text. namely we pay attention to the grammatical and the historical context of when it was written and also the historical meaning of the words used. Since the reformation this was called the grammatical historical hermeneutical method.

So why is this so important – such a big word? you might recoil at the word and such a technical definition as above.

Some might respond - "I prefer to just drift along", "I like to  keep things simple" "I want to just feel good" Yet we learn big words in our culture because they are significant to us. Eg "warranty." Our New car goes bust and I quickly appeal to warranty and read the complicated fine print.
2.       Why is the way to interpret scripture so important?
Because we want to make sure that we are going in the right direction concerning life and good works, 2 Tim 3:16-17 and not getting distracted from good works into second best or second rate or bad works! God has given us his revealed Word – don’t we need to hear what he says? And if so we need to hear it right – nothing worse than a spouse not interpreting what you say right – then all the more with listening to God.
And it’s important because God tells us here 2 Tim 3 that there are deceivers around – elsewhere we are told there are those who twist scripture to their own destruction and lead others astray. This no small matter.
3.       So first thing to understand is All Scripture is God – breathed2 Timothy 3:16-17. The very first point here is that God has spoken, even that He continues to speak in Scripture Hebrews 3:7 and the word is present tense. This is so important because there have been those who over the centuries have taught that God doesn't speak through His Word the Bible, and that there's an immense gulf [ Lessing's Ditch ] between the culture of the times of the Bible and today and we cannot understand the meaning of the text anyway. But this is nonsense.
      Secondly, God used people sure, but He used them with their cultural background and their experiences to say exactly what He wanted said. Explain "all Scripture = all writings", specifically the Old Testament, yet Peter 2 Peter 3:15-15, treats Paul's writings as Scripture and ...
So How am I to hear God? To listen, to Read His Word to us, the Scriptures. In Context.

      Perhaps I might also speak about Authority. The Authority of God and His Word in relation to Hermeneutics because we are tempted to follow and listen to other man centred and man made Authorities.

Your brother in Christ,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why John Dickson's argument in Hearing Her Voice fails

Over at Lionel Windor's blog you can read an article by Andrew Heard critiquing John Dickson's argument in Hearing Her Voice.

I must say Andrew's argument is both well reasoned and thought provoking.
I would add to this that given John Dickson's argument hangs to a large extent on the meaning of didasko [ teach ] in 1 Tim 2:12, which Andrew points out that John wants to restrict to a technical sense of "passing on the oral traditions of the Apostles" in it's more narrow sense, which John wants to say means "deliver" or "pass on" then John's argument fails.
Why? Because Paul could more appropriately have used paradidomi [ deliver or pass on ] which when Paul used this in 1 Cor 11:23-24 has the very meaning that John wants it to have in 1 Timothy 2. This word is not rare in Paul's writings, he uses it at least 12 times in Romans and 1 Cor [ 6 each ]. So the very fact that Paul doesn't use the most appropriate Greek word to put his case [ as John
Dickson perceives it ] speaks volumes against Dickson's interpretation. It is part of hermeneutics that we take careful note of which words the author used and which ones he didn't when interpreting a passage, and that presents a powerful case against John's thesis. Certainly another possible alternative - rhuomi cannot be considered for for Paul's purpose in 1 Tim 2.
When you add to this how Paul uses teach [ didasko ] in 1 Timothy ( read both Claire Scott's articles, summarized by Lionel and Andrew's article to get the gist of this ) then his thesis is indeed weak and I'd say unacceptable.

But I would say this is not all to be said in critiquing it.
I would add as I've pointed out before, the scholarly support for his understanding of oral traditions doesn't say what he wants it to say, at least not in the case of Dunn 'Jesus Remembered'.
Secondly, and this follows on the tack of John's argument itself, that if we grant for the moment that teach in 1 Timothy 2 refers to passing on the oral traditions of the apostles, then Why does Paul go on to say in the same breath "nor have Authority." For if didasko meant what John wants it to mean nor have Authority is redundant since the apostolic oral tradition carries its own Authority.
Lastly, does this line of argument by Dickson mean that the "nebulous' oral traditions of the Apostles carry more Authority than the actual Scriptures before us? is that not a ludicrous idea?

In Christ

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Standing against the evil of ISIS

Trevin Wax over at the Gospel coalition write a succinct and thoughtful article about dealing with evil correctly. interacting with President Obama's address.
You can do well to read it and discuss it with your friends and neighbours.

Pray not just of the safety of Christians in Iraq but also for Muslims being murdered, and for young Muslims not to fall for this evil.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Authentic Christianity

An Authentic Christian is probably best summarized in the Beatitudes. What it means to be a Christian encompasses at least all of what Matt 5:1-14 speaks of.

My mate Rob drew attention to the following two points:

And ideally it is the God – Man Jesus who best exemplifies these attributes – he is the perfect Authentic Christian ( man ).
And when we say perfect we don’t mean holy as a moral attribute but wholly as set apart for a purpose and being that! That is, perfect means doing what it was created for!

Now part of that coming to grips with being a Christian is to take notice of the rebuke of God where that occurs, not shirking it off and quickly turning to the more sating passages of God loving us and dying for us and other favorite themes.

Some today think it is harsh when a preacher points out the ramifications of a passage that speaks rebuke.

It’s like some prefer to think “Well God  is just all on about encouragement, there’s no place for pointing out in detail or applying it in particular way because that is rattles my comfortableness and complacency. “ We think to ourselves “ I quite like going to church once a week and worshipping there”  – and here I am being very generous with myself about the once a week bit. Sadly it is so easy to make God up in my own imagination – a personal God who is comfortable and doesn’t expect too much of me.

Yet what am I to make of all those passages that begin in Genesis that point out that God is unhappy with our ( mankind’s] behavior and holds us to account – Israel’s history is full of the consequences of ignoring God. It brings about the judgment he has already warned about.

In Christ, again it is true that we are graciously saved, and that not by our own works, but we need to hear again that after salvation He calls us to obedience. Not that obedience saves us, but rather an obedience that pleases Him. He wants for us to be made in the likeness of Christ, the perfectly obedient man! The second Adam as Paul would say.

And this is also for our benefit. To be in God’s place is to be in the right and best place even if we don’t want to acknowledge that or it disheartens us that there is a continual struggle against the flesh the world and the devil.

It is so easy to gripe against a preacher who points out our failure to obey Hebrews 10:25 “let us not forsake the meeting together.. as some do.” You see the “let us” is not a suggestion, it’s a command. And it warns us that in actuality, some are in fact doing this, that is what the text, God’s Word, says!

But if we gripe about that what about when the preacher preaches on Revelation 2-3? Has the preacher just lightly skipped over what is said in the letters to the 7 churches and merely read out the verses? Or has he failed to clearly apply it or have we become so hardened that we gloss over what he has said and the Word of God itself says? What are we to make of the warning that we are neither hot nor cold and He will spew them out of his mouth? Is that just them or is it possible some of us are in the same boat? After all why is it there in Scripture, God’s letter to us, anyway? Is it just padding and something that is intended to tickle our ears and make us point the finger at others? God forbid.

The Great Commission doesn’t say go out and make converts - after all, that is what God does, rather it says make disciples and they are people who follow Christ and do as he says. After all the verse actually says “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded”.

O that I would be sanctified in Obedience to You O Lord.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Daniel 1 Living in a warped Culture

As I was talking with my younger daughter about the significance of Daniel 1 I was reminded of an experience I had when I was first off to University. I remember a concerned member of our congregation expressing alarm that I was studying philosophy at University. Her alarm was right to be voiced but her understanding of being helpful wasn't well thought out.

Today I have similar feelings about certain subjects being taught at University, some with their non-Christian worldview blatantly set forth in their teaching about the nature of mankind. Subjects such as Psychology, which set forth a view of man that is many times antithetical to the Christian understanding. Yet perhaps just as dangerous are those subjects that assume such views but are not forthcoming about those assumptions.

So what is one to do about this? Do we tell our young people that they just shouldn't do such subjects?
Here Daniel 1 gives us practical insight and guidance.
Daniel and his friend were taken off into exile to Babylon, a pagan and demonic culture. He was taken into the Kings palace to learn their language and customs and culture. Did he object? No. not even when they changed his name to represent that of one of the pagan gods of the Babylonians.
Only at one point did he object. At the point of food and wine from the kings table, because such was defiled.
But it wasn't objected to by Daniel because of his feelings. Not even because he didn't like that food. After all you would be hard pressed to make me eat eyeballs as some cultures do. But that wasn't Daniels reason for acting as he did.
Rather it was because of was forbidden by the word of God. As we find in Deut 32.

What this passage tells us that one can be godly in the midst of a pagan culture, even when learning their culture and language and customs. Still even when learning these things it doesn't mean one has to agree with them or have them assimilated it into their own lives.

So the helpful thing for our young people is to prepare them rightly for living in a pagan culture which is done by grounding them in the clear Word of God as evidently Daniel and his friends had been before the exile!

It means understanding God's Word and talking about such practical ramifications as Daniel met in the Culture he was dragged into and the Culture we are born into!

In Christ,

Friday, May 30, 2014

Let's ruminate about gluttony

Derek over at the gospel coalition put up a thoughtful and challenging piece about gluttony last week. make sure you read it.
What is surprising is how such articles or preaching receive such flack. We can preach about sin in general terms such as idolatry. people may even accept a broadside at same sex marriage and the sin of adultery, but gluttony seems to be in a too hard basket. perhaps many preachers are afraid as Derek says because

our pastors have noticed how much closer the pulpit has moved to their own waistlines
Even so, gluttony is listed in 1 Cor 6 as a persistent sin [ habitual ] that prevents one inheriting the Kingdom of God. Even though drunkenness is perhaps put up with being preached, still gluttony seems taboo because defining gluttony seem so subjective.
And that's even without thinking of gluttony as an idol!
Something to chew the cud on eh?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sermon Daniel 1 Who is in charge


Who is Sovereign?

Who is in charge here then?

I fear many today think we ourselves are!

Consider this, are you anxious?

Not mere concern about something, not just planning for today or tomorrow but what keeps you awake at night?

What causes you to have sleepless nights? Or stomach ulcers?

Is it relationships? Arguments going on the family?

Loss of your job? Unrealistic expectations put upon you are work or in the home?

Sickness of the ones you love?

Or the car wasn’t fixed properly by the mechanic and now you wonder how you will pay for it?

Or you’re facing exams at school?

What is it?

If you are so anxious that it effects you that much it’s really only a step away from getting depressed!

Well if you come to grips with Daniel 1 then you are on your way to dealing with all that properly.

What do we make then of Daniel 1?

Some in the past have said it’s about faith and unbelief

– and drawn attention to the faith of Daniel and his friends and the unbelief of Nebuchadnezzar.

I know of a preacher who spoke to a youth group on Daniel 1 and said it’s about faith in Jesus. But that’s not listening to what God actually says in the chapter.


It’s just putting a spin on it that is far from the text itself and its context.

Since as you read through the book

you find it’s much more than that.

Jesus himself in Matthew 24:15 Told us that Daniel was a prophet and that steers us along the right path.
            Daniel wasn’t just an example of a good Jewish boy that we do well to imitate, he was a prophet.

Trouble is that we tend to think of Daniel in light of the Sunday school stories about Daniel and the lion’s den and the like.

So we need to cast our eyes to the text of God’s Word and observe carefully how it starts.

Clearly in verse 1 we are struck by the historical concreteness of the book.
            It happened in history that in the third year of Jehoiakim,  Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem

Now people tend to think the chapter is all about Daniel and his friends but then they haven’t pondered how in verse 2 it doesn’t say Daniel and his friends were carted off to exile to Babylon,
                        no ……  it says the Lord gave into the hand of Neb some of the temple items and these were carted off to Babylon and put in the temples of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods!

Now this is a big thing for the Jewish readers.

We lose sight of its significance because we aren’t thoughtful about what it means we haven’t learnt to ask “why this

It’s not that God is materialist like us and thinks highly of material things.

Rather behind it lays before us the connotation of  Who is in charge here.

Is God Sovereign or the gods of the Babylonians ?

Is God in charge or is Neb as we read later who likes to think life is all about his power and glory?

You see in the ancient Near East Countries and Kings regard their god’s as the God when they were successful in battle.
            It proved the “reality” of their gods when they were successful in battle.

            And to take the temple items off to their temples declared that these were lesser gods compared to their god or gods.

But you know what, here God tells us He was behind the defeat of Judah!

He isn’t worried or think it’s the end of the world when his temple items are placed in pagan temples – because there’s something bigger at stake!,

His name had already been trampled in the dust because of Judah’s abhorrent sins

God had spoken to Moses back in Deut that if Israel broke her Covenant with him they’d be taken into exile.

Through Daniel’s contemporaries Ezekiel and Jeremiah and Isaiah he’d warned her to repent or face exile, but they continued.

Just 100 years before Neb besieged Judah, the Assyrians had carted off Israel into Exile.
            Perhaps they’d become complacent – well nothing’s happened to us – “we missed that broadside well”  -  as though they had engineered their safety!

But no – they were steeped in sin and hardened.

…. Ezekiel 8 just look at verses 16-17.. their sin was so blatant that even in the corridors of the Temple they were worshipping other gods of the North and women at the gates were worshipping Tamuz


Just to reinforce that this chapter is all about God who is Sovereign see how it’s not just in verse 2 “the Lord delivered”  but highlighted in verse 9, 17 in the midst of the story about Daniel and his friends.

God is in charge, things are coming to pass that he wants.

In this case it is the punishment of Judah for its sins against him.

So the people of God needed to hear through Daniel that things now had come to a head.
            Their just deserts as he warned about were coming upon them.

But in the midst of that ----  we then read of Daniel and his friends. Why is that here? What’s that all about?

You will notice that these three were taken as teenagers off to Babylon, to be slaves in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.
            They were probably somewhere between 15 and 17 years of age.

They were thoroughly trained in the education and culture of the Babylonians, but did they object? No.

They had their names changed to represent the Babylonian Gods,

Daniel, whose name means “God is Judge“  was called Belteshazzar meaning “Bel (ie Marduk) protect his life”

Hananiah means “The Lord shows Grace” but Shadrach means Command of Aku ( the Sumerian moon god )

Mishael means “Who is what God is?” or phrased slightly differently for us so we can grasp it “he that is a strong God”  whereas Meshach probably means “Aku is strong” [[ “who or what Aku is” ]]

And Azariah means “The Lord helps”  whereas Abednego means “servant of Nego” another god of the Babylonians.


Did they object and say no way?

Only at one point did they object,
            only regarding one thing did Daniel lay it all on the line.

And this wasn’t insignificant or irrelevant to their situation. The consequences were severe.

We are far removed from the kind of absolute power and control over human life that Nebuchadnezzar had.

We glimpse it later in the book when he orders the men thrown into the fiery furnace.
            Was he concerned that the guards lost their lives by just getting too close to the furnace in throwing in the Israelites  --  no.
                        he could look at you on whim and say to the guards “kill him.”

So what Daniel was doing had great consequences.
            Even the man in charge of Daniel and the others, Ashpenaz  realized this.       

                    That if they stood out as not looking their best, Ashpenaz  could lose his life as well.

But Daniel stood his ground on the issue of food and wine.

It tells us this clearly in the text itself of Daniel 1

In verse  8……

Why does Daniel decide to challenge it ?

Back in the book of Leviticus God laid out Israel’s dietary laws
                                   and elsewhere
forbade eating of such foods and wine.

But these are not the justification for Daniel's stance here. There seems no clear link to those laws in Leviticus, but Deut 32 is one chapter that stands out.

READ Deut 32 :36-40  this is a central text for us here.

Remarkably it begins ‘The Lord is Judge’ and Daniels name means ‘God is Judge’.

Whilst Judah and Jerusalem we sinning and sunning themselves and ignoring God, the warnings of Ezekiel rang out as in Ezek 4: where in verse 12 the food in exile they’d be given to eat would be as defiled as if it were baked in human excrement!

Behind it stood an ANE custom of kings dedicating their food to their gods.
In this case such food and wine coming from the kings plate as it were,  was defiled, because it had been offered and dedicated to Nebuchadnezzar’s god.

Anyway, we are clearly told in Daniel 1 that the sole reason was the defilement of the food and wine.

I don’t need to go into this any further this morning because what we need to hear is what the people of God had to hear.

Daniel and his friends mere teenagers, stood firm on the commands of God’s Word.

Where there was a clash between what God said and what man said, even a despot like Nebuchadnezzar, one is to follow God.

This is one of the things we are to learn from Daniel 1

But first we are to learn God is in Control of all things, Nothing takes place regardless of Him.

He is Sovereign.

Things may appear terrible,
            but they are not chaos.
                        Sometimes it due to sin and punishment is taking place,
                                                sometimes it’s even due to the sin of other people.

Hear that today! It can be due to the sin of others.

Daniel and his friends obviously had faithful godly parents who had taught them  God’s Word in their younger days before exile!

And it had stuck.

So some in the midst of terrible times, know God and His Word,

and secondly,
            that godly people can be caught up in calamities and disasters caused by others!

They were taken into exile or killed in the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar.


So, The people of God needed to hear God is in control,
                                                He is in charge, not Nebuchadnezzar.

And we need to understand that too in our place of History.

It doesn’t matter in real terms whether its liberals of labor in Government.

What matters for us is What God says and obeying that.

It doesn’t matter if we are destitute,
            loose our homes and comfortable way of life because of economic decisions of others.
            What matters is God.

I began this morning with thinking about what you are anxious about, what keeps you awake at night?

Perhaps you are depressed about something?

Well God knows and God cares.

Doesn’t matter what bad experience you might have had in life or are even experiencing now

God knows and God cares, God is in Control. So will you grab hold of that?

God is Sovereign indeed Acts 17 tells us that it is God who decided when you were born!
Not your parents!
                        It was in this last 100 years and not back in Elizabethan times or the French revolution times when people were starving or Assyrian times.

He decided. So He knows what difficulties you have encountered or will encounter.

And not only did God decide when but where!   

Here in Australia – a place of great opportunities and wealth at present.

But those things aren’t to be what consumes us.

Nope we need to be grounded in His Word so whatever confronts us we know where to take our stand and with whom!

With the Sovereign Lord.


Let’s pray.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Approaching Easter differently as a Preacher

This Easter as I drove to Church for a another Easter Good Friday I reflected on how many times I have heard the same passage preached on at Easter with the Same application and how many others in the congregation are in the same boat.
It's not that I don't believe in repeating central truths of the Christian faith. I am all for repetition but I wonder if we are really laying it out for the regular visitor who only comes to Church at Christmas and Easter.

What if we preachers spent the first 5 minutes talking about the death of Jesus ( good Friday ) and the resurrection of Jesus ( Easter Sunday ) and then asked how does this work out in your life? Has this truth transformed you?

So that Jesus has transformed you. And we see this in our day to day living.

The fact of the death of Jesus means I can be right with God - so are you?
Are you then living His way and not running after your own agendas.

Likewise does the resurrection of Jesus, and the fact that then death is not the end changes things immensely.
more significantly than your relationships with spouse and children, your work, career, leisure, golf, music whatever?

Ok so here's a litmus test, you know to to see if a liquid is alkaline or acid we use litmus paper. Let's ask about our lives being dramatically different.
Well let's ask if our lives are worldly or transformed?

Do we meet each Sunday with God's people in church so we can hear the word of God preached and grow? To meet with his people so we can serve them with the gifts He God has given us? So we can encourage rebuke, exhort pray for, love.

Are we compelled to pick up His Word daily to study it to hear what He has to say as opposed to turning on the radio or our ipod or the Television to hear what the world says is the best?
What is it?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Exegetical Notes John 20:19-31

I thought it would be helpful to summarize the exegetical points on John 20:19-31 which I used for my sermon on that passage.

1. Twice we are told in this passage vs 19 & vs 26 that Jesus came to the disciples who were meeting behind locked doors, and in verse 19 we are told why "for fear of the Jews". the Jews had crucified their Lord and they feared being next on the list.

2. Did then Jesus words "peace" = shalom not dissolve this fear? well there is no rebuke of the disciples the second time for being behind locked doors. so in the passage perhaps the locked doors function to point out two things. First that Jesus resurrection body is both physical, one could touch the wounds in his hands and side, and yet supernatural - it passes through physical objects. Secondly that the circumstances of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples ( missing Judas who hung himself and Thomas ) are the same when Jesus appeared to Thomas, thus "informing" Thomas that what they had told him during the week wasn't a con! They hadn't colluded and fabricated the whole thing.

3. Peace for the Jews this alludes to the well being of God’s Kingdom people in His end time Kingdom.

4. During the week the disciples continually told Thomas of what had happened. elegon – an imperfect tense of repeated action “they kept saying".

5. Jesus shows the marks in his hands and his side, not hands and feet. for his was an unusual case of crucifixion. the spear thrust into his side to make sure he was dead so the body could be taken down and buried before the Sabbath.

6.  it has been reported historically that during the Roman occupation of Israel that over 1 million people were killed and possibly of those 200,000 were crucified. Now the point is that of the incredible large number crucified very few would have had a spear mark in their side.

7. one in a million or at least one in 200,000? the following statistics were found on Body count of the Roman Empire 

Durant, Caesar and Christ

  Revolt of 68-73 CE: 1,197,000 Jews killed acc. to Josephus ix 3. 600,000 killed acc. to Tacitus v 13.

  Revolt of 115-116 CE: 220,000 people k. in Cyrene and 240,000 k. in Cyprus

  Revolt of 132 CE: 580,000 k.

  [TOTAL: Adding gives a total of 1,920,000 ± 300,000 k. in the Jewish Wars according to ancient sources]

Most historians assume that Palestine simply couldn't support a population large enough to produce death tolls as large as these. Among the population estimates are

  Anthony Byatt, "Josephus and population numbers in first century Palestine." Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 105:51 (1973): 2,265,000 inhabitants

  C. C. McCown, 'The Density of Population in Ancient Palestine', Journal of Biblical Literature, 66:425 (1947): less than 1,000,000 inhabitants

  Harnack, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums (1924): 500,000 inhabitants

  Seth Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. (2001): 500,000 inhabitants

8.Is Doubt something a Christian should not have? Well Thomas only asks for what the other disciples already experienced. Thomas thus gets a bad rap for being singled out.

9. What is Thomas' character? was he a hard nosed skeptic? a pessimist? We need to look at context and John 11:16f and John 14.
It is more likely Thomas was totally devoted to Jesus. He would go and die with him! so he didn't want to led on by the other disciples? after the crucifixion he was a shattered man.

10. Jesus said “be not unbelieving but believing”. how do we take this? as a command to stop doubting - like almost repent? a rebuke as such or is it a command to move on from your doubt - the sufficient evidence is before you.

11. We are not saying someone can intellectually work their way into heaven / salvation rather the emphasis is God has made man in His image with ability to reason, and this is what the Holy Spirit convicts. Luke 16:19-31 tells us that even miraculous resurrection one could deny because of hardness of heart. what is required is the work of the Holy Spirit. Significantly in both Luke and here It tells us Scripture is sufficient!

12. and that's the important thing about verse 29-31. in context they appear right after the Thomas encounter. John teaches us that Scripture is sufficient to be blessed of God.

13. lastly it isn't merely knowing about Christ, even Satan and his demons know Christ is God. it's about right relationship. one that means life - Jesus came to give fullness of life. not mere existing. getting by.

As you can see, much of the above attempts to deal with the literary structure, and context of the passage.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Srm John 20:19-31                                                  Apl 6th 2014
I was in a discussion recently with someone about the evidence for the Christian faith,
            and they raised the problem of doubt which they declared was a severe obstacle for the unbeliever
                        and they suggested that because it was an obstacle
                                                            they shouldn’t be held liable for their beliefs. Or lack of belief
That was the gist of our discussion.
What are we to make of that?
Os Guiness his book ‘Doubt’  gives us the definition of it as “being in two minds”
Sarah Blasko song mentions Doubt  - it’s haunting, almost futile but tragic lyrics when seen from a Christian perspective. Her previous album “embraced solitude as a means of self control” her latest album tackles coming to grips with the outside world. Yet it really a search for meaning in action while she starts from the position of saying no one knows why we’re here.
So Doubt is something that is real for so many people.
Doubt has a place doesn’t it?
When we watch television and see a person sawn in two we doubt, we think our senses are deceiving us, because nobody lives cut in half.
At one time we all doubted anybody could run 100 yards in under 10 seconds.
At another time some of us doubted anybody could walk on the moon.
But when we are presented with different kinds of evidence we move on from those doubts or we express unbelief.

{{ Or we sometimes say I don’t doubt my spouse loves me, and there’s no scientific litmus test of their blood to prove it! Science just doesn’t come into it. There’s a different kind of evidence at play.
Or we see a car accident and how it happened and someone else says they doubt it. }}
There’s different standards and different avenues of evidence for different things – legal, scientific relationships, art appreciation.
Josh McDowell wrote a book evidence that demands a verdict and he lays out the historical evidence before you and he began the book to debunk Christianity and yet ended up convinced and transformed. But some still reject it, others still doubt – Why? Because it takes a work of God to convict someone of the truth. Rebellion persists in spite of evidence.

{{ There’s a certain unease about the experience of doubt – many of us we feel we shouldn’t doubt certain things we hear about the Christian faith.   }}
But you know what? Doubt is not a bad thing!

Open you Bibles to John 20 that well known passage about the appearance of Jesus first to the 10 disciples and then a week later to Thomas.
READ John 20:19-31
You all know it so well,
            it is so common to hear it preached on at Easter about the plain evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. How the facts are related by John.
But I want us to understand what John is teaching us about here.
Sure one important facet is the physical resurrection of Jesus – albeit in a body that while Jesus eats and drinks food, he can pass through locked doors and yet be touched.
Ponder what John tells us in verse 19 the disciples that is missing Thomas and of course Judas who killed himself, are meeting behind locked doors – Why? Because of fear of the Jews. They fear the Jews coming for them now that they have killed their leader Jesus.
And Jesus comes and stands among them, and greets them with a common Jewish greeting , but one that packs a punch – Shalom – Peace – for the Jews this alludes to the wellbeing of God’s Kingdom people in His end time Kingdom.
Now had things changed much because of Jesus’ resurrection appearance?
Well a week later they are meeting again, and this time Thomas is with them. And again they are behind locked doors. See verse 26. Again Jesus starts by saying “Peace be with you.” He doesn’t berate them for their lack of trust.
Now this thing about locked doors serves to tell us a few things.
First that importantly it’s exactly the same circumstances as the other 10 had told Thomas had occurred when Jesus appeared to them. So Thomas couldn’t accuse them of fabricating the whole thing. Because here he was and the doors were again locked and Jesus appears.
Secondly it gives clear historical evidence that Jesus’ resurrected body is supernatural as well as physical. He appears with them, passing through a locked door as it were. And yet they can touch his hands and his side. Upon reading this people cannot just flippantly declare it was all a con – they have to deal with a reported supernatural event – they have to decide one way or another, and that means dealing with everything the apostle John writes.  
Indeed though the 10 disciples during the week had been repeatedly saying to Thomas we have seen the Lord – [ elegon – an imperfect tense of repeated action “they kept saying ] he had replied “unless I see the nail marks in his hands [ includes forearm ] and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side I will not believe it”
Now here Thomas so often gets a bad rap, a bad name. He’s called “doubting Thomas” – sure he doubts but why is he singled out when the other 10 had had that very evidence displayed to them a week earlier?
All this should raise questions in your mind  - What is the gospel writer John teaching us here?
Well one very clear historical bit of evidence about the Resurrected Christ not being a con by the other disciples is that it speaks of the mark in Jesus’ side- where the spear had been plunged by the Roman’s to make sure He would die quickly and so his body could be taken down and buried before the Sabbath.
It has been reported historically that during the Roman occupation of Israel that over 1 million people were killed and possibly of those 200,000 were crucified. Now the point is that of the incredible large number crucified very few would have had a spear mark in their side. And yet, specifically Jesus had!
This is what we are told by John about the resurrected Jesus, he doesn’t refer to nail marks in his hands and feet but nail marks in his hands and spear mark in his side!
Look at this picture of Carivaggio ‘The Incredulity of Thomas’ – it’s powerful, and notice the eyes of Jesus towards Thomas – no condemnation there!
What then are we to make of Thomas’ doubt? He was in two minds but he quickly even without touching or seeing the evidence declares Jesus as my Lord and My God. Something that the Jews considered blasphemous to say of a human – but Thomas has no qualms of saying it of Jesus.
To get a grip on Thomas’ doubt you need to see the two other times Thomas is mentioned in John’s Gospel to see his Character
In John 11 :16 When Jesus upon hearing of Lazarus’ decides to go to Judea – the place which by then had become highly dangerous to Jesus, Thomas asserts – lets go also that we may die with him – this is a statement of devotion not of pessimism.
Then in John 14 Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father's house and that they already know the way. "Thomas says to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.'" This isn’t the objector but the eager enquirer, always wanting to understand, the questioner.
He’s not just a thoughtless pessimist
He’s not some hard nosed skeptic.
He is one who is a close friend of Jesus who would do anything for him and has been shattered by Jesus’ death. “So don’t you guys just lead me on”!
But though he has his doubts, they are resolved on seeing Jesus miraculously appear and say to him his very words spoken to the other disciples.
There’s no indication he actually needed to see or touch the wounds.
Instead Jesus challenges him to believe,
Here understand that Jesus didn’t tell him to stop doubting and believe as though doubt is the opposite of belief.
No Jesus said “be not unbelieving but believing”.
That is move from your doubt to belief, not unbelief!
Jesus challenges Thomas to move on from his Doubt.
Now at this point let’s understand very clearly we are not saying that people can intellectually work their way to God based on evidence.
God must work in a persons heart – we are saved by Grace, it’s God’s work, but that isn’t to say God doesn’t use evidence so that the Holy Spirit then convicts the person of the truth.
God has made us in his image, rational thinking people, and God the Holy Spirit uses that to convict us of the truth and bring us to repentance.
So we do not denigrate a persons sincere doubts, but when given reasons or presented with evidence we must reach a point of challenging them to move on and make the right decision. Just as Jesus did with Thomas.
And this leads me to the last point this morning about John’s account of Thomas and Jesus.
Thomas met the resurrected Lord Jesus face to face. He saw and if he had wanted to could have touched the physically resurrected Jesus.
So what about us?
What do we say to those who say things like “Well I’d believe if God came and stood right in front of me”
Two things crucial thing have to be kept at the forefront of our thinking at this point.
Are they sincere doubts?
                        Are the real Questions?
                                    Or are they unwilling to deal with the evidence they are given?
            After all we are told in Luke 16:19-31 that the rich man wanted a resurrected beggar to go back from the dead and warn his family to repent and believe and Abraham says “even if one should rise from the dead they won’t believe
Because we have hardened hearts that need breaking and convicting by the Holy Spirit.
But also and it is the same thought raise in the passage about the rich man and the beggar that occurs here in verses 30 - 31 that they have the Scriptures – that is enough.
The Scriptures are sufficient evidence.
John tell us the same thing in verse 30-31 blessed are those who do not see but believe
The blessedness it is speaking if here isn’t mere happiness, that is depending on happenstance or circumstance but rather it is about being accepted by God.
You can be right with God – and that is by right belief – based on believing the truth about Jesus as Lord and God – a belief that has left doubts about that behind and affirmed that Jesus is Lord and God, convicted by the Holy Spirit who uses the sufficient evidence of Scripture.
And today, that passage in John speaking of Thomas along with his doubts,
 concern the sign,
the ultimate sign of the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.
And the point is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, 
            - it isn’t a matter of merely believing that as verse 31 tells us,
                        after all, Satan and demons know Jesus is the Christ, the son of God,
            but the point John reminds us that “by believing you may have life in his name”!
The fact it is all about life in its fullness, life in Jesus’ name not merely existing should motivate us to take all this very seriously.
{{ So we are encouraged here by the encounter of Jesus with Thomas, it’s not wrong or bad to have doubts, but when presented with the evidence a decision has to be made.
And with unbelievers, if their questions and doubts are sincere and not just excuses, then it is right we present the evidence, but never feel embarrassed about Scripture it is sufficient for God to use to convict them of the truth and to present life to them. }}
Finally let me end with a quote from Os Guiness: he tells us
‘Oswald Chambers, a Scottish minister in the late 19th and early 20th century, once said, "Doubt is not always a sign that a person is wrong. It may be a sign that they are thinking." But doubt isn’t a good place to settle down. You can’t always be doubting. Eventually you have to come to a decision whether something is true, or not. That’s what happened with Thomas.’
We do well to remind our friends, Christians and unbelievers alike of that. And understand that when it comes to the Christian faith, the Scriptures are Sufficient.

Let’s pray