Posts Tagged Creation

Give Us the Word This Christmas

The Word of the LORD in Jeremiah 

While studying and teaching the book of the prophet Jeremiah early this year in the student ministry, I discovered a little volume entitled A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah by Andrew G. Shead. It was quite the read. Shead set out to examine every instance in the book in which a reference to the “word of God” was made, and then he proposed  a theology for the word of God in Jeremiah and to some extent compared this a theology for the word of God in the whole of the biblical narrative. In Jeremiah, the word of God is a, if not the, primary theme. Just consider here the frequency of use demonstrated in the following chart:

דְבַריְהוָהַ or “Word of the LORD” in the Prophets

 

Total Hits

Hits per 1000 Words

Isaiah

12

0.47

Jeremiah

63

1.89

Ezekiel

57

1.89

Daniel

1

0.10

Hosea

3

0.83

Joel

1

0.69

Amos

3

0.99

Obadiah

0

0.00

Jonah

3

2.77

Micah

2

0.94

Nahum-Habakkuk

0

0.00

Zephaniah

2

1.76

Haggai

5

5.42

Zechariah

13

2.68

Malachi

1

0.76

The chart demonstrates that the “word of the LORD” construction makes frequent appearances in the writings of the OT prophets (there are also other phrases that could be examined, but were not included here for the sake of brevity). The top five frequencies are found in Haggai, Jonah, Zechariah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and lastly Zephaniah. It would be interesting to do theology of the “word of the LORD” for each of the prophets in order to discover the similarities and unique traits throughout the prophets. Daniel’s one use of the construction is interesting to this study as it refers to “the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet” (Daniel 9:2).

To summarize Shead—and hopefully do justice to his good exegetical work—the phrase “word of the LORD” is specifically the message of God, which is found in the words of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1; 26:20; 36:10; 51:64). The “words of Jeremiah” are also “the words of God” (1:9; 15:16); however, when the singular is used in the phrase “word of the LORD,” a specific message with a powerful purpose is indicated. At times in the prophet’s writing, it is as if the “word of the LORD” becomes a person and accomplishes his purpose. It is not too much to say that the “word of the LORD” is the main character of the book of Jeremiah.

The prophet “consumes” the words of God (15:16), and they become to him his delight and joy. The words of God, which contain the message of God, sustain Jeremiah in his lonely, lonely work as the prophet to whom no one would listen. It sustains him so deeply that he could say, “I have not run away from being your shepherd, not have I desired the day of sickness. You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face” (Jeremiah 17:16). Isn’t it true? Judgment was coming upon the people of Judah; they would not listen. Jeremiah had the message of God; yet, he was alone in listening to it. Although he wept at the hard-heartedness of his own people, the word of God sustained him. The message of God became the anchor of his soul, his delight, his joy. Further, although true listeners, like his friend Baruch, were few and far between, he had to proclaim the message. In Jeremiah 20:9, he says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” He could not suppress or stuff the message of God deep inside so that it never came out of his mouth; he says it was like a fire, burning him up from the inside—he had to open his mouth so that the “flames” could exit and fulfill the purpose of the message of God.

It is to this I would like to turn our attention—the purpose of the message of God in the book of Jeremiah. I find this very powerful, and again, I credit Shead for setting me on the path to discover this insight. Remember that I said earlier, it is as if the “word of the LORD” is a person, the main character, in the book of Jeremiah. I may say further that it is a warrior, sword in hand, to either tear down what needs to be destroyed and/or to build up what must be sustained or rebuilt. The “word of the LORD” is fierce and entirely sovereign in its ability to accomplish this destruction or construction. No one could stop it. No one could prevent it. We are informed of this purpose very early in the book, at the calling of Jeremiah, “Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant’” (Jeremiah 1:9–10; cf. 31:28 ESV). The prophet Jeremiah would speak the words of God to the people of Judah, from the greatest to the least, and through these words the message of God would destroy and/or strengthen.

The Word of the LORD beyond Jeremiah

Now, let us take what we have learned about the “word of the LORD” or the message of God from the prophet Jeremiah, and consider the rest of Scripture. For example, think about the creation of the world. Do you remember how it was that God created the world?

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.  And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.  And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.  And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 1:3–2:3 ESV).

God created all things by the power of his word. His word “built up” the creation. Perhaps there are some differences between the theology of the word here in Genesis and what we observed in Jeremiah; however, I think it is a mistake to miss the similarity that where the words of God are found, the message of either destruction or construction is also found. Consider the sheer power of the word of God. His word has the power to brings new things into existence, to give life. In light of this, consider the potential power of the word of God in your life. Are you submitting yourself to the destroying and constructing power of the message of God? To the preaching, to the study, to the reading, to the internalizing of the word of the LORD? Surely, we all have things in our lives that need to be destroyed by the message of God. Surely, we all have things that need to be built or strengthened in our lives.

The Word of the LORD Incarnate

Now, Christmas is fast approaching. It is the time of year during which we often think afresh about the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. May I suggest to you that at the incarnation the “word of the LORD” truly and actually becomes a person? Consider the words of the apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1–5 ESV). And again, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:9–14 ESV). The same word that spoke the creation into existence, from which came all of life, and the same word that speaks to the people of God throughout the history in order to tear down and to build up, this same word has now become a person. John writing later in his first epistle teach us that, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). He came to destroy sin and death, and he accomplished this through his cross. He also came to build. He is building his church, and as the Creator and now Savior, he builds new life through his resurrection, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Ironically, the personified Word, Jesus Christ, who came to destroy and to build up would accomplish these ministries of the “word of the LORD” by he himself being destroyed and built up, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up . . . But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:19, 21–22).

Father, Give Us the Word This Christmas

Dear Christian—are you believing the “word that Jesus had spoken”? Dear sinner—have you submitted yourself to the destroying and building power of the message of God in the holy Scriptures and in the person of Jesus Christ? Are you in the word and in the Word? Everyday, we must allow the message of God in the gospel to be preached to us that our hard heartedness may be destroyed and that new life and obedience may be strengthened and built up. This word is the most powerful thing there is; we must subject ourselves to it. I pray that this Christmas season would be a reminder to you of the great lengths to which God has gone in his love and glory to engage the world with the power of his word.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

More Light on the Path: Reflection on Genesis 1:2

Today, after meeting with a dear friend from my days at Dallas Theological Seminary, I picked up a copy of More Light on the Path: Daily Scripture Readings in Hebrew and Greek by David W. Baker & Elaine A. Heath with Morven Baker. Obviously, I am only one page beyond the introduction, but I think I am going to enjoy this book! Each daily reading begins with a title, a prayer, and a short passage from both the Hebrew Scriptures (OT) and the Greek Scriptures (NT).

Today’s reading was from Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-2. As I was stumbling over the Hebrew text, I saw something to which I have not given attention in the past. In Genesis 1:2, there seems to be a parallelism between these two statements:

And darkness [was] over the face of the deep,

And Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters [translation mine].

In the past, I have always heard and mostly assumed that the “darkness” was a sort of evil presence. Now, I know that “the deep” and “the waters [of the sea]” can at times communicate the concept of an eerie evil lurking below beyond human vision. However, I am now not certain that “darkness” in Genesis 1:2 is a reference to evil. Rather, just the opposite, I think it may be a reference to the divine presence of the Spirit of God.

There are other places in Scripture where this particular Hebrew term for “darkness” is found to surround the presence of God. For example, HALOT references Deuteronomy 5:23 and 2 Samuel 22:12. The Deuteronomy passage reads,

And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders [ESV].

2 Samuel 22:12 reads,

He made darkness around him his canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water [ESV].

Now, HALOT specifically places the Genesis 1:2 in the category of “cosmic darkness” along with the use of the term in places like Genesis 1:4, 18; Psalm 104:20; and 139:11. However, if there is indeed a parallel connection between “the deep” and “the waters,” may there also be a connection between “darkness” and “Holy Spirit”?

The term was employed in Deuteronomy when Moses reviews the contents and giving of the Decalogue. Israel is called to remember the glorious and great presence of God that consumed the mountain. Out of the darkness (5:23), the voice of God came and delivered the law. In 2 Samuel, the term is again employed, but this time in a song of David “on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 22:1). In verses 2-4, David proclaims the strength of the deliverance of God. Then, he goes on to describe the terrible calamity in which he found himself (vv. 5-6). It was as if he drowning in the sea because death was tugging him under. Death seemed inevitable. But then, David cries out to the Lord out of his distress, and the LORD hears David from his temple (v. 7)! Now, verses 8-16 paint a majestic, jaw-dropping, glory-shot of the descent of the LORD to deliver David from death. It is in the midst of this description of the LORD that the term for “darkness” is used in 22:12. The sight, the sound, the feel, the internal stripping away to bareness that the Lord’s presence causes upon the whole of creation is overwhelming. He will deliver David, and David’s enemies will cower in the presence of his God. It is an amazing scene.

Thus, let’s return to Genesis 1:2, and consider afresh “the darkness [that was] over the face of the deep.” Could it be that we have here a reference to great and glorious presence of God who will subdue the deep by the power of his word and the majesty of his presence? The idea of the “dark” presence of the Lord should create within us a reverence for his transcendence, a proper fear for his immense power, and an embrace of the power of his word.

May God be blessed today.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Luke’s Adam

I am about to dive into some interesting materials that have surfaced over the last couple of years regarding our understanding of creation and in particular our understanding of human origins and the historicity of Adam – the first man.

Peter Enns’ recent publication, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, is well circulated now and continuing to make waves. To Enns’ credit, he is forcing Christians to talk about tensions that have existed in the Church since Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of the Species. I have not yet read the book, so my comments will be minimal here in regard to critique. If you are interested in an audio/visual resource that will introduce you to some of Enns’ ideas, check out this video:

Westmont College — Erasmus Lecture — Peter Enns, Feb. 9, 2011

Enns’ proposal of Adam as the origin of Israel (as opposed to the origin of humanity) can certainly be biblically and theologically hypothesized; however, his position forces a complete overhaul of the Church’s historical doctrines of original sin, the image of God in humanity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and even forces a fresh look at the meaning of the atonement. Further, I have heard said (or read it said) more than once that we learn a lot about the end from the beginning; therefore, our eschatology may even need to be reevaluated in light of Enns’ proposals.

I also plan to investigate the articles that have been gathered and published in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture, which is edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Lastly, I want to watch a film that was recently released entitled From the Dust: Conversations in Creation.

Of course, I want to also study the Scriptures as I try to wrap my finite mind around what God is doing with what he has said in his general and specific revelation to us.  My first stop is indicated by the title of this blog – Luke’s Adam. In his book, Enns spends most of his time discussing Paul’s Adam. He briefly comments on Luke 3:38 in the above lecture as well as in an endnote (#10) on page 150 of his book,

After Gen. 5:3, Adam us mentioned by name elsewhere in the Old Testament only as the first name in the genealogy in 1 Chron. 1:1 (see discussion in chap. 5). In the New Testament, Adam appears in two genealogies (Luke 3:38 and Jude 14), which will not be considered here, since our New Testament focus is Paul, and the issues raised by these genealogies add little to the conversation. Only Paul deals with Adam in detail, specifically in Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:20-58 . . . The importance that Paul places on Adam relative to the apparent lack of emphasis elsewhere, especially in the Old Testament, seems a matter worth considering seriously, which we will do in part 2.

In one sense, Enns may be right. Luke’s mention of Adam or “the one man” may not contribute anything new to Paul’s articulation of Adam. However, I think Luke may have something to add to the conversation. As Enns mentions above, Luke 3:38 includes Adam as the starting point for the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It could be – as Enns highlights in the above video – that those mentioned from Adam to Abraham make up a consistent, Old Testament, theological genealogy for the nation of Israel. However, it could be that Luke is demonstrating that all people – both Jews and Gentiles – have a common ancestral origin. Therefore, Adam through Abraham is not merely the theological genealogy of Israel, but for the whole of humanity. This seems more consistent with Luke, who is extremely interested in all of humanity seeing the salvation of the Lord in Jesus Christ.

This particular notion is also expressed in Acts 17:26-27 where Luke has recorded Paul’s sermon at/to the Areopagus in Athens. Luke writes,

From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul as recorded by Luke here is much more physical and earthy in his description of the first man than Paul’s more spiritual expression in Romans 5:12. Neither Paul nor Luke’s focus here is to paint Adam as a metaphorical expression of the origin of the nation of Israel. The first man Acts 17:26-27 is the origin of all humans and every nation. The passage is so physically focused that we learn of God’s sovereign exertion something as earthy as divinely sanctioned territorial boundaries.

Thus, I think Luke’s record of Paul’s preaching in Athens needs some consideration in the discussion. I think all of us want to be better equipped to synthesize what we see in the general revelation of the creation and in the written revelation of the Scripture. So, my prayer is that we may proceed carefully,honestly, and humbly as the Church of God into our inquiries for the truth.

In Christ,

Rex

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Find the Aim of the Spirit of God in Your Prayer Life As You Journey in God’s Story

Introduction: Praying in Light of God’s Story

For me, it only seems fitting to consider prayer—the topic for this month’s Scocaster—in light of God’s story. I am thoroughly enjoying walking with my fellow Scofieldians through the drama of God’s redemption from The Creation to The Fall on to The Rescue and culminating in The Restoration. Not only does The Story serve to orient our unbelieving generation to the biblical meta-narrative and its message of redemption, but also I am discovering that The Story helps me—the Christian—to better understand the whole of God’s revelation to us in the Bible.

If it is true—that God’s story moves with purpose from Creation to Restoration—how then are we to interpret our Christian experience in light of this drama that God is unveiling? Specifically, how do we think about prayer in light of God’s story and our role in it? How do these certain elements of God’s story (i.e., the movement from Creation to Restoration with Jesus’ work at the center) affect our practice of prayer? How does it inform our adoration of God in prayer? How does it inform our confession and repentance before God in prayer? How may it inform our requests which we bring before the God of the biblical meta-narrative? It is my hope that this article may serve as a starting place for the Christian to begin to consider how God’s story shapes our prayer life.

The Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 8:18–30

In one paragraph, the apostle Paul spans the whole of the redemptive drama of the Triune God. He like an artist presenting a masterpiece that causes you to clutch your chest because of the painful description of reality as we know it and at the very same time because of the grandeur of the unseen hope. The creation groans as if it is ready to give birth. It now exists in a state of great pain and agony. However, the lament of the creation will soon give way to glory and new life. We ourselves—the redeemed—groan too. We have in our possession the first fruits of the restoration—namely, the Holy Spirit. We can taste—even now—the goodness of God that is to come as he brings his story to culmination. Yet, the first fruits are not the fullness; a taste is not a full meal; when in labor, new life has still yet to completely break forth. So, how then are we to live as the people of God as we await the finale of God’s story? While many other texts of Scripture speak to this matter, this text in Romans instructs the Christian Church in two ways: (1) eagerly await the unseen hope—the restoration of all creation, and  (2) find the aim of the Spirit in your prayer life.  This article focuses primarily on the latter of these two imperatives.

 Find the Aim of the Spirit in Your Prayer Life

Does Your Aim in Prayer Match the Spirit's?

Does Your Aim in Prayer Match the Spirit's?

As we wait, we are to be people of prayer. I don’t know about you, but it is a bit intimidating to me to enter into prayer before the God of the redemptive story on behalf of the world, the Church, my friends and family, and even myself. It is intimidating to me to come before him hoping that I have a proper mind and heart with regard to worshiping the great Trinity and with regard to confessing my personal sin in light of who God is and in light of all that God has done.

How can I possibly do justice to your greatness, O God, and your grand story when I bow before you in prayer?!

I think Romans 8:26–30 is an incredibly insightful and kind revelation to us from God when it comes to prayer. Here’s why:

  • It affirms the weakness and inadequacy that we feel in prayer as we await the completion of God’s story (8:26a). There is no room for pride or arrogance in prayer. Don’t bring your degrees and your achievements. God knows. You don’t know how to pray as you ought to pray. He knows that you are weak. He knows that your comprehension of him and his great plan is inadequate—both as it relates to your personal life and as it relates to the cosmos. Find humility in your weakness. Find your strength in God, which leads to the next point.
  • It affirms the adequacy and the good aim of the Spirit of God whose intercession we experience in prayer as we wait for the completion of God’s story (8:26b–30). The Spirit of God is present with the people of God when we pray. The Spirit of God understands the lament of the creation and the lament of the redeemed as we await the finale of God’s story. It is God who searches the heart in prayer, and if we were left to ourselves in light of such searching, this may be a terrifying thought. However, the Spirit of God intercedes for the saints, and God knows the mind of the Spirit. For the mind of the Triune God is the same—they share the desire to accomplish the will of God. This aim of the Spirit’s intercession, which is also the will of the Triune God, is disclosed in 8:28–30. We quote this passage frequently, oftentimes with the security of salvation in mind rather than the direct context of the intercession of the Spirit. In sum, God is completing his good salvation among his people until it is finished; they are glorified; and they are found fully conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ! This is the aim of the intercession of the Spirit of God—the completion of our salvation.

Prayer As a Place Where God’s Story Is Sanctified in Our Hearts

In conclusion, I want to propose to you that prayer is a place for us to experience the work of sanctification. This sanctification looks like this: (1) When we come to adore the Triune God in prayer, the Spirit is interceding so that we may properly worship him as God the Creator, as God the Redeemer, and as God the Restorer. Only the God of the Bible possesses such grand titles. Further, the persons of the Trinity are praised because of their distinct participation in the redemptive story as they share the common will of God to make all things new. (2) When we come to confess our sins before the Triune God, the Spirit is there, interceding for us so that we see our sin in light of the story of God and the centrality of God to his story. We confess our idolatrous tendencies to the Creator; we confess the corrupt reasoning that led Adam and Eve to take and eat—namely, that we know what’s best; we confess our ungratefulness toward the Redeemer; we confess our resistance to the Spirit of God who is seeking to complete redemption in us personally, in the Church, and in the world. (3) When we come to make our requests known to the triune God, the Spirit intercedes for us. This is perhaps the main thrust of the text for the term used in 8:26 that is translated “to pray” conveys the idea of petition toward God. Let me ask you, “For what are you petitioning God?” Are your requests in line with the aim of the Spirit; that is, do you make your requests in light of the completion of redemption? In light of the movement of God’s story from Creation to Restoration?

The God to whom we pray has a will, an aim. He aims to make all things new. His Spirit is with the Christian in prayer to intercede and assist him or her with this aim in mind. What is at the center of your prayer life? Is it you? Is it your convenience? Is it a grocery list of things that you think will make your life better and more convenient? Or is the story of God at the center of your prayer life? I assure you that this is indeed the aim of the Spirit.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment