Why it’s Good That God is Jealous

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God. Exodus 20: 4– 5

I read these lines this morning in Joe Thorn’s Little book, Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. I was encouraged and hope you are too.

Jealousy is a word that evokes pictures of a controlling, oppressive husband who doesn’t trust his spouse and denies her freedom. But the jealousy of God for his people doesn’t stem from a lack of trust in his people . It comes from his desire to have an intimate and exclusive relationship with them. He calls them to maintain the fellowship they have with him above everything else. To say that God is jealous for you is to say that he loves you, desires you, and does not want to share you with other gods. His jealousy protects you from the false gods of the world that seek to use and exploit you. His jealousy is your good. Yes, his jealous love for you calls you to faithfulness. Does this limit your freedom? In some ways, of course it does. But why would you want to be free to dishonor the Lord? Where is the joy in finding temporal pleasure in idols that do not love you, cannot care for you, and will always hurt you? Here is what is beautiful in God’s jealousy: His love for you is fervent. His fidelity to you is unbreakable. And by his jealous love he swears to defend you and keep you. The jealousy of God for you should lift your countenance, not cast it down. You should feel safe, treasured, and compelled by his love to stay close to him. And though you fail him, he will not fail you. His love, unlike your own, is immovable.

(Kindle Locations 428-440).


Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

A Commentary on Exodus (Kregal Exegetical Library)
Duane A. Garrett9780825425516

This commentary by Duane Garrett is theologically conservative and is another excellent additional to Kregal’s lineup. Besides it’s high view of scripture, there are several other aspects about this commentary I greatly appreciated.

  • The Theological Summary of Key Points at the end of each passage section.
  • The way he broke down the structure of each section along with his translation. For me, getting the big picture before diving into the details of the text is very important. This commentary accomplishes this very well.
  • The 145 page introductory background information was very helpful and detailed.
  • As other reviewers have pointed out, he helpful directs readers to the poetic sections of the book and explains them very clearly.

I had just a few minor quibbles with the commentary. I felt he tried to look for natural causes surrounding the ten plagues rather than seek to attribute them miraculous workings of an omnipotent God (even though the section is titled The Twelve Miracles of the Exodus).

I would have also like to see him deal with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but could not find it discussed at any length in the book.

A commentary’s layout is also very important to me and book is laid out very well. His outline of each chapter, the room in the margin for notes, and the use of footnotes (as opposed to endnotes) are small considerations that are important to me as I read along.

This is a fantastic commentary on Exodus. Scholarly but very readable. Detailed but not daunting.

Note: This book was provided free to me in exchange for an unbiased review.


Longing for Heaven

There was a day when people thought about heaven without having to be on their death bed. Maybe we’re too busy with what’s in front of our faces — mortgage payments, dirty diapers, car repairs, soccer practice, hunting trips — that we can’t justify thinking beyond this world.

Perhaps we’ve been jaded by the “been to heaven and back” genre linking bookshelves that we’ve stayed away from meditating on eternity all together.

Maybe we’ve bought into the silly fear of becoming too heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good (because, of course, it’s only when we are heavenly minded that we can be of any earthly good).

Whatever the reason for our inattention to the doctrines of glorification and restoration, we would be greatly helped by turning our minds to the heavenlies, meditating on the home which awaits us there. Rather than thoughts of fear and anxiety, knowing that our life on earth will one day end should fill us with hope and joy and longing.

Listen to the words of the Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter:

Oh! if we did but truly believe that the promise of this glory is the word of God, and that God does truly mean as he speaks, and is fully resolved to make it good; if we did truly believe that there is, indeed, such blessedness prepared for believers as the Scripture mentions, surely we should be as impatient of living as we are now fearful of dying, and should think every day a year till our last day should come.… If a man that is desperately sick today did believe he should arise sound the next morning; or a man today, in despicable poverty, had assurance that he should tomorrow arise a prince; would they be afraid to go to bed, or rather think it the longest day of their lives, till that desired night and morning came?

May we live with a holy impatience for that day!


A Few Thoughts on Bible Reading Plans

As the new year edges nearer, many believers begin to toy with the thought of trying to read through the Bible during the course of the upcoming year. For some, this is an annual pilgrimage from which they’ve derived much blessing. For others, they’re determined to get serious and actually make it past Leviticus this year.

I’ll just share a few of my thoughts on reading through the Bible in a year.

1. You don’t have to do it. Some people feel like they’re somehow less spiritual if they’ve never made it through. Conversely, some of those who have, feel like they’ve attained some level of a kind of Christian Nirvana. Both perspectives are wrong. God doesn’t say that you have to do it. Don’t put unnecessary bondage on yourself.

2. Come up with some system of regular scripture reading and stick to it. Not having a plan is a plan but it’s not a good plan. If you get off track from your plan then get back on. It could be reading a synopsis of the Gospels as many times as possible or reading through Proverbs every month for a year. Maybe your favorite devotional has a daily scripture reading to go with it. Study a book of the Bible while reading a commentary along with it (Dale Ralph Davies’ commentaries are great for this). The point is: read God’s Word and read it consistently. (Then don’t forget to apply it).

I know, to some a plan sounds like legalism and legalism is bad. But it’s not legalism. It’s discipline and discipline is good. If you find yourself becoming legalistic about your Bible reading plan then repent and move forward.

That said, I have personally found reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation beneficial and here are a few of the reasons why:

1. It helps me see the flow and unity of the whole Bible. Rather than biting off disjointed stories from here and there, I can more clearly see the big story of scripture and it’s main character: Jesus Christ. It’s the same reason I believe preaching expositionally through books of the Bible is so important.

2. It keeps me from gravitating to my “favorite” texts and from avoiding those that might make me a bit uncomfortable or (dare I say it) convicted.

3. It helps keep the Bible at the center of my reading world. I love books and I love to read them. Reading through the Bible helps me remember to keep the most important Book my number one priority.

Ok, so if you decide to take the plunge but don’t think you can wait until the fall before you get to the New Testament, know that there are a lot of options available to you. Tim Challies just posted a helpful summary of what’s out there. There’s more than you think:

Here is a round-up of some of the ways you can read the Bible in 2015.

Ligonier Reading Plans. Ligonier offers what is probably the best and most thorough round-up of reading plans. They have plans that will take you through the Bible in a year, plans that will take you through the Bible in a few years, and plans that you can do at your own pace. Some of the plans involve only reading the Bible while others offer daily devotionals. There is something for everyone here.

ESV Bible Plans – The ESV site offers 12 different plans that are available in a variety of formats. You can also subscribe to their podcast which will allow you to listen to the Bible; if you do that you will go once through the Old Testament each year, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms.

Logos. The Logos software has Bible-reading plans built right into it, but you will need to use the Logos software to access them.

Bible.com – Bible.com, which offers the amazing Bible app, has a long list of plans to choose from. You will need to use the site or app to access them.

INTERESTING PLANS

Here are a few plans that look particularly interesting or different.

Professor Horner’s System – Professor Horner’s System is intense—10 chapters per day. You’ll read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day, which means you’ll always be reading different combinations. It’s a great system but takes a lot of commitment.

A Bible Plan for Readers – Peter Krol’s plan begins with reading through the entire Bible as quickly as you can, then slowing the pace a little bit.

The Change Your Mind Plan – This plan is very simple: “1. Choose a book of the Bible. 2. Read it in its entirety. 3. Repeat step #2 twenty times. 4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.”

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. This plan structures Scripture readings around Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Through the year you will read both the Book and the book about the Book.

Denny Burk’s Plan. Denny Burk’s plan goes through the Bible in a year in canonical order, one book at a time. There are a handfull of “catchup” days thrown in in case you get behind. (Denny also offers a Greek New Testament plan.)

May God bless your study of his word in 2015!


And in This Corner…

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32, ESV)

Life can be brutal. Sometimes we feel like we’re on the losing end of a boxing glove, getting beaten and battered by the punches of life. In those moments, it can be easy to grow despondent and believe that God’s love has somehow forgotten how to find its way into your life.

But the above verses remind us that God never forgets us and it always in our corner, no matter how we perceive our circumstances. For the Christian there couldn’t be better news in all the world. God is decidedly for us. He’s is on your side. He’s got our back. There is no good thing that he will withhold from you today. The logic is plain and simple: if God did not spare his most prized possession — his precious Son — what would blessing or gift would he possibly hold back from you now!

In his commentary on this passage, John Calvin wrote, “This is the chief and therefore the only support to sustain us in every temptation. If God is not propitious to us, no sure confidence can be conceived, even though everything should smile upon us. On the other hand, however, his favor alone is a sufficiently great consolation for every sorrow, and a sufficiently strong protection against all the storms of misfortune.”

God’s love for you is as sure and steadfast as his Word. No matter how intense the battle, never forget that you can count on God’s steadfast love and the finished work of Jesus Christ to bind you tightly to your Heavenly Father.


Holding the Sea in a Spoon

As we continue to study the attributes of God at our church, I am reminded over and over again that God is just way beyond comprehension. The deeper we dive, the deeper the ocean becomes. The more we learn about him, the more glimpses we catch of the great expansiveness that is our God.

Richard Baxter said it well:

From this greatness and immensity of God also your soul must reverently stay all its busy, bold inquiries, and know that God is to us, and to every creature, incomprehensible. If you could fathom or measure him, and know his greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he were not God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. You may know God, but not comprehend him; as your foot treads on the earth, but does not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon.

Like holding the sea in a spoon. Yep, that’s about right.

And the Apostle Paul said it even better:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)

Glory to God!


The Attributes of God: Holiness

We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire his wisdom, but his holiness he cannot even imagine. – A.W. Tozer

We have begun studying the attributes of God on Sunday morning at Brown Corners Church and this week we will look together at the holiness of God. Tozer rightly states that we cannot conceptualize the best person we know and simply think of God as better still. There is no one like our God, infinitely pure and completely separate from all sin.

When men in the Bible like Isaiah, John or Daniel caught just a glimpse of the radiating glory of God’s holiness, they completely unravelled. This vision of God is almost completely absent from our lives as 21st century Christians. We love to know that we can call God “Abba” and sing about him being our friend. We feel much more comfortable speaking of God’s love, goodness and grace. But such truths become all that more amazing when set against the backdrop of his transcendent holiness.

We would do well to meditate on the “God of Mt. Sinai” and tremble before his majesty. It is only in understanding those aspects of his character that we can truly appreciate the grace of God in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.