All of the Bible tells one story – God’s Big Story of who He is, His creation, our sinful rebellion against His Lordship, and His tremendous love in pursuing us to be reconciled. It also points to a future hope – all of us know that this life with its cancer, personal conflicts, school closings, and endless winter is not all there is. Eternity is the destiny that awaits us all, but which one?
The central focus in God’s Big Story is Jesus. The Old Testament points to His coming, the New Testament is the account of His ministry, life, death, and resurrection, the birth of the church after he returns to the Father, and the hope of His future coming again to restore His creation to the purity that sin has defiled.
We see clearly in some passages a direct link from the OT to the NT. A very clear one is Deuteronomy 18:15
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV)
Fast forward to the NT. People saw Jesus and knew that he was the foretold a Prophet, the Messiah…
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45 ESV)
Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. (Acts 3:22 ESV)
Jesus actually existed, that is a fact. He was extraordinary – we see what he did in the gospels, we have extra biblical history that verifies His miraculous ministry. He is so much more than just a good teacher, or example. He is God in the flesh, the Messiah prophesied about hundreds of years earlier. He is The Prophet to whom we shall listen. Are we listening?
Here is what He is saying -
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…(Acts 3:19-20 ESV)
Have you worshiped a carved image lately? Yeah. Me neither. When we think about idolatry we sometimes can go to one of two extremes – one way is to think that it doesn’t relate to us at all, because let’s face it I’m not going to bow down and prostrate myself before a piece of wood. The other way is to make everything an idol and go on an extended morbid introspective idol hunt. Perhaps we classify things as idols that aren’t really idols and all the while our idol hunt draws us farther into us, instead of leading us out of ourselves towards the one true God.
In Deuteronomy 4 we see Moses big introduction to his summary of the law given previously. In 4:15-31 he cautions them specifically about idols. Telling them to “watch yourselves very carefully.” (v15) But what does Moses say an idol is? 4:19 provides a pretty good definition.
“And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19 ESV)
Three things we note about an idol here:
- Idols draw us away. What is pulling at our spirits today to give more to them? As time, energy, emotions are all limited, if something is pulling at us to give more it usually requires that we give less of something else. Husbands fall victim to this sometimes in the “I am the provider” perspective. Yes, we are to provide for our families, but at what cost to our families? There are countless other examples.
- Idols require service. We can short-circuit our understanding here is we simply think we have to bow down to worship something. Worship = heart felt service. What or whom are we serving? A great example here is other people’s opinions. To keep ourselves high up on someone else’s scale takes a lot of work! Did I say the right thing? Wear the right thing? What will the other person think of me now? We are serving the fear of man.
- Idols are common to everyone. Our verse says that Israel is to watch themselves carefully to not be drawn away and serve the things that “God has allotted to all the peoples under heaven.” These can be good things. Work is a good thing. Positive relationships with others are good things. But those things are not supposed to terminate on themselves, they are supposed to lead us to worship the giver of those things – God himself!
So idol worship is far more commonplace than we may have imagined. What is the hope? How do we grow and change? Moses tells us! It’s to give ourselves totally to the only one worthy of worship. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV).
God is near, he is not far. And even though we all deserve wrath and judgment he offers us mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. We receive this by repentance (turning from false worship) and faith (trusting in Jesus with every bit of our lives.). A wise pastor once noted “We worship our way into sin, and we will worship our way out of sin.” We kill idol worship by worshiping the true God.
What is drawing us away today? Asking for more service?
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If a criminal was 100% guilty, a just judge would never simply let him walk away unpunished – that wouldn’t be right, would it? Likewise, God wouldn’t be a just God if He merely turned a blind eye to the rebellion of his treasured creation (us) against Him.
But what about mercy?
James Hamilton writes “Without justice, mercy has no meaning.” Indeed, if we are not aware of what we have been spared from, what is the significance?
Scripture speaks often of God’s justice and mercy together:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV)
God’s mercy is good, but so is His justice.
Hamilton continues – “Justice is God keeping His word and displaying His righteous character. Mercy is God’s is God’s freely pardoning and blessing those who deserve justice. Justice reveals who God is and accentuates the gratuitous splendor of His mercy. ”
Amen! The ultimate way He shows His mercy and Justice is His Son, Jesus. On the cross God both punished sin, and provides the way of mercy. Let us then run to Jesus for healing and restoration, and to be connected back into the glorious purpose we were created for.
from Knowledge of the Holy (Tozer) this morning –
What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us – the man who comes to a right understanding (Biblical) of God is relived of ten thousand temporal problems…but the one who does not…
The one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down on him with a weight more crushing that all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man’s laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too heavy to bear.
The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes and the garment of praise of the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God hight and lifted up, there will be woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.
As I sit here in the Montego Bay airport with my 17 other team members (and a 4 hr flight delay), it is cause for reflection.
This week was good in so many ways. Let’s look at a few.
First off, the team was good – these are some great kids we went with. Seriously, everyone worked hard, played hard, laughed even harder, and there was no drama to be seen or heard! Let’s not forget the conditions definitely were not ideal, so that is extraordinary. I am so proud of them. This was such a great representation of our a God – in the unity of our team.
Second, Jamaica is a good and beautiful place. Amazing water, crazy lush forests, and even mountains. Pray for rain though, they are in the middle of a major drought. The people are beautiful here too. One thing, among many, that struck me was sometimes you will here a Jamaican say “Respect, mon.” Quite simply, they are telling you they respect you. Coming out of the church one afternoon after work, a man on the sidewalk looked at me and said that. It was touching that he saw us helping the church and he respected that. Pray for him and others we met that they might come to faith in Jesus.
Third, it was good that we helped another church. We saw lives that had been changed by the work of God thru Anotto Gospel Chapel. When we build up the local church, the work can continue stronger when we leave. Pray for Pastor Thomas, Sister Velda, the Elders and people of the church.
Finally however, as good as Jamaica is, it is broken in many ways with much suffering and poverty. Pray for relief and healing. I’m reminded, as in Haiti, that physical needs do need to be taken care of. People need food, clothing, and shelter- but more than that, they need spiritual healing from sin and that can only come thru the cross. Pray that the gospel continues to make inroads and many come to faith.
Team Jamaica is doing well! As I write this I hear the sounds of the song “Let It Go” being sung (screamed?) at dangerous levels and the chaos one would expect from a game of “spoons”. We truly have a great group of kids with us!
We are staying at a mission house of the local church we are working at. We are sleeping several to a room in bunks under the magic of mosquito nets, and the normal comforts of home are pretty much in “Hurricane Sandy Mode” – a bucket for flushing your business (ring the bell!) and brushing your teeth with bottled/filtered water. Showers are thankfully available, but mostly outside and with a single (and somewhat low) water spigot.
Each day we travel via our bus to the church about 5 mins away. The church also has a school and we are painting all the class rooms while the children are away for Summer. It is hot, the work is hard, and we have seen many spiders and roaches the size of small automobiles- but God is at work here. The community is very poor with many family challenges, and the church is doing a good work.
Tomorrow night we will be attending the weekly Wed service at church and the Pastor has asked me to share from Gods word. Pray for me and us that we build up the church here.
We would love for you to continue to pray for us. Pray that we complete the work, pray for our hearts to grow in godliness and pray for the church and the people here.
We love and miss all of you!