February 23, 2018 | Mark and Scott McAndrew
I Corinthians 1-2 | Sunday: At least in terms of immoral conduct, Corinth has to be one of the worst situations Paul has to address. Some were divided into factions, finding their identity in their favorite pastor rather than the gospel; some were getting drunk on communion wine, some were doubting the entire doctrine of bodily resurrection, and some were guilty of sexual immorality.
With all this in view, if you were Paul, how would you have started your letter to this church?
I would have started by reprimanding them and calling out their errors. I would probably have shown irritation and frustration in subtle (or not so subtle) ways. While Paul does rightly call them to repentance in numerous areas, that is not how he begins.
In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul begins by giving thanks to God for the work of grace He has begun in their midst. This is amazing. It shows us that we should seek to identify evidences of grace in believing friends when we go to lovingly correct them. See especially 1:4-9.
In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul contrasts two forms of wisdom: the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world. Worldly wisdom is drawn to a good outward show. In Corinth, people were drawn to great orators. They would identify with certain spokespersons and find their identity in them.
In some ways we may see this in the political sphere. While Christians should care about politics in a healthy way, there is a way to begin to identify ourselves with a particular politician or political spokesperson. We then begin to demonize those who oppose are specific views and we begin to feel anger, even hatred, toward those who oppose our ‘talking head’. This can also cause unnecessary division within the body of Christ. We must make sure the gospel is our identity rather than our views on education, economics, foreign policy, etc. — even though those things are not insignificant.
This carnal worldly wisdom can also worm its way into theology. Paul has mentions in chapters one and three that some members said, “I follow Paul,” others, “I follow Apollos,” others, “I follow Cephas [Peter],” and perhaps most pretentious of all, “I follow Christ” (meant in a divisive/self-righteous sense, rather than a humble/genuine one).
I have been guilty at times of finding my identity in a particular pastor or writer rather than in Christ and Him crucified. Have you?
Genesis 32-35 | Monday: Genesis 32-33 hold together as one powerful and emotional story. Essentially, after fleeing from Esau for his life years earlier, Jacob now supremely fears seeing Esau face-to-face. He believes his future is in the hands of his murderous brother.
However, the Lord proves to Jacob that the One who controls his future is not Esau, but the Lord Himself. Jacob wrestles all night, not with Esau, but with God in the form of a man. When the sun rises he looks upon His face and is spared. Jacob obtains the blessing, but is wounded in the wrestling match and leaves with a limp. He is then enabled to face Esau with courage and is embraced and welcomed by him.
What can we learn from this?
The Lord shows Jacob that however much we fear human beings all this is like a shadow compared to how we should fear the Lord. In the end, Jacob looked up the face of God and was spared, leaving the wrestling match with only a limp.
This points forward to Jesus, the true and better Jacob who wrestled with God on the cross and was crushed and abandoned. Jesus took the blows of justice we deserve so that now we can look upon the face of God and live.
However, the mark of those who have met the true God is that they leave His presence humbled over their sin. They leave with a limp.
For an NAC sermon on Jacob wrestling with God, see here.
Judges 17-21 | Tuesday: These chapters contain some of the most disturbing stories in the Old Testament.
Judges begins with a double introduction (1:1-2:5; 2:6-3:6) and concludes with a double ending (17-18; 19-21).
Tim Keller is helpful here:
“The passages in between [the double intro and conclusion] showed us how God rescued Israel, but here we are given two case studies of the kind of spiritual condition he rescued them from. That is why the final chapters barely mention the Lord. They are showing us what life was like when Israel was left to their own resources. This view of humanity without God is so bleak that these passages are almost never preached upon or even studied.”
Keller says regarding the ends of Judges 18:
“Evil does not usually make people incredibly wicked and violent – that would be interesting, and tends to wake people up. Rather, sin tends to make us hollow – externally proper and even nice, but underneath everyone is scraping and clutching for power, in order to get ahead.
Only by worshiping the real God can we escape this boring fate and know the blessing of coming to the house of God, the Lord Jesus, the One who has the words of eternal life.”
Judges 19 contains one of the most disturbing stories in the Bible. Why is it included at all?
Psalms 24-26 | Wednesday: Tim and Kathy Keller wrote this commenting on Psalm 24:
“God’s glory also means his inexpressible beauty and perfection. It does not glorify him then, if we only ever obey God simply out of duty. We must give him not only our will but also our heart, as we adore and enjoy him, as we find him infinitely attractive. And there is no greater beauty than to see the Son of God laying aside his glory and dying for us (Philippians 2:5-11).”
D.A. Carson gives a brief summary of Psalm 25.
“David is in danger of being overwhelmed by enemies and thereby put to shame (Ps. 25:2). He wishes to learn the ways and paths of God, to be taught God’s truth (25:4-5). He begs that God will forget the sins of his rebellious youth (25:7); moreover, he recognizes that there are times when his iniquity is great, and needs to be forgiven (25:11). David confesses that he is lonely and afflicted, full of anguish (25:16-17). He speaks afresh of his affliction and distress, alludes once again to his sins, and feels threatened by the increase of the enemies who hate him (25:18-19)…”
Carson then goes on to point out that these things that David mentions in this Psalm are:
“tied together in various ways. For example,…Because of the trouble he is suffering, he is not only afflicted but lonely (25:16)―anguish in one arena so often breeds a sense of desperate isolation, even alienation. Yet the final petitions of the psalm do not descend into a wallowing self-pity, but sum up the connections already made: David needs release from his enemies, forgiveness for his sins, relief from his affliction, and personal integrity and uprightness, all bound up with the protection of the Lord God himself.
Here is a wholesome self-awareness. Sometimes our prayers for relief from loneliness are steeped in self-love; sometimes our requests for justice fail to recognize how endemic sin really is, so that we remain unconcerned about our own iniquity. Yet here is a man who not only knew God and how to pray, but knew himself.”
Psalm 26:11 says: “But as for me, I shall walk in my intergrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.” The Gospel Transformation Bible has this powerful reminder: “The ultimate way in which God secured this redemption and grace was in the sending of his own Son, to whom God was not gracious, so that grace could be extended to sinners such as David―and us.”
Job 17-18 | Thursday: In Job 17 we have what Christopher Ash calls a: “foreshadowing of the experience of the Lord Jesus Christ…Jesus too felt the longings both to be comforted and to comfort. He too knew in all its fullness what it was to be identified with sinners, from his baptism to his cross. He experienced in its unadulterated intensity the holy hatred of God against sinners. He too knew that he had a clear conscience, in fact that every moment of his life he did what pleased the Father (John 8:29), that his life and his death were the expression of a perfect obedience.”
In Job 18 we have Bildad coming back for round 2 of his arguments. D.A. Carson points out that Bildad has a note of desperation in his argument this time. Carson says: “When the argument is weak, some people just yell louder.” Christopher Ash says that Bildad’s: “sermon is so fundamentally misapplied that it needs to be consigned to the incinerator of failed sermons.”
Carson says that Bildad basically is saying that Job is not only wicked but ignorant of God. Then Carson continues with a reflection on this charge that Bildad lays against Job:
“At one level, what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar keep saying is entirely in line with a repeated theme of the Scriptures: God is just, and justice will be done and will be seen to be done. Everyone will one day acknowledge that God is right―whether in the reverent submission of faith, or in the terror that cries for the rocks and the mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6). The theme recurs in virtually every major corpus of the Bible…Not to have judgement would be to deny the significance of evil.But to apply this perspective too quickly, too mechanically, or as if we have access to all the facts, is to destroy the significance of evil from another angle. Innocent suffering (as we have seen) is ruled out. To call a good man evil in order to preserve the system is not only personally heartless, but relativizes good and evil; it impugns God as surely as saying there is no difference between good and evil.”
Isaiah 45-50 | Friday: If you would like to see perhaps the strongest statement in the Bible on why God does what He does in history, look no further than Isaiah 48:9-11.
For more on this passage and theme, see this article.
Matthew 23-25 | Saturday: After a long lists of woes that Jesus pronounces in Matthew 23, he says in verse 37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Carson comments on this verse and says: “During it (Jesus’ ministry), he often longed to gather and shelter Jerusalem as a hen her chicks, for despite the woes, Jesus, like the “Sovereign LORD” in Ezekiel 18:32, took “no pleasure in the death of anyone.”
Matthew 24-25 have an emphasis on the coming judgement of God and we are reminded to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). The Gospel Transformation Bible asks this question: “How can Jesus’ diciples be ready for his arrival?” Later in the notes they give this answer: “they are to make the most of the opportunities and resources God has given them.”
So, are we making the most of the opportunities and resources God has given us?
I am reminded of John Calvin who even towards the end of his life he kept making the most of the resources God had given him. When he was told he should rest when he was nearing the end of his life, Calvin famously responded: “What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?”