Monthly Archives: April 2014

Genesis 1 – In The Beginning – Moses’ Message

Introduction to Genesis 1-3 Study:

The ultimate goal in our handling of Genesis 1-3 is to try and determine what Moses intended to convey to the reader – his big picture, his forest, Moses’ message.

  • We will work our way there a little bit at a time over the coming weeks.
  • Today’s longer handling is the exception.

 

Somewhat atypically, we will study Genesis by looking at the trees first and not the forest.

  • And by trees I mean the words – the text itself.

 

As we embark on this journey through the trees…

  • We will see that the text doesn’t say things we thought it did.
  • Or that it says things we weren’t aware of.

 

Along the way we will contend with scholarly approaches to Genesis 1-3.

  • How Genesis relates to science.
  • The historicity of Genesis.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

 

Admittedly, we will focus mainly on John Sailhamer and John Walton’s approaches.

  • We will certainly cite others as well – Bruce Waltke, John Currid, Hugh Ross, et al.

 

Importantly, we will go to the deep well of Scripture itself.

  • We need to see how other Biblical writers saw Genesis 1-3.
  • These inspired writers need to be heard.
  • What they say and don’t say about Genesis 1-3 will take us a long way.

 

Controversy Caution:

Many interpretations of Genesis 1-3 are rife with controversy.

  • Sometimes, with good reason and with bad, dividing lines are arbitrarily drawn.

“The first chapter of Genesis lies at the heart of our understanding of what the Bible communicates about God as Creator. Though simple in the majesty of its expression and the power of its scope, the chapter is anything but transparent. It is regrettable that an account of such beauty has become such a bloodied battleground, but that is indeed the case” – John Walton.

 

“Even among those who take Genesis 1 as God’s Word and as a true statement of the facts, there remain significant differences of opinion about what the text actually says. We must never forget that good and godly people can find themselves on opposite sides of basic questions about these chapters” – John Sailhamer.

 

Taking these statements under advisement we can forge ahead into the trees.

  • I would like to say with no baggage, but that is pretty much impossible.

 

Moses’ Message:

But first…

  • I want us to be aware of something quite significant.
  • The creation story does not stand alone.
  • Moses wrote it as part of a larger story contained in the Pentateuch.
  • Though it may tell us scientific relatable facts, his approach was certainly informed, for the most part, by Israel’s story – God, God’s people, and God’s future as N.T. Wright would say – not modern scientific concerns.

 

It is important to point this out so that we don’t lose sight of Moses’ message.

  • A message that was certainly not centered on the scientific concerns of Biologos or Ken Ham or Hugh Ross or Peter Enns or us.

 

To further drive this point home, we need to look at some possible examples of Moses’ message in the creation story.

  • Certainly some speculation will be involved, but the point will be made.

 

 

Moses’ Message Intro:

When Moses wrote the Pentateuch (including Genesis) he presumably already knew the creation story, the flood story, the call of Abraham, the story of Joseph, etc.

  • As we said, the story of God, God’s people and God’s future.
  • If so, he was looking at God’s creation through the lens of what God had already done on behalf of Israel.
    • How could he not?
  • And as with the Apostle Paul, for example, part of this “lens” was the nature and context of his call by God.

 

Thinking this way begs the question about Moses’ “beginning”.

  • Moses’ story, like the universe’s story and Israel’s story had a beginning.

 

Moses’ “beginning”:

  • Exodus 3:2–6 (ESV) — 2 And the angel of the Lord [Yahweh] appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord [Yahweh] saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God [Elohim] of your father, the God [Elohim] of Abraham, the God [Elohim] of Isaac, and the God [Elohim} of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God [Elohim].

 

I suggest a connection can be made between creation as Moses’ tells it, and the context of his call by God.

  • Without Moses’ “beginning” we presumably would not have the Pentateuch – including Genesis.
  • And this connection might reveal a few of Moses’ messages.

 

 

1) Moses’ Message (and context) – A Theodicy?

How does this connection suggest a theodicy?

 

The God that created (bara) the heavens and earth is the God that revealed Himself to Moses in the midst of Israel’s captivity and slavery in Exodus 3.

  • An Israel who was seeking deliverance from slavery and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant with the giving of the Promised Land.
  • An Israel waiting for the serpents head to be crushed.
  • An Israel anticipating fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.

 

Now how strange is that?

  • Moses, a slave, in the captivity of a pagan power, is extolling the power of God as Creator and the goodness of His creation.
  • In the midst of these circumstances (including 40 years of wandering) He identifies “Elohim” as Creator in Gen. 1:1 – not the competing Egyptian or Mesopotamian gods of creation.

 

So, what kind of God allows His people to end up in slavery serving other “gods” or sets them free only to wander in the desert?

  • An answer is found in the creation story.

 

It may look bleak now, but the Creator God is a God of action in history.

  • God is always “hovering” and moving purposely in history.
  • He is always calling people out for His purposes.
  • He is always moving His story forward.

 

The point?

  • In spite of God’s people being enslaved, there is purpose in the midst of it, and hope for its end.
  • Since creation, God has been purposely moving the story of His people and their future forward.
  • So Moses and Israel can trust that God has a purpose for their slavery and he will act to deliver Israel.
  • After all, look how far Israel has come since creation and the fall.
  • And from Moses’ perspective, look what God did with him.

 

 

2) Moses’ Message (and context) – Purposeful Relationship?

How does the connection to Moses’ “beginning” suggest purposeful relationship?

 

We need to notice something so obvious in verse 1 we tend to pass right over it.

  • Who created the “heavens and the earth”?
  • The obvious answer is God.
  • But was it God “Yahweh” or God “Elohim”?

 

Interestingly, it is “Elohim” instead of “Yahweh” in Genesis 1:1.

  • This is the very name God used for himself when He called Moses.
  •  “I am the God [Elohim] of your father, the God [Elohim] of Abraham, the God [Elohim] of Isaac, and the God [Elohim} of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God [Elohim].

 

God’s use of this name for Himself in His call of Moses has a special flavor.

  • In Moses’ call, it is used in context of relationship, call, and covenant with the fathers of Israel.
  • It is relational.

 

So it might be that implicit in the use of “Elohim” in Genesis 1:1 is Moses’ first hand understanding that God is a relationship God.

  • This is how God revealed Himself to Moses – the “Elohim” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • Moses connects the God who created with the God who calls and covenants.
  • “Elohim” creates – “Elohim” calls and relates
  • They are the very same God.

 

The point?

  • For Moses, the God who creates is the God who relates to His people.
  • Moses knows this first hand.
  • The “Elohim” of Genesis 1:1 is also the “Elohim” of Abraham and Moses.
  • He is the purposeful relationship God.

 

BTW – God’s relational action in history is part of the larger Gospel message.

 

There is one more potential candidate for a Moses message unrelated to his call.

 

3) Moses’ Message – A Polemic?

Given the ANE relationship between primordial waters, chaos and creation, one can’t help but think Moses has something to say about competing claims of creation.

  • Specifically the creation stories of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

 

Some, of course, argue that the Genesis story is an untrue myth dependent upon these other stories.

  • John Currid (and really everybody) readily acknowledges the parallels between the Hebrew creation story and it neighbors.
  • He asks, “What are we to surmise regarding the relationship between Genesis 1– 2 and mythic ancient Near Eastern cosmogonic tales?” – John Currid.
  • He argues that, “the differences are monumental and are so striking that they cannot be explained by a simple Hebrew cleansing of [ANE] myth” – John Currid.

 

Currid suggests that given the following:

“In regard to the very nature of the creator, all societies of the ancient Near East, save the Hebrews, were polytheists. The gods themselves were immanent, that is, personified in various powers and elements of the universe. These gods were not omnipotent but were restricted in power to the capacity of the natural elements they personified” – John Currid.

 

That Moses, by way of a polemic, is drawing our attention to a massive contrast:

“To the contrary, the God of the Hebrews is presented as transcendent, that is, set apart from the cosmos. He works within the universe, but he is not part of it. The universe is God’s creation, but it is not God. The God of Israel, moreover, does not act humanly by reflecting the flaws of human nature. Mankind is created in his image and not the other way around. He is pure, just, righteous, and true. Yahweh is holy and wholly other – John Currid.

 

Moses’ purposeful relational “Elohim” created and fully controlled the “waters” and everything else.

  • The waters weren’t an eternal chaos or a god from which creation had to be wrestled.
  • “The water at creation (1:2) is certainly no deity, and it is not God’s foe that needs to be vanquished. It is mere putty in the hands of the Creator. There is no war between Yahweh and the gods of chaos in order to bring about creation. Yahweh is sovereign, and all the elements of creation are at his beck and call” – John Currid.

 

The point?

  • The purposeful relational “Elohim” who calls out His people, and is sovereign over their circumstances is also the one true God who made everything.
  • The ONE God that delivered Israel and parted the Red Sea is the ONE God who created the waters and controls them as He sees fit.
  • He has no equal.

 

After all, look at these two examples of God’s revelation to, and action on behalf of, Israel and Moses.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
  • Exodus 14:21–22 (ESV) — 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

 

It seems rather unlikely that, as Moses wrote the creation story, his experiences of God’s purposeful work in history, and God’s revelation to Moses about His nature were not integrally part of the fabric of the Genesis creation account.

  • They surely helped provide the grid on which Moses could make sense of such a Creator God.
  • A God so unlike the gods of his oppressors.

 

*I am aware of the various authorship theories concerning the Pentateuch. I take the view of John Sailhamer as outlined in his book The Meaning of the Pentateuch.

 

Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 5

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

On a daily basis men are being shaped by any number of sins of commission and omission.

  • This means that where these sins reign, we are not being shaped into the likeness of Christ but the world.

 

Some Sins of Commission:

  • These sins are symptomatic of our struggle with the flesh.
    • Lust
    • Masturbation
    • Pornography
    • Pride
    • Selfishness
    • Greed

 

Some Sins of Omission:

  • These sins are symptomatic our unwillingness to take a submissive posture before Christ.
    • Godly Husbanding
    • Godly Fathering
    • Speaking the Gospel
    • Contentment

 

God desires to shape us and transform us.

  • His HSTP word has the power to fight and defeat these sins.
  • It has the power to remake us into the likeness of Christ.

 

But we have seen that transformation by God’s HSTP requires a certain posture.

  • This posture is described in Scripture as “woe is me”, “undone”, “naked and exposed”, “planted by the water”, etc.
  • The million-dollar question is how do we assume this posture?

 

In many ways, we have answered this question already.

 

(1) We must abandon the worldly Hindenburg Line approach to sin fighting.

  • Sin fighting fails from a worldly stance.
  • It leads to disillusionment.

 

(2) We must be willing discipline our time around assuming such a posture.

  • What we love, we will discipline ourselves around.
  • “If we are to apply the Bible, then we must be in constant conversation with the Bible” – John Frame.
  • This also entails reading!
  • If we don’t do this, we are still on the throne on this issue.

 

(3) We must be willing to embrace the “cost” and “pain” this posture brings.

  • The probing of the two-edged sword of God.

 

(4) We must be willing to submit to God’s shaping of us.

  • This is to dethrone ourselves and pursue Christ’s example of self-denial.

 

Today, I want to give us some other things to consider.

  • Some things that hold us back.

 

Intrusion of God’s Word:

We need to understand that –

“Christian formation relates to the whole of who we are, our embodied lives, with Scripture taking on the role of sculptor, shaping our patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting” – Joel Green.

  • So to seek a real and lasting transformation by the HSTP word of God is to submit to its total intrusion into your life.

 

Think about this…

  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 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.
  • Jesus as the Word was the ultimate Divine Intrusion into human history.

 

Likewise, for the believer, the HSTP word of God is the ultimate Divine Intrusion into the human life – Mulholland, Jr.

“It is the picture of human encounter with the action of the presence, purpose and power of God in the midst of human situations” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

  • In this encounter, it refuses to exert its power from 2nd place.

 

Implications of this Intrusion:

There are some important implications about this intrusion into our lives.

  • (1) “It is at precisely those points in our lives where we are not in conformity with the image of Christ where God encounters us” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
    • Ouch!
  • (2) Moreover, to resist this intrusion is to belittle God’s intrusion into humanity through Jesus Christ.

 

So, aside from the obvious reasons, why do we resist this intrusion into our lives?

 

Breaking the Crust (Mulholland):

We all have a crust.

“We build, maintain, and defend a complex structure of habits, attitudes, and perceptions; of dynamics of personal and corporate relationships; of patterns of reaction and response to the world. This becomes an ever-thickening crust of the false self that imprisons and limits us…It prevents our growth into wholeness and thwarts our shaping by the living word of God” – Robert Mulholland, Jr.

 

This crust resists the intrusion of God’s HSTP word because it corrupts our false identity.

  • “If our view of ourselves is anything less that being [in Christ] then our self-image is a self-constructed façade – a crust of self, a false self.”
  • It is very difficult to embrace the intrusion of God’s HSTP word when trying to maintain and sure up the false and crusty self.
  • This is why believers in overt rebellion from God avoid Church and/or accountability.

 

This crust causes other problems in our transformation.

 

Crust Problems:

(1) You are only willing to encounter God’s HSTP word  “…on your own terms, in your own way, at your own convenience” – Mulholland.

 

This is not allowing the Bible to read you.

  • This is not reading the Bible to be transformed.
  • This is reading the Bible as a thing to pretty up your “crust” instead of destroy it.

 

(2) The crust too often leads or controls the encounter or entry into God’s HSTP word.

  • Understanding the need to allow the Bible to read us, we make token efforts.
  • But these efforts lack substance and submission.
  • We come to God’s HSTP word “with the idea that God will use whatever we give, no matter how slipshod or lackadaisical it may be” – MulHolland.

 

(3) The crust controls the solution.

  • We bring a specific need to Scripture – the sins mentioned about, e.g.
  • Certainly a worthwhile thing to do – bring your sin to God.
  • However, “we also bring our desired solution” – MulHolland.

 

We envision how our sin is to be defeated.

  • Usually with the most minimal intrusion and with the best possible outcome as we see it.
  • We deny God’s vision for what is best for us.
  • And what is best for us may not be what we envision.

 

(4) The crust even controls what the cause of our sin might be.

  • The problem is that usually what we think our problem might be is “in reality, symptoms” and not the cause – MulHolland.
  • “I learned that sin roots not in outward behaviors, but in patterns of thinking” – Rosaria Butterfield.
  • For example, too many men think their wife’s sexual outlook is the cause of their sexual sins.

 

BTW – Fear of uncertainty is part of the equation.

  • We know the crust; it is familiar to us.
  • We even often like the crust.
  • But, “When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future” – Rosaria Butterfield.
    • This is a scary position in which to put yourself.

 

Communion with God:

Another reason we resist the intrusion of God’s HSTP word is because we aren’t going far enough in our view of God’s HSTP word.

“The words of divine revelation are given to us and to the church for a variety of purposes: information (knowledge about God) and formation (being changed by God), but the deepest and highest purpose of divine revelation is to enjoy communion with God – participating in increasing measure in the joyous, loving experience of Jesus’ communion with the Father, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” – John Jefferson Davis.

 

As believers in Christ, we participate in a new reality (third leg on the knowledge stool).

  • We need to realize “that a believing, prayerful and receptive reading of Scripture is an act of communion with the triune God, who is really present to the reader through and with the biblical text” – John Jefferson Davis.
  • This spiritual truth – the third leg on the knowledge stool – is profoundly real.
  • It is “not just a metaphor; because the Holy Spirit is real, the bond between Christ and the believer by the Spirit is real – a real ‘umbilical cord’ by which Christ pours his life and his live into us” – John Jefferson Davis.

 

BTW – From a personal standpoint, apprehending the reality of our communion with God has played a pivotal role in my transformation.

 

Jesus Himself asked that we comprehend this reality in His farewell discourse.

  • John 17:22–24 (ESV) — 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 

This communion with God can be understood and experienced by our immersion in and a submissive posture towards God’s HSTP word.

“Since we really are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, and since the Holy Spirit really does illuminate the biblical text, the text can come alive to us at the experiential level—as the text was meant to be” – John Jefferson Davis.

 

Prayer over and meditation on God’s HSTP word can facilitate this experience.

  • Joshua 1:8 (ESV) — 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
  • Psalm 119:48 (ESV) — 48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
  • Psalm 1:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

 

Conclusion:

The bottom line is simply this –

  • “Spiritual formation is a loving relationship with God that shapes our being, rather than a technique or method or program for self-improvement” – Mulholland, Jr.

 

We have to put ourselves in a posture that allows the Bible to read us – to transform us.

  • We have to come to grips with the uselessness of seeking and transformation outside of God’s HSTP word.
    • Our way – the Hindenburg Line way – the Naaman way.
  • We have to understand the power of God’s HSTP word to transform us.
  • We have to welcome the time, pain and intrusion of God’s HSTP word upon our lives.
  • We have to submit “naked and exposed” and “undone” to God’s HSTP word.
  • We have to be willing to depart with the “crust” of who we are.

 

Wake up everyday and participate in your very own “dethronement” ceremony.

  • Remove yourself from the throne of your life and install Christ as king.
  • And be willing to submit to His vision of what your transformed life looks like.
  • This is both repentance and submission.

 

Paul advised Timothy and I advise us:

  • 1 Timothy 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

 

Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 4

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

In the past few weeks we have dealt with:

  • The problem of Christian Transformation.
  • HSTP (Holy Spirit Truth Powered) Word of God
  • Knowledge Stool (Reason-Experience-Spiritual epistemologies)
  • The Price and Cost of Transformation.
  • The Biblical Method of Transformation.

 

Today we need an exhortation to further motivate us to assume the right posture (naked and exposed) before God’s HSTP word that we might allow it to read us – to transform us.

  • I think some of us still think there is another way – an easier way.

 

And to do that, I need to repeat the nature of the day-to-day condition of the believer.

  • My intent is to disavow you of any notion that fighting sin and seeking transformation outside of God’s HSTP word has any value at all – it is utter foolishness.
  • To do this, I will use some imagery from WWI and Jeremiah.

 

(Eschatologically, of course, believers will be fully sanctified and made complete when we are glorified with Christ.)

 

Transformed by What:

  • So, on a practical day-to-day basis, transformation is always occurring in our lives.

 

If we are not being transformed –

  • (1) By the HSTP Word of God into the likeness of Christ
    • Then
  • (2) We are being transformed by our flesh/world into the likeness of the world.

 

Consider what this means…

 

(1) Given that transformation –

  • “Implies being grasped, controlled and shaped” by something – M. Robert Mulholland.
  • And that if we are not being transformed by God’s HSTP word, we are being “grasped, controlled and shaped” by the world.

 

(2) This means that instead of God the Creator shaping the creature –

  • God’s fallen creation is shaping the creature.
  • Say What?
  • No possible good can come from this.
  • It is complete foolishness – the blind leading the blind.

 

There will be very little, if any, victory over sin and transformation into the likeness of Christ in this scenario.

  • This way of living is not going to produce a sin killing walk.
  • No matter how much we want to kill our sin (intent), this approach “ain’t gonna get it done”.

 

Elusive “Success”:

Now, from this stance in the world we can seek to fight sin and be transformed.

  • And I suspect this is how most of us fight sin.
    • The way Naaman wanted to be healed.
  • In fact, no doubt, this is probably because it is the easiest way.
    • Our waters are better than the Jordan’s.

 

The problem, however, is that its method of sin fighting is by “will power and check lists”.

  • It is artificial and short-lived.
  • The enemy is far too clever to be outwitted by our methods.

 

From this stance, the day isn’t spent in victory over sin, but in thinking about not sinning.

  • It doesn’t take long before we tire of this and give in.
  • No matter how much effort, preparation, and willpower we exert success remains elusive.

 

I can’t help but think of how A World Undone described many WW1 battles.

  • They portray the futility of fighting sin from a worldly footing.

 

Hindenburg Line:

The Germans on the Western Front created a virtually impenetrable defensive line called the Hindenburg Line.

 

G.J. Meyer describes it:

“The Hindenburg Line, as it took shape, proved far too formidable for the humble term trench warfare to remain appropriate. It began with a trench, but one that was to remain unoccupied. This trench was almost ten feet deep and twelve feet across— a trap for tanks, and an equally forbidding obstacle for men advancing on foot. Behind it, one after another, were five or more rows of barbed and razor wire, each row twelve feet deep and twice a man’s height, each twenty yards distant from the next. Then came the blockhouses, with two machine guns in each. Beyond them— dangerously far beyond, for enemy infantry trying to advance under fire— lay the first true line, a largely underground beehive of chambers and passageways covered with up to eight yards of earth and impregnable to artillery and bombs. Farther back still, also down below the  surface and positioned wherever possible on a reverse slope so as to be almost unreachable by artillery, were two lines of guns. This was defensive warfare raised to a new plane. It appeared to be invulnerable. It was the work of a commander of immense vision, energy, and ambition— a man prepared to bend the entire German Empire to his purposes” – G.J. Meyer.

 

The Entente (sin fighters for our purposes) prepared and strategized for months before attacking the line.

  • They built hundreds of miles of roads.
  • They laid thousands of miles of communication cables.
  • And then they attacked.
  • Their intention was to win.

 

They would first launch a massive artillery barrage – the numbers are mind-boggling.

  • They would then send wave after wave of calvary, tanks and men into the German lines.
  • The end result was almost always a complete massacre.

 

G.J. Meyer explains:

“The Germans simply pointed their machine guns at these knots of flesh and cut them down in swaths. ‘We were surprised to see them walking,’ said a German machine-gunner. ‘We had never seen that before… When we started to fire we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. We didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them’…‘again and again the extended lines of British infantry broke against the German defense like waves against a cliff, only to be beaten back’” – G.J. Meyer.

 

This is fighting sin and seeking transformation from a stance grounded in the world.

  • It is like attacking the Hindenburg Line on a horse with sword drawn.
  • It is suicide and leads to disillusionment.
  • In fact, French soldiers were so disillusioned by this warfare they mutinied.
  • Some “Christians” walk away from the Church.

 

Jeremiah’s Shrubs and Trees:

But lest we get too caught up in worldly illustration, Jeremiah paints a beautiful word picture of this principal at work.

  • I want to unpack his words just a bit.
  • The images he unleashes are incredibly powerful and are worth meditating on every day!

 

Jeremiah 17:5–8 (ESV) — 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

 

1) Bush in the Desert – Attacking the Hindenburg Line:

Jeremiah speaks of a man who “is like a shrub in the desert”.

  • It doesn’t take much to visualize this scenario.
  • This man/bush is parched, dying, thirsting, dry, brittle, colorless, unsatisfied.

 

Jeremiah tells us how this dreadful state of existence occurred – how the man became a “shrub in the desert”.

  • “trusts in man”
  • “makes flesh his strength”
  • “heart turns away form the Lord”
  • “dwell in the parched places of wilderness”
  • “dwell in…an uninhabited salt land”

 

(1) The first three bring us right back to who is on the throne – us or Christ.

  • Are we going to attack the Hindenburg line our way or relent, submit, and posture ourselves to God’s way?
  • Are we going to rely on our will power and intent or the HSTP word of God?
  • For the believer, to do anything other is to turn “away from the Lord”.

 

(2) And the last two descriptions Jeremiah uses are ripe with symbolism.

  • The OT often contrasts the wilderness with the Promised Land.
    • The Promised Land representing God’s intent for the elect.
  • Moreover, the “wilderness”/“uninhabited salt land” also harken back to the land outside of the Garden of Eden (Sailhamer).
    • Unfettered fellowship with God.
    • Having God’s best.
  • And as we saw from Joshua, wilderness can carry with it the ANE idea of chaos.
    • Outside of the ordering influence of God.

 

So what is Jeremiah telling the Christian about living life under the shaping influence of the world?

 

2) Tree by the Water – HSTP Word of God:

Then Jeremiah speaks of a man who “is like a tree planted by water”.

  • “sends out its roots by the stream”
  • “does not fear when heat comes”
  • “leaves remain green”
  • “is not anxious in the year of drought”
  • “does not cease to bear fruit”

 

(1) It does no good to be near the water if one’s roots aren’t “sent out” to it.

  • So nearness isn’t enough – a root system must be grown.
  • Only coming to Church and Bible study is simply “being near the water”.

 

I think of Casting Crowns “Thrive” album cover art:

  • It conveys well the necessity of roots.

 

casting-crowns-thrive-album-art

 

For the believer, having roots goes back to the time and cost we talked about a couple week ago.

  • Things like going to Church, Bible Study, etc., are certainly part of cultivating a thriving root system.
  • But they are not enough.
  • One must also be submitting to the HSTP word of God in the profound ways we have been learning about.

 

(2) There is still heat and drought in spite of our Union with Christ.

  • But, contentment settles in regardless of the heat and drought (circumstances).
  • That is, when contentment’s source is God and His HSTP Word and not our efforts.

 

(3) And regardless of the circumstances, fruit is continually borne.

  • Direct evidence that one’s roots have been cultivated and are immersed in God’s HSTP word.

 

From this posture there is a real and lasting victory over sin.

  • The day is spent in praise and wonder that sin “x” has lost its power over you.
  • Your work in sin fighting bears fruit because it is not “will powered” but powered by the HSTP word.

 

But this posture is Isaiah’s “undone”.

  • It is the “naked and exposed”.
  • It is the “costly”.
  • But, it is the only way.

 

 

Reading the Bible to be Transformed – Part 3

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

 

How Does the HSTP Word Transform Us?

Having understood the cost of transformation – of allowing the Bible to read you –

  • We also need to know exactly how the HSTP Word of God accomplishes this transformation.
  • We can’t have any false perceptions and expectations.

 

The Bible leaves no doubt that God’s word is at work in us.

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

 

A great place to see exactly how the HSTP word of God is “at work” is Hebrews 4.

  • Its imagery conveys graphically the way God’s word works.
  • And in doing so, further highlights for us the pain and cost of transformation.

 

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

We are going to focus are attention on the:

  • living and active” (vs. 12)
  • sharper…piercing…soul and of spirit…joints and of marrow” (vs. 12)
  • all are naked and exposed” (vs. 13)

 

Living and Active Word:

(1) “Living and active” means this (D.A. Carson):

  • Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) — 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
  • God’s word does this because it is HSTP – as we saw last week.

 

This is massively encouraging for the believer longing to be transformed.

  • God’s word does not fail!
  • It does what it says it does.

 

(2) It also carries with it the following idea:

  • To be “confronted by the word of God, we are confronted by God himself, and nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” – D.A. Carson.
  • Because God’s Word is HSTP, we are confronted not just with God’s thoughts and ways, but His “living and active” thoughts and ways.

 

BTW – This is exactly why “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” are unable to hide, and are left exposed.

 

The importance of this is found in the following observations:

  • “The inner life of a Christian is often a strange mixture of motivations both genuinely spiritual and completely human. It takes…the Word of God to sort these out and to expose what is of the flesh” – BKC.

“God’s word penetrates to the deepest recesses of our being, opening us up and judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” – D.A. Carson.

 

(3) “Living and Active” also relates directly to the third leg on the knowledge stool form last week.

  • By the Spirit, in Christ, we exist in relationship to God’s Word spiritually and physically in a real way.

God’s word trades in both spiritual and physical realities to transform the believer.

  • The world has no way to comprehend this at all.

 

Sharp-Piercing-Soul-Spirit-Joints-Marrow Word:

Obviously, this is not an attempt to convey the physiology and spiritual nature of humanity.

  • Here Hebrews is using a powerful metaphor to direct our attention to some profound truths.

 

(1) The writer of Hebrews is making clear that there is not one part of you that is immune to being shaped by God’s word.

  • The idea behind the “of soul and of spirit” and “of joints and of marrow” points to, in the Christian sense, the “whole person” – Michael Heiser.
  • What this means is that there is not anything that you are doing or thinking that is unable to be transformed by God’s HSTP word.
  • Your depravity is never too much to be transformed by God’s word.

 

(2) This language also speaks of the thoroughness of the action of God’s word.

“The Wod of God goes to the very center of what we are. It cuts through to that which bonds us together as a being” – M. Robert Mulholland.

 

How do we know this?

 

The Louw-Nida lexicon makes this point about the use of “joints”:

  • “The emphasis is not upon the joints as a moving part of the body but as a means by which different parts of the body are effectively joined together” – Louw-Nida.
  • Or put another way, Hebrews is referring to that which “holds the parts of something in proper relationship” – Mulholland.

 

This is very important to grasp.

  • Your identity is “joined together” by a variety of different things.
  • These things are your experiences, worldview, psychology, etc.
  • God’s HSTP word can penetrate these things and remake them.

 

What about the marrow?

 

The “marrow” is “that which is at the heart or essence of something” – Mulholland.

  • In other words, the thing around which the parts are “assembled” and “joined together”.
  • For the Christian, this “thing” is to be Christ.
  • You are a new creation in Christ and are to be “joined together” by the Spirit around Him.

 

Problem – Beware:

All of this points us to a problem (yet another reason for the pain of transformation):

  • The believer, compared to the old-self, has a new “heart or essence” and is “joined together” differently than he used to be (this is what happens at regeneration).
    • This is a fact even though we can’t see this or “feel” this.

 

And yet, the old-self (the flesh) is still exerting its influence.

  • Romans 7:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

 

So how does God’s HSTP word contend with this?

 

By His HSTP word, God does the following:

  • He, and often painfully, excises the old-self from the new-self with His word.
  • He cuts away the flesh of the old-self (NT sense) from our new identity found in Union with Christ.
  • When we go down to the Jordan He can cut; when we stay in the waters of Damascus He doesn’t.

 

This process has been beautifully described as:

  • God “‘shaping persons’ identities so decisively as to transform them” – David Kelsey.
  • The very thing we are learning about – being transformed by God’s Word.
  • It is the “so decisively” part that can be painful and costly.

 

And this process is a picture of what it means when I say –

  • We must learn to let the Bible read us.

 

Naked and Exposed Before God’s Word:

It is already clear from what we have seen thus far that we are “naked and exposed” before God’s word.

  • But, the imagery conveyed with this phrase is even more startling that what we have seen already.

 

Naked” carries with it the humiliating notion of “exposure to examination” – Heiser.

  • God’s “living and active” HSTP word is brutal to the flesh.
  • And for those who remain in the flesh – judgment and condemnation results.
  • We either submit to it or we run from it.
    • Standing still is running.

 

Exposed” contains such violent imagery, that I will quote Kenneth Wuest at length:

“The verb means ‘to seize and twist the neck or throat.’ It was used of combatants who handled their antagonists in that way. It meant also ‘to bend back the neck of the victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back.’ Hence the verb came to mean ‘to lay bare, to uncover, to expose.’ The three possible metaphors in this case seem to be (1), the athlete grasping his opponent by the throat; (2), the bending back of the malefactor’s neck and the exposing of his face to the spectators; and (3), the drawing back and the exposing of the neck of the sacrificial victim at the altar. The last one suits the previous figure of a sword better than the others. The metaphor of the victim’s throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a vivid illustration of the total exposure of the human heart to the eye of God whose inspired Word is as keen as a two-edged sword.”

 

Jeremiah hints at this aspect of God’s word, but in a more palatable way:

  • Jeremiah 23:29 (ESV) — 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

 

This aspect of God’s word should invoke a little healthy fear of God.

  • Why?
  • Because, this means that to transform us is, in a sense, to be judged by God.
  • The aspects of our “joints and marrow” that don’t mirror Christ are judged and found wanting.

 

And this aspect of God’s word is shown in a profound way in Revelation.

  • Revelation 19:13–15 (ESV) — 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
  • This is the “living and active” confronting the “naked and exposed”.
  • This is real stuff and aptly demonstrates the real power of God’s word in all its meanings.

 

Are we willing to posture ourselves naked and exposed before God, and His Word?

  • And from that vulnerable posture, submit to being pierced by its “two-edged sword”?
  • This is how to let the Bible read you and transform your life.