Monday, 27 March 2017

The Land of Uz

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.” (Job 1:1)
Uz was a son of Aram and a grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:22-23). Shem’s first son, Arphaxad, was born two years after the Flood, and his remaining sons would have been born in some reasonable sequence thereafter, probably around 36 years apart (Genesis 11:10-26). It is unlikely that Aram, Uz’s father, was born past the first century after the Flood. The events at Babel took place during the fifth generation (the generation of Peleg), and Uz would have been alive then.
The land of Uz is later associated with the territory of Edom (Lamentations 4:21), which is near the area southeast of the Dead Sea, toward the upper reaches of the Sinai Peninsula, east of Egypt and just north of the Red Sea. Although that area is not very pleasant now, at the time of Abraham it was “well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar” (Genesis 13:10). Quite likely, this was one of the more beautiful spots that was safely away from the rule of Nimrod and farther away from the climate shifts that were leading to the coming Ice Age.
We must guard against seeing the message in the light of our own experience, education, and entertainment. When we read that Job had vast herds of “camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household” (Job 1:3), our first reaction is to reject that as pure exaggeration since we “know” that that whole area is desert and could not possibly support that kind of lifestyle. Perhaps we need to “let God be true, but every man a liar” when we approach the words of Scripture (Romans 3:4). 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The New Heavens and New Earth

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
There is a glorious future awaiting the redeemed. Although God’s primeval creation of the heavens and the earth is eternal (note Psalm 148:6, etc.), these are now groaning in pain under the effects of sin and the curse. When the Lord returns, they will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into . . . glorious liberty” (Romans 8:21), and God will make them all new again, with all the scars of sin and death burned away by His refining fires (2 Peter 3:10).
There are four explicit references in the Bible to these “renewed” heavens and Earth. In addition to our text, which assures us that they will be so wonderful that this present earth and its heavens will soon be forgotten, there is the great promise of Isaiah 66:22: “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.” Thus, that heavens and Earth will remain eternally, and so will all who dwell there, with their true spiritual children. Note also that both God’s “creation” and “making” powers will be applied to the new heavens and new earth, just as they were to the first (Genesis 2:3).
The third and fourth references are in the New Testament. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). Not only will no sin be present there, neither will the results of sin and the curse. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; . . . And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1,4). 

Saturday, 25 March 2017

His Word Is with Power


“And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.” (Luke 4:32)
God’s words, whether spoken by Jesus or written in Scripture, are indeed full of power, and it is noteworthy how many and varied are the physical analogies used to characterize and emphasize its power.
For example, consider Jeremiah 23:29. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” The fire analogy is also stressed in Jeremiah 20:9, when the prophet became weary of the negative reaction against his preaching: “Then I said, I will not . . . speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”
God’s Word is also called a sharp sword wielded by the Holy Spirit. As part of the Christian’s spiritual armor, we are exhorted to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Even more significantly, perhaps, it is compared to light, for light energy is really the most basic of all forms of energy, or power. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light to my path.” “The entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:105,130). The first spoken words of Christ our Creator were “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).
But no earthly form of power can compare to the power in the words of the One who is Himself the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is actually “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). 

Friday, 24 March 2017

God's Son in the Old Testament

“I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalm 2:7)
There are many today (especially Muslims, Jews, and Christian “liberals”) who are monotheists, believing in one supreme God but rejecting the deity of Christ. They argue that the doctrine that Jesus was the unique Son of God was invented by the early Christians and that the God of the Old Testament had no Son. Orthodox Jews in particular emphasize Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.”
The fact is, however, that there are a number of Old Testament verses that do speak of God’s only begotten Son. Note the following brief summary.
First, there is God’s great promise to David: “I will set up thy seed after thee, . . . I will be his father, and he shall be my son. . . . thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:12,14,16).
Consider also the rhetorical questions of Agur. “Who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?” (Proverbs 30:4).
Then there are the two famous prophecies of Isaiah, quoted so frequently at Christmastime. “Behold, a [literally ‘the’] virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [meaning ‘God with us’]” (Isaiah 7:14). “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Perhaps the most explicit verse in this connection is our text. “The LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son” (Psalm 2:7). Then this marvelous Messianic psalm concludes with this exhortation: “Kiss the Son, . . . Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:12). 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Mystery of Darkness

“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5)
The Bible reveals that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), and also that, in the ages to come, there will be no more darkness. God promises twice that there shall be “no night there” (Revelation 21:25;22:5) in the very last references to night in the Bible.
Why, then, is there darkness, and where did it come from? God gives the answer: “I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness” (Isaiah 45:6-7). Light was always in and with God, but the darkness had to be created! And, it has a purpose, serving as a contrast to the light.
Men and women were created to love and have fellowship with their Creator, not as robots but in freedom. Darkness thus served as the choice that could be made against God and the light, for those so minded. Satan and his hosts of fallen angels and wicked spirits have become “the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). The tragedy is that ever since Adam, men have “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19), and so have been practicing “the works of darkness” (Romans 13:12), and deserving nothing but “the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 1:13).
But our Creator has become our Redeemer. He “hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9), paying the great price for our redemption on the cross. The Father “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13); we are now free to enter into the eternal fellowship with God that He had planned before the world began. We should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Word of the King

“Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (Ecclesiastes 8:4)
Perhaps the archetype of absolute monarchs was Babylonia’s King Nebuchadnezzar, of whom the prophet Daniel could say, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory” (Daniel 2:37). The word of this and every true king was with power, the king being answerable to no man but himself, for his authority came from God. “For there is no power but of God” (Romans 13:1). Many kings have had to learn this truth the hard way, however, for they have found that God could remove them as quickly as He had ordained them when they abused that power.
But there is one King who will never fall; one “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings; . . . to whom be honour and power everlasting” (1 Timothy 6:15-16). The Lord Jesus Christ has asserted, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18), and one day all creatures in heaven and Earth will acknowledge: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things” (Revelation 4:11). In that day all “the kingdoms of this world [shall] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
This one, who is King of all kings, is also the One who is “called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13). The word of this King is of such power that He could speak the mighty cosmos into existence. His word could calm a violent storm and call Lazarus back from death.
“The word of God is quick, and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12), and “his word was with power” (Luke 4:32). Therefore, “all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

By Any Means

“And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.” (Acts 27:12)
This seemingly insignificant phrase “by any means” (Greek ei pos) is actually used to express the urgency of attaining some object sought, along with the means for its attainment. It occurs just four times in the New Testament, and it is interesting that these four occurrences seem to follow a significant order.
The first of them is in our text above and expresses a search for physical comfort, as the mariners, transporting Paul to Rome, sought by any means to find a convenient place to spend the winter.
The second expresses Paul’s search for spiritual ministry. When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, he told them of his constant prayers: “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established” (Romans 1:10-11).
Thirdly, there was his search for conversion of others. “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:13-14).
Finally, and most importantly, there was Paul’s (and, Lord willing, may it be ours also!) search for a Christ-centered life. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).