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Archive for May 19th, 2008

Have you ever wondered why God singled out a nation (any nation) as his special people?  I am not just talking about why God chose Israel per se?  But why God selected any nation at all?  Here are some reasons John MacArthur gave that are worth pondering.

God chose a nation:

  • To proclaim the existence of the true God.  (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:21)
  • Through whom He could reveal the Messiah (Genesis 12:3; John 4:22, “Salvation is of the Jews”)
  • To be a priest among man (Exodus 19:5-6):  to represent God to the world
  • To transmit and preserve Scripture:  “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:6, ESV).
  • To show the world that He was a faithful God (Romans 11:26-29)

“God determined to love them, God determined to elect them, God determined to save them, and God will do just that at the second coming of the Messiah.  Israel stands for all time as proof that God is a covenant keeping God.  He always keeps His promise, and the world needs only to look at the history of Israel to see that that is proven.”

  • To show man His grace in dealing with sin.

If the nation would repent and confess sin, God would forgive their sin no matter how heinous or how awful it was.   ” Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18, ESV). “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7-8, ESV).

  • To show God’s anger in dealing with unrepentant sin:  whenever they didn’t repent there was war, death, plague, judgment (Leviticus 26: 14-19, 32; Deuteronomy 28:37, 64-67)

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This article explains how China’s one-child policy and shabby building codes increase the loss of life from the earthquake.

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On angels!

In Zechariah 1, we see a lot of angelic activity. Angels are patrolling the earth, one angel interprets the visions for Zechariah, and the angel of the Lord appears in this vision as well.

There have been and remain a lot of weird ideas about angels, but here is a timely web article on angels by Phil Johnson that gives a solid Biblical understanding of who they are and what they do.

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From First Importance:

“The true Scriptural source of consolation, in the face of all that troubles us, is to keep steadily before our eyes the second coming of Christ.

We must grasp and realize the blessed fact that the rightful King of the world is returning soon, and shall have His own again; that He shall put down that old usurper, the devil, and take away the curse from off the earth.

Let us cultivate the habit of daily looking forward to the resurrection of the dead, the gathering together of the saints, the restitution of all things, the banishment of sorrow and sin, and the re-establishment of a new kingdom, of which the rule shall be righteousness.”

– J.C. Ryle, “Looking Unto Jesus”

“It is only through blood-shedding that conscience is purged; it is only at the cross that the sinner can meet with God; it is the cross that knits heaven and earth together; it is the cross that bears up the collapsing universe; it is the pierced hand that holds the golden sceptre; it is at Calvary that we find the open gate of Paradise regained, and the gospel is good news to the sinner, of liberty to enter in.”

– Horatius Bonar, quoted in Christ is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar, eds. Micahel A.G. Haykin & Darrin R. Brooker (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), 79-80.

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Luckas pleads with us that our lives not be characterized as

  • “shapeless idleness”
  • “listless and languid”
  • “domestic dissipation”
  • “unprofitable vacancy”

He adds, “Let’s pray, plan, and live in such a way that no one could use his words to describe our lives.”

These descriptions come from a section of William Wilberforce’s writings.  Read the whole post here.

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How long?

In my message yesterday, I preached from Zechariah 1:7-17.  In verse 12 we read, “Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’”  I explained that the angel of the Lord is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

The cry “O Lord, how long?” is a cry of expectation and holy lament!  It is a perfectly acceptable prayer if it is offered in faith and not doubt.  God oves his weeping children to cry on his chest and to unburden their cares upon Him?  It is only if we come to him in doubt, that such a plea is wrong.

Throughout Scripture we see people crying, “How long?”

  • “My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?” (Psalm 6:3)
  • David cried out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).
  • “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” (Psalm 90:13)
  • The tribulation martyrs, “cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.” (Revelation 6:10-11).

This vision encourages us to speak to our God, especially in the midst of suffering, crying out for His grace.  ” Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13).

Second, when you do cry out to God like this, plead the promises of God.  If you want to pray, “How long?” make sure you know the Scriptures and plead the promises of God with your Father.  Pray, “Your will be done!”  This way you will know that your prayers are in conformity to God’s purposes!

And thirdly, what a comfort it is to know that Jesus prays for us (Luke 22)!  Here Christ appears, mounted on a red horse.  He intercedes for us.  And if God answered his prayers even before he was virgin born, fulfilled the law, and shed his blood on the cross–how much more quickly will God show his love when summoned by the intercession of our crucified, resurrected, and ascended Savior.  Christ, our Advocate and Intercessor, is praying for us!  He says, “I am praying for them” (John 17:9). “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25).  ” My little children, if anyone [believer] does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1).

Now, notice verse 13, “And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.” Wow!  He answered with kind and pleasant words. With comforting words. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God” (Isaiah 40:1).

God is never portrayed as impassive, aloof, uninvolved with our world.  Not, God cares for His people. So cast your care upon Him for He cares for you!  And this is the essence of the whole book:  gracious and comforting words!  And the rest of the vision in verses 14-17 is all about that.  In essence, God will say, “I am on your side!  I’ve had it up to here with your oppressors!  I will judge them and restore you!”

And the same is true today.  If you doubt God’s care read Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:32-34.  We don’t need to worry at all, our Father’s is pleased to give us the kingdom.

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