Snapshots: Day 4

Snapshots of the Bible Story: Day 4

The Snapshot: “In the beginning… God created…”: They purposefully expressed Himself, they purposefully revealed Himself, they purposefully thought of beings to whom He could express love and from whom receive love, in His likeness; purposefully and with great pleasure  they created a world of provision for mankind, of variety, of pleasure for the man He would form; purposefully formed man as a purposeful expression of love, man and woman to complement each other, people who could enjoy Him, enjoy each other and enjoy the world they had made for them. Perfect. Nothing random, no chance, no accident, but pure purpose. Be thankful and worship.

Further Consideration:  Being pedantic about God the Creator is unwise. In Gen 1 we see mention of the Spirit but it is ‘God’ (?the Father) who speaks and the changes happen. Yet in Ecclesiastes there is a beautiful yet tantalizing picture that speaks of wisdom personified working with the Father: “I was there when he set the heavens in place…. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind,” (Prov 8:27,30,31) that surely must refer to the Son, existing before Creation, now part of the Creation process. What an amazing description, “delighting in mankind”. Wow! Why else would God create mankind if not to delight in him.

To see the other side of that coin we have to turn to the Shorter Westminster Catechism that starts out, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That was the conclusion the men of God started with, as they drew up that Catechism to be taught to their people. It starts with God. We are to glorify Him AND enjoy Him!  How many of us have that concept tucked away – you can enjoy God????? To appreciate and understand that, we have to ponder on the fact that the world – the earth – we inhabit was made by God for our pleasure No wonder we read, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gem 1:31)

The whole package – this planet and us on it – was good. His provision on the earth was everything we would ever need. He gave us senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch – and a superabundance of things to give pleasure to each sense. Take some time to think through each of those five senses and then the wonder of the world that makes them good. And when you have done that, ask Him to enlarge your perception of them even more, and help you be thankful even more. Contentment is good. Complacency is bad (Rom 1:21). Now, give thanks, offer praise.

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Snapshots: Day 3

Snapshots of the Bible Story: Day 3

The Snapshot: “In the beginning… the Spirit of God hovered….” : (Gen 1): As the Thought and the Word expressed themselves outwards, the Force flowed from them, the Force who was one with them, the Force who was the very perfect expression of them, almighty, perfect, love, goodness, and the Force expressed the Personality that was Him, and whatever He wanted, the Force performed and brought about, perfectly expressing their will, so Thought and Word and Force expressed perfect harmony, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as they would come to be known, the Trinity, the Godhead, just One but three in One. Ponder, marvel and worship.

Further Consideration:  The Holy Spirit is to many, a mystery and yet the Bible clearly reveals God in three forms: the Father, Supreme over all, the Son sent to earth to redeem mankind, but now back in heaven ruling alongside his Father, and then the Holy Spirit, the ‘executive arm’ if you like, of the Godhead, the power seen as He (they) move in our time-space history. “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Gen 1:2) What a picture of the power of God hovering over the already existing earth, covered with water, just watching and waiting for the next move of God in the Creation saga. The Father speaks and it starts to change.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) However we view this graphic and perhaps picturesque language, we live because God breathed energy into us, apparently His Spirit. But later we find, “Then God said, “I’m not going to breathe life into men and women endlessly. Eventually they’re going to die; from now on they can expect a life span of 120 years.” (Gen 6:3 Message) We think we live because of food and drink but the Bible challenges that limited understanding.

There is a mystery beyond our understanding and, yes, only accepted by faith, that we live because He enables us to. Centuries later a writer was to declare about the Son, he is “sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3) again adding to this mystery. ‘Life’ is more than meat and drink. The message is that the Holy Spirit is not only the One who moves in power expressing the will of the Godhead on earth, He is also the one who maintains ALL life, or should we say, They all maintain our life. Moses knew it: “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things….” (Num 16:22) It is both a mystery and a sobering thought, a thought that puts my life in perspective. Lord, thank you for the gift of today, of life.

38. Understanding the Fallen World

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 38. Understanding the Fallen World

Rom 8:20-22 (NLT) Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Accepting the Fall: I am aware that I often refer to this ‘fallen world’ which in itself refers to the Fall recorded in Gen 3 and to the fall of Adam and Eve from perfect people to sinners. Although disputed by liberal ‘believers’, the New Testament affirms that it was clearly an historical event according to the apostle Paul (see Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:21, 1 Tim 2:14, 2 Cor 11:3). The point about the Fall for us today, is found in the consequences, both logically and in reality.

The logic of the Fall: Apart from the fact that Genesis declares it and the key New Testament scholar acknowledges its historicity, the Fall declares something so fundamental that most of us never even think about it. As far as God is concerned, the state of living after the Fall is NOT normal. Normal for God is how the world was before mankind sinned, and ‘normal’ is what it will be when God creates a new heaven and a new earth eventually (Rev 21:1) with a new sin-free community (21:2). But here is the thing, if you don’t believe in God and you don’t believe in the Fall, all you are left with is a messed-up world that was always messed up and will always remain messed up, a very pessimistic scenario.

The reality of the Fall: As I have quoted before, one modern historical commentator has said ‘the history of the world is the history of wars’ and most people have heard of Mao Tse Tung’s quote: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” But it is not just nations, it is tribes and cultures and families and individuals who seem unable to live peaceably together. The curses of Genesis 3 show that life after the Fall was changed, it became more difficult, harder and harsher as God stepped back into the shadows and let us live our lives as we wanted – alone. (And yet as we saw at the beginning of these studies, He is still there reaching out to whoever will respond to Him).

Worldwide changes: The indications are that this change affected the whole of creation which is what makes Isaiah’s prophetic analogy(?) so incredible when he speaks of the day of the Messiah when, The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:6-9) The amazing sense of peace and harmony among all living creatures there, makes us realise how different the world is now. The Bible doesn’t spell it out but there are hints of powers and forces released that cause geographical upheaval that didn’t occur before the Fall – earthquakes, moving tectonic plates, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes. It is not clear and so is speculative, but it makes sense. Something else that Genesis shows us is that human behaviour deteriorates when left to itself. From a first single act of disobedience we read that before very long, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.(Gen 6:5)

Why am I like this? The fact is that sickness and illness developed in the world, things go wrong with our health. Even more than that our bodies develop ‘defects’. I have a particular non-problematical skin feature that I clearly inherited from my mother and from her family. Things like this get passed on down through generations. Sometimes they can be very serious. To take one example, Huntington’s disease is a rare inherited disorder involving the progressive loss of particular nerve cells in the brain, and causes a decline in thinking and reasoning skills, including memory, concentration, judgment, and ability to plan and organize. Huntington’s disease comes from a genetic disorder. (Quotes from Internet). Sometimes genetic changes can cause literal physical changes and so in the modern ‘transgender debate’ we find that there are some people, fairly rare, who are born with what possibly might be best expressed as mixed (both) sexual organs that challenge gender identity. More commonly in the gender debate, which we’ll consider as a separate subject, we find people whose psychological and emotional identity does not correspond to their biological sex.  This often creates the question, “Why am I like this?”

The truth about causes: The answer to this question is NOT, “Because you have sinned, and it is God’s punishment.” It is also NOT, as some Christians who struggle personally with these things say, “God made me like this.” No, He didn’t. What we are talking about here are consequences of the Fall, of the world going wrong. The fact that God allows the Fallen world to work like this is no more and no less than like a frustrated car mechanic watching a person run their car into the ground from lack of proper maintenance, who has been told to mind his own business and let the car owner get on and do what he wants. There may sometimes be a causal link between sin and a bodily breakdown – as we’ve suggested before, long-term alcohol abuse can result in organ damage, e.g. to the brain and nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas. Medical authorities maintain there are clear scientific links between smoking and lung cancer. Personal injuries may be caused by personal negligence. However there are times when things happen out of the blue with no apparent cause, because that is what sometimes happens in a fallen world. In respect of diseases it may be that an individual makes themselves vulnerable to catching a particular disease, but often such things happen simply because we are part of the fallen human race, not because I am more of a sinner than my neighbour. (see Jesus in Lk 13:4).

The truth about behaviour: When we come to consider behaviour, attitudes and outlook in respect of gender issues, which has been so much forced into the open in the last twenty years or more, as with any other behaviour, attitudes and outlook, we arrive at a major debate which, I believe, has not been resolved intellectually or scientifically. Feelings about gender are flexible (and we’ll consider this more fully in the next study) and science has not been able to determine so far what are the definitive causes for the ways individuals feel about themselves, but however we feel, there is still a large measure of freedom as to how we act out those feelings, and therefore choice is still there in some degree.

To take a silly, nongender-issue example, on a bad day I can wake up and feel physically very low. There are probably good physical reasons why my emotions flow in that direction. However, if I am wise, I keep my mouth shut until body and emotions pick up; it is that simple. Whatever our propensity, we still do have a measure of choice as to how we will act. The Fall did not take that away from us. Genetically, we may be predisposed or inclined in one direction, but we are never forced down a particular path. As Christians especially, we can seek the Lord for grace and thus choose with His help how we will act. Taking my eyes off me when I am feeling low about myself, and simply saying in actions, how can I help others, refocuses our lives and our actions as well as our mind and emotions, so that His resources can then flow in me.

Fallen People: Now this is very significant when it comes to the way we think about other people, particularly people who are not ‘like me’! First, we would do well to see that every one of us human beings struggle in some measure with some ‘foible’, as I referred to our quirks or personal idiosyncrasies, our ‘feet of clay’ as I have on occasions referred to it before.  But those aren’t just ways of thinking, the things we struggle with can be physical or emotional. This needs to be our starting point, this recognition that because this is a fallen world we are all in some way or other ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’. The more I have revelation about my life the more I see what a broken person I was (and still am in a measure), falling short of perfection, falling short of grace and goodness sometimes. Look, every time we have spoken a harsh word, thought an uncharitable thought, put self before others, acted less than perfectly, we have identified that we are fallen people.

Redeemed People: But when we look at ourselves and others around us, we have to come back to the heart of this series so, second, we need to remind ourselves that although we are fallen and imperfect, God is on our case. He has provided a new life for us in Christ through His Son’s death on the Cross, and He has provided His own Holy Spirit for us, to indwell us and help us, and so although we do so often struggle with coping with these inadequacies, these blemishes, these signs of being broken, He still loves us, is there for us and is there gently working to change us, in His way, with His wisdom, with His power, in His time. Hallelujah! We will be changed, it will happen, partly this side of death and completely in eternity.

Beware jumping to conclusions:  Once we get to and see the redemption idea, we can be reassured about ourselves and then we start looking at others and start thinking about how they could be redeemed, how they could be changed and so there, third, if we are not careful, we start getting judgmental; we forget so many of these truths and revert to, “why are they like that, it is wrong, they are wrong,” and other short-sighted ungracious, insensitive thoughts that are moral assessments that may be part-truths but forget the big redemption picture.  Keep it simple: God loves them.  Start from that point and show them His love by the way you unconditionally accept and love them. Watch Jesus’ example in the Gospels as he interacted with ‘sinners’. That doesn’t mean you agree with their lifestyle or life-outlook, but that you want to be there for them in case God wants to use you in their particular ‘redemption process’. Much grace needed. Let these truths sink into you, anchor you, and maybe restrain you, but may they help us each to be part of His redemption process within us and in others around us.

23. The ‘Rest’ God has for us

Meditations in Hebrews 4:    23.  The ‘Rest’ God has for us

Heb 4:1   Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

In chapters 3 and 4 the word ‘rest’ comes up ten times, twice in chapter 3 and 8 times in chapter 4. We need to understand what it means. However, the explanation is spread out over the next eleven verses so we are going to have to do a large passage study, which unravels as the writer goes on. But be warned, this is, in our opinion, one of the most complex arguments in this book and it will take some thinking through. We will, however, do all we can to work through it to explain it clearly and then at the end, produce a summary of our findings.  Now as we come to these verses, I know I usually use the NIV but in this instance that version is, I believe, confusing and commentators and interpreters have struggled with it, so I am going to use the ESV which I think is more straight forward.

The ‘Therefore’ links us with the previous chapter that he ended with this reminder of what had gone on after the Exodus from Egypt. The ‘rest’ referred to in 3:11 and 3:18 was clearly the Promised Land which, through lack of faith, that earlier generation failed to take.

So now our writer starts with a warning which he assumes at the outset we will understand: “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”  (v.1) Now I warned just now that this is a difficult argument to follow so let’s put out front what the writer is going to prove from the Old Testament Scriptures, that “entering his rest” has its origins at the end of the days of Creation, but was a term used to apply to Israel entering the Promised Land, BUT ALSO at any other subsequent time when God challenges and calls us.

Let’s just assume to start with that this ‘rest’ is in general terms ‘God’s goal for each one of us’. When ‘rest’ is used as ‘the goal of our salvation’, he tells us that the promise is still there, that it IS possible to enter a similar state that God entered when He finished Creation, so, says our writer, don’t miss the goal.

In case we haven’t understood the jump between the OT and NT goals, he links that Goal with the Gospel:  “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” (v.2) The ‘us’ is us who are now Christians and the ‘they’ refers to the Israelites under Moses. The implication is that they were told there was a land that God had for them, but it needed taking by faith. The only trouble was that they didn’t have that faith. There is a subtle indirect warning behind this, for us not to be casual about the Gospel. Be careful that you haven’t fully received it, is what he is saying.

Now in verse 3 he first reassures us because we have believed, and reminds us (by way of warning) what happened to those in the OT who didn’t believe: “For we who have believed enter that rest, (so we’re OK, in contrast with them) as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath,  ‘They shall not enter my rest’”, (even though that ‘rest’ existed from after the Creation) although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” i.e. God’s rest – His own goal achieved, Creation and rest – existed thereafter and He is telling us that we too can enter into that experience of rest if we come to Him by faith.

The words, “my rest” he referred to in the quote back in 3:11 and now here in 4:3 suggest that it is as if the Promised Land isn’t the only thing God means when he speaks about us not entering HIS rest. When he writes, “And yet,” it’s as if the writer means, “But don’t forget the Creation story where God finished His work and then rested,”  and so he goes on to speak of that, “For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”  (citing Gen 2:2)  That was God’s rest, the completion of Creation. God had done His part. When he now refers back to that warning of Psa 95: “And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” (v.5) it was simply to remind us that although God has a rest (a position of having achieved His goal of Creation and thus now being able to relax, so to speak) that particular group of unbelieving people did not enter into it. That’s what the prophetic warning was in that Psalm.

The ESV arrangement  of verses 6 and 7 show us a “this-then argument” i.e. IF one group of people failed to enter THEN God sets up a new way of thinking about it: “Since therefore (IF) it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, (THEN) again he appoints a certain day, “Today”, saying through David so long afterwards, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

The Message Version explains it well: “God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen,  don’t turn a deaf ear . . .”  or as the Easy to Read Version puts it, “So God planned another special day. It is called “today.” He spoke about that day through David a long time later using the words we quoted before: “If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn.” i.e. merely because that one group of people failed to enter into the ‘rest’ God had for them, that was not the end of the story. God applies the word again and again in history so it can apply numerous times, just as he did in that Psalm of David’s.

Do you see what the writer is saying? It seems complicated but is, in reality, very simple. The warning came first of all to those Israelites to enter the ‘rest’ God had planned for them, the Promised Land, but when they failed to do that, it didn’t annul the fact that after the Creation God rested and used that ‘rest’ as an illustration of what everyone who came to Him by faith could experience – rest, in a completed world, with all of God’s provision! The goal of God’s plans from before the beginning of time, is a ‘rest’ that means being at peace with God and at rest in His will, with all that He now has available for us.

There is more to come but we’ll leave it until the next one. There has been a lot to take in and you may need to reread the whole of the study to catch it. (We will do a recap in the next study) The outworking of all this?  God has an experience that He wants for all of His children, all those who will come to Him by faith, an experience whereby we can be at complete rest in the knowledge that we have received the end goal of God’s plans – His salvation through Jesus Christ that reconciles us to Him, so no more striving, no more worry, no more wondering, ‘Am I good enough for God?’  As Jesus said on the Cross, “It is finished!”  Hallelujah!

1. Creation

Meditations on “The Big Picture” 1. Creation

Gen 1:1    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Having recently taken a break to slowly meander through the first two psalms, it may appear going from the sublime to the ridiculous to now go to examine the ‘big picture’ of the Bible but as I was watching a preacher and congregation interacting recently it made me realise afresh something that I have seen before, that so often Christians have never been taught the ‘big picture’ of the whole Bible and do not see the logical flow of revelation from Genesis to Revelation. So here goes! Each ‘meditation’ is more of a potted study covering a big issue or big step in the Bible that is important if we are to understand the whole. So we will start at the beginning and work through to the end taking giant steps, and all the way through I will seek to show how the one study fits the whole.

The starting point obviously has to be Creation – the bringing into being of everything that is. It is the greatest challenge to the human mind, that there is an Almighty God and He and He alone is the cause of all that is, however big it is (millions of galaxies) or however small it is (I have lost track of the latest ‘small’ matter scientists discover!). The Bible declares this is the handiwork of God. I have written previously of the conundrum of the ‘Big Bang’ the insolvable mystery of creating something from absolutely nothing (see Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 4. A Big Bang) so we will not go there again in this study.

Here, I think, we should just focus on the Biblical testimony and you will either believe it or not. Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis appear to give a double view of the Creation by God. Genesis 1 shows seven ‘days’ of creation. Again whether these mean seven literal periods of twenty four hours that God took to bring it all into being, or He took seven days to reveal it to Moses or ‘days’ refers to long periods, I confess does not bother me. Whether it was guided or godless evolution does concern me because the Bible says God did it and if He guided evolution (which has much fewer problems than survival of the fittest evolution) that doesn’t bother me. God, being God, could have brought everything into being in a split second or He could have spent millions of years doing it; He is capable of either. The issue is whether He did it or it was pure accident. Without Him we are pure accidents and things such as morality, meaning, purpose, beauty etc. all evaporate.  That is the logic of an impersonal beginning.

Genesis 2 focuses on the man and woman God creates and the New Testament has a number of references to Adam and Eve as two people who lived in time-space history. At some point in the whole Creation exercise two people are brought into being who are described as being made in the likeness of God. I take this mean they have some of God’s characteristics that differentiate them from all other living creatures; they communicate with complex language, and have complex thought patterns, they plan, they scheme, they organise, they write, they compose, they invent, they discover, they worship – all of these things lift them higher than the animal kingdom. But Genesis 2 also reveals a relationship between them and God; this perhaps is the greatest thing that differentiates them from every other creature – they are beings who communicate with and interact with God. In Genesis 5 the word ‘created’ appears 3 more times and in Genesis 6 one more time. Moses uses it again in Deut 4:32.

Those other carriers of the inspired word of God, the prophets, also attested to this truth, for example, The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isa 40:26). Seven other times Isaiah declares this truth – God is the Creator of all things.  The Son of God himself declared the same truth: “those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equalled again.” (Mk 13:19)  The apostle Paul likewise declared it, speaking of “God, who created all things.” (Eph 3:9)  In John’s vision we find the same truth being heralded in heaven: “for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev 4:11)

Back in the Old Testament, Melchizedek … blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen 14:18,19) What an intriguing revelation brought to Abram who had encountered the Lord but presumably had not yet realised His greatness. This truth also appears among the Psalms. In Psa 136 the psalmist exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord, “who by his understanding made the heavens…..who spread out the earth upon the waters, ….who made the great lights….. the sun to govern the day….the moon and stars to govern the night.” (Psa 136:5-9)  What is interesting is that it flows on recounting other historical happenings, and therefore the inspired writer sees it at a clear and distinct historical event, not some made up fairy story.

But how about the bigger picture? Is this all there is to note? No, there is an intriguing passage in Rom 8:19-22 where the apostle Paul uses such words as, “The creation waits in eager expectation … the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God….We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Whatever the broader picture has to do with salvation, Paul is indicating that the world, as it is at the moment, is in an incomplete state; there is more to come. Thus as we get to the end of the Bible we read, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,” (Rev 21:1) The truth is that this present world is not all there is or is to be.  There is an air of mystery about it because it is not completely clear, but there appears a new heaven AND a new earth that will be different from the present ones where the Lord will be in the midst and there will be no more sin or sorrow.

In the faith series we came across the following: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us (Heb 11:39,40) Whatever we experience in this present world, is only a glimmer of what is to come. Praise and thank the Lord by all means for the wonder of this world, it’s beauty and its variety, but be ready to be blown away with a new world to come in eternity that will be just so much more wonderful. Hallelujah! And then a final thought to evoke even more praise: have you ever realised that God uses time-space history for at least two environments (heaven and earth) where He can interact with the human beings He has created. Creation is about a communication environment.

1.9 The Testimony of the Bible

Meditating on the Judgements of God:   1.9  The Testimony of the Bible

John 3:16,17   For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

I still have a sense of dissatisfaction, that I have not yet adequately covered the point I am trying to make at the moment and which should be remembered in all that follows. Earlier on we said that God is love and that God is good and that God is perfect and we spelled out definitions to try anchor those words. But when I originally wrote a book on God’s love in the Old Testament, when it came to His goodness, I noticed that the testimonies of such people as David always anchored the term with God’s activities. To keep us from becoming judgment-orientated, even though this is the subject we are working towards, we perhaps need to remind ourselves of some of the good things God has done as shown to us in the Bible. That is what this study is about.

Our starting point has to be the Creation. As we have noted before, when God finished creating the whole of the earth, including us, His assessment of it was that “it was very good” (Gen 1:31). As a world without strife or disharmony in any shape or form, it was good to live in and the provision of fruit and vegetables was amazing. I am told there are over twelve hundred varieties of edible bean in the world today! God’s provision for us is all about pleasure and enjoyment within the boundaries He established. Wonderful!

When Adam and Eve fell He did not destroy them but simply put them outside the garden area where they had known the Lord. He did not give up on His plans for mankind. When we come to look at the judgements of Genesis we will discover that although mankind constantly got it wrong and went from bad to worse, God’s activity was incredibly restrained when it came to dealing with them.

We then find Him starting to build a relationship with a man called Abram and when he doesn’t do very well on occasion, God still keeps on with him – and with his son and his grandson Jacob. In fact His dealings with mankind simply reveal the folly of sin in man and the grace and goodness of God who does not give up on us.

Indeed God works within the sin framework of the world that exists after the Fall, and so copes with Jacob’s self-centred twisting, uses spoilt brat Joseph and allows the chosen family to end up in Egypt where they settle but end up as slaves. He then takes a failure called Moses and uses him to confront the awful sin of the Pharaoh of Egypt and delivers Israel out of his hands. He puts up with the moanings and groanings of Israel as they travel to Sinai and eventually when they refuse to enter the land God has chosen for them, He waits patiently until the generation of unbelief has died off and then takes the next generation to this land described as  a land flowing with milk and honey,” (Ex 3:8) a picture of wonderful provision.

When, long after they have settle there, they demand a king, the Lord does not give up on them but gives them one who fits exactly the king they have in mind, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites–a head taller than any of the others.” (1 Sam 9:2) Unfortunately he fails and so God gives them another to be king, David, who does unite and establish the kingdom. When it comes to his son, Solomon, we see the peak of God’s blessing when the Queen of Sheba comes to visit and is absolutely overwhelmed by God’s provision (see 1 Kings 10, esp. v.7-9)

When Solomon eventually drifts away form the Lord, the Lord does not give up on them but splits the kingdom to give two opportunities for blessing to flow out of relationship with Him. The northern kingdom fails from the word go and the southern kingdom has good, bad and very bad times. The northern kingdom eventually fails and is carried away and when the southern kingdom settles in for very bad, they too are eventually swept away in what we call the Exile. Now we might have expected God to have given up on these people and utterly destroyed them but to our surprise we find He brings them back to the land and restores them.  Four hundred years later His Son, Jesus, is born into this land.

When we observe the ministry of Jesus the simplest way of describing it is to say he simply did good and kept on doing good in his Father’s name. Through him blessing followed blessing. When he formed a group of disciples he did not give up on their misunderstandings but patiently taught them. He allowed himself to be arrested, falsely tried, condemned and crucified. Three days later he rose from the dead and  instead of preaching death and destruction for this foolish world (both Jew and Gentile), he promised blessing, which came in the form of the outpouring of his Holy Spirit.

When you watch the movement of the Holy Spirit you see power and joy and then gifting of both spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12) and spiritual ministries (Eph 4:11,12), all of which are expression of His ongoing loving intent for us. In and through the Church we see his ongoing blessing of individuals; it is an ongoing picture of the love of God being poured out and poured out in abundance.

Please, although we are going to focus on studying the different types of judgment, and the reasons and purposes involved in judgment, and then specific judgments, please don’t get judgment-centred. Hold to the things we have considered in this first part for the judgments are minimal in comparison to all the goodness that is revealed in the Bible.

35. Sons of God Revealed

Meditations in Romans : 35:  Sons of God Revealed

Rom 8:19   The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

This is a tantalizing verse! I suspect most of us arrive at it, glance at it with an air of puzzlement and pass on rapidly to easier verses. Now there are immediately two ways of thinking of what this verse means: 1. It means the world is watching for us Christians to be revealed as we grow in Christ on this earth, or 2. It means that when we go to glory we will be transformed into something even more glorious (which Scripture does suggest). Perhaps we should add a third possibility: 3. The world is watching to see our transformation as we grow in Christ which will happen in large measure as we allow the Spirit to lead and teach us, but the fullness of the transformation will only come when we pass from this earth into heaven. This third option is what we believe the following verses show us.

But we must remind ourselves that back in verse 17 we read, we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Now when we think of Christ’s life on earth it did comprise both suffering and glory. It was only partial glory and Jesus himself indicated it as such, but the fact was that some saw his glory as he ministered and worshipped him. The fullness of his glory is not yet complete because although he was glorified through his death and resurrection, there is a greater glory to be revealed a) when we see him in heaven and b) when he returns and every knee will bow before him.  This receiving glory is thus a partial and gradual thing but, as we said previously, as we enter into the ‘Father’s business’ and share with Jesus in it, we will experience both suffering and glory.

But what an amazing picture: the creation, the world, all of what we would otherwise call ‘nature’ waits expectantly for us to be changed and enter into a greater measure of our sonship.  Do you remember at the Creation, the Lord gave this mandate to man: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1:28) Man’s first act of ‘ruling’ or presiding over as God’s agents, was to name all the creatures: “So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Gen 2:20).

However this was followed by the Fall and with that came upset. Man and woman became self-conscious (Gen 3:7), fearful of God (Gen 3:10) and self-justifying and blaming of others (Gen 3:12,13). Further consequences were enmity between mankind, Satan and God on the earth (Gen 3:15), increased difficulty in childbirth and a dominating husband role (Gen 3:16), and the earth running wild to make food producing more difficult (Gen 3:17-19). Previously all creatures had been vegetarian but from then on the ‘food-chain’ that we observe among creatures prevailed. Some suggest that spiritual forces were released that meant shifting of tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods as well as disease and sickness and plague. All of these things came about as a result of the Fall.

The primary reason for what is referred to as the ‘curse’ is that God stepped back and left the earth to mankind to rule. The withdrawal of His presence meant the withdrawal of His life and blessing and yet, the Bible tells us, God was aware of and took account of all these things even before making the world, because giving man free will was essential for him to be fully human, with all that that meant. From before the creation itself, the plan of redemption was there in God’s planning and that was necessary because of the Fall and its effects. So with the Fall we have disruption to the way the earth works and the way mankind work; both are not how they were originally designed to be.

But then comes Jesus and the possibility of salvation, of redemption, and suddenly the earth is starting to be populated by men inhabited by God. The process is dramatic (new birth) but also slow, steady and continuous throughout the human life (sanctification). Suddenly it is a new day with these new God-empowered, God-directed ‘sons of God’, men and women energised by the Holy Spirit, coming to bring something new to the earth. Where they shed light, darkness falls back.

But it is never without resistance for Satan and his minions and the powers and principalities of darkness, press in on those sinful men and men who have not heard of a new way, or who have heard and refuse it.   And so a battle ensues and change is slow, but down through church history these men and women inhabited by God have been slowly revealed for what they are – saints. Twisters, connivers, cheats, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, traitors, abusers, all hear the words of the Christ and are transformed and another ‘son’ is revealed, another light bearer walks on the earth. They struggle to understand who they are, they are slow to understand the wonder of being ‘a son’, and they cannot comprehend the wonder and the potential of who and what God has made them to be. But the world looks on and wonders at every new birth. How will this one develop? What will they contribute to this world to bring light that dispels darkness, what will they say and do that actually changes the world?

Yes we, you and me, are being revealed. Gradually bit by bit we are changing and the likeness of Christ is being seen through us: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18) Hallelujah!