Thursday, January 3, 2019 -
God’s been teaching me some things – things that, as many times as I’ve been through the Bible, and as long as I’ve been a Christian – have never before been more clearly revealed to me. Recently, these revelations have come in part by reading David Murray’s “Jesus on Every Page.” The Bible isn’t a textbook about ethics or a manual on how to solve personal problems. It is a book about God. So when I study a certain text, I should ask, “What is this telling me about God?”
God tells us many stories about many people. He does this not for us to set up as ethical models or as heroes for emulation or examples and warning, but as a people whose story has been taken up into the Bible in order to reveal what God is doing for and through them. “It is part of the story of redemptive history.”
So as we study God’s Word, according to what God revealed to Murray, I must “keep God, not man, in the foreground.” I must “distinguish Christian morality from mere moralism” by realizing that I need Jesus’ grace to obey any moral requirements and His forgiveness when I fail. I should “avoid introspective subjectivism by looking away to Jesus far more than looking within for evidence of grace.” It’s essential; therefore, I “relate every story to the overarching plan of redemption.” I should “look for Jesus when studying Jesus’ people, find the original purpose for the original audience,” and “include the correspondence and eternal perspective even when looking at individual earthly lives.”
This must be especially true when reading the Old Testament, because even then “Any good accomplished by biblical characters often point to Jesus by analogy – they are like Him – or they are witnesses to His character.” Look at Joseph, whose example pointed to Jesus’ forgiving heart. “The Old Testament was not primarily a history of Israel, but a revelation of God – it revealed Him to Israel through their history.” It pointed to the character of God. It demonstrated what the coming Savior would be like (John 5:39)! Peter tells us God spoke of these things “by the mouth of ALL His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21,24). Every prophet! Not just some of them.
In fact, by offering sacrifices, the Israelites were taught what their sins deserved – death. I have had the misconception all my life that the animal sacrifices saved them from sin. But, the New Testament is very clear – the animal sacrifices could never take away sin: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). “That’s why they had to be brought with a contrite and broken spirit.” Hebrews 10:3 says, “But those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.” They did not see them as the basis of their salvation, but “rather, it made them long in FAITH for a better and greater sacrifice that would.”
Murray further enlightened me in my lack of understanding when reading the Old Testament: “Wherever we read of souls being converted in the Old Testament, it is to the Messiah they were turned – not to God in general, but to Christ in particular. They heard the gospel, and they believed in the coming Savior.” See Hebrews 4:2 and 11:26, “Unless we understand that sinners in the Old AND New Testaments were only saved by grace through faith in the Messiah, we will view the old covenant believers as moralists, ritualists, and legalists; sermons about them will also be moralistic, ritualistic, and legalistic.
“If New Testament believers are going to sit down at the same heavenly table as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then we must assume that we all get there the same way.” (Matthew 8:10-11) The Westminster Confession of Faith has it correct: “Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in ALL AGES sincerely from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed.” See Genesis 49:10. This redemptive salvation of Christ even of those before His coming, through faith, in the Old Testament, was a Christ-centered faith, as Hebrews 11 so clearly indicates. It is why that chapter never really sunk in with me as it should have. Indeed, “Old Testament faith was shadow faith, but shadow implies at least some light,” Murray says so well. In fact, Murray points out three main emphases to their faith: “The Messiah will be a man, the Messiah will suffer, and the Messiah will conquer.” All three of these truths are front and center at the creation, as Genesis 3:15 tells us.
God also clearly reminded me today that as part of the church, I am destined to suffer, to allow my spiritual life to grow and not degenerate. This is an often repeated theme throughout the New Testament. Things don’t always turn out well, we’re told in Hebrew 11, but God has promised to be with us through every trial that happens to us for Christ’s sake. We are to endure to the end, Jesus tells us, and then will be our reward in heaven. Even on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, evil seemingly triumphed. But it instead was the greatest victory ever won! Things will continue to get worse for the elect unless the church and our nation repents of its sin and for turning its back on God and His Lordship. In modern time we are already seeing the spirit of the anti-Christ deceptively do his work by portraying Jesus as an ethical teacher but no longer as the Lord and Savior of the world. We must be particularly alert to his subtle ways of deception and distraction of and from the truth. The Bible warns us of such seduction, and tells us to “discern the spirits.” That’s why no matter what happens, whether it be ridicule, imprisonment, torture, or even death, we must hold fast to God’s faithful promises to keep us in the palm of His hand and endure, holding fast to the hope of Christ’s return. It is the entire Word of God that holds me, and opens my eyes, and gives me the strength to endure.
Tonight though, I am discouraged, I received a note from the chaplain’s office totally ignoring my request for a job in their office. I had even given him information and links about my case, which he ignored completely. Oh well, I guess God has another reason for me being here.