Agonizomai: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

Malachi 1:12-14 - The Insanity of Sin

Malachi 1:12-14 - The Insanity of Sin

Malachi 1:12-14 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

So Israel’s great sin was what? It was to fail to believe God because they did not love Him with all their heart and soul and mind. They despised Him. And you may say, "Wait a minute. Isn’t that a bit harsh to say they despised Him? Aren’t you being judgmental here?" Not at all! To fail to do all the things of the law instantly, completely and joyfully is to despise Him from Whom the Law comes.

Can we not see that the polluted offerings, the second-hand goods are not in themselves the problem. It is the view of God in the eyes of the offerers that is the problem. Here is the Lord of glory, perfect in all His ways, Holy, maker of all that there is, sustaining their lives with all manner of blessings, including breath and food and home and hearth. Here is God Who has revealed Himself to them and given them His oracles, Who has delivered them from the bondage of Egypt and brought them into the promised land; in Whom is life and blessings forevermore. And what is the attitude of the leaders? “Yeah, yeah - but let’s go through the motions and slip in a crippled lamb while He’s not looking.

What foolishness! If God is God then He is always looking. All things are before Him. There is nothing done in the dark that is not open to His gaze and that will not ultimately be revealed. He knows the very innermost heart of every man. Do you see the insanity of sin? Of not loving God with every breath. Of not understanding that from moment to moment all things come from His hand by grace through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we understand this more fully in the gospel age. But Israel had been given the miracles, the law, the prophets - and they all pointed to Christ! {Luke 24:25-27,24:44, John 5:39,5:46} Yet they were found in unbelief. And without faith is impossible to please God. Furthermore, not showing any of the fruit of faith in Him is ultimately evidence of not even belonging to Him.

To "cheat" God is to be insane. But sin is insanity. And all of humanity is consequently insane, because all cheat Him - even the most pious and altruistic. The taint of self-direction, self-will, self-glorying, self-serving - simply put, the god of self - is upon every inclination and motion of the heart of every son of Adam. {Ge 6:5} It is only the restraining common grace of God Who works by His Spirit in the World, for the sake of and because of the work of, Jesus Christ that men are not seen as the utterly evil and totally depraved beings that they are.

If the heart of man is deceitful above all, and desperately wicked, what can explain any goodness, even in the unregenerate, but the work of God Himself? God alone is good. {Mr 10:18} God and no one else. When the Bible speaks of the righteous it speaks of those who are both declared and rendered righteous by sanctification through faith in the One Who alone is righteous.

But it goes beyond simple cheating. What is it that the lamb (or other offering) represents? It represents Christ, the eternal Son come from heaven to take on flesh so that He could die as the representative, the substitute, and thus propitiate the wrath of God against our sin. This is the perfect, spotless, unblemished real offering - the only effective offering; and it was vital to preserve that concept - else the whole idea of the just dying for the unjust, the perfect redeeming the depraved, the holy offered in place of the profane is watered down. Israel was called to be the living demonstration of the need for the purity of the sacrifice and, by this, to witness to the coming Lamb of God.

There is a lesson for today’s church here also - for those who claim to be leaders and shepherds. Do not water down the sacrifice. Do not minimize Him in any way. Do not take liberties or make shortcuts that fail to present the Christ in His holy perfection. He was not simply a good man (that is to present a crippled Christ); nor was He a man becoming God (that is to present a spotted Messiah). For all men are universally corrupt and the taint of sin infects every aspect of their being. But because Jesus Christ was spotless - He then must necessarily have been both God and man.

Those who shrink from this truth in the least way rely on a sacrifice that is unable to save. Those to whom this immeasurable sacrifice becomes blasé, boring, wearying - to whom it becomes "ordinary" - are in a very great danger indeed. God hates two things above all others - hypocrisy and tepidity. O - He hates all sin, of course - and all sinners - but He especially hates these two things.

Among the first and last things we encounter with the Christ are the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the coldness of the Laodicean church. {Mr 2:8-11 Re 3:16} Both in their own way show contempt for the sacrifice. But note the repetition - "I AM a great King and My Name will be feared among the nations." Through us or in spite of us God’s Name will be magnified in Jesus Christ before men and angels and before the demons of hell. Every mouth will be stopped and every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

And He is glorified because He has shown Himself to be love and mercy and grace and forbearance and patience - as well as holy and just and a hater of sin, and those who do it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Owening Your Sin - Part 2
But I say also, there is no inconsistency between spiritual joy in Christ and godly sorrow for sin; yea, no man in this life shall ever be able to maintain solid joy in his heart, without the continual working of godly sorrow also; yea, there is a secret joy and refreshment in godly sorrow, equal unto the chiefest of our joys, and a great spiritual satisfaction.

John Owen - Evidences of the Faith of God's Elect, Part IV

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Malachi 1:11 - God's Sovereign Purposes

Malachi 1:11 - God's Sovereign Purposes

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

Not "I wish my name to be great among the nations." Not, "I hope you cooperate and help me to make my Name great among the nations." Not even, "If you repent it will demonstrate my Name to be great among the nations." But what does God say? "My Name will be great among the nations."

There is an important lesson in this. God is already great and glorious. He is so whether or not Israel obeys. He does not need Israel but Israel most assuredly needs Him. And regardless of what Israel does God’s Name will be great among the nations. This is something to bring fear to any heart. God is able and God will get glory not only in the salvation of souls, but also through the disobedience, rebellion, unfaithfulness, apostasy and unbelief of men - both pagan and professing believer.

His chastisements bring Him glory because they are meted out in love and longsuffering and patience and forbearance on account of Jesus Christ.

His judgements bring glory because He righteously and justly cuts off and condemns sinners according to His perfect light in Jesus Christ.

His salvation brings Him glory because, in Jesus Christ, He has wrought something into which angels long to look, and that will be subject of the inquiry by the saints throughout eternity. Unfathomable. Unsearchable. Matchless love and grace.

All, of creation will be seen to bring glory to God through Jesus Christ, for Whom all things were made, and unto Whom are all things. {Col 1:16} Hell will bring glory to God. Satan will bring glory to God. Condemned sinners will bring glory to God. This is because His glory does not depend upon anything in creation. There is none like Him.

If there is indeed a God then all other things are moot. Either God is (I AM that I AM) or He is not. If He is - then game over! He is God! Almighty, unshakeable, unchangeable, unmovable, eternal, omnipotent - from age to age the same. Lord of all that His hands have made including Satan, the host of heaven, the universe, flora, fauna, little green men (if there ever should prove to be such things) and especially over the existence, the hearts and the wills of those most ungrateful, rebellious, wicked and god-hating naked little bipeds that shake their fists toward heaven with every thought and deed – namely, mankind.

And the real clue as to why God’s Name will be great among the nations with infallible certainty is this - the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. {1Pe 1:17-21} and {AV Re 13:8} God purposed in love, before creation that, in Jesus Christ, His Name would be glorified through the redemption of His church, to the praise of the glory of His grace. What God decrees He brings to pass always and infallibly. He does all His will among the armies of heaven and none of His purposes can be frustrated.

It is because of this that all things are for Him and by Him and through Him. ALL THINGS. Creation, redemption, judgement history, lives, beginnings, endings - all events and creatures both heavenly and earthly. Every atom. Every particle from one end of the universe to the other. And another key is found in this - God upholds all things by the Word of His power. {Heb 1:1-3} He didn’t just create and then disappear. Every vibration of every atom - every breath of every creature, including you and I, is given and upheld by God through Jesus Christ.

At the same time He took on bodily form, walking as a man, yet in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead upholding the very world and universe in which He walked. All God and all man at the same time. It is unfathomable. What are you doing for eternity? Hopefully, contemplating this unfathomable truth.

Not to lose sight here of God’s specific address to Israel at their moment of apostasy - at a time when the last of the prophets before Christ spoke the warnings and admonishments to the leaders who had failed to guide the way for the people. God says that, no matter the failings of Israel, God’s Name will be great among the nations (read Gentiles) - an astonishing thing to many Jews. The Jews were supposed to be a light unto the Gentiles to lead them to God. Instead they had made the Name of God a byword among the heathen by their own lack of faith and obedience. By the time of Christ He spoke of their "religion" in this way - "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves." {Mt 23:15}

The Jews came to think (perhaps always did) that greatness among the Gentiles meant dominating them politically and militarily - and then exerting the moral authority to make them follow Moses and the prophets. This is a perfect type of carnal religion down to our own day. It is making flesh our arm and not God - and it brings God’s curse upon us. {Jer 17:5} (Not a new curse, but the increased fruit of the old one) It is a perfect picture of how we must live in a world full of means and things and people and situations - but we are called to live in it not through the flesh but by the Spirit of God through the obedience of faith.

It is a picture of how we take the commands of God and clothe them in flesh; or of how we start in the Spirit and end up in the flesh. God does not expect us to overcome the physical universe, to defeat armies, to change governments, to make converts. He expects us to trust Him to do it through us when we obey what He says. There is a huge, huge difference. The difference is between life and death. Everything in the natural man and in the residual flesh of the believer calls him to be master of his own fate, to be the cause and effect, the beginning and end. To be the effectuator, the proactive, the result-getter; to make a difference. But this is not God’s way. We are to be slaves of His will, who have died to our own fleshly desires and are led by the Spirit of God. When we are - then God’s will is done through us. His will, our vessel. His power, our submission. His purpose, our sacrificed bodies.

There was so little of this in Israel at the time of Malachi and there is so little of it in the church today. The prophets that these people "revered" were stoned persecuted and sawn asunder and slain with the sword and imprisoned by the leaders of Israel - culminating in the crucifixion of the True Prophet, Priest and King, of Whom all others were but a type. This clearly reveals that the natural man hates God, hates His will, His Word and His purposes. So long as religion can be turned into carnal doings they will love the God of their own creation - but when God demands that He be obeyed and worshiped as God - when He insists on things being done His way - they will kill the messenger because they hate the One Whose message is being delivered.

Beware the 21st Century professing church. This is a perfect picture of what North American Christianity has become to many. And it is laid at the door first and foremost of leaders - just as it was in the time of Malachi. " Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." {AV Pr 29:18} This is a Jewish literary device of double emphasis - in this case an affirmative emphasis. When the people of God are not given the word of God (Prophetic teaching) then they go astray. The leadership is culpable, but not determinative. They will answer to God, but God will achieve everything He planned from the beginning of time in every detail.

And part of this will be to raise up a people for Himself who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. He will do it. He will put a new heart within them. He will cause them to walk in His statutes and to respect His ordinances. Just read this passage from Ezekiel and ask yourself why and whether God will save a people for Himself. {Eze 36:20-36} And THIS is the reason that His Name will be great among the nations; not for what any man has done, save the man Jesus Christ, Who is God in the flesh bringing it all to pass.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Owening Your Sin - Part 1
God has promised in his covenant that he "will remember our sins no more," that is, to punish them; but it does not thence follow that we should no more remember them, to be humbled for them. Repentance respects sin always; wherever, therefore, that is, there will be a continual calling sin to remembrance. Says the psalmist, "My sin is ever before me."

John Owen - Evidences of the Faith of God's Elect - Part IV

Monday, July 27, 2009

Malachi 1:9-10 - The Necessity of Faith

Malachi 1:9-10 - The Necessity of Faith

Malachi 1:9-10 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

"And now I entreat the favour of God"...or..."And now you entreat the favour of God." Ask for grace and mercy. I say grace and mercy because God will not hear their supplications made from an improper motive in a way contrary to that which God has prescribed. The leaders have encouraged the people in hypocrisy. Note that it was their doing (AV, RSV) - probably because they were charged with the responsibility for doing things right and for ensuring that the people stuck to doing things God’s way - not any old way that suited them. The greater knowledge rested with the leaders and therefore, the greater responsibility.

It was a simple command in principle; sacrifices to God had to be spotless in every way. No second rate goods - only the very best. Now we already know that, to God, obedience was better than sacrifice. {1Sa 15:22} Sacrifice was commanded, but had to be that sacrifice that God desired and it was the obedience (of faith in God) that itself appropriated the spotless sacrifice that was pleasing on behalf of the offerer.

This is a very clear picture of the principle of worship and service to God under both Covenants. Christ is of no avail to anyone, perfect though His sacrifice is, if He is not appropriated in the obedience of faith. That is to say, a faith that truly appropriates Christ also obeys Him. Obedience and faith are inseparable and mean virtually the same thing. A person cannot be obedient apart from faith and cannot be faithful apart from obedience.

God would rather have nothing offered - He would rather forego the sacrifice and the worship altogether than have such things offered to Him without faith and, ergo, obedience. This is why, in this instance, God says that He prefers that somebody would shut the doors of the temple altogether and cease offering anything at all rather than to have His worship profaned.

I suppose it is possible to see this as a mercy. God would rather they didn’t add condemnation upon condemnation to themselves by continuing to offer wrong sacrifices to Him. If they would heed it would be a mercy. But that is a bit of a stretch, making man the focus for all this. No, the sacrifice and the worship are not about man but about God. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He desires to be worshiped in purity and sincerity of heart.

Now this next bit is very important - so listen up! Remember that it was not the sacrifice alone but the obedience of heart that brought it that pleased God. The sacrifice had to be pure but even then it had to be mixed with faith. A less than pure sacrifice was unacceptable. A pure sacrifice offered without faith was unacceptable. Only a pure sacrifice appropriated through faith was pleasing to God, for without faith it is impossible to please Him. {Heb 11:6}

You might say that the profane sacrifice, and not the pure, is the subject of this text - and you would be right. But the implication is that even if they stopped their current practices and started offering pure sacrifices per se from this point on, God would not be inclined to hear them. "I will not accept any offering from your hand." Their hearts are wrong. There is no faith and the fruit of that is that there is no reverence for God and it shows in a lack of obedience to His revealed will. Something more is needed and that is repentance and a pleading for grace and mercy.

Now if we take this to the New Covenant we see that the perfect sacrifice has come. There is no spot or blemish. But that sacrifice can still be appropriated wrongly by professors of Christ. There must be faith and that faith will be seen in reverence which will result in obedience. There is no possibility of divorcing these things from each other. If there is no reverence for God there is no true faith and there can be no obedience that is pleasing to Him. In fact, if none of these things is truly present then the spotless sacrifice is of absolutely no avail to them whatsoever.

And we can go even further than this. Jesus has died once for sin. His sacrifice is sufficient for a whole world. He is the infinite, holy, pure eternal Lamb of God. Yet not all are forgiven. How can this be? The answer is found in the fact that even the sufficient sacrifice the Lamb of God must be mixed with faith. And no man can have faith unless God gives it to Him. And all those to whom He gives saving faith will be saved. {John 6:44 Eph 1:3-6} The heart of the natural man is at enmity with God, is spiritually dead and cannot give rise to anything pleasing to Him. But God gives to His people a new heart, a heart of flesh, replacing their heart of stone, a heart that cries after Him, "Abba, Father".

Christ Himself must be appropriated in accordance with what God has decreed. The sacrifice was certainly given up to the Father in perfect obedience and is absolutely spotless. Not only this, but He died under the wrath of His Father so that the sins of all true believers would be forgiven. Propitiation. Vicarious atonement. Substitution. Forensic justification (and more). But it is only received through faith - a faith that reveres and obeys God because it is the gift of God.

Note the word "received." Justification is received through faith and not earned. And this is why God is preaching to Israel through Malachi - because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (or "the preaching of Christ" - RSV). The power is through the word - in one sense is in the Word - power to convict and to bring to repentance. But even this is not the whole story. The Word must fall on fertile ground and that ground is made fertile by the Spirit of God preparing the heart of the hearer. And this is why God’s favour must be entreated. This is why grace is needed and should be sought and supplicated from God.

I do hope it is clearly seen. It’s we who repent and believe, but it is God who brings this about in us from start to finish. And this is why all things redound to His glory including even our faith and obedience. Thereby we are free to remove the focus from ourselves, and trusting God to do and to have done all, we can look into His face, simply following. In the end we shall ask, "When did we do such and such?" We shall not be aware and we shall certainly not be lining up with a heart that is chafing at the bit to take credit and to claim trophies. Those that do have missed then point that it is all about Jesus, and many will be in for a big surprise that will leave them weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth in the outer darkness.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Who's Really at Work?

Here is C.J. Mahaney speaking at the Resolved 2009 Conference. I don't listen to him much, which is evidently my loss. Maybe I'll have to make more time to do that.

This is a session which I like precisely because I DISlike it so much . I know those who would be quite enthused about that sort of paradox [/smile]. But I like this delivery for two main reasons:
1) It echoes what I have found to be true about the nature of human responsibility and Divine sovereignty, but it does so in a more balanced and spiritual way than I have often done.

2) It cuts me to the core because it exposes my own hypocrisy in this area. If anything, I tend to be too passive and he holds me to account for that.
Obviously, my DISlike is precisely because of reason 2 above. I dislike being cut to the heart. I don't like my hypocrisy to be exposed. And I don't cherish being held to account. What a bundle of contradiction I am! But then, so are you if you will be honest with yourself.

And it's like C.J. says at the end - we can be both convicted and encouraged at one and the same time precisely because it is God Who is at work in us, AND because it is on account of Christ's cross work that we are made participants. It all comes back to God in the end.

Who's Really at Work? - C.J. Mahaney

Saturday, July 25, 2009

In Christ Alone
This is one of the few relatively modern songs of praise that I really like. The subject is first and foremost about God and what He has done in Jesus Christ for those He came to save.

I have to admit getting a bit narrow about the words in many hymns and songs. For example, in this one, there is reference to "every sin on Him was laid", which could be taken in a number of ways. Does it mean that literally every sin of all men was laid on Jesus Christ? Then we would either have to be Lutherans or Arminians as to the doctrine of substitution - for they each believe this, as I understand it. The difference between them on this point is that the Lutherans say a man cannot believe unless God moves him through regeneration and the Arminians say that God enables all men to believe and leaves it up to them.

But when I sing this one, I take the phrase "every sin on Him was laid" to mean every sin of MINE (and of all the elect) - which may be what the composer/author intended anyway. That way God is not requiring the payment of the sins of the reprobate once at the hands of Christ and again by themselves, eternally, in the lake of fire; and I also attribute to God all things pertaining to my salvation, including the gifts of faith and repentance which spring from a new (regenerate) heart.

Anyway - don't let all this mental gymnastics keep you from appreciating the God of whom these words were written and to Whom they are sung. This is one of those songs that makes me cry ... literally.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Malachi 1:6b-8 - Death by Degrees

Malachi 1:6b-8 - Death by Degrees

Malachi 1:6b-8
But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Through Malachi God completes the didactic dialectic. "How have we despised your name?" was the question to which God answers for them, "By offering polluted food upon My altar." That seems to be fairly clear doesn’t it? The Jews knew what constituted "pollution" in their offerings. At least, they should have known.

But the next dialectic shows what God truly thinks of their attitudes. He has them not examining themselves in abject humility and repentance - but pressing the question that God has already answered. "How have we polluted You?" Do you see the effect of their hardness of heart? Instead of hearing the Word of the Lord that they had sinned and falling on their knees for mercy they answer with the equivalent of, "O yeah? So how exactly are we supposed to have slipped up?"

It is important to understand the rhetorical nature of these prophetic comments. This is a literary device in which God is both accuser and answerer. He takes both sides of the conversation. But He has perfect understanding of their hearts and so is able to render the essence of the content of those hearts plain for them (and us) to see.

There are no accidents with God. We need to see the depravity of the heart of the professing Hebrew in order to know the depravity of our own hearts as professing Christians. If we merely stand and observe and wag our heads and add condemnation to them we are in precisely the same danger as the people of Romans Chapter 2:1 who were elated to see the Gentiles get their comeuppance but had no clue that they were just as bad, if not worse. The greater the light ignored, the greater the condemnation and the more severe the judgement. {Lu 10:13-14}

But so long as God is warning rather than cutting off there is hope. He is showing patience, tenderness, longsuffering and lovingkindness by means of warnings. Note to the neo-evangelical crowd - He is not being "tolerant" of their sin, their error and their apostasy; He is lovingly warning them by pointing out the consequences of carrying on in that direction. There are consequences. If we are disobedient there are fruits of disobedience and if we are found finally impenitent then there is eternal punishment. We do not lose our salvation, but may find that we were never truly saved. {Mt 7:21-23}

And here God is speaking through the prophet to lay naked before the leaders of Israel the hypocrisy of their ways and the atrocious neglect of their responsibility as leaders of the people. Bad examples make bad influences. But prolonged apostasy further hardens the heart. It is possible to understand, then, that while men harden their own hearts it is a mercy that God speaks the truth to them, calling them to repentance.

The leaders have been offering and accepting second and third grade animals and goods in sacrifice. This is a sure sign of a loss of faith in God. It is more than an insult. It is more than disobedience. It is that form of creeping disbelief by which something - anything - other than God is given the actual primacy. It may start in a small way with just a single slip - just this lame little lamb with only a slight limp - hardly noticeable at all, really... But it is not a question of the lamb itself, but of the holding back of that which is perfect for oneself contrary to the commandment (and the right) of God. It is a shale slope that once embarked upon turns into a crumbling screed upon which the very next step is an acceleration towards an uncontrolled descent.

And here is a sure sign of apostasy - when our respect for/fear of men is greater than that which we have towards God. When we curry the favour of men with the best we have - but we give to God the second best - what is left over - what would not be acceptable to a mere earthly potentate, and we feel alright about it; our consciences are not bothered. We are not convicted. We long since passed the point where it truly mattered to us, despite what we said we believed.

Do I please earthly governors before I would please the Lord of Hosts? Here’s a perfect example of how dull the mind is. THE LORD OF HOSTS is the One being asked to take the back seat. Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and King of all the armies of heaven - and do I slough Him off with seconds!? What rank indifference! What functional disbelief! What idiocy! What foolishness! And yet it is in the heart of every man - and especially in the hearts of all professors of religion.

The pagans don’t care about the True God at all. They make no profession of allegiance/faith/obedience. But the ones professing Jehovah (or in our case, Christ - the Same), if they deny the depravity that remains on account of worldly and bodily lusts - and thereby fail to constantly fall upon God’s grace to mortify it - eventually come to not even be aware of their denials. And the prospect of that ought to frighten us exceedingly. O God of mercy keep us all from such presumption, such hardness of heart and such indifference.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Helping People to Death
The kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of the cross. Those who attempt to take the cross from the Christian’s shoulders, do in effect aim to remove the crown from his head.

William Secker - The Nonsuch Professor

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Malachi 1:6 - Handsome is as Handsome Does

Malachi 1:6 - Handsome is as Handsome Does

Malachi 1:6 "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?" says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

Contrary to all that much of the modern evangelicalism constantly asserts, the honouring of God as both Father and Master necessarily contains an element of fear. Not fright. Fear. Godly fear may sometimes involve a fear of what God will do, depending upon whether we are unsaved, or whether we are in knowing sin - but the true believer’s fear of God is fear that springs from what He has done. When we actually see something of this God, we act like Job or like the Apostle John on Patmos. We despise ourselves, we repent in dust and ashes, we stop our mouths, we fall down as dead.

There is a sense that we don’t fear God instead of rejoicing in His love for us, but alongside it. They are two sides of the same coin. They are inseparable. We have been brought near to the unapproachable by the ineffable doing the unimaginable. That is a cause to fear God. He is so unutterably different from us; He is transcendent; He is holy; and He does as He pleases among all the host of heaven and earth. He can raise to the highest heaven and consign to the lowest hell. And He has chosen to raise us - just we who believe and no others - from the morass of fallen humanity. What love! His choices are beyond being questioned and His decrees are from eternity to eternity.

The realization of our position of being saved and preserved entirely due to the grace and the work of God and not because of anything in us (especially our wills) is at one and the same time a thrill and a cause of the terror of the Lord. We are loved, but because He loved us and not because we were lovely. We are saved, but not because we did anything at all, but because He alone decreed it and brought it to pass. What love it evokes in us - and what fear!

In addressing Israel in such a manner as He does here, through Malachi, God is using a didactic dialectic. He is causing them to examine themselves and their fruit by asking them questions. Many are called, but few are chosen. Amongst National Israel there is a remnant that is true Israel but what is amazing is that they don’t know which they are unless God chastises them, corrects them, rebukes and admonishes them. In the midst of this their fruit is tested. God’s people will repent and turn because the life of the believer is one of constant repentance. God is at work through His Word and His Spirit, His rod and His staff, to guide the true sheep all the way home and into the eternal fold. The true believers, in fact, will not be scandalized, shocked or offended by rightly applied correction or admonishment. The true believer will be humbled and repentant. This is the way to know the difference - by their fruit.

God uses means to achieve His ends. He decrees, but He also works. He acts directly but, more often, He uses secondary agencies. Law and correction are means; they demand obedience and therefore bring the true hearer to the end of himself because he knows he cannot obey, absent the enabling power of God. So where does the believer go? What is he to do? He repents and believes God for mercy and goes to the very God he has offended for the grace to be found giving more honour and fear to God.

What had the leaders of Israel been doing that brought this severe rebuke from God? They had been de-supernaturalizing their religion. They had been using God as a mere adjunct to their lives. They had been valuing worldly things above God. It is universal problem. In the days of the judges there were at least 7 times when God blessed Israel and they became indolent and unwatchful and compromisers with the surrounding cultures. As a result their enemies oppressed them until they again cried out to God. This was no accident. God allows and uses enemies for the good of His people. Tribulation purifies the soul of the faithful by casting them upon God.

Even so, not all those in the wilderness that were bitten by the fiery serpents were healed. It was those that looked at the brass serpent that lived. Sin kills. But those who believe God shall live. It was always so. It was so here. It is so now. For the nation of Israel is a type of the professing church (not the true church) and the weeds and tares are growing up together. God will separate the one from the other at the great harvest, but He will demonstrate the preservation of His saints through the constituted means of preaching the word of God - through the hearing of which comes faith unto those who are God’s children.

It is characteristic of the Old Covenant that God worked primarily through the leadership. Kings, priests and prophets led the people. They were charged with leading them in honouring and revering God. In the New Covenant we have a King, Priest and Prophet - Jesus Christ, who has passed through the heavenlies and Who now dwells in every believer. And so the leader of God’s people leads them from within each one of them.

The leaders in times past were only types and shadows of He Who was to come, but they were nevertheless accountable to God for exercising right leadership. Though they often served as an example of the failure of mere human religion and the weakness of the flesh, yet there was no excuse for their failure to care for God’s people. And it was a particularly terrible thing when leaders were not faithful but mere hypocrites. God hates hypocrisy with a vengeance.

But even so, He often warns before He acts. He rarely rains fire from heaven unless people have first ignored, refused, rejected and rebelled against His just and righteous warnings. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He holds out His hands all day long commanding all men everywhere to repent. He asks, "Why will you perish? Turn and live!" But when men fail to heed - especially those charged with caring for the flock - God ultimately judges. The Babylonian captivity is an example. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is another, along with the resulting slaughter and Diaspora. But the ultimate example would be the sobering one of the world wide flood of Noah’s time, from which only 8 souls emerged to repopulate the world.

The great implication here is a warning about hypocrisy - about skin-deep religion - about a fake spirituality. Is God truly God? Is He God to them (and to us)? Then it is hypocrisy to say one thing and to act differently as these leaders are doing. A Son honours His Father. A Servant obeys his Master. One is a position of familial respect and the other a position of obligation due to relative position or power. Both things are characteristic of our relationship with God. And they have not disappeared on account of the coming of Christ. He fulfilled them both perfectly so that we might receive the Spirit by which to strive for the same, yet without condemnation when we fail.

But it is characteristic of sin that it blinds us. God is light but sin is darkness, and those who are given to it are blocked from the light. So it is that the Lord, through Malachi, poses the rhetorical question by putting these words in the mouths of the failing leadership, "How have we despised your name?" Think about that. For us to even ask such a question as if it could not apply to us would be evidence or darkness of soul and hardness of heart. To be found careless and indolent and idolatrous, and not to be aware of it while claiming to be religious, would be astounding were it not true of us all - especially we believers.

The Bible has little to say to rank unbelievers. It says, "Repent and believe the gospel!" But the Bible has a very great deal to speak to professing believers. Most of the Bible is written about Israel and about the church. Yet most of the problems are in Israel and in the professing church. God is concerned with the purity of His people and the Bible clearly screams this from every page. It states that no fruit means no true salvation. It commands every professor to examine himself and to make his calling and election sure.

When God attributes to us a question like this, "How have we despised your name?" then, if our first reaction is bewilderment instead of godly fear, self-examination and shame, then we need to wonder if we are in the Way at all. God has the right to ask. In view of our infirmities it is loving of Him to ask. He is pointing us to our own condition and back to the only Source of a cure. And the first clue is that the cure is not to be sought or found in us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Simplicity in Christ
This is (a picture of) the road to Christ Jesus. It is no roundabout road of the law; it is no obeying this, that, and the other; it is a straight road: "Believe, and live." It is a road so hard, that no self-righteous man can ever tread it, but so easy, that every sinner, who knows himself to be a sinner may by it find his way to heaven.

C.H. Spurgeon - Morning and Evening - Evening, Feb 4th

Monday, July 20, 2009

Malachi 1:4-5 - The Curse of the Reprobate

Malachi 1:4-5 - The Curse of the Reprobate

Malachi 1:4-5 If Edom says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the LORD of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’" 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, "Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!"

God does not remain angry forever towards His people {Ps 103:8-10} but He is angry eternally towards those who are not His people. The two types could not be clearer. No matter what the unregenerate do, no matter how much they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again the Lord of Heaven is against them and they will not prosper. They may seem to. They may have all the toys and the life of Riley, but the things they value are dust and will turn to ashes. God may grant earthly prosperity to some, but it is a curse upon them that deadens and destroys and distracts apart from the operation of God’s grace.

Why do the wicked prosper? Because the hand of God is against them and prosperity hardens their hearts. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. But even this God can and does bring to pass upon those whom He has loved with an everlasting love from of old.

But the things of God are eternal and beautiful. And so, the Lord is glorified even by the lives and acts of the unregenerate. This is because the justice and wrath of God are just as much a part of His holiness and redound just as much to His glory as His love, His mercy and His grace. "Great is the Lord beyond the borders of Israel!" Outside of His chosen people - outside of His church - regardless of the rebellion of men, He is great and greatly to be praised in all His doings.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sermon of the Week
The Missing Note in Everyday Preaching

Here again is Henry Mahan preaching some home truths in his uniquely direct way. This time he mourns the state of preaching in many places today, including the tendency to preach up a cheap grace and to overemphasize the love of God for the lost above His hatred for sin and those who dwell unrepentantly in it.

His aim is partly at the hypocrisy that some preaching affords to hearers by encouraging them to come in over the wall, rather than via the foot of the cross. The cross humbles the sinner. It confronts him with his own sin and his powerlessness to deal with it. It baldly states a man's need for for a salvation he cannot attain to of himself. It is the place where the blood of atonement is spilled - where sorrow and love flow mingled down - a veritable fountain filled with blood.

To be convinced of sin a person must hear preached the truth about his own corruption. In this sermon Mahan states something like this - "Men see sin in proportion to their view of God's holiness"; I would add "and vice versa".

I would also remind listeners that preaching sin is not to be confused with the conviction of sin. Preaching is the responsibility of man but only the Holy Spirit can take that truth and open the ears and eyes of a lost sinner to it all. The lostness of the sinner, the sinfulness of sin, the universality of corruption, the wrath of God against all sin (especially our own) - these MUST be preached so that the Holy Spirit can take the words uttered through vessels of clay and make them life-giving water to souls made thirsty by the Great Seeker of the lost.

Sin ought not to be preached without the hope that is in Christ - but that's not the problem in a lot of churches. The problem is so often found in the offering of Christ without the consciousness of what it is to be a lost sinner.

So, according to Mahan, the missing note in present day preaching is the conviction of sin. I agree. And I agree that we must preach upon sin far more than what we so often hear; we must do it both to the lost and to the professors of religion that sit in our pews (or stadium seats). Those who are truly saved will not be offended. But the false converts will be outraged. Those who are being drawn to Christ by God will not be turned away, but those who got into the kingdom over the wall, or who seek to get in that way, rather than through the narrow gate, will be out for blood. Here, then, is Henry Mahan redressing the balance:

The Missing Note in Everyday Preaching - Henry Mahan

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Get a Real Job! (Reprise)

Get a Real Job! (Reprise)

I am republishing this post from very early on in my blogging career in 2005. This is done to keep pressing into the timeless truths expressed in Malachi and to show that the danger of false teachers and neglectful leaders exists just as much today as it did then. It also serves as a reminder of the purpose and flavor of this blog, which have not substantially changed in 4 years.

I've been blogging for a few weeks now. So far as I can tell the only visitors that have been to the site are one person marketing something and one person acknowledging something I said when I visited his site.

Blogging wisdom says that sites must be promoted via various means. The objective is to have as high a readership as possible. To make one's mark; to have one's say; to be noticed; to tell one's story based on that narrative fragment of the post modern world that I might share with other people out there. I don't give a fig about any of that.

I would absolutely hate the idea of looking for groupies who could cheer me on with supportive platitudes cultivated and received as a form of self-validation. I will not deliberately promote this site in that way. It's not about the site, nor is it about recognition for myself. I am simply speaking into God's universe through the internet the timeless Truth about His Son. It is about the adoration of His attributes. It is about saying what even many churches refuse to say. There are so many wishy-washy, ill taught, tentative, lukewarm and falsely professing Christians in the world that the original message is all but buried under the detritus of a self-serving age - an age that has invented its own God by picking bits out of the Bible.

These are perilous times for true believers. The church has been inundated by the world because it invited the world into the Body. CGM, CCM, Open Theism, Post-modernism and the EC are only the latest onslaught. Before that it was rationalism and Charismatism and Word/Faith-ism, Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare-ism, New Apostolic Reformationism - the list is absolutely endless. Some of these "ism's" appeal to people's emotions and some to their intellects. All of them, in so doing, appeal to the flesh.

After you watch people long enough falling hook line and sinker for deceptive lies it is not necessary to examine with a fine-toothed comb every detail of the latest heretical teaching. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck that's enough to call it a duck. Endless debate, argument, accusation, rhetoric and even apologetics is a waste of breath. If they receive not the love of the truth then why spend that breath on them. Move on to those who will hear. Perhaps that will make them jealous, and some will be saved. Who knows?

Let me be frank (well, more frank!) If people purporting to be Christian leaders complicate or alter the message in any way - and they refuse to hear words of rebuke or reproof - then we ought to move along and turn them over to Satan. If they stand between God and the people in such a way that the view of God is obscured, or so that it is they who are seen and not the Lord - then admonish them and move on. If Benny Hinn insists on being unaccountable for money raised through spurious healing campaigns then rebuke him and move on. Don't let him become the focus. Christ and His gospel is the focus.

If Brian McLaren insists on waffling about the sinfulness of h@mos3xuality then rebuke him and move on. Don't get hung up for years in a debate about what is so clearly and unequivocally mandated as sin. If people won't agree with what is plainly taught and historically accepted as true then move on. They probably aren't true Christians at all, but mere professors who have added to their sins the perversion of the truth and the hardening of their own hearts. Shake the dust off and move along. Put your energy into taking the gospel to hearts that have been prepared by God.

This probably scares some people who have "emerged" from the abuses of the wrong sort of Fundamentalism. I saw people like that at a Church of Christ seminar a couple of years ago, buying wholesale into postmodern obfuscations of truth as a reaction to the bad experiences of Fundie upbringings. They called themselves "recovering fundamentalists". It was a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Taking your ball and going home. Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The truth is that if you are not a fundamentalist then you aren't a Christian. Is that offensive? Too bad! It's true. You just need to distinguish between the sort of Fundamentalism that describes the abusive behaviour of some people, and a belief in the fundamentals of the faith. There is a huge difference. The fundamentals have not changed in 2,000 years. They don't need to. There is no new Truth. There is nothing that can add to the completed revelation of God.

If you do not hold to the plenary inspiration of the Bible you are anathema. If you do not hold to One God existing in the three Persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit you are anathema. If you give way to the need to "reinvent the story" or to detract from or add to the Word of God you are anthema. If you deny the virgin birth, the absolute sovereignty of God or the deity of Christ you are anathema. If you deny the doctrine of original sin or the hypostatic union of man and God in Christ you are anathema. I could go on, but you get the point. Believe what you want, but don't deny any of the fundamentals and still call yourself a Christian. Call yourself what you are - either an apostate or a heretic. And if you are a leader don't publicly question the fundamentals of the faith or you will show yourself to be a wolf.

The fundamentals of the faith ought to be beyond any question amongst all professors of Christianity. People who do question them need help - and if they refuse help then they are at best apostate and at worst false Christians. Admittedly, we all need to examine ourselves to see if we are (truly) in the faith. (2Corithians 13:5) Many of us will have a lack of clarity or even times of doubt about one or other of the fundamentals. I don't get all bent out of shape when this temporarily happens to me or to other sheep. But I do get mightily exercised when so-called "Christian" authors, pastors, seminarians or apologists express their own doubts in public and then start feeding those doubts to the sheep instead of feeding them Christ.

If you can't stick with the faith once for all delivered to the saints then get a real job and stop troubling God's people!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Malachi 1:2-3 - Picking and Choosing

Malachi 1:2-3 - Picking and Choosing

Malachi 1:2-3 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert."

If Paul had not used this verse (3) in the context of the election of the believer {Ro 9:13} it would be an easy matter to think this refers only to nations. God loved the nation of Israel and hated the Edomites - the nation of Esau’s descendants. In fact, there are some who claim that in Romans chapter 9 Paul is somehow only harking back to this passage in some vague allusion to the "selection" of nations for God’s favour.

To this I make the following comments. Firstly, what’s the effective difference between electing one nation for grace and not another - and electing one individual for grace and not another? Isn’t the principle the same anyway? Isn’t the matter one of God being sovereignly and justly able to dispense grace and mercy to whomever He pleases and to let others remain the subject of His abiding hatred on account of their sin? That’s the context here in Malachi - the setting of love upon Israel and the passing over of Edom so that they abide under wrath.

In Romans chapter 9 Paul uses the principle as an illustration of His sovereignty in salvation. The Romans context is indeed about individual election unto salvation - about the grace that God extends from an everlasting love towards some - and the just and righteous passing over of others. All are sinners and all are equally subject to wrath, but some have been freely given grace to repent and believe the gospel. It’s hard for a fallen mind to embrace, but it is the clear teaching of scripture.

Paul is simply taking something from the history of Israel that is the inspired word of God, faithfully recorded and preserved, and making an application of the underlying principle - a principle that speaks to the nature and purposes of God. When we ask what God is like then the Bible is the source that we go to for that information. And in both testaments the Bible tells us that God has mercy upon whom He has mercy - that He is a God who sovereignly chooses His people - and that He elects or passes over whomever He determines to elect or pass over for reasons known only to Him.

The reason this clear teaching of scripture is so universally resisted and, in some quarters even hated, is precisely because it makes God sovereign. It restores or preserves unto the name "God" what was always true of that designation - that He rules and does all His will in heaven and earth and that no hand can stay Him. Many people are content to believe in a god that does as they please - but just once let Him be seen as truly the One upon whom all things depend - the One who disposes of all that is His as He sees fit, including the human will - then many of those same people will hate such a God and will twist the meaning of scripture in order to preserve their own vaunted view of their worth and their will.

As I write this, I have just read a review/commentary on the movie "Superman Returns" which was intended to show the themes it has in common with the gospel. This is a review that was published in the Religion section of the Sunday Star, and was written by Stephen Skelton. Here is a quote from the script that was touted as being an accurate picture of the Father’s plan for the Son’s mission; Jor-El, Superman’s father explaining his mission:
"They can be a great people. Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the Way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you - my only son."
This is supposed to be a Biblical view of the condition of man and the motive of God in the incarnation? Yet I would venture that not one in ten professing Christians who see the film or who read the review will see anything wrong at all with this statement. It is, in fact undiluted Pelagianism - a heresy always condemned by the church (until Charles Finney made it popular among "evangelicals" in the 19th Century). As comic book fare or as movie dialogue it is perfectly innocuous - but if seen as an analogy to the Biblical doctrine of salvation it is pure heresy. Another quote from the fictional Superman answering Lois Lane’s letter after returning from his 5 year absence from the earth:
"You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour. But everyday I hear people crying for one."
More vague, incomplete and misleading parallels that add up to Pelagian heresy if accepted for what they are.

Was Edom seeking after God? Were they a good people? In fact I am reminded of the answer given by C.H. Spurgeon to a lady who complained, "I could never believe that God would hate Esau." The Prince of Preachers answered, "Madam, it is not that God hated Esau that puzzles me, but that He loved Jacob." For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none that seeks after God - no not one.

It is clear that the historical Malachi wrote under inspiration regarding the nations of Israel and Edom. In history the land of Edom was laid waste as God had promised it would be. {Jer 49:16-18}. Israel, too had been severely chastised by God, but a remnant had returned and the temple was rebuilt. God had compassion and mercy upon His people, but the disasters that befell Edom were judgements. And when Edom is seen as the type for all that the Lord passes over it is a dreadful light that dawns.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Malachi-Roxylee (Two Messengers)

What do a 2400 year old Jewish prophet and a 50ish Christian lady from New York have in common? Well - they were both inspired by the same Spirit to speak against false leadership and scandalous teaching among God's people. One did it through preaching/prophesy and the other through song - but the message is essentially timeless, because the problem is always with us.

I've published this before, but in view of the study we have just started I thought it would be appropriate to publish it again.

If you have trouble playing it on my site then go to Roxylee's and feast on this and her other stuff. Her Creative Commons License terms can be found here. And we will be hearing more of Roxylee's sweet stylings later on in the study.

Get Out of the Pulpit - Roxylee

Get Out of the Pulpit

I’ve been hearing about abominations
Going on in the house of the Lord
Devils mocking holiness, who teach prosperity
Then take your hard earned money they will hoard

Preachers are now just pop psychologists
Stand up comedians, or worse
Repentance isn’t mentioned, sins are just mistakes
Nothing taught from chapter and verse

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the Bible
Or get out of God’s church

We now hear doctrines that are taught by demons
You need to be familiar with God’s Word
The guy up front who calls himself a teacher
Rambles on about himself, it’s so absurd

The good news of the gospel is fast fading,
Neo-universalism is p.c.
The “many roads to Rome” is now accepted
And the offense of the Cross is history

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the Bible
Or get out of God’s church

Jesus, fully God and man is Savior
He died, then rose again to make us free
We come to him by grace alone by faith in Him
For his atoning work at Calvary

Sola -Scriptura has become passé
As a smorgasbord of poison is our fare, if you’re
in a lukewarm driven, me me sensitive church Lite
Protect your family and Emerge from there!

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the gospel
Or get out of God’s church
I said repent and preach true gospel
or get out of God’s church

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Malach 1:1 - The Burden of the Message

Malachi 1:1 - The Burden of the Message

Malachi 1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.

Hebrew names have meanings. The meaning of Malachi could be rendered as “My messenger” and thus may not be a name at all, but an office. However, we do not think of Isaac as “laughter” nor Jacob as “supplanter” separate from their given names; they are still given names even though they have a specific meaning. I like to think that God was present vicariously in the naming of all these Bible characters because, when we look at their lives, it is uncanny how the name (often given at birth) is descriptive of the character or the life.

Be that as it may, this prophet speaks of an oracle or “burden” of the word of God. I think this is what sets apart a true prophet/preacher from all others, both then and now. There is a burden. As Paul said:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” {1Cor 9:16}
That burden does not come from man, but from God, the Holy Spirit, and it comes because God has a purpose in mind that He is going to effect through the prophet/preacher. There are indeed many preachers in this present age, as there were prophets in the old times, who have no burden from God. They have a burden from themselves – and that "burden” is of no value whatsoever.

But here we see that God has laid upon the prophet’s heart HIS message (the Word of the Lord). God has moved in Malachi, thus making him a prophet; the reverse is never true – that a person is a prophet before God ever chooses and burdens him. Similarly, a person is not a preacher just because he has the gift of the gab or a nice turn of phrase, or a sharp mind; nor yet because he is doctrinally sound or knowledgeable in theological matters. A person is a preacher because he can do no other, since he is under compulsion from the Spirit of God to speak the word of God. He MUST declare Christ or his life is miserable.

It is also worth noting here that the word of the Lord comes to Israel which, at this time, consists solely of the rump or the remnant from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other 10 tribes had been conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and gradually become absorbed into the Gentile culture through intermarriage. This is why the Samaritans were thought of, like the Gentiles, as dogs. Only they were worse even than Gentile dogs because they had corrupted their way – they had lost or turned from the light and had become unfaithful.

But, in fact, we know that all mankind has in one way or another turned to its own way – Gentile, Jew and Samaritan alike. And we also know that among all the kindred and tribes and peoples of the earth, God has a remnant which is true Israel, because they are the children of the promise and, like Abraham, they believe God – which is counted to them for righteousness.

And so, in a few words of introduction we find depth and meaning and are able to get a brief glimpse of the context into which the prophet is placed by the God Whose message he is tasked and burdened to deliver. It is a message delivered to a group who, only a few years earlier had returned from Babylon by edict of Cyrus to re-establish the nation and the temple in Jerusalem. It will be a message delivered basically as two diatribes or polemics. Polemics are strong teaching given in order to refute error or to correct behaviour.

The two sections in Malachi are addressed to two different groups as follows:
Mal 1:6-2:9 Is addressed to the spiritual leadership of the remnant

Mal 2:10-4:3 Is aimed at the people themselves
The overall message(s) in Malachi are basically three fold:
1) Empty ritual of itself is of no value. The rituals represent, or are to be expressions of sincere and deep affections. (Mal 1:11). Even sacrifices, when offered without genuine motivation and understanding, are disgusting to God. (Mal 1:8-10)

(2) Divorce and intermarriage with the surrounding heathens works against the God-given purpose of raising godly seed unto the Lord (Mal 2:15)

3) The law of God is eternally fixed and true. Keeping that law, of which the priests are the custodians and intermediaries to the people, is a requirement of God which is never to be relaxed or repealed.
And in these principle points we see the last trumpet blare – the re-announcement of the purity of God’s law and are reminded of its killing power. But this is also a book in which the Messianic promise is still held forth. There is gospel even here.
Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts." (Mal 3:1)
And with typical dual inference we see the words “My messenger” (or Malachi) used in a promissory way, which we later see to be John the Baptizer who is indeed, the last of the great Old Testament prophets before the Hope of Israel arrives.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

The word 'toleration' must be cut out of the church vocabulary. You cannot find it in the Bible. It is not a nice word. It is not to be found in good company. It is a word much used by middle-of-the-road men. It has in it, no matter how much dissimulated, the crawling, creeping movement of surrender . . . Why should the Church tolerate men who no longer tolerate the Bible as God gave it to us?"

I.M. Haldeman, "Why I Am Opposed To Modernism", 1929

Monday, July 13, 2009

Malachi - An Introduction
In two days we will begin a new study from the book of Malachi, God's messenger. This will take us to the middle of September.

Malachi prophesied in the period around 460-430 BC. About 50,000 Jews had returned to Judah from Babylon more than 70 years before. The first flush of excitement had long since begun to fade and, over the years, people had come to be disheartened until, finally, they slipped into unwatchfulness concerning the promises of the coming Messiah that had been given by Haggai and Zechariah just a few years earlier.

Sometimes God seems to be silent. Sometimes He seems to be tardy concerning His promises. Sometimes the heavens seem like brass. These are the very times when watchfulness and faithfulness – when reliance upon the God of the promises – are most needed, and where God is most glorified. These are the times when men ought to walk by faith, and when those who are truly His are most kept by the power of God through that faith which He gives.

The Malachi study begins in earnest Wednesday July 15th so clear the decks and dust off your asbestos suits!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rachel Barkey Enters into the Joy of Her Lord
James White at Alpha and Omega Ministries posts a notice about the passing of sister Rachel Barkey.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Did You Miss Me.....?


Anyways...I'm nearly done resting up, the Championships Wimbledon are over and gone (how about that gentleman's singles final!), and Malachi is chomping at the bit to be heard, even after 2400 years. Isn't it amazing how the Bible is always both relevant and authoritative in the eyes and ears of those who are being saved. And isn't it inevitable that every one who ever lived will one day see it, too?

On July 13th join me for a 3 month romp through this last prophet of the Old Testament and see the unfaithfulness of the Jews reaching its final decline before "the great and terrible day of the Lord". But don't get too smug, because, as always, the decline of Israel is also a warning about the decline of the church in this present age.