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Tag: Abraham

We Wait Patiently for Justice

Justice does not come quickly. The righteous answer is not always the obvious one. And, quite frankly, you’re not always the judge and you don’t always have the clarity you think you do. That’s why, biblically, every matter must be established by two or three witnesses and it must have a due process.

Tim Challies wrote what ended up being a pretty controversial post on patiently waiting for justice to be done in the matters relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries. He pointed out that we are to love, hope all things, wait until the matter is fully heard, and entrust justice to those authorities appointed by God. Even in the cases where there is alleged sexual abuse and alleged cover-ups.

For some, that was asking too much. Apparently, for a Christian seeking justice, we don’t need such waiting games. ‘The powerful are hiding and maneuvering to oppress the victims,’ we are told, ‘and therefore we ought to stand up for the victims.’

Rachel Held Evans, in her response to Challies, made it clear that the obligation of the church in seeking justice is the protection of the weak rather than the strong:

As Christians, our first impulse should be to protect and defend the powerless, not the powerful.

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Some Guidelines for Reading Old Testament Narrative

If you’ve ever begun to read through the Old Testament and been filled with more questions than answers, you’re not alone. Many of the stories of the OT are hard to understand and hard to apply.

We know that narratives are inspired and ‘useful’ for us (2 Tim 3.16-17), but how? Are we really supposed to cheer on Samson? Are we always supposed to take Abraham as a positive example? Are we really supposed to take the admonitions of God to Joshua as personal words of exhortation & promise to us?

Here are ten hopefully helpful principles for interpreting Old Testament narrative. It’s important that we get this right, since this genre of Scripture makes up about 66% of our whole Bible.
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There’s No Saviour Here

Preaching through Genesis has had me spending more time thinking about the narrative structure of the Old Testament lately. Last week as I was studying to preach Genesis 20-21 it struck me again that one of the main points of the whole Old Testament is also one of the simplest:

There is no human saviour, only humans who need one.

One of the very first things God does when humans sin is announce that he has a plan to bring  a saviour, who will be born of a woman, so that right from the beginning our hopes are raised. With each new covenant and each new child miraculously born in the line of promise we’re to ask in anticipation: Is this the saviour?

But the narrative structure of the Old Testament makes it clear again and again that no human can be a sufficient saviour. Every spiritual climax soon descends into disaster and the heroics of faithful men are quickly followed by failure.

Think about the pattern:
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Justifying God

Abraham banishes Hagar

Abraham banishes Hagar

Genesis gives an interesting picture of Abraham. There were times when he was faithful and times when he was not, but overall the NT looks back on him as the prototypical ‘man of faith’ who will inherit the promises of God. The highest goal we can strive for is to be like Abraham–in fact, to have faith, in order that we may become one of his children.

But Abraham’s faith wavered. God had made tremendous promises to Abraham about his ‘seed’ and ‘blessing all nations’ and things like that. But when Abraham gave his situation an honest evaluation, it was tough for him to see how this could come about. The circumstances just didn’t look like God was going to fulfil his promises.

Abraham loved God, and believed God’s word. But he doubted that God had the power to bring about his purposes, because of the circumstances of Abraham’s life. Abraham knew that God had promised children, but knew that the chances of that in the later stages of his (and Sarah’s!) life were slim to nil. 

Abraham was concerned that God be justified. He desired for God’s promise to be fulfilled, for God’s word to come true. 

Many of us find ourselves from time-to-time in situations like Abraham. We know God’s commands, God’s promises, God’s declarations regarding the future. But when we look at the world the way it is–and in particular, our world the way it is–we start to wonder how (or if) God will actually pull it off.

But we want him to! We want God to be shown right! We want God to be justified in the words he has spoken and in the declarations he has made. We just aren’t really convinced that, given these circumstances, there is any way he can show himself to be true.

So what did Abraham do? He found his own way to bring about (what he thought) were God’s purposes. In his eagerness for God to be justified, he thought he would help God out, by adjusting the rules a little bit. Abraham took Hagar, his wife’s servant, and had a child by her, thinking that this would be the means by which God would be justified.

But God said no. His promises were bigger, and his power is bigger than Abraham could have imagined. Abraham may have had the right intention, in trying to show God to be just, but his problem started when he felt like God needed to be justified by us. He spent too much time looking at his own circumstances (and wondering what could possibly be done), and not enough time gazing at the God who had made the promise.

This applies on so many levels. Theologians, for example, may wonder how God could be good, fair, righteous, etc., but still demand that only men hold certain positions in the church. They think, ‘Our society is more advanced than the church of Christ!’ We wonder how God could be the things he says he is, and still insist on something so backward. So we seek to justify God by bending his rules. 

My hope for myself (and for you) is that I would spend more time gazing at God and thinking about his omniscience and omnipotence, and less time thinking about my circumstances. The more I’m convinced of his infinite ability to deliver on his word, the less I’ll be tempted to justify him by compromising in my own life.

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