Good of You

“It was good of you to look for Quentin.”
“Good!” she exclaimed. “Good! O Anthony!”
“Well, so it was,” he answered. “Or good in you.
How accurate one has to be with one’s prepositions! Perhaps it was a preposition wrong that set the whole world awry.”
The Place of the Lion

Charles Williams was one of the Inklings, a group of Oxford friends which included J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He illustrates a very important point about God. God is different than us in degree, in character and in being. There is a view that is very different than Providence known as pantheism.  This is the belief that God is not really separate from his Creation. He dies not oversee it, but rather is part and parcel of the fabric of creation. Creator and creature are virtually indistinguishable.  When Anthony, one of Charles Williams’ characters, remarks that was good of you, he is subtly blending creator with creature and “perhaps it was a preposition that set the whole world awry.”

The faint lie that pantheism echoes is the idea that creation does not have a real, distinct existence in itself, but is only part of God. This robs God of his Glory, and humanity of their identity. Providence teaches that though God is actively related to and involved in the creation at each moment, creation is distinct from him.

The whole world was set awry by pride as we humans took the place of God. The whole world is set aright by humility as God takes the place humanity. This is Providence, to provide an atoning sacrifice and cover our pride with grace and love.

For Such a Time as This

Today around the world many will celebrate Purim. This is a celebration that thousands of years ago God delivered the Jewish people from near certain death. When the writer of the book of Esther chose to tell the story, their method of telling the story was very strange. For centuries Esther has baffled commentators and Bible scholars. It is the only book in the Bible where the word God is not mentioned – not  even once.

How we use our words can be very revealing. The lack of words can also be very revealing. If you have ever been involved in a polite work discussion in the British isles you may have heard the phrase. “That is very brave.” What an American hears a Brit saying is, “They think I am courageous,” when in fact the Brit is trying convey a completely different thought: “You are barking mad.” So it was many years ago, the writer of Esther wanted to convey the feeling that God was hidden and removed from the day to day life of His people. It felt like God was absent.

To top it all off. This book which tells the story of a hidden or surreal God, tells the story of a very real and clear existential threat to the Jewish people. The Jewish citizens living in Persia were faced with a life and death situation and God seemed painfully hidden. In the hiddenness God is actively working. Esther, in vicarious representation of her people, walked into the courtroom of the king and pleaded in proxy for her people.

“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.” (Esth. 7:3)

Esther risks power, privilege and position to petition the potentate for her people. We know of a true and better prince, who not only risks everything, but actually gave up everything to rescue his people.

Let those Purim words sink in this Lent. Hear Jesus plead on the cross, “Let my life be granted to me … and my people for my request.”

Driving Distracted

Ex. 23:20   “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”

Read Exodus 23:20-33

The number of motorists who admit to taking calls and sending text messages while on the road has tripled in a year, rising from 8% to 28% and 11% to 31% respectively, according to the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring. Furthermore, over a third (39%) of UK motorists admit to being distracted by calls, texts and social media applications on their mobile phones while they are driving, according to new research figures released today by the RAC.

Driving while distracted is a dangerous thing. This passage we have just read is God’s promise to his people to go before them and prepare a place for them. Many commentators believe that Jesus quotes this passage in John 14:1-2 when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

Just as in our daily driving, being distracted is mortally dangerous. Not being aware of the heaven is perhaps the most dangerous thing we could do in our lives. Heaven is our destination, but our distraction can make us forever miss it.

Often times in our daily life we may think that the idea of heaven is a distracting idea from the toils, preoccupations and cares of the present. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is not focusing on heaven that makes us “distracted drivers” in this life. Being heavenly-minded focuses our minds, efforts and energies to the rigorous demands of life. We will miss the signposts along the road if we are unaware of the destination.

CS Lewis put it this way, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” (Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10).

We all are driving while distracted and do not even realise that we are.

Today put aside any distractions as you drive the road of life. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and forerunner of our faith.”(Heb 12:2) Our brother, our captain, our king has punched a whole through death and prepared the way for us. Let us drive focused.

Perfect Score

And God spoke all these words,

Exodus. 20:1

Because lawlessness shall abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Matthew 24:12

Read Exodus 20:1-21

Throughout the world many will be tuning into Brazil to see many nations competing on the fields of friendly strife of football. With the World Cup kick off the very thing that makes football understandable and enjoyable is that there are rules in place to turn it from a gaggle of 22 players into a beautiful sport. Without laws governing football, the game would be impossible to be played.

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the Ten Commandments was? What is the purpose of the Law? Is it simply to impose a heavy burden. Is it a way to show us how to achieve a 10 out of 10 Score? Are they 10 ways to be perfect?

The Law serves three purposes. An easy way to remember this is SOS . 1. The Law Shows us Our Sin. 2. The Law Shows us Our Savior. 3. The Law Shows us Sactification.

SOS Shows us our Sin

The first aspect of the Law can be described as prohibitive. It tells us what not to do.

1. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). If this first Commandment received the respect it demands, obedience to the other nine would follow as a matter of course. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” means, Thou shalt have no other object of worship: thou shalt own no other authority as absolute: thou shalt make Me supreme in your hearts and lives. How much this first commandment contains! There are other “gods” besides idols of wood and stone. Money, pleasure, fashion, fame, gluttony, and a score of other things which make self supreme, usurp the rightful place of God in the affections and thoughts of many. It is not without reason that even to the saints the exhortation is given, “Little children keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). (Arthur Pink, Exodus p. 146)

SOS Shows us our Saviour

The second aspect of the Law prophetic. It tells us who God is. It tells us how he rescues us.

Jesus when walking with the two disciples on Emmaus taught us that all the Law and the Prophets speak about Him. Often we only want to see prefiguration of Jesus in the Old Testament where the connection is explicit. Jesus tells us that the commandment “You shall not lie”(Ex 20:16) is actually telling us something about His Character. It tells us that Jesus is the Truth, “I am the Truth”(John 14:16), When it says “You shall not murder,” the Law teaches us that God is the Lord of the Life, “I am the Life.”

The Law shows us the Redeemer. On the Cross Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. “Do not think i have come to abolish the Law. I have not come to abolish the Law. I have come to fulfill it.”(Matt 5:17-19). The Law commands what Grace now empowers.

Jesus life and death gives us a perfect score and we did not even lift a finger to accomplish this. Just as the whole team benefits when one person scores a goal, so we benefit and receive the perfection Jesus achieved for us in his life, death, and resurrection.

SOS Show us Sanctification

The third aspect of the Law is Prescriptive. It tells us what a beautiful life and a good life looks like.

Just as we humans invented Football, the rules turn it into a beautiful game. Not following the rules makes the game impossible to play.  When the rules are followed camaraderie, joy, fun, and delight are unleashed.

God gives us ten ways to be perfect not so that we may attain perfection but that we receive Jesus’ perfection and then in response revel in it. Sactification does not earn us God’s love, it shows our response to God’s Love on the Cross.

The supreme test of love is the desire and effort to please the one loved, and this measured by conformity to his known wishes. Love to God is expressed by obedience to His will. Only One has perfectly exemplified this, and of Him it is written, “I will delight to do Your will, O My God: yes, Your law is within My heart” (Ps. 40:8).
(A. W. Pink. Gleanings In Exodus.)

Nameless, Faceless

Ex. 1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob

Names are very useful, they define objects and subjects. They tell us what things are or what they are not. Exodus is the greek name for this book. The Hebrew title of this book is “Names.”

These are the names….

Shiprah, Puah, Jocheved, Miriam, Aaron, Moses, Pharaoh, Jethro, Zipporah, and YHWH, the LORD. One by one the writer of Exodus introduces us to each succeeding character. In majestic fashion he unfolds the cast, character by character. The remarkable thing about all these names is that Pharaoh alone is the one name that is not personal. It could roughly be translated as “king” (literally “the great house”). He is only his title his very identity is only what he does.

By introducing all the characters the writer wants to immortalize their deeds and identities. The Pharaoh remains unknown, to this day commentators debate as to whether he was Seti I or Ramses II. We will never know, but we know the bravery of Shiprah and Puah.

Shiprah and Puah were two midwives—not the most particularly most glorious profession in the ancient near east. Nearly 3,300 years later we still tell their story and have no idea who Pharaoh is.

Pharaoah, who struggles to build great treasure cities for himself, remains incognito for eternity, whilst the Shiprah and Puah are sung through the ages.

Tucked into this passage is the secret of these faceless and nameless midwives, “because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.”(Ex 1:21) What a telling story. Women who had no name and no future are forever remembered by God and granted families. To not have children was considered the end of your family name. Women who did not have names were relegated to helping other women have children but never have their own.

God miraculously rescues both the children of Israel and the midwives. They get to see their offspring in the land of the living and rejoice.  It is the fear of the Lord that assures their name forever. Paul speaks of this fear, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”(Phil 2:9) when he speaks of Jesus choosing to fear God and obey. It is Christ’s obedience that guarantees we will never be forgotten.

The Psalmist speaks of this One, True Hero:

Psa. 22:22    
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23  You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!