Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blog through the Bible: Claims of innocence and a desire to die

The next reading of the blog through the bible is Job 6-10. I know I'm running behind. I ran low on gas last week, and this is what got dropped. I will be picking up the pace this week. I hope....

The debate between Job and his friends continues in chapters 6-7, where Job responds to Eliphaz, and basically says, God has destroyed my life; I wish he’d finish me off. Either console me or tell me what I did wrong. I’m just an insignificant nobody, so why are you making me suffer so much?

Notice that the response begins with Job insisting he has every reason to lament, because of the great pain and vexation that has been laid on him, its pain that “would be heavier than the sand of the sea”. But at the same time, Job doesn’t pretend that God is not sovereign, and in control. D.A. Carson notes that Job doesn’t flinch from the obvious “in God’s universe, God himself must somehow be behind these calamities. Notice what he says. “The arrows of the Almighty are in me”. “The terrors of God are arrayed against me. Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass, or the ox low over his fodder?” Jobs says, “I’ve got every reason to complain”.

Second, note that at this point, Job just wants is all to be over.Oh that I might have my request, and that God would fulfill my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!” He sees not as a sad end, but as a comfort and mercy. “This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” He sees this as a way of taking away the pain before he breaks. He doesn’t want to turn from God. As a committed follower of God, he doesn’t want to fold.

Third, note that Job doesn’t think that he will have his wealth restored. Eliphaz says, repent and God will give it all back. Job says, no, I cant and wont presume this, and I won’t act like this (11-13).

Fourth, note how he rebukes his friends. He calls them out. “"He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away,” his take is that when you are in a jam, your friends should be there for you. But, they, he says, “are as treacherous as torrential streams. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid”. Their problem, says Job, is that their categories (be good get rewarded, be bad, get the judgment from on high) have fallen apart, and now, they have to defend their assumptions, or their path to blessing is no longer clear. This, Job says, has them afraid.

Fifth, notice that Job moves on to a mournful cry. Show me where I’ve blown it! he says, I’ve been upright. Show me where I went wrong. "Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? He continues to declare his innocence and the injustice of this suffering. Furthermore he says, “I won’t fake it. I will not lie to your face”. His vindication is at stake, and he can only say, “Let not injustice be done”.

Sixth, notice that Job turns his attention to directly addressing God in chapter 7, in an tortured prayer, but it is a prayer that is meant for his friends as well.

Seventh, see how Job begs for an end. He reminds God of how brief human life is, and how short it is. Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand? In other words “life sucks, and then you die”. He paints a bitter picture of life, and makes clear he wants to die. Then he says, in light of this, let me have my say…"Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul”. His compliant, “Am I monster that needs to be guarded. Why am I being tortures with scary dreams and visions?” I loathe my life, I will not live forever, my days are a breath, leave me alone “I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones.”

Eight, see Job question God as to why he is interested in him. Why does God pay attention to mere mortals? What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? In essence he says, “Why Me?”

Ninth. See that Job does not claim to be sinless. He says if. He’s acknowledging that while he can’t think of any, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. But he asks, why has that brought so much wrath? “If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be."

Eliphaz’s basic argument was, Job must have done something to get this kind of horrible judgment. Jobs basic argument is, your condemning me, but I’m innocent. You think I must have done something wrong. You hope I did something wrong because that means that I earned the wrath, and that you can point to a cause and effect pattern, but I didn’t, and you cant point to that. Then, he cries out to God and says, “Why me?” I don’t deserve this. HE comes close to saying God is treating him unjustly, but he doesn’t. He maintains his dignity. The tensions rising, what's the next move?

Here are three quick thoughts of application. First, don't be so sure you know everything, the friends think that they know what's happening, and they don't. How often are we the same way? Second, understand that God is sovereign. we get a birds eye view here, but in our own lives we don't. Remember that when things are hard, he is sovereign. Third, call out to God in everything. While Job hopes to die, he still cries out to God for His actions in Jobs life.

The fellowship of the Unashamed

I heard someone quote from this, and fell in love with it. My hope and prayer as a pastor is that every member of my church can says this with hope, and joy, with fire in their eyes, as they seek to live for the furthering of the kingdom of God.
I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.
And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear for "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16)
Dr. Bob Moorehead

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Job, an upright man, a challenge, the refusal to sin, and the opening of the Grand Dialogue

The story of the Job develops quickly. IT starts with the prologue, introducing us to this rich, righteous man. After the prologue, the scene shifts, and we learnt that something is happening far beyond the realms that Job inhabits. We’re told that as the Angels come and present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the accuser comes, and he too presents himself. He is evil to the core. He’s been roaming the earth, and you think of a lion on the prowl. This may also suggest that he has dominion over the world. Roy. Zuck points out in his commentary that “to walk on land often symbolizes dominion over it. Satan is of course, ‘the god of this age’ (Ephesians 2:2) and the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19)”. When he comes, God holds up Job as a supreme example of righteous devotion and asks, have you considered “my servant Job?” This speaks to the regard God has for this man. God declared of Job “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Satan shoots back, and says in essence, “that’s because you protected him and made him rich.” He questions the motivations of Jobs heart. But, he goes on, if you take away all that he has, “he will surely curse you to your face." Satan’s view is that worship is basically selfishness. It’s a way to get stuff. He goes right after the heart of our relationship with God. Satan is saying that no one chooses to worship God for right motives, and suggests that Job will turn if the protection is God.

At the Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." He knows what’s in Jobs heart, and he chooses to use Job to silence Satan, while building Jobs spiritual insight. But it will be tough. At this, Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, heading straight at Job.

The exchange between Satan and God is super important. D.A. Carson notes that it does three thing.

First, it sets up the drama that unfolds in the rest of the book. Second, implicitly it establishes that even Satan himself has restraints on his power and cannot act outside God’s sanction. Third, it discloses that Satan’s intention is to prove that all human loyalty to God is nothing more than crass self interest, while God’s intention is to demonstrate that a man like Job is loyal and faithful regardless of the blessings he receives or does not receive.

Meanwhile, Job knows nothing of all this. He couldn’t, or the whole challenge doesn’t work. Very quickly, he loses everything. First, he loses his oxen and donkeys and servants with them, then his sheep and servants, and then his camels and servants, and finally, his sons and daughters. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. With that, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Tearing his robe symbolized inner turmoil and shock. Shaving his head symbolized the loss of his personal glory. Then, not in despair, but in obeisance to God, Job worships, declaring famously, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this we’re told, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing”. He survived the first test and passed with flying colors.

From there, the heat gets turned up. In Job 2 Satan comes back and God again holds Job up for examination.  Satan’s take is, "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." In essence Satan says, “It’s one thing to show loyalty when the losses are all external. It’s easy to show loyalty and endurance when the loss doesn’t actually cause you physical pain. But let me hurt him. Then we’ll see the measure of the man. Then he’ll curse you to your face’. God says. “OK”, and round two begins. There’s just one rule. “You must spare his life." Anything else is fair game. At this, Satan afflicts Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, and Job is reduced to scraping himself with a shard of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. He is reduced to nothing. Even his wife thinks this. As she says “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

Notice a few things here.

First, this is still innocent suffering. God says of Job, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason”.

Second, Job’s loyalty is not about possessions. Satan thought that without the stuff, Job would not worship God. But Job’s loyalty is not about stuff. He is a man who is faithful and upright, even when he loses it all. Which is why Satan ups the stakes, which brings a whole new level of innocent suffering, and sets the stage for the rest of the book.

Third, notice that we’re faced with a painful question. D.A. Carson obverses that “At this point believers must ask painful questions. Doesn’t this sound as if God is using Job in some fantastic experiment? Why should the poor chap have to lose his wealth, his family, his health, and (as we shall see) his reputation, merely to prove God right in a challenge God might well have ignored? That question could call forth a very long book. I have no final, exhaustive answers. But some things should be borne in mind.
(a) We belong to God. He may do with us as he wishes. There is something deep within us that rebels at being reminded of that elemental truth. But truth it is. Indeed, our rebellion in the face of it is a reminder of how much we still want to be at the center of the universe, with God serving us. That is the heart of all idolatry.
(b) Suppose Job had known of the arrangement between God and Satan. A lesser man might have protested violently, but it is at least plausible to think that Job would have used such information to invest his suffering with profound significance, thus making it easier to endure. Indeed, he might have seen his suffering as bound up somehow in a larger cosmic struggle between good and evil.”

Fourth, notice that Job ends up emotionally alone. Even his abandons him to breakdown and death. His three friends come to comfort him, but they will be anything but. This innocent suffering is incredibly painful and hard, it’s unbearable alone, and that’s where Job is.

Finally, notice his steadfast determination to take whatever God gives him. "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Whatever he faces, he is determined to accept it as a worshiper of God. In all this, Job did not sin, proving that Satan’s predictions that Job curse God are wrong, and vindicating God’s words.

From here on out, the majority of job is composed of speeches, with the exception of the start of 32. It’s all Hebrew poetry, and it’s one speech after another, as Job and his “friends” debate and push back and forth. Eventually, another player comes on the scene, and then, God speaks and settles the debate.

The first speech is Jobs. He opens his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He wishes he had never been born. That’s the gist of this speech. I wish I’d never been born.

Notice a few things in this speech.

First, while he is not willing to curse God, the day of his birth is fair game. He wishes that it would just cease to be, and that he would cease to be. He wishes he had died. This is a criticism of God, as he pounds on the question, Why? "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

Second, Notice also that these are the words of a man who is in agony. Nothing we experience compares with this. His words express a pain we can’t fathom. Roy Zuck notes that “only those godly people who have relished release from life’s woes through the gates of death can fully appreciate Job’s mournful wail. Job here voiced not the injustice of his plight, but the intensity of it. Later, as his agony wore on, he spoke of its injustices.”
Second, notice Jobs honesty. He’s not interested in faking things and putting on a good face. He’s brutally honest with his feelings. He wishes he was dead.

Third. Notice that Job is not willing to write God off. D.A. Carson notes that for all that Job is prepared to argue with God, he is not prepared to write God off. Job is not the modern agnostic or atheist who treats the problem of evil as if it provided intellectual evidence that God does not exist. Job knows that God exists and believes that he is powerful and good. That is one reason why (as we shall see) he is in such confusion. Job’s agonizing are the agonizing of a believer, not a skeptic.

The next speech belongs to Eliphaz the Temanite. This speech covers chapters 4 and 5. The gist is, you must have been sinning, repent for your sin". You should be welcoming God’s discipline as a blessing.

Notice some things about the speech.

Notice that it starts of gently but turns quickly. Having heard Jobs outburst he approaches softly. “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? He reminds Job of how he has helped others. He commends Job. But then, he pushes on Job, you have supported all these others, how come you are dismayed? How come you’re letting this get you down? Eliphaz basically says Job is all talk, he’s helped others cope, but can’t cope himself when trouble comes.

Second, notice that it quickly turns to accusation. Your piety should be your confidence, and your blameless ways your hope, but they’re not. “Consider now: “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” You must have done something. “Those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it”.

Third, notice that Eliphaz has a view of justice that is basically, you get what you deserve. The innocent never perish, the upright aren’t cut off (4:7), your reap what you sow (4:8); his view is that God is holy and righteous, and he rewards good, and punishes evil.

Fourth, notice that Eliphaz claims to have special revelation to back up his view. “A word was secretly brought to me; my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end.” 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! His take is that God is so transcendent that even the angels are not trusted, so of course people are even less reliable. The implication is that Job just needs to confess his sins, and admit that he is getting what he deserves.

Fifth, notice that he thinks Job’s approach to God is flawed. He says, “Call if you will, but who will answer you?” In his mind, God is to exalted to respond, and Jobs a fool for doing so. Furthermore, he says, Jobs attitude is the problem. “Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple.” Eliphaz says, I’ve seen the fool prosper for a while, but they always get there. But then he says, inconsistently, that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”. Suffering is part of what it means to be human.

Sixth, notice that in- self righteous foolishness, Eliphaz presume to speak about he would act if he was in this spot. “I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” He would appeal to God, with humility, knowing that God rules and reigns, and raises the lowly, and the ones who mourn, while he humbles the proud and crafty. He would go to God as a beggar looking for help.

Seventh, notice that Eliphaz believes that at least one of God’s aims in bringing about loss and disaster is discipline: “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal”. His take is that if Job gets this, God will quickly respond, and bind him up; he will rescue him, and ransom him from death. He will restore him. The point is, if he thinks he doesn’t deserve this, not only is he proud, but he’s just not seeing that God is acting on his behalf by disciplining. As long as he chafes against the discipline, it will keep coming. When he repents, then things will turn around. He concludes proudly. We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself."

Finally, notice that on the one hand, Eliphaz’s argument is right to some degree. God is totally, just, holy, and transcendent. And the bible does declare that we reap what we sow (see Prov. 22:8; Gal. 6:7). Furthermore, God does discipline his children (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-6). But these truths, when taken alone, can overlook three things. First, sometimes it takes a long time for God to bring Justice, it’s not instantaneous. Psalm 73 laments how long it takes, but what does it say in the end? Sometimes it takes awhile for God to act. But Eliphaz seems to think that it all happens fast, in a quick, obvious act and react, tit for-tat, system of justice. Second, at times, the innocent do suffer. Eliphaz can’t conceive of the innocent suffering, so he has to head out on a path that condemns innocent Job. But Job is innocent. Third, while God does discipline his children, that fact is based on the need for it. God doesn’t discipline his children when they do not need it. Eliphaz assumes that Job deserves God’s chastening; and works from there. But, as we know, he’s wrong.

So here are the lessons to take away from this passage.

First, God does allow suffering, and we don’t always know why. However, He has His reasons.
Second, we must be careful how we use truth. False or improper application of genuine truth may be heartless and cruel—and, as here, it may say false things about God. 
Finally, see how Job acted. In all the pain, he honored God; my hope is that we do the same.

Blogging the Bible: Overview of Job

I needed some time to get my feet set with Job. I don’t know Job all that well. I’ve read through it several times, but like many of you, I haven’t studied it in depth. I had to do a little reading, and put together some resources before I was ready to give thoughtful insights. With that done, lets dive into the book.

Here is the story in short. In the land of Uz there lived a man named Job. He feared God and lived a blameless life. He had a big, thriving family, tons of assets, and the honor of everyone, but what made him special, was that he was incredibly intentional about honoring God with everything that he had. Then one day Satan comes and presents himself to God, and in essence says, I own the world. God challenges Satan’s conclusion, pointing out how faithful Job was and how he kept himself from evil. Satan’s take is, “Job only honors you because he’s blessed b you. You let me take it all away, and Job will turn on you”. So God say’s, “we’ll see”, and allows Satan to destroy everything that Job had: his children are killed, his wealth is stolen or destroyed. He loses it all in a flash. But Job was faithful to God. He responds by worshiping.

A little later, Satan shows up, and God again points out Job’s faithfulness. Satan’s take is, “let me hurt him, and then we’ll find out’. So God allowed Satan to afflict Job, the only thing he cant do is kill him. Satan infects Job with a horrible disease that covered him with boils. Job sits in the ashes of his home and scraped his skin within broken pottery, but still remained faithful, even rebuking his wife when she tells him to “curse God and die”. 

From there on, the story moves into a series of back and forth speeches between Job and three friends who come to ‘comfort him’, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, eventually another player comes on the scene, and then, God speaks and settles the debate.

In all this, the book of Job is addressing the problem of suffering and evil. “The bible, notes D.A. Carson, deals with the reality of evil in many different ways. Sometimes justice is done, and is seen to be done, in this life. Especially in the New Testament, the final recompense for evil is bound up with judgment to come. Sometimes suffering has a humbling role, as it challenges our endless hubris. War, pestilence, and famine are sometimes God’s terrible weapons of judgment. These and many more themes are developed in the Bible.” The book of Job contributes to this subject by making us wrestle with the question, why do the innocent suffer?

The assertion of the book of Job is that Job is an innocent. In the opening words of the book we are told that Job “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Furthermore, while he had vast holdings, he didn’t take anything for granted. When his children held feasts, he would send and have them purified, and he would “sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This wasn’t a sometimes thing “This was Job's regular custom.”

At the same time, the book also asks, at least in part, why does one choose to worship God? For God’s sake, or for what he gives. Satan’s assertion is that Job worships for the wrong reason.
The end of the story doesn’t give us a complete answer. In essence, it says, God is sovereign. You don’t know everything. You think you do, but you don’t. In some ways, we feel left empty, because we want all our questions answered. That doesn’t happen. Instead we’re challenged to accept that God is sovereign, and as has been pointed out by someone, if you have a God that is so great and powerful that you can be mad because he didn’t act, you also have to admit that this God is also so great and powerful that he might know more than you can fathom, and have greater purposes at work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Abortion Aniversary and Some Articles worth thinking about.

There is no topic that draws more ire than abortion. In part, because it's a clash of absolutes. The right to life, or the right to take life. The right to choose what happens to your body, or the loss of the right to choose what happens to your body. Neither side will budge. We are closing in on the 39th aniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and neither side seem to have budged an inch. It's as hot a subject as ever.

Last week, three articles caught my eye.

The first was from Salon.Com, entitled " Abortion pioneer: Defend rights or lose them " and it's an interview with Merle Hoffman, a pro-abortion advocate who recently released a memoir called "Intimate Wars". I read the article with interest. Mostly because it blew my mind. Here are some quotes.
“Abortion is as American as apple pie. I think it’s one in three. But we’ll go on TV and say, ‘I just had my tits done or had a bikini wax,’ but not had an abortion. If you could see that constituency rise up at one point in time — but they don’t, because there’s this cloud.”
Also interesting was that while many pro-abortion advocates tend to say that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare", or let the woman define the embryo or fetus for herself, Hoffman says outright that it is a baby. She says,
“In the beginning they were calling it a baby. We were saying it was only blood and tissue. Let’s agree this is a life form, a potential life; you’re terminating it. You don’t have to argue that abortion stops a beating heart. It does.I can’t say it’s just like an appendectomy. It isn’t. It’s a very powerful and loaded decision.”
Given this truth, how can she be so virilently pro-abortion? Here's how. For here, it's about freedom. The freedom to take power. She says,
“The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that’s why it is so strongly opposed by so many in society.”
Ironically, as Albert Mohler pointed out (see below), she sees this as a morally superior choice. Ironically, she also sees it as something that can be defined as an act of love of oneself, writing,
“With my choice I was fighting for the right of all women to define abortion as an act of love: love for the family one already has, and just as important, love for oneself."
Wow. That's all I can say.

The Second article was by Albert Mohler, entitled “Abortion is as American as Apple Pie” — The Culture of Death Finds a Voice interacting with Hoffman. It's a solid gold critique.

Here are some of his most interesting points.
“Abortion is now one of America’s most common surgical procedures performed on adults. As many as one out of three women will have at least one abortion. In some American neighborhoods, the number of abortions far exceeds the number of live births."
But while this is true.
"Most Americans will pay little attention to the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision. In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to arrange the killing of the unborn life within her. Since that decision was handed down, more than 50 million babies have been aborted, at a rate of over 3,000 each day. One of the most chilling aspects of all this is the sense of normalcy in American life. Abortion statistics pile up from year to year, and each report gets filed. Moral sentiment on the issue of abortion has shifted discernibly in recent years, as ultrasound images and other technologies deliver unquestionable proof that the unborn child is just that — a child. Nevertheless, the larger picture of abortion in America is basically unchanged."
He then tackles moves on to introduce Hoffman's and her views.
"There are some abortion activists who will not join that bandwagon. With chilling candor, they defend abortion as abortion, they defend the decision to abort as a morally superior decision, and they lament the evasiveness of their colleagues in the abortion rights movement. Just recently, Merle Hoffman, a major voice in the abortion rights movement and founder of Choices, a major center for abortions in New York City, has written a memoir, Intimate Wars. In telling her story, Hoffman calls for her colleagues in the abortion industrial complex to defend abortion as a moral choice."
After interacting with her statements, both from the book and the Salon article, he writes, 
Rarely do we see abortion defended in such unvarnished terms .. Merle Hoffman goes on to explain how she can speak of abortion so directly. She has, she tells us, no conception that life is sacred. Abortion is as American as apple pie.” Hoffman made that statement in a recent interview about her book. Is Merle Hoffman right? Is abortion “as American as apple pie?” To our great shame, she has a right to make that claim. How can it be refuted when abortion on demand has been legal in this country for almost forty years, when one out of three American women will have an abortion, when within some communities far more babies die by abortion than are born? In Merle Hoffman, the Culture of Death has found a new voice. Almost forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains a central part of the nation’s moral landscape. Over 50 million unborn children have been aborted within the span of just one generation. A titanic clash of absolutes is taking place in full view, and this clash indicates just how much work remains to be done in the great effort to protect the dignity of every single human life. As those who contend for the sanctity and dignity of each human life try to reach the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens, others are at work as well. If they have their way, Americans will one day openly speak of abortion as nothing more shameful than a bikini wax."
Finally, there was an article by Russel Moore, who wrote on  how the church needs to apply "the gospel in an abortion Culture". His take is that churches should confront it head on, and preach truth, and grace. here are some excerpts.
"Every time pastors and church leaders speak, they are speaking, at least potentially, to these men and women, the aborting and the abortionists. Many of these people don’t argue that the “fetus” is a “person.” Their consciences testify to that, and they’re either tortured by this or violently trying to sear over that persistent internal message. The answer, for the church, is to preach the gospel to the conscience."
"For many evangelicals, to “preach the gospel” seems to be obvious and ineffective because they think this means to, by rote, prompt people to accept Jesus and go to heaven. But the gospel speaks right where the abortion culture is in slavery, to the conscience."
"For one thing, those guilty of this silent atrocity often don’t think we’re talking to them. For some, the demonic structures have helped them to conceal this secret, and to convince them the safest thing to do is to try to forget it altogether. Others are so burdened down by guilt, they really don’t believe they are included in the “whosoever will” of our gospel invitations. Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.
"Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe. But don’t stop there. Proclaim just as openly that judgment has fallen on the quivering body of a crucified Jesus—accused by Satan, indicted by the Law, enveloped by the curse."
"An abortion culture knows that hell exists, and they know judgment waits (Rom 2:14-16). Agree with them, but point them to the truth that God is not simply willing to forgive them. Show them how in Christ God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26). The woman who has had the abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had the abortion.” He hasn’t been subverted from sending her to hell because she found a gospel “loophole.” In Christ, she’s already been to hell. And, in the resurrected Christ, God has already told her what he thinks of her: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well-pleased.” Warn of hell, but offer mercy. Offer that mercy not only at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but in the small groups and hallways of your church."
As we come to the Aniversary of Roe vs. Wade, my hope is that we will understand the stakes, and that we will speak the truth, and hold it before the heat of God's wrath, and the cleansing power of the gospel.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Joyful reunions and preparations for the future

What would you do if your lost son was found? Would you rush to him? He’s hundreds of miles away. Jacob begins to move to his son. But, on the way, he stops at Beersheba, and worships. He offers sacrifices to God. Notice what happens next. On the way out of Israel, God restates the covenant one more time. IT’s easy to just blow by these covenant re-statements, but in some ways, they make up the heartbeat of the book. From Genesis 12 forward, we see continual restatements. This book is about what God is doing. He is making nation, he is providing blessing. HE will be with them. This is God’s project with weak flawed people. Here, he declares, “there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." Quite a promise for a broken old man.

Notice these things from Genesis 46. 

Notice the size of the family. Three Generations of Israelites. The whole family is listed, from Rueben to Benjamin, with everyone in between. Including Joseph and his descendants, the number is 70 total people. A far cry from the millions who will leave. In Egypt, God will multiply them greatly.

Notice the reunion. It’s heartwarming, and joyful. Joseph meets Israel in Goshen, and they are reunited. Jacobs’s reaction is that of a father who got to see what he long since gave up on, his son alive. Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive."

Lastly, notice also where Joseph positions his family. In Goshen, out of the center of Egyptian affairs. He positions his family to continue to be their own people. If they went to the great cities, they would assimilate, but being separate, remaining as livestock keepers, they are in a position to remain separate, an abomination to Egyptians, but a separate nation.

Genesis 47 continues to tell of the events of the reunion. Joseph informs the Pharaoh that they are all settled, and presents 5 of them before the king, and affirms Joseph’s choice of Goshen.  Furthermore, Pharaoh says, put them in charge of my flocks. God is showing awesome provision for them here. The interaction with pharaoh ends with Jacob and Pharaoh meeting. Notice something strange here. Jacob blesses Pharaoh. The greater usually blesses the lesser. Slipped in here, God is telling us that in this room, Jacob, not Pharaoh, is the greeter’s person in the room, and it may be that even Pharaoh knows it.

Notice that through everything that comes through the years of famine, Jacob and the family are protected.

Finally the effects of the famine. First people give money, then they give livestock, and then they gave land, and by the end, the people are servants of pharaoh, no longer owning anything, not even themselves. From then on, they owed pharaoh a fifth of their earnings. How did the people respond? In gratitude, yes it reduced them to servanthood, but he saved their lives.

Finally, notice the request of Jacob. He doesn’t want to be buried in Egypt. He wants to go home o Canaan when he died, and he makes Joseph swear that he will not bury him in Egypt.
Genesis 48 recounts the blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim. It begins with Jacob recount meeting God at Bethel (Luz), and blessing. Here again, the covenant is recounted. Notice those words everlasting possession. “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.' This is pre-Sinai. All of genesis is; and there is a continual drumbeat, the land is yours. Forever. Don’t ever fail to notice this, the land, is Israel’s, to this day.

Notice the claim Jacob makes on Ephraim and Manasseh. He claims them as his own, as if they were his own sons, and gives them full rights as co-inheritors. This is why Ephraim and Manasseh, are given full allotments, and referred to as half tribes. By doing this, Jacob is placing on Joseph the double portion that would go to a firstborn.

Notice also that once again, the younger, the lesser is elevated, Jacob intentionally and clearly reverses the birth order, and declares that the “younger brother shall be greater” and “his offspring shall become a multitude of nations”.

Finally, he tells Joseph “God will be with you”, and tells him that he gets the land “one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow."

Genesis 49 recounts the prophetic words that Jacob speaks over each son. For some, it’s a blessing, for others, it’s an indictment. 

Notice how the eldest three are indicted for their sins. Rueben, Simeon, and Levi stand guilty before their father. Ruben is deprived of the right of the firstborn for his sin of incest. As we saw in 48, it went to Joseph. Simeon and Levi are to be scattered. The Levites, as priests, and Simeon will be folded into Judah.

Notice that the child of praise, Judah comes out on top. He’s not the one who gets the double portion of the inheritance; but see what he does get.  Judah is to have his brother’s praise, victory in battle, and the throne. “Your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey's colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” Do you see the hint of what is to come? He will have the throne, the scepter, and where do we see a donkey’s colt? From Judah will come a scepter, always and forever, through his greatest son, Jesus.

From there, we see Zebulon, Jacob gives him his inheritance by the sea, and Issachar is promised hard labor in a good land. Dan is declared a menace that will cause people to wait for salvation. Gad will be raided, but he will fight back, Asher will a producer of great fruit, Naphtali will be a beauty, Joseph will be fruitful, and when attacked, he will remain unmoved because his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, furthermore, Jacob is given blessings of hills, and much, much more. Benjamin is called a wolf, devouring prey, so true it would be, as judges shows us.

Finally, at the end, Jacob restates the command to bury him in Israel, at the tomb of Sarah and Abraham, and with that, he dies, and the story of Jacob ends. It’s a strange tale of blessing, and pain, of a villain being used for God’s purposes, and being refined from a bartering thief, to man transformed by the power of God.

IN all these things, we see that the stage is getting set for the next act, the exodus, and the conquest.

There are three things left to happen in Genesis when we get to chapter 50. When Jacob dies, Joseph as him embalmed, and then, with his brothers, and many officials of Egypt, Jacob is taken to the family tomb and buried.

When this is over, the brothers are nervous. What’s coming next? Will he kill us? And so they come, and they say, forgive us. Here, we get one of the great statements on the sovereign orchestration of events in the bible. "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” They meant harm; God was up to something more. Never fail to see that if there is a God, and he is sovereign, he may no more then you, and he may know that while you think what’s going on is the worst thing to ever happen to you, it may be your best. Paul reminds us all of this so perfectly when he writes “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).

The story ends with the death of Joseph, who, like his father, asks to go back to the Promised Land. He declares, prophetically, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” After his death, he is embalmed, and put in a coffin in Egypt. Waiting….waiting… waiting…and so it ends, with the ground laid for the next act, the exodus, the great picture of salvation that hints at the ultimate salvation. Everything is in place for something amazing to happen.

What a great and glorious ride Genesis is. From creation, to the story of the patriarchs, we see God at work, moving the chains forward as he fulfills his purposes. The story of Genesis is ultimately that God created, man sinned, and God went to work redeeming us, making a covenant people for himself. Not of people you want to emulate, but of people just like you and I, retches in need of salvation. Notice that all through the book, we see that he is providing salvation. Furthermore, notice that in many ways, Genesis (and all of Scripture) is clarified and summarized by Josephs great statement, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. In the Garden, Satan acted, and Man rebelled. What Satan meant for evil, what man meant for evil in saying, I will be like God, God used, for good. He meant it for the full revelation of his self in Jesus Christ our Lord. I’ve never noticed this before, but it has struck me powerfully. What was meant for evil brought the greatest good imaginable.