Jewels amidst dung: The heights and depths of a flyover chapter, Genesis 38

The thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis is one of those which, if you’re on a “read the Bible in a year” plan, you’re probably tempted to skip, or at least read in fast-forward. It’s a chapter in which the word God is not found, and the name of God is mentioned only twice (both times in terms of stark judgment), and contains such vile behavior the reader might even question why it’s in the Bible and/or what kind of spiritual or practical benefit it might have.

Such treatment of any passage of Scripture, though, betrays a conviction the Bible is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness. It contradicts anyone who believes Paul was right and truthful when He said “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). The task of the pastor-teacher and the student of Scripture (which should be everyone) should be to mine the depths of any passage to find the precious jewels, trusting that the Lord would not have spoken it in His word in vain.

Just what are the jewels, then, from a chapter like Genesis 38? Well, they are found in the midst of much dung, much sin. But just as 1 Corinthians 10:6 teaches us that episodes of the Old Testament happened, in part, as examples for us, “so that we would not crave evil things as they [Israel] also craved,” we find in Genesis 38 some bad examples to avoid.  Continue reading “Jewels amidst dung: The heights and depths of a flyover chapter, Genesis 38”

The Christian and the Bible, Part 2: The source

Author’s Note: If you are just joining us I encourage you to read Part 1 of this series.

Having established the Scriptures are inspired by God, inerrant, supremely authoritative, and sufficient for everything pertaining to our faith and practice, in this post I wish to explore some ways in which God uses His word in the everyday lives of His people (those who have come to Jesus by grace alone through faith alone).

The Bible is the source of truth.

In a post-postmodern age in which truth isn’t merely relative any longer, but feelings have been elevated so that they are equal or above perceived truth, the Christian takes comfort and gains confidence in the words of Christ: “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Jesus spoke those words to His Father in Gethsemane, mere minutes (or at the most hours) before He was arrested, tried, and crucified. In a moment which could fairly be described as His deepest human crisis, He was praying for His disciples in the world that they would hold fast to that which God had revealed.

The Lord knew full well the value He wanted His people to place upon Scripture, because throughout His earthly ministry His disciples had seen Him value Scripture. Matthew and Luke both record the wilderness temptations of the devil himself, to which Jesus responded each time with biblical texts, notably from Deuteronomy. The one which screams to us as it pertains to this topic is, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4; c.f. Deut 8:3; Luke 4:4).

The God of the word, in the flesh, relied on, obeyed, and trusted in the word of God. The One who is the way, and the truth, and the life pointed to what God has revealed (Scripture) as the truth which sanctifies, or makes us holy.

Practically speaking, we do not reconcile the Scripture to the world (rather it be history, science, or any other discipline), but we start with the word of God and reconcile everything else to it. And time and time again, the Scriptures have been proven to be exactly what Jesus said they were: the truth. Continue reading “The Christian and the Bible, Part 2: The source”

The Christian and the Bible, Part 1: Introduction and Foundation

There is no more cruel stroke of the wrath of God than when He sends a famine of hearing His words. – Martin Luther

A well-known pastor recently told his audience we shouldn’t be saying “The Bible says…” anymore.

Oh, when it blew up on the internet he did a sort of hemming and hawing backtrack, which really wasn’t backtracking what he said as much as it was an attempted justification. The fact of the matter is this particular pastor doesn’t seek to “preach the word” as Paul exhorted Timothy (1 Tim 4:2) as much as he preaches ideas, using Scripture to support what he wants to say.

But lest I pick on Andy Stanley, this post isn’t really about him, but the condition of the church as it relates to how we view and use the Bible — in corporate worship, in private devotions, in personal application.

We nod our heads and say “Amen” to the statement, “For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name” (Ps 138:2), but in reality we more closely resemble the condition of those to whom the prophet spoke the words of the LORD, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. . . . you have forgotten the law of your God” (Hos 4:6).

This indictment on the church has only become a heavier burden upon my heart, and thus a focal point of my pastoral ministry, but I see both in my own church and the church at large people who are starving for the word of God, and they don’t even realize it. No matter how much I say it or how much it’s said, those who don’t get it don’t get that they don’t get it. Continue reading “The Christian and the Bible, Part 1: Introduction and Foundation”

To preserve many people alive: The beginnings of the Joseph story and how it points us to Christ

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” — Joseph, Gen 50:20

The careful student of God’s word should always be careful not to assign typology or symbolism to things in Scripture which don’t specifically infer typology or symbolism is at play. In other words, we shouldn’t take just any story from Scripture and say it’s a picture of Jesus in this or that way.

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 has often lent itself such typology or symbolism by some interpreters of Scripture, even when no Scripture in either Old or New Testaments says Joseph is a type of Christ. This has often led to reading into the text of Genesis (eisegesis) more than is actually there, and at the same time missing the point of what is actually there — getting out of the text what the author intended (exegesis).

That said, those words from the last chapter of Genesis, spoken by Joseph, hover over all this first book of the Bible says about his life. Apart from the account of his birth in chapter 30, the story of Joseph really begins in earnest in chapter 37, and while we must be careful about types and symbols, there are definitely some things we learn right away about Joseph which tell us not only about him and his family, but through New Testament lenses we can see how they point us to what God has done for all whom He saves in His Son. Continue reading “To preserve many people alive: The beginnings of the Joseph story and how it points us to Christ”

Some things I’m doing to be a disciple and make disciples in 2017

It’s a good thing to make resolutions for the new year, as long as you don’t treat them as make-or-break propositions. That’s something I’ve gleaned from my now 40 years on this planet. Overall, new year’s resolutions should be used by Christians to promote growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). To that end, here are a few things I’m doing…

Reading through the Bible

This is something I always try to do. For the past couple of years I’ve used a plan we’ve utilized at Bethlehem Baptist Church, which covers the whole Bible (the Old Testament in the order found in the Hebrew Bible).

This year, however, I’m going to do something a bit different, going through the new ESV Reader’s six-volume set which was released in fall 2016. I got it at a discount rate at the time. Continue reading “Some things I’m doing to be a disciple and make disciples in 2017”

How to win the election

It has been a full year since I’ve blogged. I haven’t given it up. I just haven’t felt compelled to write on this site in a while, but that changes here. In light of the long national nightmare known as Election 2016 coming to a head this week, I preached this sermon to my church today. I pray you might find it edifying.

You can listen to it using the link or read it in blog form below.

Continue reading “How to win the election”