M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, March 10

Today’s readings are from Exodus 21, Luke 24, Job 39 and 2 Corinthians 9.

Thomas Constables notes that there were a number of different law codes already in existence before Exodus 20ff.  He says…

The Mosaic Covenant presupposes this cumulative body of legal literature.  So it was not given as a comprehensive legal system to a people living without any laws.  Rather, it was a series of instructions God gave—as Israel’s King—for His people to govern their behavior in certain specific matters.  This fact explains why the Torah (lit. “Instruction,” i.e., the Law of Moses) does not contain fundamental instruction in many basic areas of law, such as monogamy.  The instructions in the Law of Moses confirmed certain existing laws, cancelled other laws, and changed still others, for the Israelites, as the will of God for them.

First, Moses is given some laws clarifying slavery.  First, a general law concerning Hebrew (kinsmen) slaves is given in 21:2-4, commanding freedom in the 7th year.  Then, in 21:5-6 Moses discusses the case of someone who wants to remain a slave, a bond slave, for life.  Finally, vv. 7-11 discuss the rights of female slaves.  Actually, these rights were pretty amazing when every other culture didn’t even give free women all these rights.

I’m reading a book right now called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll.  He argues that prior to and during the Civil War, both sides used the Bible to either justify slavery or abolish slavery.  This unfortunately caused a public loss of confidence in the Bible to answer basic questions and rendered religion ineffective for shaping broad policy in the public arena.  It truly was a watershed moment that led to the secularizing of American philosophical and political thought.

The fact is, slavery was a given in the ancient world (even until the New Testament).  Although God never dismantles it, He does regulate it so that it preserves the dignity of those who became slaves.  And, the slavery of the Bible was not racially motivated.

Luke 24, Christ is Risen!

The women come to the tomb, see the stone removed, and angels tell them that Jesus was alive–He had risen from the dead just as He had said (9:22, 43-45; 18:31-33).  Upon this news Peter ran to the tomb (v. 12)

Two unnamed disciples were on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35).  We don’t know if they were going home or going to witness to others, or what.  David Bivens has an excellent article at Jerusalem Perspective.  He believes that they were on the way to Qaloniyeh.

Aerial photograph of Jerusalem’s environs from Gustaf Dalman’s Hundert deutsche Fliegerbilder aus Palästina (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1925). Superimposed on the photograph is the approximate route of the Emmaus-Jerusalem road marked in red. Part of the route is hidden from view as the road descends into the valley as it approaches Qalunya.

Aerial photograph of Jerusalem’s environs from Gustaf Dalman’s Hundert deutsche Fliegerbilder aus Palästina (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1925). Superimposed on the photograph is the approximate route of the Emmaus-Jerusalem road marked in red. Part of the route is hidden from view as the road descends into the valley as it approaches Qalunya.

These two men were discussing what had happened in Jerusalem, likely in disappointment, when Jesus appears.  Jesus wanted them to tell Him what they knew.  They expressed that Jesus had died and was supposed to have risen from the dead that day, but seemingly did not.  Jesus rebukes them for being “slow to believe” and proceded to teach them a unique short course in Old Testament Christology.

When Jesus broke bread with them, then their eyes were opened and they realized they had been with the risen Jesus!  They reflect how their hearts had been “warmed” while Jesus was speaking to them.  So they left back to Jerusalem to tell others.

Jesus then appears to His disciples in Jerusalem (24:36-49).  This made it crystal clear to them that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Jesus again gave His disciples a short course on OT Christology:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

And He instructed them to go out as witnesses and promised them the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (24:48-49; Acts 1:8).

In Job 39 God continues to rebuke Job for challenging Him when he understood so little.  God had turned to the animal world at the end of chapter 38 and continues it here.  God points out six mammals and four birds—only one of which was evidently a domesticated creature in Job’s day: the horse (38:39—39:30). T hey include “the ferocious, the helpless, the shy, the strong, the bizarre, the wild.”  They illustrate God’s creative genius and His providential care.  The animal world exists for partially unknown reasons, not merely to meet the needs of humankind. People cannot explain why animals live as they do.  This is another mystery that only God understands fully.

ANIMALS REFERENCES QUESTIONS
Lion and raven 38:39-41 How do they get food?
Goat and deer 39:1-4 How do they bear young?
Donkey and ox 39:5-12 How are they tamed?
Ostrich and horse 39:13-25 Why do they act strangely?
Hawk and vulture 39:26-30 How do they fly?

John Piper, in his book The Pleasures of God, indicates that God takes pleasure in his creation, based on Psalm 104:31.  When He created it, he rejoiced every day in the “good” quality of His creative work.  He takes pleasure in His creation because it reflect His glory (Psalm 19:1-6), wisdom (Psalm 104:24), power (Isaiah 40:26).

I love what G. K. Chesterton once said:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

God’s point in asking Job to consider each of these animals was this. Even upon careful examination, there are many things about their individual characteristics, behavior, purpose, and life that people simply cannot explain.  It is quite possible that we haven’t even discovered all the varieties of animals and plants and rocks that God has created.

God rarely used legal metaphors in His speeches to Job, which Job had so often utilized.  From now on, Job stopped using them.  This is an important observation because it shows that the basis of Job and God’s relationship was not a legal one, as Job had assumed.  A legal relationship requires just compensation by both parties for what each of them has done to the other.  The basis of God’s dealings with Job was gracious, not legal (cf. 1 Cor. 6:7).

2 Corinthians 9 continues Paul’s discussion of giving.  John Piper has another video explaining 2 Cor. 6-11.Money Talks

The amazing thing is that God gives on the front and and the back end–we can’t lose when we give!

7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

  • Give as God leads your heart to give.
  • Give without hesitation.
  • Give because you want to.
  • Give to please God.

Dividends from God…

  • It grows our righteousness (9:8-10)
  • It meets the need of the saints (9:12)
  • It results in thanksgiving to God (9:11-15)

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, March 9

Today’s readings are from Exodus 20; Luke 23; Job 38 and 2 Corinthians 8.

Exodus 20:1-17 is the first giving of the Ten Commandments (cf. Deut. 5).  These ten “words” can be divided either four and six, the first four dealing with our vertical relationship with God (“love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…mind”) and the last six dealing with our horizontal relationships with mankind (“love your neighbor as yourself”).  However, some divide it five and five.

Notice that the commandments are prefaced by Exodus 19 (“I carried you on eagle’s wings) and Exodus 20:1-2, which tells Israel who God is and what He has done for them.  We always have to be careful to keep the indicative before the imperative in Scripture.  This is why Paul’s epistles generally have several doctrinal chapters explaining to his readers what God has done for them before he ever gets to the commands detailing what we must do for God.  We are not saved by works, by keeping the commandments.  We are saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and now we obey out of glad and grateful hearts.

While we are no longer “under the law” (Romans 6:14) as believers, these commands are helpful for us as a way to flesh out what it means to love God and love our neighbor.

When God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” on the positive side He is saying, “You have me!”

When God tells Israel not to make or worship images, on the positive side He is saying, you know all about me from the Word.

Of course, some commands, like “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery” are fleshed out more deeply in the Sermon on the Mount, so that murder and lust also violate these commandments.

Truly, we cannot keep the commandments, and thus the law condemns us and our only recourse is to run to the cross.

Jesus fulfilled the law for us, so we could obey it in Him: That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)

“The great message of the Christian faith is, therefore, that we are free from the Law’s condemnation in order that we may be able to fulfill its obligation by the power of [Jesus] within us.” (Alan Redpath)

The response of Israel to the ten commandments was somewhat sad:

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Out of fear, the people gave up their own opportunity to enter God’s presence personally, and asked Moses to be their proxy, their go-between.  It is similar to people today depending only upon paid professionals to read and explain God’s Word to them.  They miss out on the joys of hearing God’s voice personally.

We already have a Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:4), who takes care of all our condemnation so that we can enjoy a personal, face-to-face, heart-to-heart relationship with God through Jesus.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Tom Constable explains how the final verses of chapter 20 introduce the regulations to come.

This pericope serves as an introduction to 42 judgments in 21:1—23:12. A similar section to this introduction, following the 42 judgments section, repeats the emphases of the introduction and forms a conclusion to the judgments (23:13-19).

Prohibition of idolatry
(20:22-23)
Proper forms of worship
(20:24-26)
42 judgments
(21:1—23:12)
Prohibition of idolatry
(23:13)
Proper forms of worship
(23:14-19)

This chapter ends with regulations for making and serving at an altar.

Yahweh permitted His people to build commemorative worship altars at the locations where He granted special theophanies, that is, manifestations of His presence.  These were in addition to the altars at Israel’s central sanctuary (the tabernacle and later the temple; cf. Judg. 6:25-27; 13:15-20; 1 Sam. 9:11-14; 16:1-5; 1 Kings 18:30-40).  They were to build these special altars, both for formal worship and for special occasions (e.g., Josh. 8:30; Judg. 6:25-26), out of earth or uncut stone.

Luke 23 begins with Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Herod (23:1-25).  He bounces back and forth between Pilate (23:1-7 and  13-25) and Herod (23:8-12).  Both the leaders and the people are responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion.

The light green line shows Jesus being taken from the house of Caiaphas to Pilate (at David’s Citadel).  Ferrell Jenkin’s blog has a picture of some steps Jesus might have taken.

This is a picture from Bible Walks (Todd Bolen), showing the Armenian Church.  Underneath this church is possibly where Jesus stood before Caiaphas.

Image result for herod's palace jerusalem

A model of Herod’s Palace

The white line represents Jesus being taken from Pilate to Herod (Hasmonean Palace).

The yellow line is Jesus going back to Pilate.

The green line is the pathway from Pilate’s condemnation to the cross.

(All the above maps are from gospeldevotions.wordpress.com, Luke 23)

Luke’s account of the crucifixion (23:26-49) includes a prophecy of the fate of Jerusalem (vv. 29-31), more emphasis on the men who experienced crucifixion with Jesus (vv. 39-43), and less reporting on the crowd that mocked Jesus. It climaxes with Jesus’ final prayer of trust in His Father (v. 46), and the reactions of various people to His death (vv. 47-49).

Where was Jesus crucified?  All four gospels mention a place…

Matthew 27:33 …they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull…

Mark 15:22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of a skull.

Luke 23:32 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

John 19:17 So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross by himself he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew (Aramaic) is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him with two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

There is a place west of Jerusalem that could be the place, although scholars disagree.

David Guzik reminds us…

During the 12 hours between 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday, Jesus suffered many things, both physically and in the high-stress challenges that took a toll on Him physically.

i. Jesus suffered great emotional stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, as indicated when His sweat became like great drops of blood (Luke22:44). “Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders.  As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender.” (Edwards)

ii. Jesus suffered the emotional stress of abandonment by His disciples.

iii. Jesus suffered a severe physical beating at the home of the high priest.

iv. Jesus suffered a sleepless night.

v. Jesus suffered, being forced to walk more than two and a half miles.

vi. All of these factors made Jesus especially vulnerable to the effects of scourging.

vii.  Then he was scourged.

viii.  He was too weak to carry his own cross very far.

ix.  He was crucified.

The first words Luke records from Jesus’ mouth while on the cross was “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  After all that Jesus had already suffered, and now the cross with its excruciating pain and shame, Jesus thinks not of himself, but of others.

“Jesus crucified is the touchstone revealing what the world is: ‘The people stood beholding’ in stolid indifference; the rulers, who wanted religion but without a divine Christ crucified for their sins, mocked (Mt. 27:41); the brutal ‘railed at him’ (v. 39), i.e. reviled Him; the conscious sinner prayed (v. 42); and the covetous sat down before the cross and played their sordid game (Mt. 27:35-36). The cross is the judgment of this world (Jn. 12:31).” (New Scofield Bible)

Regarding the salvation of one of the thieves, Ellis says…

“When the two malefactors were hanged beside the Lord, the one was no better than the other. . . . It is only the grace of God in the cross of Christ that can instantly transform a reviling sinner into an attitude of saving faith and confession. The repentant thief began to see (1) the justice of his own punishment (v. 41); (2) the sinless character of Christ (v. 41); (3) the Deity of Christ (v. 42); (4) a living Christ beyond the grave (v. 42); and (5) a kingdom beyond the cross, with Jesus as its coming King (v. 42).”

Image result for thief on the cross only one

Luke also records the last words of Jesus on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  In this prayer, Jesus offered Himself to God as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Jesus voluntarily laid His life down; no one took it from Him (John 10:15-18; cf. John 15:13).

David Guzik:

This shows that Jesus gave up His life when He wanted to and how He wanted to.  No one took His life from Him; He gave it up when His work was finished.  Jesus is not a victim we should pity, but a conqueror we should admire.

Rather save your pity for those who reject the complete work of Jesus on the cross at Calvary; for those preachers who do not have the heart of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23, when he proclaimed the center of the Christian message: we preach Christ crucified.

JESUS’ WORDS ON THE CROSS

  Matthew Mark Luke John
“Father, forgive them.”     23:34  
“Today you shall be with me in paradise.”     23:43  
“Woman, behold your son,” and “Behold, your mother.”       19:26-27
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 27:46 15:34    
“I thirst.”       19:28
“It is finished.”       19:30
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” 27:50   23:46  

David Guzik writes:

The tearing of the temple veil signified at least two things. First, now we have free access to the throne of grace by the cross. Second, no one should ever think again that God dwells in temples made with hands.

Thomas Constable notes:

Luke highlighted Jesus’ innocence in a number of ways that the other Gospel writers did not.  He recorded that Pilate declared Him innocent four times (vv. 4, 14, 15, 22).  He also noted Herod’s testimony to Jesus’ innocence (v. 15).  He contrasted Jesus’ innocence with Barabbas’ guilt (v. 25).  He recorded the thief’s testimony to Jesus’ innocence (v. 41).  He also included the centurion’s confession of Jesus’ innocence (v. 47).  Finally he noted the reaction of the crowd, which showed that many of them believed He was innocent (v. 48).  Obviously Luke wanted to convince his readers that Jesus died as an “innocent” man, not as a guilty sinner.

Luke 23 ends with Jesus’ burial (23:50-56).

Luke dated his action as late Friday afternoon.  The “preparation (Gr. paraskeue) day” was the day before “the Sabbath,” which began at sundown on Friday.

Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea, a “rich man” according to Matthew 27:57, fulfilling Isaiah 53:9…

9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Job 38 (finally) begins God’s address to Job.

Finally, God spoke to Job and gave revelation that Job had been demanding for so long (cf. 13:22; 31:35).  There was now no need for the middleman that Job had requested who could mediate between them (cf. 9:33; 16:19).  Yahweh spoke directly to Job, and Job had the opportunity to respond directly to God.

What God did not say to Job is as surprising as what He did say.  He did not mention Job’s suffering, He gave no explanation of the problem of evil, He did not defend Himself against Job’s charge of injustice, and He made no comment on the retributive principle.

God simply revealed Himself to Job and his companions to a greater degree than they had known, and that greater revelation silenced them.  He proved Himself to be the truly wise Person.

God’s role in His speeches was not that of a defendant on trial, whom Job the prosecutor charged with injustice. Rather, He was the Prosecutor asking the questions of Job, the defendant. Instead of giving Job answers, God asked him more than 70 unanswerable questions and proved Job both ignorant and impotent.

Since Job could not understand or determine God’s ways with nature, he obviously could not comprehend or control God’s dealings with people.  Who is the truly wise person?  It is not Job, or his three older friends, or his younger friend, Elihu, but God.  He alone is truly wise.

God’s first speech occurs in 38:1-40:2

God began His speech with a challenge to His opponent’s understanding, as the five human debaters on earth had done.  He accused Job of clouding the truth about Him by saying things that were not true. Job should have defended God’s justice rather than denying it, since he claimed to be God’s friend. His lack of adequate revelation led to this error.

Likewise, every believer should be slow to affirm that he knows God’s will about the affairs of an individual’s life, his own or someone else’s.  We still do not know all the facts concerning why God is allowing what takes place.  God then told Job to prepare for a difficult job: to explain His ways in nature.  If God had done wrong, Job must have known what was right!

So God asks Job a series of questions in 38:4-39:30.

As Job’s friends had done, God began to break Job down blow by verbal blow. Finally all his pride was gone. However, where Job’s friends had failed, God succeeded.

With regard to the created world and the animal world, Job could not explain how they came into existence or how they experience life.  Neither could Job explain the mysteries of creation (38:4-7), the boundaries of the sea (38:8-11), the nature of the earth (38:12-17), the nature of light and darkness (38:18-24), the nature of rain (38:25-30), the constellations (38:31-33), nor the clouds and weather and the human mind (38:34-38), nor could Job understand or master the animal kingdom (38:39-41).

God’s first speech began and ended with a challenge to Job.  Job had found fault with God for allowing him to suffer when he was godly.  He had said he wished he could meet God in court to face Him with His injustice and to hear His response (13:3, 15).  Now God asked Job if he still wanted to contend with Him after God had reminded him of His power and wisdom.

“Since Job is not knowledgeable enough to discover why things take place on earth as they do, he is left with a decision—either to trust Yahweh, believing that he wisely rules his created world, or to pursue his complaint that exalts himself above Yahweh. Yahweh leaves the initiative with Job either to believe him or to continue to accuse him.“

Job’s first response to God is that he was dumbfounded.  Earlier he had wanted to challenge God in court; now he has nothing to say.

2 Corinthians 8-9 gives some wonderful principles of giving.  Since it is “more blessed to give than to receive” it is vital that we gain insight into giving.

  • Giving is totally due to grace, not law (8:4, 6, 7, 9, 16, 19; 9:8, 14).  See also 8:8 and 9:7.
  • First give yourself to God (8:5).
  • Give in response to Christ’s giving to you (8:9).
  • Give from sincere desire (8:8).
  • Give as much as you are able, and even beyond (8:3, 11, 12).
  • Give joyfully (8:2; 9:7).
  • Giving is a result of spiritual growth (8:7) and leads to growth (9:8-11)