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Bible Reading Highlights

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Reflection on selected passages from my recent Bible readings:

Psalms 105 and 106 are both longer psalms that recount the early history of Israel, from two different perspectives:

  • Psalm 105 looks at the good things of God’s faithfulness, His deliverance of Israel and His judgment on Egypt.
  • Psalm 106 recounts the same general historical time period but points to the many failings and unbelief of the people.

Psalm 107 makes for interesting reading on the same day as Mark 4; I especially noticed these verses:
Psalm 107: 29-30 —  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.   Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

Mark 4:39-40 features a literal “fulfillment” of these verses, the story of Jesus calming the storm.  Of course Psalm 107 is not intended to be prophetic, but it still is interesting to see how the psalmist describes a wonderful scene of God’s power over nature–and then the Messiah came and literally demonstrated that power to His disciples.

This time through Judges, I noticed Judges 6:2, which tells us that the people of Israel made the dens, the caves and strongholds in the mountains, because of the Midianites.  I’ve been listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s series through the life of David, and so this brief statement jumped out as I realized that all the caves and strongholds mentioned in 1 Samuel were not natural caves, but must have been the very structures built a few hundred years earlier in Gideon’s day.  It’s yet another interesting look at God’s providence, that the very caves built by the Israelites in their rebellion (during a time they were under enemy oppression, having disobeyed God) served greater purposes in the time of David and his men.

Lists 6 and 7, currently in Judges and Jeremiah, share the similar theme of Israel’s idolatry and their long history of Baal worship.  Jeremiah 10, among many such chapters in Jeremiah, has strong words concerning the Baals.  Judges 6 tells the situation in the day of Gideon, the early history of Baal worship, including the specific incident of Gideon destroying the Baal idol at his father’s home.

A few great verses out of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 9:23-24:

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

and Jeremiah 10:11 — a verse to the nations, written in Aramaic, as an example of Jeremiah the prophet to the nations (reference back to Jeremiah 1):

Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

Typology: David the True King, but Not Yet Reigning

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Through all my sources of reading and listening, I sometimes forget where I first heard a particular idea: was it something in a Spurgeon sermon I read? Or was it something I heard from S. Lewis Johnson?  Yet a general trend has emerged, that new information builds on what I already know, and then is reinforced when I hear the same idea again from other sources, to aid in remembering, understanding and expressing the concept.

As one example: the typological understanding of David in 1 Samuel, as the king anointed but not yet on the throne, as illustrative of our Lord Jesus who has accomplished the work of redemption, yet like David is not yet reigning on His throne.  Not long ago I first came across this in my reading from J.C. Ryle:

The Lord Jesus during the present dispensation is like David between the time of His anointing and Saul’s death. He has the promise of the kingdom, but He has not yet received the crown and throne (1 Sam. 22:1, 2).

He is followed by a few, and those often neither great nor wise, but they are a faithful people. He is persecuted by His enemies, and oft times driven into the wilderness, and yet His party is never quite destroyed. But He has none of the visible signs of the kingdom at present: no earthly glory, majesty, greatness, obedience. The vast majority of mankind see no beauty in Him: they will not have this man to reign over them. His people are not honored for their Master’s sake: they walk the earth like princes in disguise. His kingdom is not yet come: His will is not yet done on earth excepting by a little flock. It is not the day of His power. The Lord Jesus is biding His time.

This week I listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Lessons from the Life of David” series, covering this same chapter, 1 Samuel 22, that J.C. Ryle references.  Here, SLJ  expands on this very issue, with a point-by-point comparison between the life of David at this time (1 Samuel 22) and our Lord Jesus during this present Church age:

1.  Saul, the rejected king, is on the throne.  Satan, the rejected king as a result of his original sin, is still on the throne and very active.

The true king has been anointed and accomplished His work, but He is not yet on the throne.

2.  David, the typical true king, has been divinely called and has been victorious over Goliath.  And so the Lord Jesus has been divinely called by the angel and then has been victorious in his incarnation and in his saving work on Calvary’s Cross, and just as David took Goliath’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, so the Lord Jesus in the words of one of the great expositors, “Has the Giant’s head in his hand and he has carried it to the right hand of the throne of God in token of his ultimate victory.

3.  David, the true king, is persecuted by Saul, the rejected king.  Our Lord Jesus came into our society, was persecuted.  He came to his own, his own received him not.

4.  David, the true king, gathered followers to himself.  He gathered, as our author said, “Those who were in distress, those who were in debt, those who were discontented.”  And so, likewise, in the present day, the Lord Jesus is gathering followers. … So in Saul’s day, David was gathering out followers who formed the people of God.

5.  David’s followers owe their life to him just as the followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ, owe their spiritual life to him.  He is the good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep.  He is the one who gives unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.

6.  David’s follower’s descriptions reflect us.  Those in distress came to him.  “Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden,” Jesus said, “Those who are in distress, those who are in debt, and oh, how much we owe and those who are discontented, embittered of soul,” the Hebrew text says it.  The unsaved, incidentally, are always discontented.  If you look back on your life, if you have a day when you came to know the Lord Jesus as your savior, you’ll know as you look at your life, that your life in the past could be characterized, among other things, as discontented.

7.  David’s followers were trained by association with a rejected king.  David’s followers, as you know if you read the Bible, became what Scripture called his mighty men, his mighty men by association with David, his mighty men, they were those who were poor, they were in debt, they were discontented, they were oppressed, but by association with him, his mighty men.  True believing Christians, by association with our Lord, Jesus Christ, become his mighty men.  They’re called “The Sons of the Kingdom.”  And that’s something that God gives to those who associate with him.  Sons of the Kingdom, redeemed by him and, ultimately, even if we fail miserably in this life, ultimately, we shall rule and reign with him, as the Book of Revelation says, upon the earth.

A Hermeneutics Example: Approaches to the Story of David and Abigail

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

The more I listen to good Bible teaching, the more I appreciate it — and the more I recognize the difference between good and bad Bible teaching.  I also now observe that a preacher who is inclined to allegorize and spiritualize in some areas (such as creation and end times) will exhibit the same tendencies even with narrative historical texts, such as from the life of David.  One such example is 1 Samuel 25, the story of David and Abigail.

The allegorizing hermeneutic looks at this story and just brushes over the surface of the actual story, reading the text along with a few comments about obvious things, like how foolish Nabal was to insult someone who has several hundred men “in your back 40” and that’s like spitting into the wind — and then expanding on one part of the story, Abigail’s petition to David, and portraying it as a wonderful picture of intercession, Abigail’s interceding for her foolish husband and that as a picture of Jesus’s intercession for us, and so on.  It sounds great if you just skim the surface and don’t really think about it, but it doesn’t satisfy the true spiritual hunger to really know God’s word and what it says — and doesn’t do proper justice to the many things that actually are in this text.  One obvious problem with that approach is that the man she was interceding on behalf of (Nabal) was judged by God and struck dead.  If God had instead changed Nabal’s heart for the better and spared his life, perhaps — but again, the text simply does not bear out the spiritualizer’s imagination.

Contrast that approach with the treatment in a good expository lesson through 1 Samuel 25 — from S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of David” 8-part series.  (He again covered this text several years later in his expanded 40-part “Lessons from the Life of David” series, in a similar manner.)  Johnson looks at the text in three parts, and examines each of the characters:  David, Nabal, and Abigail.  The story has a lot to say about practical Christian living, and SLJ references several Proverbs as well as the parable of the rich man in Luke 12.

Regarding David, SLJ again notes David’s declension in moving away from the stronghold, and that David really didn’t need to go and beg for provisions from Nabal — again a lack of trust.  David’s request was still a reasonable one, though, and in keeping with the culture and the festive occasion of sheep shearing, a traditional time of sharing your abundance with the poor.  David and his men were certainly among the poor, and Nabal had at least that obligation to the poor.  Nabal’s real error, though, for which he was judged, was his failure to recognize God’s anointed — and that can be compared to the wicked sinner who fails to recognize David’s “greater Son” Jesus, and the eternal consequences.

David responds to the insult with rashness and the intent to commit great harm (and this part reminds me of the rash, wicked act of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34).   Proverbs 26:4, “do not answer a fool according to his folly,” is shown here in David’s mistake.

Abigail is the surprising one in the story, for she shows great knowledge concerning the Davidic promises, in her certainty that David will become king.  The important lesson here is:  “let the coming glory that you are to have regulate your present actions.”  In S. Lewis Johnson’s words:

Abigail’s argument is something like this: David we know you’re going to be king over Israel and when you’re king some day you’ll have grief over the fact that before you became king you lost your temper and you got your men together with your swords in hand and you went down and slew Nabal and all the rest of the men who were associated with him.  So she argues something like this: let the coming glory that you are to have regulate your present actions.

Now, that’s an interesting argument because it’s the same kind of argument that we have in the New Testament, because we are told in the New Testament that we have died with Christ, we have been buried with him, we’ve been raised up together with him, we’ve been made to sit together with him in heavenly places, and in the light of the fact that we have been made to sit together with him in the heavenly places we are to live as heavenly children in this earth in this present season.  It’s the old argument of the Christian life, based on the position that we enjoy in Christ and because we are righteous, we should be righteous in our daily lives.  Because we have this great standing with the Lord, our present state should be comparable to it, so she argues from the basis of his future that he should not do what he intends to do.  So it is a beautiful lesson that the present is to be regulated by the future.  Not simply by the fact that in the future we’re going to be judged, such as we have in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 10 (we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ), but rather you should live in the light of what you are going to be.  In our case we are positionally righteous, we are positionally sanctified and therefore we should live lives characterized by growing experience of sanctification; because we are holy in the sight of the Lord now, we should live in a holy way.

Another proverb tell us, “As an earring of gold an ornament of fine gold so is a wise reprove upon an obedient ear.”  David is a great man and shows himself able to take the reproof.

The last section of the chapter is the “retribution and requital,” where God takes vengeance upon Nabal the next morning.  Here the parable in Luke 12 is especially apt, as well as the truth that “vengeance is mine, I will repay thus saith the Lord.”  SLJ suggests that Jesus may well have been thinking of Nabal when He told the story in Luke 12.  Certainly Nabal fits the bill, the perfect description of the rich man who stores up his treasures in bigger and bigger barns but is not generous toward God, not realizing that “this very night” his life will be required of him.

S. Lewis Johnson Teachings

March 31, 2010 1 comment

Here is a brief excerpt from the first message in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of David” series, an 8-part series he taught in the late 1970s.  He did this series at the same time as the Genesis series, which he makes reference to.  He had recently preached through the section on Esau and Jacob, as here he likens Saul to Esau, the more likeable guy that we could relate to  — in contrast to Jacob and David.  Johnson also makes reference to the Dallas Cowboys’ Roger Staubach.

It’s possible that a man like Abraham excelled David in faith because when we think of Abraham we think of the great exemplar of faith.  He was the great man of faith, and he is the one who is used as the illustration of faith in the New Testament.  Probably Elijah excelled him in forcefulness because Elijah was the prophet of fire, and no doubt some could make a good case for Moses excelling him in communion with the Lord.  But when you look at David as a versatile man, it’s probably doubtful that any of these men excelled David in versatility for he was a man who had numerous talents and gifts given him by God.  He was a man of faith.  He was a forceful man.  He was a warrior.  He also was a man who spent a great deal of time in fellowship and communion with the Lord.  And so he’s a well rounded man of God.

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Acts series, Acts 21, on the matter of Paul’s attitude towards the Mosaic law:

To put it in the words of one of the finest New Testament commentators, “A truly emancipated spirit, such as Paul’s is not in bondage to its own emancipation.”  We are free to put ourselves under law, for a particular reason, Paul says.  But that doesn’t mean that we are not free.  We are free.  We are free to be under the law.  We are free from the law, or we are free for the exercise of the law upon occasion.

But, now, when it comes to the gospel that’s a different matter.  If, for example, our action of being under law compromises the principle of grace, then the apostle will not submit to a legal requirement.  And the finest illustration of this is the passage in Galatians chapter 2, and Titus’ circumcision.  Timothy is desired to be circumcised, in order that they might have ministry and freedom of it.  But in Titus’ case, where the issue was circumcision as a means of salvation, listen to what Paul says about that.

Galatians 2, verse 1, “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.  And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them, which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”