Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
That’s a promise that’s worth exploring. How does our Father give us his kingdom? Who is the little flock? Why might it be scary?
The entire story of Scripture is held in these words. Continue reading “The kingdom as Father’s gift (Luke 12:32)”
How do you find the meaning to life? Meet the Author.
What’s life about? Its architect knows.
1 It all started with what the Author said.
What he wrote reflects the Author.
2 The Author was present in what he wrote.
3 The whole story came out of his being.
Not a single thing came from elsewhere.
Continue reading “Meet the author of life (John 1:1–14)”
A crucified king introduces a different kind of power to the world.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel,” Paul told the Romans. Was he struggling as a Christian? Did he fear they’d find his faith embarrassing? Let me take you back to their world.
Continue reading “Power without shame (Romans 1:16)”
We live because God does right out of his faithfulness to us. So, faithfulness to God leads us to do right as we live.
The opening verses of Paul’s letter to Rome contain the message the whole letter unpacks. By verse 17, the key theme comes into view:
Romans 1:17 (ESV)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Questions? What is the righteousness of God? How is it revealed in the gospel? What does from faith for faith mean? And why include a quotation when he’s packing the message so densely?
Continue reading “Why the gospel calls for faith (Romans 1:17)”
How does God fulfil his promise that the righteous will live by faith?
Should good people stand up against the forces of evil in our world, so the whole thing doesn’t go down the drain? You’ve heard the proverb: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
If we were looking to good men to save us, that approach might make sense. Habakkuk wasn’t. He was looking for God to save. But he didn’t see God intervening. We could summarize his complaint as: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for a good God to do nothing.
God gave Habakkuk a lifeline. God does not act as we expect, but he is in charge of history and this is his promise: those who do right [even in the face of all the evil] will not die out; they will live by their faith(fulness).
The New Testament relates this promise to the gospel. In Romans and Galatians, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 to support his teaching that God’s goodness saves those who trust him. Before we discuss faith from a Christian perspective (a future post), we need to hear Habakkuk’s message in his context.
Habakkuk’s book is a two-sided conversation: the prophet’s concern, and God’s response.
Continue reading “Should the faithful fight evil? (Habakkuk 2:4)”
The righteousness of God, calling on the name of the Lord, salvation and judgement — we hear all these words on the messiah’s lips in Psalm 145.
New Testament theology begins in the Old, where God is revealed as the heavenly sovereign who faithfully loves his people and his earthly realm. So when the OT uses phrases that are crucial to Christian theology, they’re the seeds of what God was planting. The OT provides another dimension of insight into what those phrases mean for us.
Four of those phrases turn up on the lips of the messiah in Psalm 145. We’ve seen how the Davidic king announced the kingdom of God (145:1–8) and extended it beyond Israel to all people (145:9–16). Then he makes four statements about the character of God, statements that brilliantly illuminate the theology (words about God) in the Gospels and apostolic letters:
This Psalm is not quoted in the NT, but the messianic voice provides background for the hope these keywords hold as we read them in the NT.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: keywords for theology (145:17-21)”
Restoring a nation is marvellous news (Psalm 145:1–8), but in verses 9–16 the messiah goes on to extend God’s kingdom to all humanity.
Open Psalm 145:9-16.
We’re hearing the messiah’s voice in the final Davidic psalm. In the first eight verses he led his people to honour their heavenly king who (prophetically speaking) restored them as his kingdom. They celebrate God’s majesty and faithful character. What could be better?
Something extraordinary happens when we reach the heart of the psalm. The Davidic leader expands their vision of God’s kingship — beyond their nation, to all people:
Psalm 145 9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, Lord … 12 so all people may know of your acts … 13 through all generations. 14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you … 16 every living thing. 17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, faithful in all he does. … 20 The Lord watches over all who love him but all the wicked he will destroy. … 21 Let every creature praise his holy name for all time.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: restored world (145:9–16)”
In the last Psalm of David, we hear the messiah’s voice declaring the restoration of God’s reign.
There’s nothing like Psalm 145, titled Praise; of David. No other psalm is called praise (tehil·lāh). This is the ultimate Davidic psalm in the Psalter.
Set among post-exile psalms, Psalm 145 is the voice of the David to come, the anticipated king who would restore God’s reign. That’s why it’s the most quoted psalm in the Jewish prayer book. It was referring to the world to come (Talmud, b Ber. 4B).
Christians believe the long-awaited Davidic king has come and brought his people back into God’s reign. He called it the kingdom of God. So does this Psalm. His kingship extends to all the people. The Psalm says that too. Phrases foundational for Christian theology are on the lips of the Davidic king in this Psalm.
Continue reading “David’s final Psalm: restored nation (145:1–8)”
A gospelling angel is worth listening to.
What can we learn from how angels delivered the gospel to the shepherds? Luke 2:10 literally says they evangelized us:
And the heavenly messenger said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for I am evangelizing you of great joy which will be for all the people.”
I know that’s not what our English translations say. Evangelize means something different to us — something like converting an outsider to our faith.
What’s weird about that is that evangelize is not really an English word. We just took a Greek word and transliterated it into our language: euangelizō => evangelize. Then we modified the meaning to suit ourselves. So in recent centuries, evangelizing pagans became part of colonializing them. Some big businesses like Microsoft now employ evangelists to convert people to use their products.
Can we recover what evangelize meant in the New Testament? The angel who came to evangelize us could be a good example to follow.
Continue reading “The heavenly messenger’s gospel (Luke 2:9–12)”
“What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:28)
People expect to be rewarded for doing right, and to suffer when they harm others. Religions teach that this will happen in the next life if not in this one, whether that’s understood as eternity or reincarnation. Does the Bible teach this?
You can certainly find cases of people who felt like this. Joseph’s brothers believe their past has caught up with them when they find themselves in an Egyptian prison:
Continue reading “Does the universe repay us as we deserve? (Genesis 42:21–28)”
How did Joseph handle the most difficult temptation of his life?
When we idealize our heroes, we diminish their struggles. Joseph’s temptations were real, but Mrs Potiphar wasn’t the big one. His greatest test was his brothers — what he’d do to them once he had the power to give them what they deserve.
Continue reading “Joseph’s greatest test (Genesis 42:1–20)”
Who was Asenath? Why did she marry Joseph? What do we learn from their story?
Did you know that Joseph married an Egyptian?
Genesis 41 (NIV)
45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. …
50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
Joseph is an amazing character. Despite being catapulted to power from prison, Joseph is one of the few not corrupted by power. But his lifestyle choices in exile still present problems for observant Jews.
Continue reading “Joseph’s love story (Genesis 41:44-52)”
Do politics and religion mix? How did Joseph make it work with Pharoah?
From prison to palace in a single day! Are you encouraged by Joseph’s story? It’s more than personal encouragement. It’s God doing something enormous, global even. What does Joseph’s story teach us about the kingdom of God?
God gave the king of Egypt a dream (Genesis 41:1). Is religion meant to influence politics? Aren’t church and state too explosive to mix? I guess God’s not very good at staying out of the political arena.
So how does the kingdom of God relate to the kingdoms of the world? The heavenly sovereign has wisdom for earthly rulers. He’s the king above all kings. But how God does this is crucial:
- We misrepresent God when we withdraw from politics, as if God has no interest in the secular domain.
- We misrepresent God when we engage with the fights and factions of earthly politics, to force our will on the secular world.
Is there a third way? Joseph brought God’s wisdom to the secular world. In a land far from family and faith, with a meteoric rise from prisoner to prince, Joseph represented God well in Egyptian politics. Can we learn from him?
Continue reading “Governing with God (Genesis 41)”
Joseph’s story shows us how God deals with injustice.
You’re in good company if you’ve noticed that life isn’t fair. Joseph had every reason to be bitter over how his brothers sold him out, and his boss falsely accused him. Prison walls offer no choices. Every morning Joseph wakes to this meaningless existence.
Others feel the same in this prison. Joseph finds meaning in caring for them. But one morning they’re more glum than usual, troubled by dreams.
Continue reading “Living in grace and disgrace (Genesis 40)”
“Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams,” his brothers said as they threw Joseph in a pit (37:20). He had big dreams of ruling the sun, moon and stars (37:9). Instead, we find him in a dungeon with no control over his own life, ordered to serve prisoners (40:4).
So, serving prisoners is what Joseph does. One morning a couple of them looked more dejected than ever. “Why the long face?” he enquires (40:7). Turns out they had dreams too.
Continue reading “Dreams in prison (Genesis 40:1–8)”
What God did in sorting out our relationship with him reveals how to approach our relationships with each other.
The final chapter of Philippians calls us to treat each other the way God treated us (Philippians 2:6-11). The reconciling God is our joy, even while we’re still sorting things out. That’s why we rejoice in the Lord always (4:4).
This podcast (22 minutes) was recorded at Riverview Burswood 2022-09-25.
Continue reading “The reconciling gospel (podcast) (Philippians 4:1-4)”
How did Joseph cope with treachery and accusations from a sexual predator?
Role-reversal stories help us break down our stereotypes and cultural bias. As a boy, I was warned against seductive females like Potiphar’s wife, but I don’t remember being warned against mistreating women as the men of Genesis did: Pharaoh (Genesis 12:15), Abimelek (20:2; 26:8), and Hamor (34:2).
Maybe the real issue is power rather than gender. Those three guys were all kings or princes. And Potiphar’s wife held all the power while Joseph was merely a slave.
Women are devalued in patriarchal society. Judah’s mistreatment of Tamar isn’t resolved until he realizes that, even though she used her sexuality against him, She is more righteous than I (38:26).
So, rather than treating gender as the problem in the conflict between male and female, could we make some progress by identifying abuse of power as the real issue? The role-reversal story of Genesis 39 suggests that might be a productive approach.
What happens when the woman has all the power, and the male is her slave?
Continue reading “Finding God in an unjust world (Genesis 39)”
How does Paul understand the gospel in Romans? Is this how you understand it?
What was Paul’s gospel? A survey of how he uses gospel in Romans could give an indication.
Previously, we summarized the gospel, tracing its roots in Isaiah, through Mark’s Gospel and Peter’s preaching, to the eternal gospel of Revelation. But was this Paul’s gospel?
The word gospel (noun or verb) occurs twelve times in Romans, clustering around the opening and closing chapters like a framework. Let’s check it out.
Continue reading “The gospel in Romans”
Why interrupt Joseph’s story with the scandal of Judah and Tamar?
Judah is quite the cad in Genesis 38. But why interrupt the story of Joseph with a scandalous story about Judah?
That’s the puzzle for modern readers. As one of them said, All commentators agree that ch. 38 clearly interrupts the flow of the Joseph story (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, NICOT, 2:431).
It makes more sense if we listen to the narrator who labelled Genesis 37–50 as the generations of Jacob, not Joseph’s story. Jacob was setting up his family, and he intended Joseph to rule.
But wasn’t Judah supposed to rule? King David descended from Judah. Didn’t Jacob intend the lion from the tribe of Judah to receive the ruler’s sceptre? (49:9-10)
Yes, but let’s not jump there too quickly. There are issues with Judah’s character, issues that call into question whether Judah is fit to rule. Would you trust a leader who would sell his brother into slavery? (37:26). Genesis 38 gives us more reason to question Judah’s character.
Continue reading “Was Judah fit to rule? (Genesis 38)”
Why did his brothers sell Joseph into slavery?
Genesis is the foundational story of the kingdom of God. It starts with all God’s creatures in the care of his human servants who live in his garden. When they rebel, God sets in motion his plan to bring everything and everyone back under his sovereign care, starting with a prototype kingdom through the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We saw how the different stages of this story are clearly marked by the tô·lē·ḏôṯ formula, the final one being, These are the generations of Jacob. (37:2). Observing these cues helps us avoid twisting the story into our own image.
But why is this Jacob’s story? People usually treat Genesis 37–50 as the story of Joseph. His name is mentioned 151 times, twice as often as Jacob/Israel (73 times). We’ve heard Jacob’s name more frequently in previous chapters (150 times in Genesis 25–36), so why does the narrator say we’ve now reached Jacob’s story?
Continue reading “Was Joseph meant to rule his brothers? (Genesis 37)”