The Aim of our Charge

Matthew 22:37 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

This is where the Christian Faith begins. This is the paradigm of your relationship with God. It requires that you do not have closed off spiritual, emotional and private relationships but relationships that begin in your heart and end at the four corners of the world. It begins privately and intimately but extends through your hands to your neighbor, town, county, state, country and world.

This is God’s program to perfect creation. It’s the overpowering force. It’s you responding in the only appropriate way imaginable to His instigating love; with total abandon, complete surrender, utter adoration and all engrossing subordination.

Heart, soul and mind don’t consist of compartmentalized aspects of life, but here signify the total self; the whole man.

This command becomes the engine, the roadmap, the structure on which your life’s work is built. It becomes the modas operandi. The beginning, the end and the content of life. This is the sum total of who you are and what you do.

This command, applied to your life, becomes the antithesis, cultural mandate and great commission in action. This is the chief command from which all obedience is derived. It’s the fountain head of culture, ethics, science, theology, art, family, community and meaning that pleases God.

This requires proximity and consists of productivity and praise.

A proclomation of Hope

Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Doré.
Jonah preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Doré. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sign of Jonah is the sign of judgment

It is important to understand that Nineveh is the capital of Assyria which is public enemy number one in Israel’s eyes. God uses prophets to lead people to either repentance and righteousness or destruction. Of course Jonah is nervous. What if Nineveh and Assyria actually repents, when northern Israel hadn’t in 150 years? Who would be the instrument of God’s judgment against who? We know what happens of course. The judgment of unrepentant Israel comes a few generations after the book of Jonah. By who? Assyria destroys northern Israel. The judgment associated with Jonah is the spirit of God departing from northern Israel to rest on the repentant Assyria. 

Assyria’s attack on Israel comes after hundreds of years of God struggling with his wayward people. Covenantal presumption is death. It is the judgment of Israel that God uses to bring the good news to the nations. This points forward to the same situation in Jesus day, but then, God uses the rebellion of Israel as a means to save the whole world. God punishes His people for its complacency. The Lord’s kingdom does not remain with the unrepentant, presumptuous or proud.

It’s like giving a bb gun to a young boy for his birthday. How many times are you going to discipline him for shooting his brothers or birds or windows before you simply take it away? How much recklessness will you allow a 17 year old to commit with an automobile? These seem like reasonable situations for discipline, but surely God doesn’t reject his people! God does reject the self-righteous and presumptuous; those who say Lord, Lord and yet know nothing of doing His will in the world.  How long will the kingdom of God remain with those who use God’s grace as an excuse to live sinful, worldly, self-centered lives? Continue reading “A proclomation of Hope”

Jonah the Evangelist

prophet Jonah being thrown into the Sea, catac...
prophet Jonah being thrown into the Sea, catacombe di Priscilla (photo by Wilpert, Joseph. Die Malereien der Katakomben Roms, 1903) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sign of Jonah is Jonah’s word

God sends Jonah into Nineveh with words to save and this points the reader forward to when God will send His living Word into the world to save. The evidence of Chapter 3 reveals that Jonah’s words are powerful because God’s spirit goes before them preparing fields to be planted.

The seed clearly goes down and sprouts up quickly, but nothing about Jonah leads us to believe he is capable of such a feat. His words have a power quite above himself.  It says in Jonah 3:3 that it’s a three day journey across Nineveh and yet in verse 4 it says Jonah went one day’s journey and his word goes before him throughout Nineveh like a wildfire.

Jonah’s speaks a meager 8 words, only having traveled a third the way through the city and we have one of the greatest revivals in history. This is a rare instance where one Prophet’s words are effective instantaneously. Jonah doesn’t even need to be present, but the mere report of his proclamation is enough.  It is too miraculous to attribute to Jonah or his words alone. It points forward to a prophet, Jesus, whose word is spoken with real authority and is operative instantly.   Continue reading “Jonah the Evangelist”

Love knows no one Greater

The Sign of Jonah is the Fish of Jonah

In the section mentioned earlier from Matthew, we saw that Jesus referred explicitly to the fish being a sign of His death, burial and resurrection.

Death and resurrection are part of our life in Christ. Dying to ourselves is the only way to live for God. Jonah was shown this truth through his ordeal in the fish. Jesus demonstrated it throughout his life, ministry and passion. We must die to ourselves so that we might live for God. Doing the will of the father requires it and it is a sign that points to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that signifies one is a disciple of the living God.

So, this is a fairly straight forward and easy sign. Jonah is swallowed by the Fish and remains in a death like state for three days. He rises on the third day with words of power to speak to the nations. Just like Jesus.

There will be blood

English: Jonah Is Spewed Forth by the Whale (J...
English: Jonah Is Spewed Forth by the Whale (Jon. 2:1-11) Русский: Пророк Иона, изверженный китом (Ион. 2:1-11) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sign of Jonah is the sacrifice of Jonah

Our tale begins with the descent of the prophet Jonah in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name. In verse 3 he “goes down to Joppa;” In verse 5 he goes “down into the ship,” then “lies down” to sleep. This descent places Jonah in the midst of the very people who will sacrifice him for their own salvation in verse 15. This set up alludes to Christ going down from heaven, down to Jerusalem to be crucified and being laid down in the tomb in the sleep of death.  Jonah flees from God and God uses him as a type of Christ.

Jonah is a substitutionary sacrifice for the sailors like Jesus is a substitutionary sacrifice for the new humanity. Jonah’s story is typological. It is not exactly the same in content or effect. Jonah’s sacrifice saved the lives of the sailors not their souls. But Jonah is a picture of Jesus. Jonah descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jesus descends from a place of honor to a place of shame amidst those He will be sacrificed for. Jonah lies down and sleeps in a boat, Jesus lies down and sleeps in a boat. Jonah is awoken amidst a storm. Jesus is awoken amidst a storm. Jonah is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves; Jesus is sacrificed at the hands of the ones his sacrifice saves. Continue reading “There will be blood”

Is Jonah great?

The Sign of Jonah; Introduction

Matthew 12:41The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Jesus says he is greater that Jonah. Why? Isn’t it self-evident that He is? Why not just say I am great and Jonah is Jonah. We understand Jesus is the greater Moses, Joshua, and David. But who would call Jesus the greater Jonah? Jesus did. We need to get the big picture. Who wrote the book of Jonah? Jonah did. Jonah learned an important lesson and wants you to learn it too. Jonah’s sins were startlingly revealed to him and he took the lesson to heart and wrote a book about it.

Jonah is a humbled prophet. Jonah is great because he wrote a book in which God is the hero. Besides pointing the reader toward God’s glory, Jonah is one of the most succinct, dynamic and multi-dimensional “types” of Jesus in the Old Testament.

What is the sign of Jonah? A quick read will point us to the fish and the three days of Death, but it’s more complicated than that. To properly interpret the book of Jonah we need to understand that “the sign of Jonah” is the Sacrifice, the fish, the word and the judgment of Jonah as they foreshadow Jesus’ ministry.

A wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving.

English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1...
English: The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902), gouache on board, 11 7/16 x 9 5/16 in. (29.1 x 24 cm), at the Jewish Museum, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joshua 5:10-12 “While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”

God provided Manna for Israel in the desert and as soon as Israel crossed into the Promised Land, the Manna ceased and the produce of the Land fed the Children of the Lord. The link between the two; God’s provision of the Manna and God’s provision of the vineyards, wells and abundance of the conquered tribes was supposed to be obvious. God provided Israel with both. Israel was never meant to forget who provided the daily bread, whether it fell out of the sky or was planted, grown, sifted, mixed with yeast and baked.

The Triune God is a God of abundance, a God of Giving. Psalm 23:1 says “the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” The second half of the verse is the natural outcome of the first half. Because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.

The promise of God’s table is a promise of provision. Who among you is starving? Start with this basic necessity and move up and out and see all that God has given you.

Start at the bottom, not the top, and work through God’s abundant provision and grace visible in your life today.

Another thing is how boring, mundane and unremarkable daily bread seems when we buy it from Albertsons. We were born in a land of milk and honey and we forget all the labor others expend through God’s providence for our daily sustenance.

We would be impressed by the miracle of Manna, but there are fewer specific items to be thankful for when the bread falls out of the sky. Bread from the store requires a far greater reach. God provides your job to acquire money, the car, the store, the plastic bag, the twist tie, the rain, the farmer, the harvest, the baker and an infrastructure which allows for massive ovens and transportation.  So why are we less grateful when God displays a wider reach, a deeper authority, a greater giving?

This is the common grace which we all so abundantly enjoy just to get some bread, everyday.

The God who calls

Therefore the strongest argument that can be opposed to the previous one is to be found in the fact that God made a distinction between Isaac and Ishmael and between Jacob and Esau, who were born in the same way of Abraham and Isaac. Nevertheless, Ishmael, no matter how much he desires it, cannot be the heir. No, the seed of the promise, which has the call and, over and above the first birth, has the second and regeneration, is given the preference. But this is the source of perpetual war from the beginning of the world to the end, not about trivialities but about that glorious title “church,” the people of God, the kingdom of heaven, and eternal life. Thus today we are at variance with the church of the pope, which wants to be the people of God and to have possession of the kingdom and the priesthood. They boast that they alone are the church of God which acknowledges God as the Father and worships Him properly. They condemn and persecute us as heretics and the church of the devil. This is what it means that the infants are at variance before they were born; for from the beginning there is a twofold church in the world, just as the seed is twofold: the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, which contend and are at variance with each other because of the title “church.” Paul certainly handed down an exceedingly clear and powerful dialectic when he pointed out the difference between the birth and the call. Where there is the birth alone, there is condemnation; for, as John says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) and “not of blood, etc.” (John 1:13). Paul says something else. “Because of His call she was told,” he writes (Rom. 9:11-12); that is, the Word of God and the promise are necessary. Over and above the creature, he who wants to rule and be a son of God must hear Him, not as the God who creates but as the God who calls.

Luther, Martin (1966-01-01). Luther’s Works, Vol. 4: Genesis Chapters 21–25 (Kindle Locations 6816-6830). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

The Nature of God’s Holiness

God’s holiness isn’t simply the absence of defilement, a negative thing. The holiness of God is positive and active. It’s God’s perfect nature at work in accomplishing God’s perfect will.

Wiersbe, Warren W. (2010-11-01). Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God (The BE Series Commentary) (p. 17). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

A primer on Canonicity

Apostolic Authority in antiquity

The Old Testament is approved holy writ by the testimony of the Lord Himself.

The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Tes...
The front side (recto) of Papyrus 1, a New Testament manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew. Most likely originated in Egypt. Also part of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (P. oxy. 2) Currently housed in: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luke 24:44 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.”

This three-fold division is clearly recorded by the Jewish authorities and their specific contents are also recorded and align with the modern Old Testament of the Protestant Bible, though in a different arrangement. Jesus also affirmed the Common Tradition of Scripture by his statement that all the blood from Abel to Zechariah would be visited on the Jews in Luke 11:50-51. This starts with the first Murder and ends with the last murdered prophet in the Jewish bible.

For the New Testament, the teaching and example of the Lord and his apostles, whether conveyed by word of mouth or in writing, had axiomatic authority for them. If writing was the work of an apostle or of their disciples it belongs to the apostolic age. Later writings, whatever their merit, could not be included among the apostolic or canonical books. Continue reading “A primer on Canonicity”