God’s grace in the face of our sin – 1 Samuel 12

In 1 Samuel 12:6-18, Samuel outlines to the people of Israel their checkered history of following the God who chose them and rescued them. The retelling largely contains rebellion and idolatry on Israel’s part, including their most recent mistake – requesting that they have a king to rule over them. The people rightly despair at their sin (v. 19). However, Samuel’s response is probably not what they were expecting:

Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet, do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” (1 Samuel 12:20-22)

God, through his chosen prophet, offers grace in face of sin. He offers covenant-faithfulness in the face of unfaithfulness. This is the character of our God and his relationship to his people. Samuel does go on to urge them to serve the Lord faithfully (v. 24), and to warn them of the punishment to come if they fail (v. 25). Even so, what a beautiful expression these verses contain of the grace and covenant love that rises within the heart of our Lord, even in the face of our sin.


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Hanukah and Christmas

As a Jewish Christian, I celebrate Hanukah and Christmas.

Hanukah occurs in December (Dec 20 this year).  I think that Hanukah has become a modern Jewish substitute for Christmas (presents are given).  Originally this festival celebrates the Maccabees’ defeat of the Greeks in 165 BC. The Greeks had stopped the sacrifices at the Temple.  They were oppressing God’s people and trying to bring an end to God’s one true religion.  But the Maccabees trusted in God and defeated their enemies.  It was just like the time of the Judges and other Old Testament events when God defeated the enemies of his people.

After 100 years or so of independence the Jews were then dominated by the Romans.  During this time Jesus came and died for his people’s sins.  Later, the Jews were defeated by the Romans in 70 AD, and the Temple was destroyed.  The Zealots had seen themselves as modern-day Maccabees.  If they trusted in God, God would defeat the Romans, they thought, and save his people.  But having rejected their Messiah, they were not trusting in God, and they were defeated. Continue reading

“Face Scripture as it is”

“That brings us to the vital principle which underlies all the causes of self-deception. In many ways the root trouble, even among good Evangelicals, is our failure to heed the plain teaching of Scripture…

“Instead of taking the plain teaching of the Bible, we argue with it. ‘Ah, yes,’ we say, ‘since the Scriptures were written, times have changed.’ Dare I give an obvious illustration? Take the question of women preaching, and being ordained to the full ministry. The apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:11-15), prohibits it directly. He says quite specifically that he does not allow a woman to teach or preach. ‘Ah, yes,’ we say, as we read that letter, ‘he was only thinking of his own age and time; but you know times have changed since then..

“Paul does not say that it was only for the time being; he takes it right back to the Fall and shows that it is an abiding principle. It is something that is true, therefore, of the age in which we live. But thus, you see, we argue with Scripture. Instead of taking its plain teaching, we say that times have changed – when it suits our thesis we say it is no longer relevant…

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“Hallmark Christmas” and the Incarnation

Did you know that Jesus was born in a beautifully quiet, warm barn, in Northern Europe somewhere? I didn’t. But I could swear that this is precisely how we think about our Lord’s birth.

You see, when we enjoy our “Hallmark-Christmas“, everything is calm, warm and peaceful in the stable where Jesus was born.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lays down his sweet head.”

No mention of the pain that Mary was surely still enduring after the birth, and no mention of the blood our baby Saviour was covered in when he was born.

“The cattle are lowing, the poor baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”

No mention that the goats smell really terrible, and probably are bleating and breaking wind. No mention of cow dung. No mention of rodents which might Continue reading