What do you do when you see something strange? I am tempted to stand and look. The Book of Revelation is full of strange sights—or at least the description of strange things. That includes Revelation 1:9-20. John’s purpose is not to make you exclaim and stare in amazement. Rather, he writes to encourage and comfort you—and to motivate you to trust in and serve the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
Patiently endure suffering. John, in exile, is a companion in tribulation. John was in exile on the island of Patmos because of his faith. He writes to suffering churches, but not as someone outside looking in. He is a fellow sufferer. He is in exile. Words to a suffering church are relevant to you and me. Last Sunday before some of us had left the building, we learned of the murder of many members of the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. John’s vision took place on the Lord’s Day, the day that particularly belongs to the risen Lord. (There is a reason the church worships on the first day of the week. As those who suffer along with John and his first century hearers, we need to persevere. How can you do that? Listen to what John hears and look at what John sees. Continue reading
How challenging is the Christian life—not just in the Middle East or parts of Asia—but right here? The Book of Revelation gives hope, strength, and comfort to suffering and challenged Christians. Revelation 1:1-8 not only introduces the book, but points you to the heart of the comfort—the revelation of Jesus Christ.
God has revealed Jesus Christ. This book is the Apocalypse. You may have heard it called by that title, which is simply a transliteration of the word John uses, which we more often translate as revelation. Perhaps because some of the visions in this book describe earth-shaking events, the term apocalypse has come to have overtones of disaster. But John uses it to mean showing or unveiling what is there, but is perhaps not clear to the superficial look. Revelation has suffered from both overexposure and neglect. How do you understand it? Continue reading
There are silly protests—and profoundly important ones. Do you think of yourself as a protester? Why is this church a Protestant church? Protesting involves setting yourself over against some other position—likely an entrenched position. Paul does that in Romans 1:16-19. In a real sense Luther, though he had no intention of starting a movement, much less another church, when he nailed his 95 Theses to the chapel door, Luther was following Paul. Although it was not until 1530 that the term Protestant came to describe what Luther started, Luther was protesting 500 years ago this week.
Do not be ashamed of the gospel. Where are you tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? Paul is explaining his eagerness to come to Rome and speak about the good news. He packs his reasons one inside the other. Paul’s culture considered the gospel foolishness and offensive. So does ours. Where do you face challenges regarding the good news? Paul understood that the issue at Rome affected the heart of the gospel. Can you be right with God by your works or not? Although initially Luther was only protesting abuses of the indulgence system, he came to see that the approach into which the Medieval church had fallen undercut the heart of the gospel. The studying and preaching Luther had been doing in Psalms and Romans was shaping his thinking. Continue reading
You’ve worked hard on a project. It’s finally finished—and turned out as well or better than you had hoped. How do you react? Exodus 40:34-38 shows you how God responded to the completion of building the Tabernacle and its furnishings.
Give thanks for the presence of the Lord of Glory. The Lord blessed the completed Tabernacle with his presence. Do you remember that as Israel left Egypt, the Lord showed his presence in the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night? With the Tabernacle finally complete, the glory cloud descends on the Tabernacle and fills it. God was truly with his people. As God created, he paused at the end of several of the creation days and called his work good. In Genesis 1:31, at the end of the creation week, he surveyed the entire creation and pronounced it very good. And then God entered his rest, not because he was weary, but he entered it with the purpose of humankind also entering it. Of course Adam sinned, and instead of sharing God’s rest, instead of moving beyond the time of testing in the Garden to whatever exalted fellowship with his Creator would have resulted, he and Eve were expelled from the Garden. Some of the construction of the Tabernacle reflects the motif of Eden. Now, with it complete, God comes down in the cloud, fills the Tabernacle, and dwells in the midst of his people. It is not only a sign of God’s presence—he is truly with his covenant people. Continue reading
Is it true that churches talk about money all the time? Unfortunately, that is sometimes true. But the Bible does have some important things to say about giving (and it does not involve dunning people for money), as Exodus 35:29 makes clear.
Giving flows out of fellowship with your God. The giving in Exodus was for a place for God to live in the midst of his people. The generous giving described flows out of realization that God’s people are forgiven. They have received grace. They deserved the destruction that was threatened for worshiping the golden calf, but now Moses has interceded for them, and for his sake, but especially because of the intercession of One greater than Moses, God is still willing to dwell in their midst. Gratitude is the motive for giving, both here at Sinai, for the Corinthian church, and for you. This Tabernacle that they were building was the Lord’s house. It was not a house for them and God, but rather, it was God’s house. Yes, they could be invited guests, and, as the priests were representatives of the people, they entered it. But the house belonged to him. “The tabernacle, then, represented not merely symbolically the indwelling of God among Israel, but actually contained it. . . . [T]he holy place, no less than the holy of holies, is the place which Jehovah owns alone. At the same time, it must be maintained that the people are received into God’s house as his guests. . . . In the ideal covenant-fellowship, here portrayed, the divine factor is the all-controlling one. Man appears as admitted into, adjusted to, subordinated to, the life of God. Biblical piety is God-centered.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, pp. 170-171). You and I cannot build a house for God, because the time when he was present in the Tabernacle, or later the Temple, has passed. He has a far better temple today, one made of living stones, you his church. A basic reason for the Thank Offering, which will be received in OPC churches next month, is so that this living house of God can be expanded, so that his name will be glorified by many more coming to worship him in Spirit and in truth. Continue reading