Where Wrath and Mercy Meet – Psalm 85. RBT Notes, 5th May

1.   List the blessings God has shown His people in vv.1-3. How have you experienced them?

2.  Does the Gospel mean that God can never be angry at our sin (vv.4-7)? Why / why not?

3.   Meditate on the Cross, as the place of salvation (v.9), and the place where v.10 becomes gloriously true. How does that meditation shape how you feel about God, and how you need to pray to Him?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Thankyou, Father, that You are slow to anger, and rich in mercy. Yet how I walk on the edge of danger, in belittling Your glory, and slighting Your holiness. Please give me grace to fear You, to love You, and to stay close to You. Thankyou that because of the Cross You are my rock and my refuge. Amen.

 

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Love Awakened – Song of Songs 3. RBT Notes, 18th April

1. Look at v.5. With desire often come worry, frustration, dangerous risk – and broken-heartedness. How as Christians can we seek contentment in a world which says that if we’re single, we’re incomplete?

2. King Solomon is often portrayed in the book as the “ideal man”; in vv.6-11, in what ways does he make us think about Jesus, the ideal Man and King?

3. Reflect on the love of Christ as we discover it at the Cross. How is this love “safe” for us; and how does it call us to a dangerous – and all-consuming – commitment?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord Jesus, I am created to be loved, and to love. Thankyou that Your love is the fire I have been saved to know. By Your Spirit, show me that love, til I feel my heart melt once more, and be shaped to be a loving disciple. Amen.

 

 

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The Sound of Trumpets – Revelation 8. RBT Notes, 11th February

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, nothing can remain the same. Those who draw  near to Him in faith are saved, whereas those who draw back from Him in unbelief are lost. No one, though, will ever live unaffected by His mighty sacrifice.

The image which controls the details of ch.8 is the Day of Atonement at the Temple. In the earthly Temple, the High Priest draws near to God in the Most Holy Place, bringing incense, and offering a sacrifice of blood. Away from that altar, the worshippers stand in silence, waiting for their Priest to appear. When he does, the trumpets sound, heralding the arrival of God’s mercy and grace, as his appearance assures them of their forgiveness and acceptance with God. So in vv.1-5 we have the incense, the altar, and the silence of the worshippers in Heaven. We also have the High Priest who has offered Himself. He is Jesus, the Lamb, and the sacrifice is His body and blood. His sacrifice alone unlocks God’s purposes, and brings grace (v.1).

He brings judgment, too.  Angels bring His judgment upon the earth. A massively under-appreciated element of Revelation is that John records the unleashing of God’s wrath against the unbelieving covenant people of his day. The “mountain” is an obvious reference to Mount Zion, no longer a city of faith, but the seat of unbelief and the increasing persecution of God’s church. John sees that she will soon be overthrown (v.8), and she was, in AD 70.

The world, too, will feel the bitterness of God’s righteous judgment if she ignores her Saviour (vv.10-13). The Cross is not an escape from reality. The Cross is God’s reality which no one can escape. Jesus has been enthroned as Saviour and Lord through His death and resurrection; now is the day to trumpet His Lordship, and to believe in Him.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Father, I hardly realise just how infected I am by the world’s indifference to Jesus. Please forgive me that I treat His  shed blood so lightly. Sound your Gospel message loudly in my heart again, so that I might cling to His Cross, and glory in His sacrifice. Give me grace to declare His salvation. Amen.

 

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Relentless – Ezekiel 21-22. RBT Notes, 15th January

Are you sad, yet? We desperately try not to be. Oh, in our lowest moods, we might reach for a melancholic CD which we can howl along to in private. Music understands us, it seems, and sometimes it seems to help to prolong the dark moods we all fall into. But seeking out misery? Who wants to do that?

We avoid sadness. We try to keep things positive, light, cheery and upbeat. Let’s listen to our happy songs, keep positive company. Let’s laugh.

And let’s read the favourite bits of our Bibles. Let’s got to well-worn passages, treasured books, full of assurances, affirmations, and all things positive. Let’s avoid Ezekiel, and the other books we don’t know, or (privately) mistrust.

This is why reading through the Bible is a discipline. If we are committed to reading through all of Scripture, we will hit the sad passages. We’ll hit books like Ezekiel, which is overwhelmingly a difficult and a sad book. There are great, hope-filled parts in it (we’ve not got to them, yet), but there’s no denying that Ezekiel is hard. Not hard as in, hard to understand; but hard as in, hard to stomach. Too much gloom, too much sadness.

If you’re not sad, yet, then let’s read on. Ch.’s 21-22 are full of more doom and gloom. Ch.21 is all about swords. It’s actually about one sword, God’s, drawn against the Temple itself (vv.3-5), and about to strike the good and the bad indiscriminately, bringing such devastation that it would be read as an act of God.

“Groan on, Ezekiel” (v.6).And he will groan, as his message is about the immanent overthrow of Judah and Jerusalem (vv.11-17). Worse still, the sword of the Lord will actually be seen in the hands of the King of Babylon. A just God, well, that is the stuff of Jerusalem’s Confession of Faith; but a just God putting His judgement in the hands of a pagan king is more than they can handle (vv.18-24 – and just witness Habakkuk’s agonies at this situation).  God is relentless.

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Again, God’s charges are laid out against Jerusalem (ch.22). Her leaders are called the “leaders of Israel”, itself a grim irony, as Israel as a nation is already no more, and these leaders are in the last moments of what little power in Jerusalem they have. Whether idolatry, murder, social abuses, sexual impurity, Sabbath breaking, financial corruption, the Lord sees, knows and judges (vv.2-13). Noone will be left in any doubt about who’s in charge when God judges (v.16).

Ezekiel’s prophesy couldn’t be more terrifying: people literally melted in the coming siege (vv.21-22), just retribution on the sins of a society collapsing under the weight of its own wickedness (vv.23-29). And no one cares except God, and His care is only now working in judgment. (vv.30-31).

So there you go. More sin, pain, terror, threat, doom. And we’re only halfway through the book! Stay with it, though, as there are some exhilarating chapters to come, prophesying the reign of God through His Messiah. For now, watch the temptation to stand back from these chapters. Don’t – they teach you who God is. If you say you’re a Christian, you say that you love and know this God. There isn’t another one. And if you skim over wrath, you will fail to see the Cross in its glories. The Cross is where God took His sword up against our wickedness. That is relentless judgment, as it is relentless love.