After All – Job 42. RBT Notes, 31st January

If Leviathan can look down on God’s creation in his effortless power (41.34), how much more the Lord Himself? He looks, He sees, He remembers. And yet He does all of it, not in superior haughtiness, but in the deepest love and compassion. This is our God. And this is the message of Go. Job is always in control. He never needs to explain Himself to His creation, but He is working out good and wise plans for it, and at the heart of them is the good of His people.

Job now opens his mouth. He has to speak. But what can he say? The God whose justice he’s clung onto in desperate hope, he now meets, in all of His overwhelming grandeur. What would you say? Surely even the best of our worship, and our strongest moments of faith, are the flimsiest responses to a God whose glory we have seen in Christ, but have barely begun to understand? The God we know, after all, inhabits ways which are “too wonderful for us to know” (v.3).

One day we will open our mouths to God. Will we argue, complain, rage, or question? No. We will confess that He is the Lord, and we will bow down in worship. Our eyes will see Him (v.5). We will be satisfied, and delighted, as we lay ourselves before Him, and hear His voice.

Heaven is the home of all of our lasting happiness. Job received his reward for his faith in this life. Almost fairytale-like, he receives his prosperity again, lands, livestock, wife and children, old age and grandchildren (vv.10-16). And there’s a thought here: remember those friends, with their angle-grinding theology of sin and judgement which they attacked Job with, and for which God blames them (vv.7-9)? Well, after God Himself showed them that they were wrong, He gives them a ringside seat to His own sort of retribution.This is not the punishment of Job’s so-called sin, but the overflowing generosity of His reward for Job’s faithfulness in all of his trials. Satan is conquered, bad theology is slaughtered, Job is vindicated, God reigns, and declares His rule of love to the world. One day all of creation will see the rule of love in Christ, and all will sing Hallelujah.

 

A Prayer to Pray 

Lord God Almighty, Your ways of grace are too wonderful for me. And yet, they are all mine in Your Son. Teach me to treasure and hold all that You have given me in Him. Teach me also to let go of those things which are gifts for a season, however precious. And keep my heart strong, that I might look ahead with increasing excitement to the gift above all else, Your waiting Son. Amen.

 

Out of the Storm – Job 38-39. RBT Notes, 27th January

I actually think that Elihu had more to say. Most of us do, when suffering comes. Whether it’s debates, arguments, complaints, discussion or anything else, suffering rarely silences us. But Elihu has spoken his last because, now, God speaks.
8
God speaks. Can you actually believe that? Those two easy words – if they’re true – speak of a chasm of mystery and power which we can never cross. We cannot understand God, and we certainly cannot make Him speak. The Scriptures teach us that our minds, mouths and ears only work because God has created them and has decided that they should work. If God does speak, and Christians believe that every page of Scripture is the voice of God, then we need to use our ears and our minds. We can rest our tongues. In fact, we must.
 8
Who is He speaking to? Who is the man “that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge”? (38.1). Elihu? The three friends? Job? All of them? It could as well be you or me. Apart from God’s revelation we are blind, and suffering can make us blindest of all.
These two chapters are full of drama, as God reminds us, and Job in particular, of His untameable power and matchless wisdom. He is the creator, controller, planner and sovereign over all things. Stars, planets, seas, seasons, rain, thunder and lightning, they all have their existence and order at His bidding (vv.4-38). Effortless power.
 8
Effortless power, and complete care. God takes Job on a Planet Earth-like tour of His created world (38.39-39.30). Lions, goats, ostriches, donkeys, cattle, horses and hawks. Powerful, majestic and even funny creatures all glory in the strength God has given them, and God Himself glories in them. He loves all that He has created, and He cares for all. Who are we to doubt His goodness to us then, even when life is full of pain for us?
 8
 8
A Prayer to Pray
8
Lord, teach me that what I need most of all is to hear Your voice. I need to listen to You, when I don’t understand my life, and even when I don’t understand You. You speak the truth, and You always speak it out of a heart of love. Father, teach my often mistrusting heart to trust You, to seek You, and to glory in Your power and Your love. Amen.

In the End – Micah 7. RBT Notes, 28th November

The end has come. Micah sees God’s judgment fall on His disobedient people, as they are given over to their sin. Micah feels like a man expecting harvest, only to find the leftovers noone wants (v.1). His society is wasted – violent, vicious, corrupt, godless, perverted (vv.2-6). God has given them over to what their hearts lust for. This is His judgment, then as well as now.

This is our society. For His people, complaining achieves nothing. Capitulating to its values brings God’s displeasure. We are called to the daily discipline of going back to God in Christ, seeking Him, trusting Him, going deeper into His Word, and resting in His power: “I watch in hope for the Lord” (v.7). Then, rather than complaining about our world – and possibly not really actually caring about it – we start to feel deeply for our lost world, to pray for it, and to long to bring the Gospel of grace to it: “my God will hear me” (v.7).

With that prayerful attitude comes a strength of conviction. We depend on Him as never before. Yes, we become more aware of our own sins (vv.8-9), we also become more and more aware of the the awesome power of God, both to come in forgiveness and restoration, and in final judgment (v.10). Living with God is not easy, and sometimes far from comfortable: but living with Him is living in reality. And only a fool wants to live in his own pretend world.

For those who come to the Cross, and live close to it, there is a world of mercy to enjoy. Evil will be judged and grace will overflow to those who confess their sins (vv.11-13). Grace will triumph, as the Spirit will draw men and women to the exalted Saviour, Jesus Christ (vv.14-17). Just marvel at the scope of this anticipated grace, which makes pagans into believers, and snakes into servants (vv.16-17).

And finally, revel in the glorious declaration of all that God is in Jesus Christ, in vv.18-20: He is forgiving, and so merciful and compassionate. He is the triumphant destroyer of all of our sins. His love and promises are utterly faithful.  His Kingdom shall never end. His is the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord God, mighty Lord, majestic Saviour, loving Shepherd of Your sheep, thankyou for this vision of Your immense power, and Your transforming love. Lord, I confess that I need Your transformation. Teach me to love You, to feel my need of Your grace moment by moment. As as I tremble before all that You are, empower me to take Your Gospel word to those who need to discover Your compassion in Your Son. Amen.

Sing! Psalm 96. RBT Notes, 18th May

1.     What is true about God, and about none else, which makes His people sing, in vv.1-6?

2.     How does recognising the glory and strength God possesses bring us joy and life (vv.7-9)?

3.     The Psalm closes with a picture of all creation rejoicing in God’s judgment (vv.10-13). Compare this with the joy of heaven, as the New Testament shows it. Are you looking forward to heaven? Be honest!

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, show me how majestic You are. Teach me joy in Your Presence, and joy in the anticipation of heaven. Make my heart, lips and life sing for You. Amen.

 

 

sl600-usb-microphone-005

Brilliant – Revelation 1.9-18. RBT Notes, 2nd February

20120113_142138

 

Why don’t we use the word “brilliant” when we’re talking about the Lord Jesus Christ? For one thing, it means “shining”, and Jesus shines out the glory of God into a dark world. Because of that, there is no one like Jesus. His dazzling power, beauty, holiness and love put Him in a category of one. He is brilliant. Can you think of another, better word?

The Jesus John sees on Patmos is brilliant. A voice comes to him, giving him a message to record to seven churches (vv.10-11), and he turns to see his Lord. His description of Jesus reaches deep into images from Ezekiel and Daniel, and they are all pictures of majesty and lordship (vv.12-16). These details teach us that Jesus rules, sees, and commands. Jesus is dressed as a priest, and John can never forget that His offering for sin has reconciled him and all believers to God. The vision also teaches that He is eternal. Doesn’t Jesus Himself proclaim the good news we so need to hear (vv.17-18)?

Like us, John doesn’t need a pat on the back in his suffering, he needs to know that ruling over all things is a God of unimaginable greatness, who has conquered death. That is a message for all the world and the church to be confronted by (vv.19-20).

In the world we distrust power. Power spells pride, manipulation and worse. In Jesus, though, we see true power. Jesus is the brilliant majesty of God. His power comes to us in salvation and assurance. He is the only power we can fall down before with absolute trust, and with joyful surrender. Will we?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, Glory of the Father, Lord of all, Judge of the World, Saviour of the Church, I bow before you. In Your hands are my life and my eternal hope. Lord, above my trials today, let me see Your majesty, resting confident in Your work, completed at the Cross. And may it be a delight to call on Your saving name this day. Amen.

The Glory of the Church – Ezekiel 42-45. RBT Notes, 29th January

You can have all the religion you like, but without God it is only an empty shell. You can have a fine building, all ready for use (40-41), and you can make ample provision for its workers (the priests, 42). If that’s it, though, well, that’s it.

Buildings can’t ultimately achieve anything. It all depends on who is in them. If God is there in His glorious grace, and if people are there, seeking and trusting in that grace, then suddenly the charade of religion is shown for what it is, as people instead come to taste the reality of a God who saves and dwells with His people.

So this is what Ezekiel starts to see: the glory returns. God, who left His temple to its Babylonian judgment, is coming back to this new temple-community (43). With roaring voice, and a glory which shines out across the land, He comes, and all Ezekiel can do is worship (vv.1-3). The voice speaks, and it is the voice of Ezekiel’s companion, the shining one who has been showing him the temple, surely the Second Person of the Trinity Himself. Here, He declares, He will live forever (v.7). But who can endure the Day of His Coming? Only those made pure. The prophet is promised that He will dwell among a purified people, and so Ezekiel is told to take the message to his countrymen, that they are to be pure for their Lord (vv.9-12).

Purity comes from where, though? It comes from sacrifice, sacrifice to cover the guilt of all our sins and to bring cleansing. For that you need an altar (vv.13-18), an offering (v.19-25), and someone to offer sacrifice on our behalf (v.27, 44.1-31). In fact much of ch.44 reads like a repeat of the instructions to the priests in Leviticus. Afterall, God’s purposes have never changed, because God never changes.

How God achieves His plans can change, though. We look back on these chapters, and we know now that the altar is the Cross, the sacrifice is a man, and the offerer, the One who offered Himself. Jesus came to purify a people for His very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2.14). That is where glory shines. And glory still shines, and indeed, shines ever more brightly, amongst a people who have been gathered around that cross, to bask in its forgiveness and to live its life together. Afterall, that message of grace will one day conquer the world. And heaven? Heaven is a celebration of grace, forever, and in Christ for all (ch.45). This is our glory.

 

audience-crowd