Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

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Wednesday

3

October 2018

0

COMMENTS

Nehushtan: Just a Piece of Bronze

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th-6We are often tempted to dismiss idolatry as a serious threat to our spiritual well-being. When we think of idolatry, we can easily retreat to Old Testament days and believe that it was their problem. We confine idolatry to the work of wood or stone, and thereby dismiss it as an ancient sin with no impact to our generation.

However, in the New Testament, idolatry is mentioned as a major spiritual peril for the believer in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul in no uncertain terms warned the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry.” (I Cor 10:14) Paul also placed idolatry in the noxious list of behaviors called the deeds of the flesh and as a root behind the insatiable appetite of greed. (Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5)

The Apostle John concluded his first epistle with this pastoral warning, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (I John 5:21)

God allows no substitutes. At times He permits certain symbols to represent Him, however He never allows these symbols to replace Him.  God alone is to be the center of our worship.

Idolatry pollutes true worship and obedience as we create objects of worship that exalt other things as more worthy than God Himself.  Idols that grip the heart come in many packages. A few of the popular include: power, prestige, education, relationships, money, business, addictions, religion, entertainment, popularity, ego, and pornography. (more…)

Thursday

20

September 2018

0

COMMENTS

When Rabshakeh Opens His Vile Mouth

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The Old Testament is given to the people of God as vital revelation for the strengthening of our faith, the instruction of our doctrine, the foundation of the Gospel, and the encouragement of our soul.

The historical narratives of the Old Testament are filled with many priceless gems. In this short post, I want to take you to an episode from the life of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah was one of only eight kings of Judah who were said to be godly. While not perfect, they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

In several sections of the Old Testament, we read the account of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah (2 Chronicles 32; 2 Kings 18,19; and Isaiah 36, 37).  Sennacherib of course was the king of Assyria who had in recent days sacked the northern tribes of Israel leaving a tremendous body count in his wake.  He was a clear and present danger to Hezekiah and the southern kingdom of Judah. His presence was beyond intimidating.

In Isaiah 36, Sennacherib was focusing his military might on the fortified cities of Judah.  He sent the Rabshakeh to deliver one of the most daunting messages recorded in the Bible. The Rabshakeh was a title for an important official in the Assyrian military, and according to Assyrian records came to be the designation for an elevated military position.

This account is a demonstration of how the people of God should respond when fear and intimidation come. The Rabshakeh’s menacing message was especially effective because he spoke impeccable Hebrew, so all the people on the wall could hear the bullying first hand.

Listen to some of the threats of the Rabshakeh unleashed upon Hezekiah and the people of Judah:

*He mocked their faith, “On what do you rest this trust of yours?”(Isaiah 36:4)

*He scoffed at their weakness by saying that even if we gave you two thousand horses, if you were able to set riders on them…a single captain among the least of my master’s servants could defeat you.(Isaiah 36:8-10)

*The Rabshakeh introduced confusion by claiming that the Lord had told him to come up against the land to destroy it. (Isaiah 36:10)

*Speaking in Hebrew, and in the hearing of many, the Rabshakeh says, “you are doomed to eat your own dung and drink your own urine.” Yes, that’s in the Bible! (Isaiah 36:12)

*The Rabshakeh attacked the leadership of Hezekiah by saying, “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you…Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord…Make your peace with me and come out to me.”(Is. 36:14,16)

Gothmog,_general_of_MorgulNeedless to say, this was a full-frontal attack on the minds and hearts of God’s people. This scene reminds me of the one in the Lord of the Rings trilogy where Gothmog has assembled the horde of orcs before Minas Tirith in a siege.  Gothmog says as they stand before the fortress city, “Fear, the city is rank with it.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e_NeF3d5Ew

This is a fitting commentary for Jerusalem on the day of the Rabshakeh’s message. It was indeed rank with fear.

(more…)

Wednesday

5

September 2018

2

COMMENTS

Beware of Religious Silver Bullets

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We are a culture that prizes convenience and pragmatism, and consequently we love “silver bullet” solutions to our problems. By “silver bullet,” I’m referring to the term that commonly describes an action that cuts through the complexity of an issue by providing a quick solution.

silver-bullet-thinkingWhen bacterial infections rear their ugly head, we are grateful for the silver bullet of antibiotics. When the heat of summer blows its hot breath, God bless Willis Carrier for the silver bullet of air conditioning! When traveling globally, I’m thankful for the silver bullet of jet travel which brings a connection of friends for the cause of Christ. I’m grateful, in the common grace of God, for innovations that make life easier, better, safer, and more comfortable.

However, many things in life are not resolved by silver bullets. In fact, some of the deepest experiences in life are journeys of perseverance through many seasons and sacrifices. For instance, no marriage has all the issues worked out by a silver bullet solution. No friendship can remain without giving our best efforts to the relationship. The same is true with one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. (more…)

Saturday

7

April 2018

0

COMMENTS

Ninth Commandment- “You Shall Not Bear False Witness”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn January of 1996 William Safire, noted author and journalist, referred to Hillary Clinton, then first lady of the United States, as “a congenital liar.”  This started an exchange in the pundit world with many being outraged by the acidic tone of Safire’s words.  Through his press secretary, President Bill Clinton suggested a punch in the nose was in order.

“Liar” is one of those words in our culture that picks a fight quickly. It brings into question one’s integrity, one’s honesty.  But is there any truth to William Safire’s statement?  Not just about Mrs. Clinton, but what about Mr. Safire? What about you, and me?

Consider the cry of the psalmist, “I said in my alarm, ‘All men are liars.’” (Ps. 116:2) Or the apostle Paul’s referencing of other psalms to establish the universal guilt of humanity with regard to sin. Speaking of all of us, Paul writes with precision, “’Their throat is an open grave;  they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’  ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’” (Romans 3:13,14)

Truth be known, as God sees the human race, we are all marked by the inability to speak the truth consistently. The Lord God established the importance of truth speaking in the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness.” Bearing false witness, declaring falsehood and lies, is part and parcel of what it means to be a sinner. (more…)

Thursday

22

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Seventh Commandment- “You Shall Not Commit Adultery”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperGod’s protection and love are on display powerfully in the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

The seventh commandment forbids adultery which is viewed biblically as the shattering of the marriage covenant between a husband and a wife through sexual relations with another outside the marriage. This commandment became the basis for the prohibition of a whole range of sexual sins expanded upon elsewhere in Leviticus and the New Testament: fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.

The warning against adultery is second only to idolatry in the Old Testament, and second to none in the New Testament.  It was considered to be a treacherous sin, not only against another person, but against God, as expressed by King David’s cry in his post-adultery confession, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4)

We are commanded to honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4), and adultery is an offense to the sacredness of that union. The fallout of unbridled adultery is everywhere.  Someone has quipped that in America every hour is “Sex O’Clock.” A perusal of the media reveals an epidemic of relationships birthed or ended because of adultery, and any type of accountability for this covenant shattering behavior is dismissed out-of-hand.

A national acceptance has settled like a dark cloud, and like the adulteress woman in Proverbs 30:20, “She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’”  However, the pain, the regrets, the shame, and the awkward dynamics brought to family life through adultery last a lifetime. From our neighborhoods to our nation, we hear regularly of the blow-outs that come to marriages because of marital unfaithfulness. (more…)

Thursday

15

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Sixth Commandment- “You Shall Not Murder”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperSeveral years ago Christianity Today  printed a cartoon which depicted two public school administrators watching a line of students pass through a metal detector.  “It’s the latest in school safety devices,” one of them explains. “That light and horn go off if a student tries to smuggle in a gun, a knife, a bomb or a copy of the Ten Commandments!”

Let’s be honest, the Ten Commandments are offensive to many and have created an irrational fear concerning their influence upon life in our culture.  However, that being said, there is almost universal agreement with the sixth commandment.  This commandment, which is only two words in the Hebrew text, translates into English as, “You shall not murder.”

Most people don’t need to be convinced that homicide is bad and that suicide is devastating.  I’m greatly encouraged that many in our country are beginning to see that it is difficult to avoid application of the sixth commandment with regard to abortion. (more…)

Thursday

8

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Fifth Commandment- “Honor Your Father and Your Mother”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperThe fifth commandment brings with it an incredible promise, Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

This commandment is heavy, literally. The Hebrew word translated “honor” means “weighty” or “heavy”.  The same word is used to describe God’s majesty elsewhere in the book of Exodus, (33:18).

To honor one’s parents is to give due weight to their position, and to understand it is by God’s design that parents are to train, nurture, protect, and provide for their children.

Additionally, by God’s design and plan, children are to give their parents the recognition and obedience under God-given authority.  Such obedience brings with it a promise of God’s blessing.

However, in a world where children are abused, exploited, and tortured, we might be tempted to write this commandment off as obsolete. (more…)

Thursday

1

March 2018

0

COMMENTS

Fourth Commandment- “Remember the Sabbath by Keeping it Holy”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperThe fourth commandment brings us to God’s command for a Sabbath rest, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God..

In recent years billionaire Bill Gates of Microsoft fame has stated that belief in God makes sense. He has also commented on why he didn’t go to church regularly, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.”

This sentiment is shared by many others as church attendance has waned in developing countries of the world.  Some have attributed the decline to negative portrayals of religion in the media coupled with a boredom or a lack of connection with the worship services. (more…)

Thursday

22

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

Third Commandment- “The Misuse of God’s Name”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn this series of posts on the Ten Commandments, we come to the third commandment which addresses the problem of misusing God’s name. Exodus 20:7 reads, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

The word “vain” is describing an empty expression or usage of God’s name.  This would include broken oaths or vows; irreverence; scorn; or cursing.  These violations carry consequences, “…the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

“The abuse of His name snaps open an umbrella that deflects the showers of grace God desires to give us,” wrote R. Kent Hughes.

The third commandment deserves some serious thought especially as we live in a culture that has become increasingly vulgar and irreverent.  We have become like the friend of Lord Byron, who according to Byron was described this way, “He knew not what to say, and so he swore.” (more…)

Friday

16

February 2018

0

COMMENTS

Second Commandment- “No Idols”

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tenCommandmentsWallpaperIn our journey through the Ten Commandments, we come to the second command which is a prohibition against idols:  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

In reading this command, we can’t help but wonder why idolatry is so serious that God would forbid it? Why would the making of figures or objects of worship carry with it such severe consequences?

The Old Testament record reveals that when Israel drifted into idolatry it was met with great loss. Because of idolatry, Israel failed to reach the promise land under Moses’ leadership.

Even in the New Testament, the Apostle John warns those under his pastoral care, Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  This very clearly shows that idolatry is not a throw back sin of primitive cultures, but rather a clear and present danger for all of humanity for all of time. (more…)