Dimensions – Ephesians 3:18

Ephesians speaks of the immensity of God’s love in 4 dimensions:

Ephesians  3:18
    may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

We have noted in commentaries nothing that helpful with this.  Of course the NT precedes the Cartesian XYZ system.  And discussion of time as a 4th dimension is anachronistic.

I imagine a person standing and pointing side to side, front to back, upward and then downward.  In this light, it makes sense, because we are not trying to coordinate a rather poetic statement with what we learned in Geometry.

The temptation is to do what John Stott (The Message of Ephesians, P. 137) said:

“Yet it seems legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind (especially Jews and Gentiles, the theme of these chapters), ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven.”

Often preachers refer to the directions of the cross.

What do you think?

Psalm 22 – David or Jesus?

The church has said from the start that Psalm 22 is about Jesus.  He is reported to have repeated the first line from the cross – “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mt 27:46)  The verses from v. 14-18 in particular offer parallels to Jesus.

Now if you are of a naturalistic mind, you may decide that Jesus adopted this psalm when he was in his extreme state – a rather brilliant bit of literary analysis for a man being tortured.  Or you might decide that the Church or the Gospel Writers found this connection, or shall we say, made this connection to Jesus.  There is some quibbling over the verb “piercing” in v. 16, though it is accepted by the Septuagint.

If you allow for the work of God in the world – then we can see that this somehow affirms Jesus.  How so?  Did David have a vision?  Was David persecuted and his life served as a preview of Jesus?

God often offers revelation in extreme situations.  To Moses, not wanting to go to take on Pharoah with a shepherd’s stick, the Lord revealed his name.  Job, in suffering, speaks of his faith in a redeemer (ch 19) and receives a word from the Lord.  Jonah, at the bottom of the sea, calls for mercy and receives his life and a lesson on God’s universal love – not restricted to Israel and her friends.

So too, David, in whatever trouble he was in, turned in lament to God, and in the process he was given a revelation regarding his distant ancestor, the last king in the House of David (II Samuel 7). 

This speaker in Psalm 22 gives us the mind of the Lord in the act of being the Savior – alternating in vv 1-24 from his situation to his affirmations about God. (v. 1-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-11; 12-18; 19-24).    The second half gives the mind of the Lord about what will happen afterward  vv. 22-26; 23-31.  V. 19 (See ESV) and v. 24 bring the suffering to a positive conclusion.

Is this why the author of Hebrews says that “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…“? (Heb 12:2)   

 We have concluded that there is no Gospel without the miraculous – from the Creation, to the Exodus, to the Prophets, the Incarnation, the miracles of Jesus and the Resurrection.  Carve out the miraculous and you are left with nothing at all.

So we take Psalm 22 to be a revelation of Christ to David, in his own time of trouble.

Luke 1:26-38 Syntactically

I wish I had been taught more about syntactical patterns in narratives in school.  However, even past the 50 year mark one can learn.  I created an outline which can be found here.   Luke1.26to39.syntactical

 This demonstrates to me that the center point of the narrative at the Annunciation is Mary’s question in verse 34 – “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”  (ESV). 

One can not bypass the miraculous claim of the passage.  This miracle is presented as the central point of the story.  Note the emphasis on virgin (v. 27 twice, v. 34 “i have not been with a man”) and the clarity that it is the Most High who has conceived the child.

My analysis had

A-A’  v. 2617; v. 38 – Mary betrothed/servant, Gabriel

B-B’ v. 28-29; 36-37 – Favored Women

C – C’  v. 30-33; 35 – Who/How; Son

D – v. 24  How?

So the D is the central point of the narrative, as I see it.  I know Thomas Jefferson actually cut out all the miraculous from his edition of the New Testament, to find his rationalistic Jesus.  the one presented in the text is not easily trimmed without doing damage to the central parts of the text.

Have a Merry Christmas fellow readers.

God’s Sense of Humor – 2 Samuel 7

So we find that David wanted to build a “house” for the Lord.  In this case “house” means a house of worship – made of solid materials and luxurious – suited to bring Glory to God.  However, the Lord, through Nathan says to David, “So you, whom I plucked from behind the sheep, want to give me a house?  I will give you a house.”  In the second use, “house” means dynasty. 

That is, folks, a pun.  Some call puns the “lowest form of humor.”  So the Almighty stoops to puns to communicate!  I wonder if he laughs at his own jokes.  When you stop reading the bible as if it is to be read by a newscaster you will find that there are many bits of humor like this – OT scholars call this “word play.” 

So David wanted to make a name for himself by building a house for God.  God had a better idea, David’s name would endure with glory, because it is attached to the one king who can fulfill the eternal promise of this text – I think you know who we mean.

2 Samuel 7:16 
    And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.

Luke 1:31-33
    And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Image of God Study

In an adult class we are discussing the meaning of the Image of God, and how it has changed from the entrance of sin in Genesis 3.  Here are some class notes:

Created in God’s Image –

  • Gen 1:27-28; 5:1; 9:6

What does this mean?

  • Morality
  • Spirituality
  • Knowledge
  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Stewardship

 What happened to the Image after Sin?

  • Genesis 9:6
  • James 3:9
  • Rom 3:23
  • I Cor 11:7

 Restoration of the Image –

  • Romans 8:29
  • Colossians 1:15
  • Colossians 3:10
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18
  • I Cor 15:39
  • 2 Cor 4:4

What do you think of this“…as we read the rest of Scripture, we realize that a full understanding of man’s likeness to God would require a full understanding of who God is… and a full understanding of who man is…The more we know about God and man the more similarities we will recognize and the more fully we will understand…the image of God.”    Bible Doctrine, W. Grudem p. 190

The Power of Thanksgiving

It’s been busy out here is Fresh Read’s world, so here is another sermonic clip on a very interesting passage – I Timothy 4:1-5

1 Tim. 4:1-5
    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, [2] through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, [3] who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. [4] For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, [5] for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

      Do remember the discussion of Genesis 3, with the Serpent, the Woman and Adam?  God’s original command had been freedom with one restriction.  They were free to receive from any tree, except one.  Do you remember how the Serpent turned that upside down and tried to make the one command into a total negation?

            This is a pattern.  Often it is religion or it is ethics that tell us that we live in a world of restrictions with very few freedoms.  The Bible is about the freedoms nore than the restrictions.

            Here are the steps:

            “For everything that God created is good.”   Now I know you will dispute some of that.  What about illness and death?  Those were not part of the original creation, but they entered because of sin.  The world as we know it is not the way it is supposed to be.  But still the point remains that all that is in the world was made, declared good and has a purpose.

            Even mosquitoes are good and have a purpose. I do not know that that could possibly be, but I take it by faith.

             “Nothing is to be rejected.”  We can not “reject the world” like some did.  It is God’s world.  Now, I may love the sight of lions and tigers, but I need to know that it would be imprudent to have one as a pet.  I may love rhubarb, but I need to know that the leaves are poisonous.  God created sex for marriage and marriage for sex – but not all sexual choices are healthy.  The mistake is usually made by saying “If rhubarb leaves are poison, I will reject rhubarb.”  Or, “there is so much sexual sin and suffering, sex must be bad.  Or ‘Lions might eat me, they are bad.”

             “If it is received with Thanksgiving.”  Here is the power of Thanksgiving.  My gratitude to God is a principle and a test. 

            It says that in principle that God has given to us the earth to use and enjoy, as long as we recognize him as the giver and that we are the receivers.  The world as a thing loved for itself without God becomes an idol that we worship and serve.  Money as a thing loved for itself, is a source of much evil.  Food that is served and worshipped becomes a god – when it ought to be a meal to be enjoyed.

            This is a test.  I found this question in the Expositor’s Greek Testament – “Is it a thing of such a kind that I can, without incongruity, give thanks for it.”  (EGT – IV p.22)  Let me translate that into English for you.

            “Can I honestly give thanks for this thing, in the way I want to use it, without contradiction?”   There are certain products and certain companies that I do not like, and so I can not be thankful.  It is a gut-check.  I don’t want to give you my list.  The rule is this ‘can you honestly give thanks for it, without contradiction?  If so, go ahead.

             “…because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”   When we give thanks, it is the result of having considered the Word of God.  It is the word that ells us that all things are good.  It is the word that tells us that all foods are permissible.  And by the prayer of Thanksgiving we are giving thanks to God for what he has given us.  we do sometimes speak of blessing the foot – what the bible usually demonstrates is giving thanks.  God has given us a blessing in the form of food, and we bless god by giving thanks.  In the language of the bible “blessing” and “praising” can be the very same word.   The food is already a blessing, what we do is offer thanks.

Proverbs 30:1 – Textual Variants

At the start of this passage is a difficult textual problem.  If you have the NIV translation (or one of several others) you will read this:

The sayings  of Agur son of Jakeh—an oracle :

This man declared to Ithiel,

to Ithiel and to Ucal


            I am preaching today from the English Standard Version, because it reads verse one this way.

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.

The man declares, I am weary, O God;

I am weary, O God, and worn out.

            When the Hebrew of the Old Testament was first written down, they wrote down only the consonants, not the vowels.  And further, they did not put spaces in between words.  Paper, animal skins and stones were hard to come by, so they used up all the space.  Later, scholars put in the spaces and added vowels to help people read the text.  However that could lead to different understandings.  Don’t get me wrong, almost all the time, the sense of the text is clear, but sometimes you can get more than one reading.

            A traditional reading was that Agur spoke to a man named Ithiel, and Ithiel spoke to someone named Ucal.  (Ucal is the only person in the bible to be named after an American university.)

            Along with many scholars, I prefer the reading in the ESV.  I do so because the traditional reading makes no sense – we don’t know who these people are!  The ESV reading fits the text well.  Agur is a scholar at the end of his endurance.

The man declares, I am weary, O God;

I am weary, O God, and worn out.

            Why was Agur so weary?  We will see in the text.  Basically because he was a seeker of wisdom, and he had been looking – not just for knowledge, but for wisdom that explained life and gave it meaning.  He had been seeking, but he had not found.  No mater how far he ran, or walked or crawled, he could not get to this place of wisdom. Look at Proverbs 30:2-3

Surely I am too stupid to be a man.

I have not the understanding of a man.

 I have not learned wisdom,

nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

            This is the irony of human life.  On the one hand we are created in the Image and Likeness of God.  We are “a little less than the heavenly beings.”  On the other hand, we are always seeking, but never finding.  In the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11

    He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

            Despite his search, Agur could not discover wisdom and further he could not acquire knowledge of the Holy One.

            This is the history of human understanding.  We have discovered and created many things.  The grand total of human knowledge increases daily and no one person can understand even 1% of it.

            However, the more we know, the less we are certain about the meaning of life, or when life begins, or what happens after someone dies.  Further, philosophers have argued for the existence of a Designer, a First Cause, a Prime Mover, but none of them have been able to find God.

            So at the end of what we know, there is a question mark surrounded by a cloud.

On the Image of God – Genesis 1:26-27

             Last month I went to Sandwich, Illinois for a class in how to carve people’s faces.  That was a lot of fun, and I spent 6 hours making eyes and noses and mouths.  Now the trick will be to put them together in the right places.

            In the evening there was a class called Drawing for Wood Carvers.  Carvers usually work from a drawing or a picture.  I like to carve things from my own life, but it is hard for me to draw those things.  So I thought the class was a good idea.

  GOW09-08       In the picture you see, we were supposed to draw in about 20 minutes a picture of a teen aged girl sitting in a chair.  What we soon learned is that we had to keep looking at the model and then back to our drawing.  If I drew what I thought was there, or what I remembered, the picture would be wrong. 

 Drawing is about seeing first.  You notice shapes, sizes, light and darkness and try to reproduce that in your picture.

            My picture was not bad for a non-artist.  I had to apologize to the model, because she looked a lot younger in real life than she did in my picture.

             Why am I telling you this?  Because, God created human beings in his image and likeness.  So you and I are like a pencil drawing of God.  This girl is not made of paper and pencil, she was a living person.  God is not made of skin and muscle us, he is a Spirit and does not have a body like a human being.  Yet we are, somehow made in God’s image.

            What does this mean to be made in God’s image?

            It means that we will have to keep looking carefully at God through the Word of God to see what this means.  We can not look to human opinions, but we have to look and keep looking to God to see what this means.

       Students in Gateway are reading a book called “Bible Doctrine” by Dr. Wayne Grudem.  In this book he says that we should not worry about coming up with a specific detailed definition of what it means to be made in God’s image.  In stead he says,

            “[Genesis] only needs to affirm that man is like God, and the rest of Scripture fill is more details to explain this…..the more we know about God and man the more similarities we will recognize and the more fully we will understand what Scripture means when it says that man is in the image of God.”  (p. 190)

             What Dr. Grudem is saying is that like an artist drawing a picture, we need to keep looking up to God.  We need to keep reading the Word of God, in order to understand what it means to be in God’s image.


Habakkuk 2:4 – A Case for Context

The interpretation of Habakkuk 2:4 is a case in point of reading a verse in the context of its book.  the Book is in three chapters.  Chapter 1 is a dialogue between the Prophet and God over the sad state of Israel in the 7th Century BCE.  When the Lord tells the Prophet that his instrument of correction is the Babylonian Empire, the Prophet has a fit!  He says that he will stand on the ramparts and wait for an answer.

The answer comes and it is verse 4.

Habakkuk 2:4
    “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
        but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The exegetical arguments are often whether this verse proves the theological point of Justification by Faith – since it is tied to Romans 1:16-17.

If one reads this a the turning point of the book, then we see that v. 4a, the part about Babylon (“he is puffed up”) is explained in the remainder of chapter 2 with 5 “woes” or words of prophetic judgment.  yes, God will use Babylon, but he will also hold them accountable for their excesses.

Then if one reads chapter 3, it is the prophet’s prayer/hymn to the Lord – in it he expresses faith –

Habakkuk 3:2
    O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
        and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
    In the midst of the years revive it;
        in the midst of the years make it known;
        in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    [18] yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    [19] God, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer’s;
        he makes me tread on my high places.

So it seems that the righteous live by faith in God, not in their own goodness or strength, whereas the puffed up live in confidence and trust in themselves and their power.  Faith is contrasted with arrogance, self-trust and violence.  Faith is based on what is promised, not what is actually seen.

so the application of “the just shall live by faith” in the New Testament passages of Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 make particular applications of that general principle.  Romans says it well, that the righteousness of God is “from faith for faith” or “from faith from first to last.”

That is the start, the middle and the end are lived by faith, not self-confidence, not confidence in what is seen or touched or experienced, but in God who speaks truthfully.