Archives for posts with tag: Grace

“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord.” (Amos 9:8, TNIV)

When it comes to a covenant relationship with God, I’m thinking that it is never a good thing if God refers to your entity (here the nation of Israel) as “the sinful kingdom.”  This was a damning indictment, because Israel was supposed to be faithful to God; they were to willingly follow his law; and gladly do his will.  They have declined to the point at which God only refers to them as the sinful kingdom and vows to destroy them from the face of the earth.  This prophesy was fulfilled when the northern ten tribes were carried off into exile, never to return.

But…

We always discover mercy breaking through judgment in the Scriptures.  Here, in the space of this one verse, we see both God’s judgment and his mercy: Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob, declares the Lord.  When it comes to God’s character, mercy always seems to bubble up, spilling over into God’s judgment, especially when it comes to his own people.

All of this makes me hopeful.  I do not have to live a perfectly sinless life.  I want to live a life that pleases God, but when I fall short, when I fail, I know that mercy and grace are waiting to pick me up, dust me off, and get me on the road again.

 

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Following your Word has kept me from wrong.
Your ways have molded my footsteps, keeping me
From going down the forbidden paths of the destroyer. (Ps 17.4, Passion Translation)

David is talking about a couple of things here. First, he points out that, like it or not, choose it or not, desire it or don't desire it, but we are all on a pathway in this life. We are all going somewhere. Even going nowhere is going somewhere in the course of life. Second, one path leads to the destroyer. In other words, there is a path you can take that will lead to your destruction.

There is an antidote to the pathway to destruction, a way through, a choice you can make to not go down the path of destruction. David is very clear on what that choice is, it is following your Word. There is something about God's Word that keeps us from wrong, that leads us away from the path to death and towards life. We won't fully understand until the New Testament that it's God's grace that changes us so that we want to follow God's Word. Grace leads to obedience, and obedience leads to following God's Word, and following God's word leads to life. Meanwhile, the Psalmists were very clear on the place of God's Word in leading us to life. Read any verse in Ps. 119 for instance.

Acts 18:27 And when he wanted to continue on into  Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there, he greatly helped those who had come to believe through  grace. (Mounce NT)

The Complete Word Study Bible defines “grace” as: “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” We have a good example of what this means in Acts 18.27.

Remember that Luke, no doubt due to the fact that he was a physician, is very precise and careful in his use of theological terms.  Here Luke is describing the ministry of Apollos and how many responded to his preaching of the gospel and came to believe through grace.  We expect Luke to write that many people came to believe through the preaching of Apollos, or through the preaching of the apostles, but Luke knows that this isn’t accurate.  Yes, Apollos played his part, but those who came to follow Jesus by faith did so because of grace, not Apollos.

Here is why this is such a crucial and happy fact:  God doesn’t need an Apollos to draw us to faith.  He can use a terrible Methodist preacher as he did with Charles Spurgeon; He can use the death of an unknown, suffering person in the next hotel room (who turned out to be a close, colleague from college), as he did with Adoniram Judson; or He can even use no one in particular, as he did with my wife who came to faith wandering around a graveyard.  God doesn’t need an Apollos because he uses grace.  Thank the Lord that He uses men like Apollos, he doesn’t need them, but he uses them, but everything is ultimately of grace, the sheer bounty and benevolence of the Good Giver.

 

“Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; ”
https://ref.ly/Is48.17-18;esv

If we aren’t careful, we might assume that God is the best business partner ever [which in a weird way he is, but not according to this verse].  The Lord himself says: I am the Lord your God who teaches you to profit.  The Complete Word Study Bible says of the word “It is used most often figuratively of spiritual benefits from the Lord.” The profit envisioned here is not of farmland and animals, crops and orchards, but of spiritual benefits which will help us grow in faith towards God himself.

Notice here that what God asks [spiritual growth] he himself provides.  This reminds me of a song lyric by Sandra McCracken:

This grace gives me fear,
and this grace draws me near
And all that it asks it provides

When you sit and ponder this [as I do now with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean rolling ashore in endless waves] it cannot cease to amaze.  God doesn’t just tell us what to do and send us forth on our way in the vague hope that we actually accomplish his will, he gives the tools to do the very things that he wants us to do! We get the help that we need, God gets the glory he deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria

Oh…and for your listening pleasure, here is Derek:

 

 

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling,”
https://ref.ly/Is30.15;esv

The context for this verse is Isaiah pointing out that, while the Israelites should be trusting in Yahweh for their protection, instead they were trusting in Egypt.  This misplaced trust is condemned in the strongest way possible. Some ways this failure of trust is described:

  • They were a rebellious people
  • Unwilling to hear the law of Yahweh
  • Unwilling to listen to the word of the prophets whom God had sent
  • They trusted in perverseness and oppression

Isaiah points out that their destruction will come swiftly and be so complete that they would be like a ceramic vessel that is shattered so completely it can’t be used for anything at all.  It is now worthless and broken.

Then the alternative that comes in our verse.  Rather than run from Yahweh, they could return to him and rest in his strength and promises.  They could trust in him.  They could live a life that proved that Yahweh really was their God and they his people.  Then the tragic finish to the verse: But you were unwilling!

Notice that ultimate failure was not in their sin of going to worthless Egypt for security and safety, nor was it not trusting in Yahweh.  Ultimate failure was not returning to and trusting in Yahweh after he called them back to himself.

This is a beautiful example of the grace of the Lord.  He could have cut them off when they abandoned him and ran for pagan Egypt.  Instead he offered a way back to fellowship with himself.  What else is this except grace in action?

Notice also that it is a type of the ultimate grace that would be offered at the cross in which God took upon himself the burden of all of our failures and sins and wrote across them: Paid in full. 

All we need to do is be willing.

 

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”” (Matthew 27:25, TNIV)

The response of the opponents of Jesus to Pilate’s claim that he was “innocent of this man’s blood.” [he wasn’t]

A hasty vow.  A foolish vow.  A vow which might come back to haunt them if it weren’t for one simple word that destroys all that they say: grace.

J. D. Watson in his excellent devotional defines the biblical concept of grace as: Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward man manifested primarily through the person and work of Jesus Christ, apart from any merit or works of man. [Greek Word of the Day; February 13] He bases his definition on John’s statement:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, TNIV)

The Greek and Roman world had a concept of grace, but it was nothing like how it was used in the New Testament.  Grace to them meant “favor, kindness, or gratitude” concepts like that.  As J.D. Watson points out: Originally, then, the word didn’t carry the idea of something “unmerited” because Greek philosophy (which is at the root of our western culture) believed in human merit and self-sufficiency. [GWOD – February 13]

In this sense, the New Testament brings a new definition of grace and this definition is inextricably linked with the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In other words, you must come to the pages of the Scriptures if you are to understand what grace means.

Now, what does all of this discussion have to do with the ill-conceived words of the opponents of Jesus?  Everything!  The children of these haters were no more bound by their words, then we ourselves are bound by the action, attitudes, and words of our ancestors.  They may influence us, but in Jesus Christ they do not bind us, they do not imprison us.

The Orthodox Study Bible comments here:

St. John Chrysostom teaches that even though these Jews “acted with such madness, so far from confirming a sentence on them or their children, Christ instead received those who repented and counted them worthy of good things beyond number.”

“Christ received those who repented.”  He received their children who repented; he even received the ones who had made this cry if they repented.  This is the nature of grace.

 

And when he was in distress he entreated Yahweh his God and greatly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors and prayed to him. And God responded to him and heard his plea and let him return to Jerusalem to his kingdom. And Manasseh knew that Yahweh was God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12–13, LEB)

Manasseh made a hash of being king.  The Bible says”“And Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do evil more than the nations that Yahweh destroyed before the Israelites.” (2 Chronicles 33:9, LEB)  His guilt was very great because he was the leader of God’s people and he led the people into very great sin.

That, however, is not the end of the story.  He got taken prisoner by the king of Assyria and sent to Babylon, a very long way away.  There he was in great distress and there he was in captivity.  Then vs. 12: And when he was in great distress he entreated Yahweh his God and greatly humbled himself…

And God forgave him, and also restored him.  This is a beautiful picture of undeserved grace which will be shown perfectly at the cross.  In reality we are all Manasseh.  The Bible says that “we have turned every one to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53.6)  Fortunately for us, we follow the same God that Manasseh followed and his grace is the same as ever.  When we greatly humble ourselves, when we repent of our sins, his grace is extended in the same manner as Manasseh received it.