Archives for posts with tag: Tim keller

We are in Day 37 of our trip through the NLT Chronological Bible reading it like a novel.  As we inch ever closer to the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, God’s message of judgment becomes stronger and stronger.  Jeremiah tells King Zedekiah: “If you want to live, submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon and his people.” (Jeremiah 27:12, NLT) Neither King Zedekiah, nor the people in Jerusalem will listen to the prophet with devastating results.

In exile in Babylon, we discover a new prophet that the Lord has raised up, his name is Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s name means: The strength of God.  Ironically, even though he is in Babylon, most of Ezekiel’s prophecies will be to Jerusalem and the people who still live there.  His message is one of unrelenting judgment that is coming and will not be put off:

  • A Sign of Coming Judgment
  • The Coming of the End
  • The Desolation of Israel
  • Idolatry in the Temple
  • The Lord’s Glory Leaves the Temple
  • Signs of the Coming Exile

And on and on it goes, the sheer weight of the prophecies reinforcing the inevitability of what will come.  God will judge the people and it will be painful.

This raises the obvious question: “Why was Judah so enthralled with worshipping other gods?  Why didn’t they get the message, repent and be restored?” It seems so obvious.

The reason that the people continued in idolatry was pragmatic.  They looked at their own situation, and they looked at the nations around them and those other nations seemed to be doing better than they were.  Would it really be wrong if they just added worship of other gods along with the worship of Yahweh?  You know, just hedge one’s bets a little bit.

The people got the exact opposite message that the Lord intended.  He brought hardship and calamity on them so that they would return to him, instead they turned to other gods hoping those gods would take away their hardship and calamity.

The gods we pursue today, aren’t the same gods that Judah pursued, but we have our own set of gods that we think will bring us success and prosperity.  We pursue power, money, influence, education, reputation, and physical beauty, these are the gods of America and they have infiltrated the church.  These gods won’t bring us success any more than Judah’s false gods did, indeed they will bring the exact opposite. Tim Keller writes in his book Counterfeit Gods: “If we look to some created thing to give us the meaning, hope, and happiness that only God himself can give, it will eventually fail to deliver and break our hearts.”

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I’ve taken a screenshot of Deuteronomy 24.17-22 so that you can see how often the word “sojourner” suddenly appears in the text.  The word can also be translated “alien, stranger, foreigner, or resident alien.”  It refers to the people living in Israel who were not Hebrew.  These were immigrants or aliens residing in the land and they were very often poor.  Notice how God’s heart and concern were for the alien, and he wanted the people to be for them also because they had once been foreigners themselves in the land of Egypt.

Notice also that they were grouped together with the fatherless and the widow.  The reason for this is that orphans and widows, along with resident foreigners, were often the most financially vulnerable in the country.  This was the position of Naomi and Ruth when they returned from Moab after the great famine.  Indeed, Ruth herself went out and gleaned grain left over from those who had harvested the crop so that she and Naomi could survive.

The point of all this is that the most vulnerable in society should be the ones that the people were most concerned about.  We see this same concern in the New Testament as well.  One of the instructions that we see again and again there is to remember the poor.

How we remember the poor and how we serve them is a matter for our own wisdom and creativity to figure out in our particular culture.  Tim Keller has written an excellent book on that particular subject that is well worth reading.  That we remember and serve the poor, is not a subject for debate because this is one of the clear commands of Scripture, and something we see practiced throughout the Bible.

 

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11, ESV)

God’s heart is for the poor and needy.  He tells the Israelites that there will always be poor in the land and in light of that fact his commandment is that his people open wide their hands to those who are in need, a clear instruction to pay attention to the plight of those who need help and then help them.

The application of this principle is where we run into difficulty.  Do we keep giving to those who act irresponsibly?  To those who are trolling for free cash and know that churches give to the poor?  To those who would waste money on thinks like alcohol and drugs?

Tim Keller lays out a really good principle here:  Let mercy limit mercy.  It is not wise to aid and abet an alcoholic so to refuse to give him money is an act of mercy, you are preventing him from continuing in sin (or at least attempting to do so), thereby allowing mercy to limit mercy.

Having said that, Keller also recommends that at first we be quick to be generous.  My own tendency is not to be quick being generous but to be slow to be generous.  I need work in this area to overcome this natural bent.

For you will not bow in worship to another god, for ‘Yahweh Is Jealous’ is his name, he is a jealous God,” (Exodus 34:14, LEB)

Well!  What are we to make of this particular verse?  Aren’t we more or less warned over and over again not to be jealous, and yet here the text boasts that “the Lord is jealous,” indeed that is his name!?!

Tim Keller has an excellent sermon (one of my all-time favorites!) on just this topic.  If I may do a poor job of summarizing for Mr. Keller he says that, in this case, God is jealous for his own children as a faithful spouse is jealous to preserve his/her marriage with a partner who is drifting away from love and faithfulness.  This is a good jealousy.  It is a jealousy that fights to preserve a love relationship in which the other partner (us!) is losing his own love and commitment to the relationship.

Mr. Keller does a much better job of explaining: