All Things Work Together for Good

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If I had to choose only one example of this verse coming true in my life, it would be my brother’s death.

My only sibling, Jason, was fourteen months younger than me. Growing up we were similar athletically and academically. But during high school he started partying and abusing drugs. He dropped out of school and received his GED. We were encouraged when Jason enlisted in the Army. He joined the 82nd Airborne, which involved jumping out of planes. He said he developed pain in his knees. We don’t know if that was true or an excuse to obtain prescriptions from the military hospital. Either way, this is when he became addicted to pills.

Jason separated from the Army after four years of service. He started breaking into people’s homes and raiding their medicine cabinets to satisfy his addiction. He was arrested and I still remember how difficult it was the first time we visited Jason in jail. We had to speak to him on opposite sides of the glass. He was released, but soon after was arrested again. Unable to find a job because of his criminal record, he moved across the country hoping to rejoin the military. That was the last time we saw Jason. A few months later, I received the phone call from my dad that Jason had overdosed in a motel room.

How Did Jason’s Death “Work Together for Good”?

I was in my early twenties, single, and teaching elementary school at the time. I threw myself into my work, hoping to stay distracted from the grief. It didn’t work. I was struggling. Continue reading “All Things Work Together for Good”

Blessed by Persevering Through Trials

We need to expect trials, and persevering through them can be easier when we understand the blessings! James 1:12 and 5:11 state:

  • James 1:12—Blessed is the man who perseveres trials;
    for when he has been approved,
    he will receive the crown of life which
    the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
  • James 5:11a—Indeed we count them blessed who persevere [through trials].

The Greek word for “persevere” is hypomonē, which is the same word for “patience” in James 1:3 and 4:

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (hypomone). But let patience (hypomone) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Many Bibles translate “patience” as “perseverance” or “endurance.” This is fitting because patience allows believers to persevere. I prefer “persevere,” because “endure” sounds like tolerating or putting up with. Persevere is synonymous with success. Those who persevere through trials are victorious. They are triumphant and blessed as a result. Some of the blessings, such as maturing from trials, occur in this life. Other blessings occur in the next life when we hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

A few years ago I was experiencing a trial, and this is part of a message one of my heroes, Dave Zumstein, sent me:

It may seem glorious to you to be a mighty man leading mighty men into battle. I think it is glorious to God to see a man quietly, but strongly, striving to fight the good fight amidst difficult times. When the call comes for difficult times, oh that we might be that type of man.

Continue reading “Blessed by Persevering Through Trials”

God Tests His People to “Know” Them

God reveals Himself through the pages of Scripture. He shows His character and the ways He deals with people. One of God’s most common approaches is giving His people tests:

  • Exodus 20:20—And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”
  • Psalm 66:10—For You, O God, have tested us;
    You have refined us as silver is refined.
  • Job 23:10—But He knows the way that I take;
    When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

See also Genesis 22:1, Deuteronomy 8:2, Judges 3:1, and 2 Chronicles 32:31

Why Does God Test People? To Know Them!

The Old Testament makes this clear if we understand two Hebrew words:

  • Nacah is the Hebrew word for “tested” or “proved,” and it means, “To test, try, prove, tempt, assay.”
  • Yada is the Hebrew word for “know,” and it means, “to know,” but, like ginōskō, it is describing intimate knowledge: “Adam knew (yada) his wife, and she conceived and bore a son” (Genesis 4:1).

David used both words when asking God to “test” him to “know” his heart:

  • Psalm 26:2—“Examine me, O LORD, and prove (nacah) me; Try my mind and my heart.”
  • Psalm 139:23–24—“Search me, O God, and know (yada) my heart; Try me…see if there is any wicked way in me.”

Continue reading “God Tests His People to “Know” Them”

What The Fall Teaches About Marriage

The Fall took place when Satan attacked Adam’s headship. Genesis 3:1–4 says:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

There’s an important contrast between the creation account in Genesis 2 and The Fall in Genesis 3:

  • In Genesis 2:16, “the Lord God commanded the man.”
  • In Genesis 3:1 and 4, “[the serpent] said to the woman.”

God spoke to Adam, but Satan spoke to Eve. Why? Satan knew Eve was “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Part of the reason God placed Eve under Adam’s headship was for her own protection.

The Choices Adam and Eve Faced at The Fall

When Satan tempted Eve, she had two choices:

  • She could trust her husband who had given her God’s command, thereby submitting to him.
  • She could trust the Satan, submitting instead to him.

Sadly, Genesis 3:6 reveals her choice: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

At this point, Adam also had two choices:

  • He could obey God who gave him the command, thereby submitting to Him.
  • He could obey his wife, submitting instead to her.

Adam chose to obey his wife instead of obeying God. Genesis 3:9–12 gives us the outcome of that decision:

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

It’s significant that the conversation about The Fall took place between God and Adam. God didn’t address Eve until Genesis 3:16 when He explained how sin’s curse would affect women.

Who was Blamed for The Fall?

Continue reading “What The Fall Teaches About Marriage”

How Did Salvation and Forgiveness Take Place in the Old Testament?

How were people forgiven (or saved) in the Old Testament? Did forgiveness (or salvation) take place through sacrifices or human effort? The short answer is forgiveness (and salvation) was received in the Old Testament the same way it’s received in the New Testament: by grace through faith.

Unfortunately, people think of the Gospel as a New Testament invention, but Paul uses the Old Testament to present the Gospel. He explains justification by faith apart from the law and works in Romans 3:21-28. Then he discusses two prominent Old Testament men to have credibility with his Jewish readers. In the process he shows people were forgiven (or saved) in the Old Testament, just as believers are in the New Testament.

Paul’s First Example of Old Testament Salvation: Abraham—The Father of the Jewish People

Although Abraham was well-respected, he committed well-known sins:

  • God commanded Abraham to leave his family behind. He failed by bringing his nephew Lot (Genesis 12:1-4).
  • Abraham failed when he left Canaan, went to Egypt, and tried to protect himself by telling Sarah to say she was his sister (Genesis 12:10-20).
  • Sarah told Abraham to have a child with Hagar, and he obeyed her (Genesis 16:1-2).
  • Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister (Genesis 20:2).

Romans 4:1—What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.

We can boast if we’re justified by works, “but not before God,” because it wouldn’t impress him.

Romans 4:3—What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, which summarizes the Gospel. Abraham was justified by faith. He was saved by believing God.

Romans 4:4—Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.

When your boss gives you a paycheck you’d be offended if he said, “This is a gift.” You worked for it; therefore, you earned it. A system of works makes God “obligated” to us.

Romans 4:5—However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

The man who attempts to be justified – or saved – by works is not trusting God. He’s trusting himself. The man who trusts God finds his faith credited – or given to him – as righteousness.

Paul’s Second Example of Old Testament Salvation: David—The King of the Jewish People

According to God’s Law, David committed two sins that should’ve resulted in death: adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). A few things made David’s terrible sins even worse:

  • David’s accountability—He knew God’s Law well.
  • David was blessed—God brought him of that shepherd’s field where he was a nobody born to a no-name family. Then God turned him into the rich and powerful king of Israel.
  • David’s sins were premeditated—He planned out all the details, even writing a letter to Joab that he had Uriah himself carry. It was one of the darkest moments in the Old Testament.

If David had to be justified, or declared righteous by works, he’d stand condemned before God. Since justification is by faith, he felt very blessed…

Romans 4:6—David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

David agreed with Abraham about justification by faith, and he wrote about his thankfulness in Psalm 32:1-2, which Paul quoted in Romans 4:7-8:

“Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

When you’ve sinned like David did, you’re very thankful when God doesn’t “count” those sins against you, but instead “counts” or “credits” righteousness to you.

Romans 4:9-10—Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!

Abraham was declared righteous by God in Genesis 15:6 when he “believed God” at 86 years old. He wasn’t circumcised until Genesis 17:24, when he 99. Since he was declared righteous 13 years before he was circumcised, he had to be justified by faith and not works.

David’s Sins Should not Have Received Forgiveness

If anyone deserved death it was David, but this is also why David’s situation provides one of the greatest examples of God’s grace and mercy in all of Scripture. Nathan the Prophet confronted David, and he responded:

2 Samuel 12:13a—“I have sinned against the Lord.”

This is how we should respond when we sin. In these few words David provides a number of lessons:

  • Take ownership: “I have…”
  • Call it what it is: “sin.”
  • Acknowledge the sin was “against the Lord”
  • Avoid excuses and blame shifting.

Then Nathan said:

2 Sam 12:13b—“The Lord also has taken away your sin.”

These are some of the most amazing words in the Old Testament. Despite the enormity and wickedness of David’s sin, it was “taken away.” Hebrews 10:4 and 11 both state:

“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Sacrifices couldn’t forgive sins, say nothing of take them away. How could Nathan say this to David? His sins were taken away the same way ours are taken away:

  • When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
  • 1 John 3:5 says “[Jesus] was manifested to take away our sins.”

If any Old Testament sacrifices could take away sins, Jesus’s sacrifice would’ve been unnecessary. David looked forward in faith to Jesus the way we look backward in faith to our Savior.

The New Covenant Foreshadowed in the Old Covenant

The grace and mercy David received provide a beautiful glimpse of the New Covenant under the Old Covenant. What did David do to receive this forgiveness? Psalm 51:16-17 records:

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

David didn’t offer any sacrifices. He had a spiritual insight that was tremendous. He knew parts of the New Testament before they were written, and he knew no Old Testament sacrifices could make up for his sins.

But he did know there was a “sacrifice” he could “give”; he knew there was an “offering” God “desired”: “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.”

David Confess his sin and it “took away” evil sins he committed. This is without personal merit, human effort, or penance. This is New Covenant forgiveness by grace; justification by faith.

Forgiveness that Provided Life Instead of Death

David’s sins demanded death, but he found: life. Nathan also said:

2 Samuel 12:13c—“You shall not die.”

These words mean David was going to die. The Old Covenant (the Law) demanded what it always demands: death. But David was able to find life. He recognized the greatness of what took place, which led him to write Psalm 32. Paul quoted this in Romans 4, showing forgiveness and salvation took place the same way in the Old and New Testaments.

Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section 

  • Do you agree or disagree with the post?
  • How did you previously think people were forgiven and saved in the Old Testament? Do you think that now?
  • What other supporting verses from the Old Testament come to mind? What verses from the New Testament?

Taking Types Too Far

01022001-RLW-Genesis-22-1-Abraham-and-Isaac-climbing-Mt-MoriahThe last few Sundays I’ve been preaching on Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, really focusing on the typology between them. Here are the parallels I used. Isaac and Jesus…

  • Were named by God (Gen 17:19 cf. Matt 1:21).
  • Were loved by their father (Gen 22:2 cf. Matt 3:17).
  • Were only begotten sons (Gen 22:2; John 1:18, 3:16; 1 John 4:9 cf. Heb 11:17).
  • Were offered up in Jerusalem (Gen 22:2; 2 Chr 3:1).
  • Were raised on the third day (Gen 22:4 cf. Heb 11:17-19).
  • Carried the wood for their sacrifices (Gen 22:6a cf. John 19:17).
  • Were placed on the wood for their sacrifices (Gen 22:9).
  • Silently laid down their lives (Gen 22:9-10; Isa 53:7; John 10:11, 15, 17-18, 15:13; 1 John 3:16; Matt 26:52-53; 1 Pet 2:23).
  • Met on Mount Moriah (Gen 22:11-12).
  • Were burnt offerings (Gen 22:2; Lev 1:9, 13, 17 cf. Eph 5:2; Lev 6:11 cf. Heb 13:12; Lev 1:4 cf. Isa 53:6).

One of the difficulties with types is making sure they aren’t taken too far. Below are the parallels I chose not to use because I thought they were too much of a stretch…

1. Jesus and Isaac were “offered” or “lifted” up.

Genesis 22:2 [God] said, “Take your son and offer him as a burnt offering.”

The Hebrew word for “offer” is ‘alah, but it doesn’t mean “give” or “present” as we’d expect. It means, “to go up, ascend, climb, be taken or lifted up.” The idea is when you sacrificed something you “lifted” it up to God.

Of the 889 times `alah occurs in the Old Testament, 676 times it’s translated as “up”. When Abraham was commanded to “offer” Isaac, he was basically commanded to “lift him up.”

Jesus spoke of His sacrifice this way:

  • John 3:14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
  • John 12:32 If I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.

2. Jesus and Isaac were accompanied by two men on their way to be sacrificed.

Genesis 22:3 Abraham took two of his young men with him.

Like Jesus was accompanied by two men when He was crucified, so too was Isaac accompanied by two men on his way to be sacrificed. But in Genesis 22:5 Abraham said to the servants, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

The two men were only able to go so far: they were not able to witness what took place between Abraham and Isaac. Similarly, when Jesus was sacrificed, nobody was able to see exactly what took place between Him and the Father. Three hours of darkness (Matt 27:45) helped conceal the divine transaction when our sins were placed on Christ.

3. Jesus and the ram had a “crown of thorns” around their heads.

Genesis 22:13 There behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham took the ram, and [sacrificed it] instead of his son.

The words “instead of his son” are one of the clearest pictures of substitutionary atonement in the Old Testament. The ram that died in Isaac’s place had a crown of thorns around its head, like Jesus – who died in our place – had a crown of thorns around His head (Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2).