Jesus, the Poor, and the Mission of the Church: Three Truths about the Gospel

black cross on top of mountain

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
— John 12:8 —

What does the cross of Christ have to do with the relief of poverty? Does the gospel address the issue of economic justice? When Scripture speaks of Jesus paying our debt is this spiritual in nature, or material too? How did Jesus think about his cross and what his cross was meant to accomplish? These questions and more can be asked when we think about the gospel and its relationship to poverty and justice—a theme that continues to confront us these days.

Thankfully, Scripture gives us clear direction, recording Jesus’s words about his cross and his concern for the poor. In a passage found in all four gospels, we find Mary anointing Jesus’s feet in preparation for his cross and burial. And from this encounter, we learn much about what Jesus thought about poverty. Let’s see three things. Continue reading

From God’s Throne to His Priests by way of His Word: Three More Truths About Justice

cloud05Over the last few weeks, our church has been thinking about justice from the Psalms. In Psalm 97, we saw that God himself is the source and standard of justice. In Psalm 98, we discovered how God “does” justice in justifying the ungodly by providing a legal substitute. And in Psalm 99, we saw how priestly mediators served to bring justice from God’s temple to God’s people, and from Zion to the ends of the earth.

In what follows, I will conclude the message of Psalm 99 in three points of application about justice. Continue reading

Mediated Justice: A Sermon on Psalm 99

cloud05On Sunday, our sermon series took another step in our study of God’s justice. Thus far we’ve seen the justice of God at his throne in Psalm 97 and God’s justice in his justification of sinners in Psalm 98. Now we will see how God creates a kingdom of priests who preach, proclaim, and pursue justice on the earth as in heaven in Psalm 99. These royal priests, when taught by the Spirit of God, are the holy instruments that God uses to bring his justice from heaven to earth.

Today, as many Christians take a renewed interest in justice, it is important to see that God’s Word is wholly sufficient for instructing us in justice and empowering us to seek justice righteously. To that end, this sermon shows how Christians, as a kingdom of priests, play a part in bringing God’s justice into the world. Importantly, this mediating role does not add justice to the justification of the gospel. Rather, justice flowers from faith in the gospel message itself, as God’s people proclaim God’s justifying grace and pursue good works wherever God sends them.

You can listen to the sermon online or watch below. Tomorrow I will follow up with another post on points of application from Psalm 99.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

A Few Reflections on Wisdom: Solomon as a Second Adam, Christ as a Better Solomon, and Christians Becoming True Humanity

halacious-OgvqXGL7XO4-unsplashAnd God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
— 1 Kings 4:29–34 —

In Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom LiteratureRichard Belcher introduces the reader to the world of biblical wisdom (ch. 1). The majority of his book examines the literary and theological aspects of Proverbs (chs. 2–4), Job (chs. 5–7), and Ecclesiastes (chs. 8–10). And he finishes by showing the relationship between Wisdom and Jesus Christ (ch. 11). In all, his book provides a rich resource for studying Old Testament Wisdom.

Still, one of the most helpful parts of his book is explaining the development of wisdom in the first chapter. Contrasting critical approaches which identify wisdom literature with other ancient Near Eastern religions, Belcher connects wisdom literature in the Bible with Solomon, who was granted such wisdom when he boldly asked for the Lord’s help to rule Israel (1 Kings 3).

In his discussion of wisdom’s development, Belcher draws an important connection between Solomon and his royal wisdom and Adam and his royal priestly calling. Here’s what he says, “The account of Solomon in 1 Kings makes allusions to Adam in the garden so that Solomon functions as a second Adam.” He goes on to explain why this is the case, Continue reading

Justice and Justification: Five More Truths about Justice

cloud05On Sunday, I explained from Psalm 98 how God justifies sinners and demonstrates that he is both just and justifier (Rom. 3:26). From that message, let me synthesize five more truths about justice. These build upon three truths about justice from Psalm 97, and they continue to assist our understanding of justice as the Bible presents it.

What Psalm 98 Teaches Us about Justice

Because salvation means different things to different people, it is always important to define salvation from the Bible itself. In Psalm 98, therefore, we need to see how salvation is presented. And importantly, we will see that salvation comes from God’s justifying justice.

In other words, salvation is not simply the victorious defeat of God’s enemies for his people, nor is it the dismissal of guilt from his people without a legal solution, nor is it the liberation of oppressed people regardless of their sin. Rather, as we learn from Psalm 98, salvation is grounded in the events of redemptive history which turn on the exodus. In fact, we can find at least five truths about justice in Psalm 98. Continue reading

Perfect Praise: Seeing the Seven’s in Psalms 96–99

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash (1)In his commentary on the Psalms, Konrad Schaefer shows a “pattern of sevens” that permeates Psalms 96–99. In a section of the Psalter that already demonstrates remarkable structure, these “septets” (a group of seven) add to the unity and message of Book IV in the Psalms.

Let’s hear what Schaefer says about these septets, and then consider the merit of his observations. Why should we care about these groups of seven? (Hint: It may have something to do with the number of perfection).

Continue reading

On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Three Truths about Justice in God’s Kingdom

cloud05Last Sunday, I suggested the source and substance of true justice comes down from Yahweh, the God of heaven and king over all creation. As he brings his rule from heaven to earth—the enthronement described in Psalm 93–100—he establishes his kingdom in righteousness and justice (Psalm 97:2).

In the fulness of time, this kingdom came in the person and work of Jesus Christ. And now, with the full disclosure of God in his inspired Word, we have all that we need for life and godliness, righteousness and justice—i.e., all that we need, until the God of justice returns and makes all things right on the last day.

You can watch the sermon from last week to a get sense of the message of Psalm 97, but today, I want to consider what God’s kingdom justice means for us living in a time between Christ’s two advents. What follows are three points of application from Psalm 97. These will also prepare the way for our consideration of Psalm 98.
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From Dating, To Engagement, To Marriage: A Man’s Meditation on Proverbs 31

photo of couple kissing in hallway

[The following is a biblical meditation for young men considering engagement and marriage. You can find a PDF of the questions here.]

In Proverbs 31, we find a beautiful, twenty-two verse acrostic poem describing an excellent wife. While these verses focus on the character of a godly wife, they are written for a young man to discern and desire these characteristics in a future wife. For men seeking marriage, these verses can provide a fruitful place to prayerfully consider the kind of woman he should marry. With that in mind I’ve drawn a few questions from each verse, attempting to make contemporary wisdom that addressed an agrarian world.

For practical purposes, these questions do not all need to be answered in the affirmative to proceed towards marriage. No one marries a perfect spouse, but these questions can be asked to clarify the enigmatic question: Is this the one? More specifically, when answers arrive as weaknesses or negatives, godly men should ask: Can I embrace that weakness? Or better, is God calling me to lead, love, and lay down my life to bolster this woman and to cultivate weaknesses towards greater strength.

These questions should be asked with significant soul-searching and self-examination; they should not be used to judge another or to point out faults. They are for clarity, not condemnation. That said, many marriages stumble because biblical wisdom has not been applied from the start. These questions, therefore, are meant to stir up wisdom and to press young men to consider from Scripture the kind of characteristics that should be present in a godly wife. In so doing, the man should also grow in wisdom.

10An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

An excellent wife is from the Lord (Prov. 19:14), not from man. So in what ways can you see that God has brought the two of you together?

Does this marriage have the mark of God’s handiwork, or yours?

Do you treasure her? Why? What would you lose without her? Continue reading

Yahweh’s Penultimate Enthronement: Observing the Return-From-Exile Narrative in Psalms 90–106

the-psalmsIt is unmistakable that Psalms 96, 105, and 106 find their genesis in 1 Chronicles 16. Just read them together, and you will see how the psalms take up different parts of 1 Chronicles. With this background, it begins to help us see how to understand the message of Book IV in the Psalter, as well as the timing of Book IV.

In the original setting (in 1 Chronicles 16), David writes a psalm to celebrate the ark of the covenant coming to Jerusalem. After the ark, the symbol of God’s ruling presence, had been lost in battle to the Philistines and displaced from God’s people, David took pains to bring the ark to its proper place—the tabernacle set up in Jerusalem.

From another angle, this return of the ark can be described as the Lord’s enthronement. In David’s lifetime, we find the first enthronement of God in his holy city. What was promised by God, going back to Exodus 15:17–18 . . .

(You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18  The Lord will reign forever and ever.”)

. . . came to fruition under David’s rule.

Yet, when we read the Psalms in chronological order, we find that Psalms 90–106 do not match up with the Lord’s enthronement in David’s day. Rather, placed after David died (see Psalm 71) and after David’s sons had lost the throne (Psalm 89), Book IV describes a new enthronement, or what David Mitchell (The Message of the Psalter) calls a “return from exile.” Clearly, Book IV is using the event of the Lord’s enthronement in David’s day as “type” that can be applied in a new setting. But what is that setting? And when? Continue reading

Kingdom Justice: Let Justice Flow Down from the Throne of God (Psalm 97)

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No Justice, No Peace.

These words have been chanted, preached, and tweeted innumerable times in the last few months. And like so many slogans, they grip the heart because of the way they resonate with God’s truth (read Isa. 9:6–7; Rom. 14:17) and humanity’s need. Yet, as is often the case, such slogans fail to define their terms.

As a result, the meaning of justice and peace is left undefiled and liable for misuse.

Thankfully, as disciples of Christ, we don’t need to wonder what justice is, where peace comes from, or how God intends for his people to do justice and seek righteousness. However, it is possible in the cacophony of contemporary voices to forget that God’s eternal Word is sufficient for all of life and godliness.

Serendipitously (which means under God’s sovereignty), Psalms 97–101 provide some of the most helpful discussion of justice in the Bible. Starting this week, as we continue to study the Steadfast Psalms of Book IV, we begin a mini-series on justice.

While paying attention to their original context, we can learn much about God’s righteousness and justice in Psalms 97–101. To that end, you listen to this week’s sermon or watch it below. Additionally, I have included a couple other videos that begin to help us think biblically about the justice of God.

Kingdom Justice

Know Justice, Know Peace — Baltimore Bible Church

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