Well, Well, Well: A Marriage, a Mountain, and a Messiah: Part 3 (A Sermon on John 4:27-42)

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Well, Well, Well: A Marriage, a Mountain, and a Messiah: Part 3 (A Sermon on John 4:27-42)

In The Magician’s Nephew, C. S. Lewis envisions a world coming to life, by means of Aslan’s song. If you have never read The Chronicles of Narnia series,  Aslan the Lion is the Christ-figure who both creates the world and dies to save the world. And in The Magician’s Nephew, which is the prequel to the more famous, The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, we are treated to Lewis’s story of creation.

Here is how he pictures Narnia coming to life.

The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave. In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making that young world every moment softer. The light wind could now be heard ruffling the grass. Soon there were other things besides grass. The higher slopes grew dark with heather. Patches of rougher and more bristling green appeared in the valley. Digory did not know what they were until one began coming up quite close to him. It was a little, spiky thing that threw out dozens of arms and covered these arms with green and grew larger at the rate of about an inch every two seconds. There were dozens of these things all round him now. When they were nearly as tall as himself he saw what they were. “Trees!” he exclaimed. (64)

Trees indeed! And in the context of The Magicians’ Nephew this new world was coming to life in the presence of an evil witch and crazy, self-absorbed Uncle. In this way, the creation of Narnia does not match the creation of our world, where God in his eternal perfection made the world good and very good (Genesis 1). Continue reading

Finding Consolation from the Weeping Prophet: Or, Where to Find Springs of Living Water in Jeremiah’s Long, Dark Book

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This post is part of a series of resources for the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan. This month I am focusing on Jeremiah.

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In Jeremiah 30–33, we find four chapters that are often referred to as “The Book of Consolation.” The reason for this title is the way they promise hope for a battered and bruised people who are, or will soon be, held in bondage by Babylon. In context, these chapters come after the Prophet declares that God is sending Israel to Babylon for seventy years because of their sins. Following this judgment (see Jeremiah 25–29), Jeremiah 30–33 looks to a day in the future when God will restore his people (30:1–3), return a priestly king to the throne (30:21), and establish a new covenant (31:31–34).

These chapters are some of the brightest and best in all the Old Testament, but they are found in a book that is densely populated with oracles of destruction, jeremiads against Jerusalem (yes, jeremiads comes from Jeremiah), judgments against the nations, and other events that lead Jeremiah to be called the weeping prophet. All in all, the Book of Consolation stands in stark contrast to the rest of Jeremiah, and accordingly, I can imagine many who attempt to read Jeremiah will do so, skipping ahead to these chapters, or just cherry-picking a few verses along the way (e.g., Jer. 2:13; 9:23–24; 17:9–10; 23:1–6; 29:11–13; etc.).

Such approaches are understandable, given the length and complexity of the book, but if we really want to understand Jeremiah we need to find a better reading strategy. That’s what this blog post is for—to help give you a map which identifies key passages which as springs of living water for your soul.

In other words, because Jeremiah is meant to pluck up, tear down, destroy, and overthrow the city of Jerusalem and all its inhabitants (Jer. 1:10ab), his book will primarily consist of words of judgment. At the same time, because God calls Jeremiah to build up and plant (see also 1:10c), we should expect to find life-giving words of hope. The question is knowing where they are and how to find such refreshment in a book that is primarily deconstructive—in the prophetic, not the postmodern, sense of the word.

Reading through the book, it will help to know where the words of life are. And that’s what I offer below. In another blog post, I laid out a four-fold outline of the book that can be summarized like this.

  • Jeremiah 1–24: God’s War of Words . . . Against Israel
  • Jeremiah 25–34: God’s War of Words . . . Against the False Prophets
  • Jeremiah 35–44: God’s War of Words . . . Against the King and His Kingdom
  • Jeremiah 45–52: God’s War of Words . . . Against the Nations

This outline follows the illuminating work of Andrew Shead, and I would urge you to read that post and his book. In what follows, I will share the springs of living water that crop up in places like Jeremiah 3:15–18 and Jeremiah 51:48, and everywhere in between. As I have read through Jeremiah, these are the passages and the promises I am looking for as I read.  

As the apostles teach us, all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). The gospel itself stands on the promises of God (Acts 13:32–33), and begins with Abraham (Gal. 3:8) not Matthew. For this reason, we should read the Bible as promise-seekers, so that we can become promise-believers. This is what the Bible is for, and in Jeremiah, there are plenty of hope-giving, Christ-centered promises for us to find. The trick is knowing where they are and how they fit into the book.

Without any further preliminaries, let me offer a roadmap to the springs of living water in Jeremiah. I will give a few notes as we go, but primarily what follows is the text of Scripture.[1] Continue reading

Was Jesus Among the Larpers? How Reading John 4 with Genesis 29 Helps Us Understand Biblical Typology and Jesus’s Identity

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Well, Well, Well, Look What We Have Hear: A Marriage, A Mountain, and a Messiah (pt. 1) — A Sermon on John 4:1–18

In John’s Gospel we learn that Jesus is the Word made flesh (1:14), the Only Begotten God (1:18), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:19), and the one to whom all the Law and Prophets wrote (1:45). But did you also know that Jesus was also a Larper? Not a leper, mind you, but Larper—a Live Action Role Player.

As best I could find online, Larping is a type of game where a group of people wear costumes representing a character they create to participate in an agreed [upon] fantasy world. Most recently, Larping gained attention in the Marvel Comic series Hawkeye, but it’s been around a lot longer than that. If you need an example of what Larping looks like up close, just go to a Medieval festival near you, and you will surely find a group of Live Action Role Players.

Now, if you don’t want to go to a Medieval Festival to see LARP-ing, you could also read John 4. In this famous chapter, where Jesus confronts the woman at the well, the Lord assumes the role of particular character from the world of the Patriarchs. Indeed, as John tells it, Jesus is a man (or “bridegroom,” see John 3:29) who meets a woman at a well, who will in time, become his bride. Let’s consider how this works. Continue reading

Seeing the Literary Structure of John 2–4

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The first step in understanding any book of the Bible is to see what is there and especially how the biblical author has arranged his material. In the case of the Gospels, for instance, it is important to remember Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not turn on their iPhones and hit record. While we have plenty of quotations from Jesus, nearly all of them have been translated from Aramaic and brought to mind by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). This means we do not have Jesus’s spoken words in red letters. What we have are the Spirit-breathed words of God penned by the apostles.

In each book, the Spirit leads the authors to present Jesus in a coherent fashion. In Matthew’s Gospel, for example, Jesus is the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the true Israel, and the prophet like Moses, to name a few ways he is presented. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is introduced as the true tabernacle (John 1:14), in whom the fullness of God dwells bodily. Throughout John’s Gospel, this theme of Jesus as the true and better temple will repeat (see e.g., John 2:19–22; 14:1–3).

Reading the Gospels on their own terms, therefore, becomes imperative for understanding their message. Harmonizing the Gospels (i.e., comparing Matthew to Mark to Luke to John) has its place, but it is far better to let the Evangelist speak each in his own way. When we do that, and stop strip-mining the text to find sources behind the Bible, we see how the Evangelists made their case for Jesus as God’s the Son, the long-awaited Messiah. To that end, this blogpost will consider one section of one Gospel—John 2–4. Continue reading

10 Things You Should Know About the Priesthood

priestcolorCrossway has a helpful series of blog articles called “10 Things You Should Know . . .” These articles summarize key ideas from some of Crossway’s recent books. And this week, they posted my contribution about the priesthood.

Here are the first three things you should know. The rest you can find here. The book you can find here. And a sermon series on the priesthood can also be found here.

1. The Edenic origin of the priesthood.

In Eden, God created mankind in his image to reflect his glory. In this setting, God crowned man with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5), authorized him to subdue and rule (Gen. 1:28), and gave him priestly instructions for serving in his garden-temple (Gen. 2:15; cf. Num. 3:8). This is the prototype of royal priesthood from which all other priests will be molded. In other words, when the priesthood is legislated in Israel, it will pick up language and imagery from Eden. At the same time, the Law of Moses divided the royal and priestly roles originally united in Adam. Thus, only a second Adam can unite priesthood and kingdom in a manner similar to Eden.

2. The cosmic fall of the priesthood.

When Adam sinned and fell short of God’s glory (cf. Rom. 1:21–23; 3:23; 5:12, 18–19), God expelled him from God’s garden-sanctuary (see Ezek. 28:11–19), destroying any chance of Adam serving God as priest-king. In the fall, Adam’s sin made sacrifice necessary, as indicated by the events of Genesis 4. Because death was the punishment for sin, blood must be shed. To be certain, the full consequence of sin and the need for a priest would require later revelation to explain (see Leviticus), but it is worth noting the original intent and downfall of the priesthood. For the rest of the Bible, we find a search for someone who could stand before God and serve as a mediator (cf. Job 9:33–35).

The Royal Priesthood and the Glory of God

The Royal Priesthood and the Glory of God

David S. Schrock

David Schrock traces the theme of priesthood throughout the Bible and displays how Jesus, the great high priest, informs the worship, discipleship, and evangelism of the church.

3. The fraternal development of the priesthood.

From Eden to Sinai, priestly ministration continued, but in a very ‘itinerant’ fashion. In the days of the Patriarchs, firstborn sons grew up to be mediators for their families. Job is a good example of this (Job 1:5), as is Abraham. In the Abraham narrative (Gen. 11:27–25:18), we find Abraham building altars (Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18), interceding for others (Gen. 18:22–33), and obeying God by offering a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1–18). While Abraham and his sons lacked the title of priest, these “priests” play an important role in understanding the earthly “priesthood” of Jesus—a priest in function, but without legal title. At the same time, the priestly service of firstborn sons helps explain Israel’s role as a royal priesthood (Ex. 19:6).

For the last seven points, see Crossway’s 10 Things You Should Know About the Priesthood in the Bible.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Isaiah’s Search for Godly Offspring: A Storyline for the Son(s) of God

josue-michel-eCZ24v-sQyM-unsplashAnd what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.
— Malachi 2:15 —

Maybe’s its odd to start of meditation on Isaiah by citing Malachi, but as I will show, Malachi 2:15 encapsulates a key theme that runs through the book of Isaiah—namely, the presence of godly offspring in the place of God’s dwelling (Zion). From the beginning to the end of Isaiah, the search for godly offspring is a central theme that holds the book together. And if we are going to understand the message of Isaiah—and not just verses from Isaiah—we need to see how it fits together.

The Search for Godly Offspring Begins

When Isaiah begins, he immediately brings us into God’s courtroom, where Yahweh, the sovereign ruler  of the cosmos is bringing a judgment against his people Israel. Isaiah 1:2–4 reads,

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children [sons] have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” 4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring [seed/s] of evildoers, children [sons] who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

Here is the problem: God had redeemed the seed of Abraham in order to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:6). Yet, by the eighth century B.C., during the reigns of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (1:1), the city of God had become corrupt. Jerusalem traded in iniquity, so that wickedness marked all their ways and evil impelled all their intentions. As Isaiah 1:1–18 makes clear, the godly offspring were absent. And as a result, Isaiah 1–5 recall God’s intentions to empty Zion of all wickedness, so that he could once again create sons and daughters who would bear fruit for his glory.

This vision is how Isaiah begins his prophecy, and it helps us to see how the whole book will proceed. That is to say, by paying attention to the overlapping themes of sons and seeds (i.e. offspring), mothers and daughters, childbirth that succeeds and childbirth that fails, we get a clear(er) picture of what God is expecting of Israel and what God is planning to do for his rebellious people.

In truth, anyone who has been around church on Christmas knows the famous verses of Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6–7. But I suspect most don’t know how those verses fit into the structure of Isaiah and how the whole book anticipates the birth of Christ and the new birth promised by him (see John 3).

One way we misread Isaiah is to climb aboard the promise of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 and make it a connecting flight to Matthew 1:23. Positively, this approach may heighten our confidence in the predictive nature of the Old Testament—a truth I gladly affirm—but negatively, it fails to understand what Isaiah 7:14 means (in context) and how all of Isaiah is anticipating the virgin birth of God’s Son.

While direct flights are great when traveling from coast-to-coast, they are not advisable when seeking to understand the Bible cover-to-cover. And thus, in what follows I will trace the promise of seeds, sons, childbirth, and motherhood through Isaiah to show how the whole book anticipates the coming of Christ and all those children who will be born by the Spirit—the godly offspring that God has formed in his new covenant people. Continue reading

Reading for Scripture Saturation: Renewing the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan in 2022

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

11  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12  Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
— Psalm 119:9–12 —

With 2021 ending and 2022 approaching, you may be thinking about how to read the Bible in the new year. I hope so. The Word of God is not a trifle; it is our very life (Deut. 32:47). Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4). With that in mind, we should aim to read the Bible and to read it often!

Truly, the Bible is not a book to read once, or even once a year. It is meant to be imbibed and inhabited, adored and adorned, studied and savored. Mastery of the Bible does not mean comprehensive understanding of Scripture; it means ever-increasing submission to the Master who speaks in Scripture. This is why in the closing days of the year, it’s good to consider how we can saturate ourselves with Scripture in the next year.

Personally though, I wonder if our daily reading plans help us with this idea of Scripture saturation. Often, such plans call for reading single chapters from various parts of the Bible. And the daily routine can invite checking the box without understanding the book. So my question has been: Does such reading help us or hinder us in our Bible consumption and consumption? Continue reading

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ: A Christmas Meditation (Matthew 1:1-17)

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In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he says that the cross of Christ is a stumbling block for Jews (1:23). Due to the Law’s instruction, it is clear that law-abiding Jews would take offense at anyone hung on tree. As Moses announced in Deuteronomy 21:23, such a man was accursed by God.  Understandably, the call to believe in and worship a man nailed to a tree would have been hard to accept.

Two thousand years removed from Golgotha, the cross has become a symbol of peace and hope. In the West, Christians have grown up seeing crosses on church steeples and tee shirts. More than a few devotees to Christ adorn them around their neck or ink them on their skin. Clearly, the cross is no longer a stumbling block.

What is a stumbling block today is the Bible itself. In almost a complete reversal, the word of God, which would have posed no cultural problem for the Jews of Jesus’ day, causes many professing Christians to wince and excuse its contents.

For many, the world of the Bible is foreign. Its words, warfare, and worship are hard to understand. Add to this the self-deprecating truths of total depravity and unconditional election, and you have a Bible that is not just unfamiliar, but even offensive.  Yet, it is not only doctrine that trips up Bible readers; it is also genre selection. Continue reading

The Seed of the Woman Has Come: The Real Reason for the Season (Genesis 3:15)

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15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
— Genesis 3:15 —

When we lived in Indiana, our parsonage was located next to the church. The church sat at 1200 North Ewing, our home was next door at 1202 North Ewing. At the same time, our house sat next to a snake pit. And to be clear, I’m not talking about the church. Rather, I am referring to the swamp-ish depression that ran alongside the parking lot, what we might call 1198 North Ewing.

Indeed, right next to the church building, the place where the bride of Christ would gather every Sunday, there was a nesting-ground for snakes. It was very much like Genesis 3. And how did we know that we had a snake infestation?

Well, every year, we had snakes in our garden, on our driveway, and in our house. And during the five years we lived there, I became quite skilled at picking up the shovel and beheading the snakes that drew near.

Now, why do I bring up snakes, especially as at Christmas time? The answer is that Christmas is often filled with trees and lights, but not enough trees and snakes. It’s like we get our messaging about Christmas from the Victorian Era of Charles Dickens, instead of letting the victory of Christ over the serpent be the reason for the season.

And so, to make Christmas more meaningful, I suggest we add a few pictures of dead snakes to our holiday decorations. Let me know if you have a crafty friend on Etsy who can work that up for us.

For as strange as it sounds to think about snakes at Christmas time, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is why we celebrate the birth of Christ. His birth in Bethlehem is but the first step for the Son of God towards the cross on which he would hang like the bronze serpent (see John 3:14–15). And by keeping the impaled serpent in view at Christmas time we are reminded that the babe born in a manger is the Victorious Warrior who now reigns on high.

In truth, Christmas is a war memorial. Or at least, we discover the military imagery as soon as we read the birth story in light of the Big Story. In fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies (see Isa. 7:14; 9:6–7; 11:1ff.; etc.) we celebrate at Christmas the arrival (read: invasion) of God’s king entering the enemy occupied territory.

Accordingly, the goal of Christmas is not to merely coo over baby Jesus, but to bow down before him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. For it is the victorious Christ whose birth we celebrate. And we celebrate his birth because in his life and death, we finally see the head of the serpent crushed, just as God promised at the very beginning.

The Seed of the Woman

The first promise of the gospel, the protoevangelion found in Genesis 3:15, was the theme of this week’s sermon. And in that sermon, I tried to show how this promise is enlarged and illustrated in the history of Israel. And for those celebrating the birth of Christ this year, this sermon outlines how the birth of Christ begins to fulfill the promise of the seed (singular) of the woman coming to crush the seed of the serpent, and thereby saving the seed (plural) of the woman.

This is a gospel promise that runs from Genesis to Jesus and one that is outlined in the chart below and in the sermon entitled “The Seed of the Woman.” Indeed, as Christmas draws near, may we celebrate the fact that the babe born in Bethlehem is the killer of serpents and victorious warrior-king. Continue reading

Kill the Dragon, Get the Girl: A Short Introduction to the Bible

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I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
— Genesis 3:15 —

In one sentence, can you give the message of the Bible? 

A few years ago, Dane Ortlund asked this question and received answers from a host of pastors and scholars, but one answer stood out from the rest and has taken on a life of its own. The answer comes from the provocateur, poet, and pastor, Douglas Wilson. He writes,

Scripture tells us the story of how a Garden is transformed into a Garden City, but only after a dragon had turned that Garden into a howling wilderness, a haunt of owls and jackals, which lasted until an appointed warrior came to slay the dragon, giving up his life in the process, but with his blood effecting the transformation of the wilderness into the Garden City.

In short: Kill the Dragon, Get the Girl. Whereby the Dragon is the Twisted Serpent of the Garden, the Girl is the Bride of Christ described as a glorious Garden City in Revelation 21–22, and the Slayer of the Dragon is the Son of God who took on flesh to come and save his damsel in distress by destroying the Dragon by means of his own death and resurrection. 

In his recent book, The Serpent and the Serpent SlayerAndy Naselli recounts the genesis of this pithy way to describe the biblical storyline, which comes from Joe Rigney’s appropriation of Wilson’s explanation of the Bible, which in turn led to the children’s book by the same title: Kill the Dragon, Get the Girl. Continue reading