A Better Inheritance: Letting Israel’s Land Promises Inform Our Eternal Hopes

farm land during sunset

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy,
he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
— 1 Peter 1:3–4 —

Whenever I read or preach a passage of Scripture that includes a list or series of names, actions, vices, virtues, or any other kind of description, I am looking to see if there is an order or a concrete image that gives shape or cohesion to the list. Sometimes there is not, but often there is. And in the case of 1 Peter 1:4, where Peter speaks of the inheritance that is kept in heaven for those who have been raised to new life in Christ, we find a helpful word picture in Edmund Clowney’s commentary on this passage.

Drawing on a typological connection between Israel’s land and Christ’s new creation, Clowney compares two types of inheritance. He describes how the inheritance that Christians will receive from Jesus on the last day far exceeds the inheritance Israel received at the hands of Joshua. In this way, Clowney provides a faithful and fruitful description of what Christ holds for us in heaven—namely, a place in the kingdom that he will reveal on the last day. Indeed, this promise is glorious, but to fully appreciate what it means, we need to read 1 Peter 1:4 with what the Old Testament says about Israel’s inheritance.

This is what Clowney does, and it is worth our patient reflection, as he explains how “the words that Peter uses to describe our unchangeable inheritance all relate to the land that was the inheritance of Israel” (47). In keeping with the three words that Peter uses (imperishable, undefiled, and unfading), Clowney lists three comparisons. He writes Continue reading

Living Long in the Land: Reading Ephesians 6:1–3 through the Lens of the New Covenant


Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
— Ephesians 6:1–3 —

In preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 6:1–3, I have spent considerable time thinking about the way Paul is quoting the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12 LXX). And in my week of study, I have not found a satisfactory answer to the question of how he’s applying the law to the new covenant people of God. Many believe Paul is directly applying the law without change; others suggest he is altering it as he leaves off God’s specific promise of land to Israel; still others, just develop principles from Ephesians 6 without consideration of the covenantal structure of the Bible.

In all, no one I found wrestled with the way in which the commandment to honor father and mother was and is changed by the finished work of Christ. Therefore, in what follows I want to consider Ephesians 6:1–3 in light of the shift from the old covenant to the new.

But to do that, it is important to see how Paul’s words build upon the matrix of wisdom, righteousness, and reward (i.e., inheritance) that are outlined in the law and especially in the Proverbs. In the context of Paul’s letter, he gives instructions to wives and husbands (5:22–33), children and fathers (6:1–4), and slaves and masters (6:5–9); these are all application of Spirit-filled wisdom (see Ephesians 5:15–21). Likewise, his instructions continue to apply the righteous standards of God’s people outlined in Ephesians 4:17–5:14. And finally, he seeks to motivate children by the promise of inheritance, a long and well-pleasing life in the land. In short, like the Proverbs wisdom, righteousness, and blessing are found together in Ephesians.

From these contextual observations, then, it makes sense to turn to Proverbs.In Proverbs, “sons” are called to walk in the way of wisdom and righteousness, such that they might enjoy the blessings of the covenant. That is, inheritance promised in the law is conditioned on wise and righteous living. Therefore, to grasp the fullness of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 6, I believe we should spend ample time considering what Proverbs says (with a little help from Psalm 119) about wisdom, righteousness, and reward.   Continue reading

Entering the Land: Peter Leithart on the ‘Three Environments’ in Creation

leithartFew biblical commentators have a more fruitful mind than Peter Leithart. Sometimes his observations take off on a flight of fancy; other times they open fresh vistas of  biblical glory. In both cases, the judicious reader will find plenty to chew on. Personally, I have frequently initially disagreed with his reading only to be convinced later. Make no mistake, however, you should read his commentaries.

Right now I am reading his commentary on 1–2 Samuel, entitled A Son to Me. In it he makes a compelling argument for seeing Saul as a New Adam (81). He shows many ways how Saul, as a royal figure, falls from grace and repeats the fall of Adam—the first royal son. To set up his argument, he makes a compelling argument with regard to the land, and it is that argument I want to cite here.

What Leithart suggests is that the whole of biblical history (and geography) must be understood according to a tripartite division of the land. I have seen this kind of argument before (cf. G. K. Beale, T. D. Alexander, etc.) with regards to three parts of the tabernacle/temple, but I haven’t seen it so concisely described with regards to the “three environments” of the land.

Because the temple is made to mirror the rest of creation and vice versa, this argument should not surprise us. But, for most of us situated over three millennia from Moses and David, it is likely that we haven’t thought of the land in the way Leithart describes. Therefore, to better understand God’s geography, it is vital to have our minds renewed by the Bible when it comes to understand the world we inhabit.

Consider Leithart’s illuminating comments: Continue reading

For Your Edification (7.27.12)

For Your Edification is a weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.


Kingdom Through Covenant.  Justin Taylor, Vice President of Editorial at Crossway and blogger extraordinaire, has posted the first two chapters of the new book,  Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants.  This book is a landmark work on the covenants of the Bible (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant).  Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum are the authors of this book, and they have wed their systematic and exegetical expertise to provide a comprehensive reading of the whole Bible.

I encourage you to take the time to pick up this big book and test their proposal.  I think they are right on as they put the Bible together, and that this book has the potential to provide a more exegetical, biblical-theological reading of Scripture than either Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology.

Physical Theology: The Bible in its Land, Time and Culture.  Dr. John Monson, who grew up in Israel, is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS).  Earlier this year, he gave a compelling lecture on the space and time found in the Bible.  His academic and personal experience in Israel, give him a strong understanding of the land in Israel and how it relates to our understanding of God’s plan of redemption.  By the way, to add credibility to his qualifications, he also dated a girl from Bethlehem named Mary.

For more on a theological understanding of the land in the Bible, see O. Palmer Robertson, Understanding the Land of the Bible.


Gay Is Not The New Black.  Voddie Baucham writes persuasively why making homosexuality normative in American life and politics is not the next step in the Civil Rights movement.  Categorically, definitionally, historically, and legally, Baucham shows why arguments for gay ‘rights’ do not parallel the rights once restricted to blacks.  He concludes,

It is very important for those of us who oppose the idea of same-sex “marriage” to do so not because we wish to preserve our version of the American Dream, but because we view marriage as a living, breathing picture of the relationship between Christ and his church (Eph. 5:22ff), and because we know that God has designed the family in a particular way. While the design of the family promotes human thriving (Gen 1:27-28), the testimony points people to their only hope in this life and the next. As a result, silence on this issue is not an option.

Unfortunately (and quite ironically), many Christians have been bullied into silence by the mere threat of censure from the homosexual lobby. “Oppose us and you’re no better than Gov. Wallace, Hitler, and those homophobes who killed Matthew Shepard!” is their not-so-subtle refrain. Consequently, we spend so much time trying to prove we’re not hate-filled murderers that we fail to recognize that the Emperor has no clothes. There is no legal, logical, moral, biblical, or historical reason to support same-sex “marriage.” In fact, there are myriad reasons not to support it. I’ve only provided a few.

Baucham’s article is an important and well-informed read.  One that you need to read to equip yourself against the ascending onslaught for ‘gay marriage’ and against biblical Christianity.

Culture Wars.  While you are at it, you should also read Owen Strachan’s article on why the ‘gay marriage’ issue is so radically different than the abortion issue and why Christians cannot ‘opt out’ of taking a biblical stand.

How to Comfort Bereaved Parents.  Jill Sullivan, a 40-something mother in Arkansas, who lost her daughter in 2009, has written a helpful and compassionate article on how to minister to families in the church who have lost children.  I have a feeling that her words while particularly applicable to the grief that accompanies the untimely death of a child, but her wise words of comfort are also applicable at any time that someone is experiencing the loss of a loved one.  Take time to read it, and to pray for those who you know who have lost parents, siblings, or children in this year.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.  On the same blog that published Jill Sullivan’s piece, Trevin Wax also posted one of my blogs, “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.”  Taken from a sermon I preached last year on Revelation 19, I explore the beauty of heaven and how every love story on earth is but a lesser version of the greatest love story of Jesus Christ dying for his bride and defeating his enemies.  Check it out.

For Your Edification, dss

Land Ho!!! A Biblical Theology of the Land


Three years ago I had the privilege of traveling to Israel.  On a mission trip with my church, we spent nearly two weeks touring the country and participating in evangelistic efforts in places like Haifa, Tiberias, and Tel Aviv.  It was an incredible experience to tell a young Israeli whose barber shop opened up to the Sea of Galilee, “On that water Jesus walked, and in this Hebrew New Testament, you can learn more about the Messiah.”  Needless to say, I returned to the U.S. with a host of memories and incredible images of the countryside in which our Savior was lived and died.  

This weekend many of those bucolic scenes were recalled as I read O. Palmer Robertson’s book Understanding the Land of the Bible: A Biblical-Theological GuideRobertson’s premise in the book is that the land of the Bible which intersects the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe was divinely designed to proclaim gospel truth.  Concluding his introduction he writes, “Let us allow this land in its uniqueness to reinforce for us today the truths that bring salvation for men” (4). 

In his book, he unfolds a biblical theology of the land.  In so doing, he considers the land from West to East and then from South to North and then by paying attention to many of the features of the land.   Without allegorizing or spiritualizing, he shows how consideration of the land really does reveal redemptive truth.  After laying out the latitudinal aspects of the region, Robertson summarizes, “Traveling across the Land of Promise from west to east can provide many insights into the purposes of God for the whole of the world.  In microcosmic fashion the design of the land serves as a means of embodying the truth of God intended for all nations” (24).  What is this intended truth?  Figuratively, that people dwelling in desolate wilderness will move into the hospitable presence of God within the Promised Land.  Clearly, this pattern of dwelling in the land plays itself out within the Bible (Abraham’s call to Canaan, Joshua’s entry into the land, the return from Exile, and Jesus crossing the Jordan into the land at his baptism are all physical-geographical moves that contain theological significance).

Moreover, moving from South to North recalls history and geography that carry historical and theological import.  The exodus drove north out of Egypt, the divided kingdom was split according to Northern tribes of Israel and the Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, after Babylon repopulated Samaria, the Northern Samaritans were disdained by the more Southern Judeans, Galilee of the Gentiles on the Northern-most end of the country, was filled with foreigners during Jesus day and became a microcosm of the diverse world He can to save.  In short, “The whole of the land was designed by the Lord for his good purposes as he determined them from before the foundation of the world” (37).

After considering the beautiful and rugged terrain of the Bible, Robertson surveys the cities of importance throughout the land of Canaan.  He does so chronologically, considering the role of each during the Patriarchs, the Judges, the united and divided monarchies, and finally at the time of Christ.  Taking a chapter on each epoch in redemptive history, he examines the Scriptures for significant references to these locales and shows how their particular placement in the land and in time shaped the biblical narrative. 

Overall, Robertson’s treatment, which at times seems more like a survey than a theology, does well to help the student of the Bible read the Scriptures with an awareness of God’s plan within the land.   He unveils the significance of geographic features and historic locations for the reader less attuned to such particulars.  And he shows how all Scripture and all creation points to its Creator and Redeemer.

This land was made for Jesus Christ.  All its diversity was designed to serve him.  Its character as a land bridge for three continents was crafted at Creation for his strategic role in history of humanity.  Even today all nations flow constantly to this place, for its is uniquely his land, the focal point of the world (109).

This point is worth considering further.   For it challenges us to think about the land of the Scriptures in way that many of us are slow to do.  It makes us come back to the Bible looking at it with renewed eyes.  For consider, Psalm 72:8 says, “May he [the king] have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  Yet, how can we begin to understand such a sweeping statement without a particular understanding of the seas, the River, and the ends of the earth?  Indeed, we need to learn more about the land to understand this language.  Certainly, the Scriptures speaks to these things, but too often I overlook them.  Consequently, Robertson’s book is helpful in calling my (our) attention back to reading the Bible more faithfully, and better understanding all that it is saying about Jesus Christ.

So let me commend to Understanding the Land of the Bible, as it would help you read the Bible more completely or supply biblical-theological material to your next sermon.  Still, beyond reading another book, let me urge you to reflect on the significance of the land in the Scriptures.  It is steeped with history and with revelation concerning the redemptive plan(s) of God.  For, as Robertson reminds us, “It is Christ’s land” (cf. Psalm 2)!  Studying the Scriptures with a view to the land points us forward to a day when Jesus will return to have dominion over all the lands.   Until that day let us become more well-versed in the land in which he inhabited, so that when he comes he might find us faithful in the land in which we now reside.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss