The Divine Warrior Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes

samuel-zeller-364234And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob
who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.
— Isaiah 59:20 —

Wars and rumors of war.

Throughout the world right now, armies are planning and preparing for various military operations. Closer to home, domestic abuse, interpersonal strife, and political injustice continue unabated. Just this week, I learned that a man was shot and nearly killed less than a block from my house.

All that to say, we live in a violent world. And it is right, to pray for, work for, and want for something better. But it is wrong, to think that this sort of violence is new or that God is unaware.

As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun (1:9). Injustice, immorality, and bloodshed are as old as sin itself. But just as old is the promise that God redeem his people and deliver them from the curse of sin.

This was the promise in Genesis 3:15, when God said to the Serpent: “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.” And this ancient promise is just as good today as it was 4000 years before Christ.

Indeed, if you’re familiar with the Bible, you know how strange and circuitous God’s story of salvation story is. God did not bring peace to his people in Genesis 4. Rather, he let the world go to seed—literally.

In Genesis 4, Cain killed Abel in cold blood. Theologically speaking, the seed of the serpent killed the seed of the woman. And from this first act of aggression, bloodshed has followed. Yet, in the face of this violence, God chose one people from whom he would bring a peace-maker. Often Israel, like Abel, would find themselves subjected to the serpent’s seed. But at other times, they would themselves become a brood of vipers, earning the divine wrath of God.

This is how Isaiah 59 depicts Jerusalem, when God compares their sin to that of snakes and spiders. And it is this graphic image that Paul applies to the whole world, when he quotes Isaiah 59:6–7 in Romans 3:15–18:

Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.

For us who live in the same dark world described in the Bible, we need to remember that this is the backdrop to the birth of Christ. Continue reading

Beware of Many Lawful Things: A Word of Warning from J. C. Ryle

This morning we considered the lives of Martha and Mary. While silent, Mary gives the world a beautiful example of how we ought to respond to Christ. Simultaneously, Martha supplies us a counter-example of what happens when busy Christians get distracted by many good things instead of seeking the one thing that is needful.

On this subject, J. C. Ryle’s words are especially appropriate.

The fault of Martha should be a perpetual warning to all Christians.  If we desire to grow in grace, and to enjoy soul-prosperity, we must beware of the cares of this world.  Except we watch and pray, they will insensibly eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness to our souls. It is not open sin, or flagrant breaches of God’s commandments alone, which lead men to eternal ruin.  It is far more frequently an excessive attention to things in themselves lawful, and the being ‘cumbered about much serving.’  It seems so right to provide for our own!  It seems so proper to attend to the duties of our station!  It is just here that our danger lies.  Our families, our businesses, our daily callings, our household affairs, our intercourse with society, all, all may become snares to our hearts and may draw us away from God.  We may go down to the pit of hell from the very midst of lawful things (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Lukevol. 1, 386)

May we who feel the effects of distraction and busyness, repent and return to Christ, the only one who is really necessary.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss