The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)ever Read: Twenty Lessons on Leviticus

imageThe Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)ever Read. 

That’s how I framed the book of Leviticus when I invited members of our church to study it last January. And this week, by God’s grace, we finished going through the book. Admittedly, our study could have done more. But for 20 weeks (Spring and Fall), those who were at first skeptical of Leviticus kept coming back to the see the good news proclaimed in Moses’s central book. Many even would agree that Leviticus is an exciting book.

In the list below are the lessons I taught on Leviticus. Again, they do not exhaust the book, but they give a general sense of the book and its message, with regular connections to Christ and the Church. I share them here for anyone who wants to know more of Leviticus. Continue reading

The Heart of the Gospel: A Sermon on Penal Substitution (Isaiah 53)

1920x1080-it-is-finishedIn the Old Testament, there are a handful of passages critical for understanding Christ’s cross. Over the last few weeks, I have preached on many of them (Genesis 22, Exodus 12, Leviticus 16; Ben Purves also did an outstanding job preaching Psalm 22). There are other passage too that our current sermon series won’t cover (e.g., Numbers 21, Psalm 118, Zechariah 9–14, etc.) But the most important passage in the Old Testament for learning what Christ’s cross achieved is Isaiah 53 (technically, Isaiah 52:13–53:12). And that was the text I preached this week.

In this fifteen verse, five stanza “Servant song,” we are introduced to the One who will die for the sins of his people. In particular, he offers a guilt offering in the place of those who deserve God’s penalty of death.

In recent years, the idea of Christ’s penal substitution and God pouring out his wrath on the Son has not set well with many—both those inside the church and those outside the church, as well as those leaving the church. Indeed, with an appeal to God’s universal love, many have misunderstood how Christ’s death, as a penal substitute, is good news and necessary for salvation. Others have questioned how guilt can be transferred from one person, or one group, to another.

Many of these questions have been well answered in the book Pierced for Our Transgressionsas well as by many others in church history. In every case, Isaiah 53 plays a prominent role in explaining what Christ’s cross achieved. And in my sermon yesterday, you can hear why the most important thing about the cross is not what could be seen with the naked eye, but what the Father, Son, and Spirit achieved in the cross. Indeed, while Mel Gibson’s Passion captured the brutality of the cross, it did not explain the divine design of Christ’s cross, nor how Christ’s death might benefit those who believe upon him.

Truly, if you want to understand the cross, you have to look to the Scripture and especially to Isaiah 53. So here is a sermon that explains why the cross of Christ and especially penal substitution stands at the heart of the gospel and the good news that Christ died for sinners.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

1–2 Kings Among the Prophets: Learning to Read Ancient History as Gospel Literature

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If you have ever read 1–2 Kings, you may wonder how the two books hang together. What is the main message? And what does this ancient book have to say to us today? Is it simply an historical record of Israel’s kings? Or, being found in Israel’s canon as one of the Prophets, should we read 1–2 Kings as a book of prophetic literature?

Without denying the royal character of 1-2 Kings—“kings” is in the title after all—there are many good reasons for seeing 1–2 Kings as a book with a strongly prophetic message. Making this point, Peter Leithart in his Brazos Theological commentary on 1 and 2 Kingsmakes a number of compelling observations, Continue reading

On the Hill of the Lord It Will Be Provided (Genesis 22)

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God said what?

He told his servant Abraham to go and sacrifice his son, only son, Isaac, the one whom he loved.

And did he? Is that what God requires? Why would God do that? And why would Abraham obey?

If the conversation about Genesis 22 is challenging, imagine how difficult the conversation between father and son was between aged Abraham and Isaac, his teenage son. As they walked for three days to the hill of the Lord:

Isaac: Father, where is the sacrifice?  

Abraham: The Lord will provide, son.

And gloriously, the Lord did provide—for Abraham, Isaac, Israel, and us!

In Genesis 22, we enter one of the richest passages in the Bible. Every verse says something to us about God, his demands on humanity, his provision for humanity, and the pathway of death that leads to life.

Indeed, if you are feeling tried and tested and on the verge of despair and death, Genesis 22 is for you. And in this sermon you will hear a message of gospel hope that begins in Genesis, leads to Christ, and comes to us. Even more, after seeing how Genesis 22 prepares the way for Christ’s death and resurrection, we also find model of obedience that every disciple of Christ is called.

You can find the sermon here. If you want to dig deeper into Genesis 22, you can also check out my dissertation. Start on page 71 (PDF p. 86) and you will find 20 pages on the typology of this glorious chapter. For more on the cross of Christ, stayed tuned to our most recent sermon series.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

It Is Finished: Beholding the Cross of Christ from All of Scripture

Have you ever watched a new movie, where you started 10 minutes before the end?

Many years ago, when big hair was still in style, I was introduced to Back to the Future in this way. My friends were watching this movie and I joined them at point where Doc Brown crashed through garbage cans, warned Marty and his girlfriend about their future children, and drove to a place where “we don’t need roads.”

If you only know the last ten minutes of Back to the Future, however, you won’t understand the significance of the DeLorean, the date (November 5, 1955), the speed (88 miles per hour), or the electricity (1.21 Gigawatts) that makes time travel possible. Nor will you understand the flux capacitor and its cruciform power to rewrite history. All of these details are revealed over the course of the movie and only in watching the movie from beginning to end, can you make sense of its ending. 

Something similar happens when we open our Bibles and behold the man hung upon a Roman cross. While many well-intentioned evangelists point to Christ’s cross as the center piece of our Christian faith and the way of our salvation, it is an event in history that only makes sense when you begin in the beginning. That Christ was buried in a garden tomb does more than give us an historical referent; it tells the significance of Christ’s death as the way of God’s new creation, because after all it was in a garden where Adam sinned and brought death to the world. Now, raised from a garden tomb, Jesus as the new Adam has introduced a new way of life.

In this vein, the biblical storyline is necessary for understanding why the Son of God had to die on a tree, be buried in a tomb, and raised to life on the third day. Indeed, even if we know that Christ did not stay dead—that he rose from the grave, walked the earth teaching his disciples for forty days, and ascended to heaven, where he now sits in glory—we cannot make sense of the cross. Or at least, our interest in Christ’s death and resurrection leads us to ask: But what does it mean?

Indeed, the way to understand Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is to place those events in the timeline of God’s redemptive history. That timeline begins in creation, proceeds through the fall of mankind into sin, and picks up countless promises of grace and types of salvation throughout the Old Testament. In fact, to be most precise, God’s plan for Christ’s cross did not begin in space and time; it began before God spoke light into the darkness (Gen. 1:3). As Peter says in his first sermon (Acts 2:23) and his first epistle (1 Peter 1:20), the cross of Christ was the centerpiece of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of his people.

In Scripture, therefore, the cross is the climactic work of God to redeem sinners and rescue the dying. Indeed, while Jesus now reigns in glory, and his victorious resurrection gives assurance that all those who trust in him will have eternal life, it is vital to understand what Christ did on the cross and what it means when Christ said on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Continue reading

On Reading Leviticus: Four Reading Strategies for This Glorious Book

Jesus washing the feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday

With a new month (March) comes a new book in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan. This year I am reading Track 1 and listening to Track 3. And for those who are reading along this plan, or for those who are interested in reading Leviticus—“The Most Exciting Book You’ve (N)Ever Read”—I offer this reading strategy with resources.

This year, we have read Genesis and Exodus, and now we come to Leviticus, which is arguably the centerpiece of the whole Pentateuch. As I have taught in this Bible Study, borrowing from the work of Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?) who cites many others, the book of Leviticus is the literary center and high point of the Pentateuch. Thematically, we might capture it this way:

Genesis begins in Eden, the Garden of God and ends in Egypt, a place of exile and death;

Exodus moves from Egypt through the wilderness to Sinai;

Leviticus is entirely written at Sinai;

Numbers moves from Sinai through the wilderness to the Promised Land (i.e., Israel sits poised to enter the land at the end of the book);

Deuteronomy prepares the people to move from exile in the wilderness into the Garden of God, the land of Canaan.

From this locational/thematic chiasm (and there are other literary clues that indicate an intentional shaping of the Pentateuch), we see that Leviticus is not a book we must “get through.” In the Pentateuch, it is the book we must “get to.”

We need Leviticus, so that we might learn what it takes to dwell near to God. This month, as we read Leviticus, we need to consider how this book gives us more than a detailed list of instructions for the priests of Israel. It invites us to approach a holy God and to do so through the finished work of Christ—the One who fulfills all the requirements of the Levitical system of sacrifice. In what follows I will offer a handful of resources to help you read this book, starting with four reading strategies for Leviticus. Continue reading

The Story of God’s Glory: A Wide Angle View of Salvation from 1 Peter 1:10–12

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Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
— 1 Peter 1:10–12 —

In his commentary on 1 Peter, the late biblical theologian, Edmund Clowney, observes that “Glory is the goal of the Old Testament promises” (56). Indeed, glory is the goal of creation, salvation, and really everything God does in his world. And in 1 Peter 1:10–12, the apostle of Jesus widens his view of salvation to include all the Spirit of Christ revealed to the Old Testament prophets about the coming messiah, from his sufferings and his subsequent glories to the gospel of grace that came from Christ to the elect exiles in Asia Minor.

For us, who read 1 Peter, it is worth our time to ponder all that God has done in redemptive history also. Such a meditation solidifies the foundation on which we stand in Christ and secures us further in times of trial. Indeed, salvation, which comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ, depends upon understanding the Christ of Scripture and not the christ of our sentimental imaginings. With that in mind, we should constantly be rehearsing the high points of the biblical storyline to better know who Christ is and what he did. Continue reading

On Earth as It is in Heaven: 16 Sermons and 5 Articles on the Book of Daniel

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Since September of last year, our church studied the book of Daniel. With a few interruptions, this series spanned sixteen weeks, looking at each chapter in Daniel, with a few focused studies along the way. As we walked through the chaotic period of the presidential election and its aftermath, Daniel served to be a great source of Christ-centered comfort all of us. And I share these sermons here in hopes that it might encourage you, if you choose to listen to these messages. 

As I shared in the introduction to the final sermon, this series was not intended to establish or eliminate any eschatological position regarding the millennium. Rather, it sought to see the sovereign rule of God in Christ from each historical narrative (Daniel 1–6) and apocalyptic vision (Daniel 7–12).  With that in mind, here are links to the sixteen sermons.

  1. Dare to Be a Daniel (Remixed): Daniel 1
  2. The Stone and the Statue: Seeking God’s Kingdom, Not Our Own Image (Daniel 2)
  3. Canceled by Fire (Daniel 3) by Jared Bridges
  4. To Be, Or Not To Be A Dragon (Daniel 4)
  5. God with Us: A Message of Salvation and Judgement (Daniel 5)
  6. Jesus and the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6)
  7. The Son of Man Comes Around (Daniel 7)
  8. The Ascension of Christ: How Christ’s Heavenly Reign Empowers Our Daily Lives (Daniel 7:13–14)
  9. The Unbearable Weight of Knowing the Future vs The (un)Believable Hope of Knowing God (Daniel 8)
  10. A Faithful God, A Man of Prayer, And a Better Kingdom (Daniel 9) by Rod Fillinger
  11. Christmas and the Christ: How the Sovereign Enters His Story (Daniel 2:44–45; Luke 1:32–33)
  12. The Great Res(e)t: What Jubilee Says about Christmas, the New Covenant, and the New Year (Leviticus 25)
  13. From Jubilee to Jesus: Good News from a Debated Text (Daniel 9:24-27)
  14. Angels Among Us, the Son of Man With Us (Daniel 10:1-21)
  15. Finding Resurrection Life Amidst the Raging Waters of This World (Daniel 11:1–12:4)
  16. The Beginning of the End: How God Gets Your Bones Out of the Grave and Into His Kingdom (Daniel 12:1–13)

In addition to these sermons, here are a few articles I wrote on Daniel along the way.

May these resources bless you and point you to the Son of Man who now reigns on high. As Daniel foretells, he will soon come and make all things new. That is our great hope, one that we always keep before us.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Reading God’s Word and Seeing God’s World through the Lens of Two Biblical Ages

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For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11b 

Redemptive history has two overlapping ages. And unless you grasp how the new age brings the future into the present, without entirely swallowing up the old age—yet!—you will have a difficult time understanding how the Bible fits together and how God is working in the world. To say it differently, your doctrine, especially your eschatology, will shift off-center if you don’t consider both ages as described in Scripture. Either you will see too much of God’s kingdom present today, or you will withhold too much of the kingdom until some later time period. This approach to the kingdom of God is sometimes called inaugurated eschatology and I have discussed that here.

In what follows, I want to sketch out how necessary it is to see both ages and how the entirety of the Bible depends on rightly grasping this two-age perspective. First, we will consider how the Old Testament teaches us to look forward to a new age. And instead of considering this in the abstract, we will note at least twelve specific expectations given by the prophets, such that when the authors of the New Testament describe them as fulfilled in Christ, they are telegraphing the way that the new age has come. Continue reading

Reading Leviticus Wisely: Moving from Israel’s Sacrifices to Christ without Allegory or Pure Historicism

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“All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable . . .”
2 Timothy 3:16

This is what Paul says when speaking to Timothy about the origin of his faith, and this profitability is true for all parts of Scripture, including Leviticus. Yet, for Leviticus to be profitable, one must avoid pure historical interpretation, an approach to Leviticus that only discerns what priests did back then and what they should do today if the tabernacle was reconstructed and the old covenant were re-enacted. Similarly, for Leviticus to be profitable, one must avoid wild allegory, where every facet of the sacrifice becomes a token of some gospel truth.

Between these two poles, one must deal with the historical context of the book and yet see how the book draws us into a sacrificial system that leads us to Christ. Indeed, because Leviticus reveals to the “pattern” (typos) of worship that God commanded at Sinai (see Exodus 25:40), it is appropriate and necessary to see how Leviticus outlines a series of shadows (types) that find their substance in Christ (cf. Heb. 10:1). Continue reading