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Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Struggle of the Seeds - The Serpent as the Servant of God

If you have been following this series, the Struggle of the Seeds, you know there is a theme that can be traced through the biblical storyline beginning in Genesis 3, wherein the devil and those who belong to him seek to destroy those who belong to the Lord, with the ultimate aim of thwarting redemption in the coming Christ. There is enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, but eventually the seed of the woman prevails.  

We have looked at two examples in Genesis (here and here), but by no means have we exhausted the theme there. Our objective is to look at just a few examples throughout the Bible so that as we each read on our own, the theme will become more obvious wherever it is found.

Today, we consider just one picture in Exodus. As you may know, at the end of Genesis, God had given Joseph, and therefore all Israel, favor in Pharaoh’s sight. Yet, in Exodus 1:8 we find a foreboding statement: Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.

The Israelites had multiplied like mad—as God told Abraham they would (Gen 15:5)—and the Egyptians were afraid that these people would overwhelm and overthrow them (Exo 1:7-10). So the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites—as God told Abraham they would (Gen 15:13; Exo 1:11). Yet, the more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they multiplied (Exo 1:12). In the eyes of Pharaoh, something more drastic had to be done.

It’s no leap to think of Pharaoh as the seed of the serpent. According to historians and archaeologists—and even Hollywood—he wore a serpent on his crown! More importantly, remember that we have defined the seed of the serpent, based upon biblical allusions, as anyone who belongs to the devil, particularly identified by their hatred for the people of God. If there is a biblical figure who qualifies, it would be Pharaoh. His idea of a reasonable solution to the problem before him was infanticide: Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live” (Exo 1:15-16).

The seed of the serpent commanded the murder of the seed of the woman.

But the Hebrew midwives obeyed God rather than men (Exo 1:17; cf Acts 5:29). Not one to give up so easily, Pharaoh turned to his own people, commanding them, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live” (Exo 1:22). 

Recall that in Genesis 3:15, it was predicted that the seed of the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. The text of Exodus does not say, but we can only assume that a great many Hebrew boys were drowned in the Nile. This should call our attention forward to another seed of the serpent, Herod, enacting a similar horror to kill the ultimate seed of the woman, Jesus, by killing all the young boys of Bethlehem, an atrocity recorded in Matthew 2:16 and foreseen by Jeremiah (31:15). However, like God’s providential preservation of his ultimate seed in Matthew, He preserves a seed in Exodus 2 in extraordinary and ironic fashion.

Genesis 3:15 predicts not only the bruising of the heal of the seed of the woman, but the crushing of the head of the serpent. We know that this finally happens when Christ will toss the serpent of old into the lake of fire on the last day (Rev 20:10), but it happens over and over in the biblical storyline in a precursory manner as the seeds of the serpent are crushed by the people of God. We’ll not walk through the whole story here, but in Exodus 2:1-10, we find that one Hebrew baby is not only preserved, but raised under Pharaoh’s nose in Pharaoh’s own household with Pharaoh’s own resources. In a sense, Pharaoh would raise the instrument of his own demise. He sought to subjugate the people of God and kill any chance they might have for freedom. God used Pharaoh’s own home as the incubator for a deliverer who would do precisely what Pharaoh wanted to prevent. Pharaoh wanted to put the seed of the woman at the bottom of the Nile; instead, he raised the man through whom God would put the seed of the serpent at the bottom of the Red Sea.


This is a key element of the theme of the Struggle of the Seeds. God doesn’t simply work around the serpent’s efforts to thwart His plan. So mighty and awesome and wise and terrible is the sovereign power of God that the serpent’s efforts to thwart His plan end up serving that plan. Though a mortal enemy, the serpent is an unwitting and unwilling servant of God.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

To Shine or Not to Shine: A Textual Tug of War?

In the message on Sunday (The Exile's Battle & Witness - 1 Peter 2:11-12), we considered the impact of our conspicuous godliness on our gospel mission. Peter indicates that part of proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness is not only verbally proclaiming the gospel, but also living obviously godly lives.  In 1 Peter 2:12, he wrote, Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Some of you may have wondered on Sunday how to reconcile this with something Jesus said in Matthew.  Didn’t Jesus say to His disciples in Matt 6:1, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven”?   Essentially, Peter instructs us to let our godliness be seen, yet, it seems Jesus warns against the same thing.  So does Peter contradict Jesus here?  
Maybe a more important question is, did Jesus contradict Jesus?  Jesus gave that warning in Matt 6:1, but also said in 5:16, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  So does Jesus want us to let people see our good works or not?  What are we to make of this?
What Jesus condemns in Matt 6 is both the motive of self-recognition and the heart of hypocrisy.  So first, the Pharisees wanted to be seen to make much of themselves.  But in Matt 5 and in 1 Peter 2, the objective is to make much of God.  Second, the Pharisees were hypocrites.  They were whitewashed tombs, as Jesus characterized them in Matt 23.  They were doing outward deeds that were not indicative of inward faith.  Conversely, the contexts of Matt 5 and 1 Peter 2 make it clear that the works that glorify God are not mere outward acts of piety that even the unregenerate can do, but include things like being reviled and not reviling in return, something no Pharisee could ever do.  

Read the Beatitudes at the beginning of Matt 5.  The qualities in the Beatitudes are the “light” that Jesus talks about in 5:16.  Likewise, in 1 Peter, the idea is that we must live lives that have truly been transformed so that we are doing things that fallen people don’t do and can’t do.  They can’t willingly suffer for doing good, like Jesus did.  They will kick against the goads.  Only the transforming power of the gospel can create consistent conduct like that.  The motive is not so that anyone will look at us and say, “holy cow, you’re amazing,” but rather, so that others will say, “this gospel is true; glory to God.”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

100th Episode of Truth & Circumstances!


Our 100th episode of Truth & Circumstances is rapidly approaching.  To mark the occasion, we are doing several things to celebrate.
  • We’re holding a contest for the best question.  Like last time, “best” means the question that makes the judges most quickly say, “I really want to hear an answer to that!”  The contest has already begun—it started with the posting of Episode 96: “How Can I Help a High Maintenance Person?”
  • We’re broadening the field, so to speak, when it comes to questions that qualify.  Typically, we ask for circumstantial questions.  For this contest, you can ask any biblical, theological, ethical, or circumstantial question.  The sky is the limit.  The only questions that cannot win are anonymous questions (for the obvious reason that we wouldn’t know who to award) and questions that have already been answered (you know who you are).
  • The winning question will be awarded…a $50 gift certificate to missionalwear.com. Don’t know about missionalwear.com? Just click missionalwear.com! They carry all kinds of products for the enthusiastically reformed: apparel, mugs, journals, bible covers, busts of your favorite Reformers…even cutting boards!  That’s right—you can get a cutting board laser-engraved with the five Solas.  
  • The winning question will be answered on…the 100th episode, which will be live-streamed on Facebook on Tuesday, March 12 at 7pm. The live-stream will allow for realtime interaction between the T&C crew and anyone watching.
  • The winning question will be answered by…a special guest.  Don’t get too excited; it’s not John Piper.  But like many of the reformers featured on missionalwear.com, he is a bearded pastor/theologian whom I greatly admire.  We can’t wait to hear from him on the winning question.   

Tell your friends, tell your family, and ask those questions by submitting them on the Contact Us page at truthandcircumstances.com.  Then tune in (log on) to the live-stream on March 12 to see if you won!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Psalm 62: The Exclusively Sufficient God

The Bible is full of exclusive language.

John 14:6: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Revelation 15:4: For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.
Acts 4:12: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Deuteronomy 4:39: Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.


David uses exclusive language in Psalm 62, but it has a different feel.

1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

The exclusivity that some find to be offensive and intolerant, David finds an unspeakable comfort. He understands the intensely practical outworking of there being only one Almighty God: man can have the utmost confidence in Him – He is God and there is no other.

God has made no room for others to be worshiped and He has made no room for others to truly comfort the soul of man. God is an exclusive God and He has built that exclusivity into the heart of man in such a way that there is only One in whom he may find rest and peace and hope and salvation.  He alone is worthy of worship. He alone is able to bring true rest.

The foundation of his confidence in God is his conviction of the sufficiency of God: I shall not be greatly shaken.  What great confidence in that statement! He knows that he will not be shaken because he knows that God is sufficient. This confidence in the sufficiency of God is contrasted with a complete lack of faith in men.

3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. 

Over the course of David’s life, he had ample opportunities to witness the depraved nature of mankind. King Saul hunted him relentlessly for some 13 years. Then David himself committed adultery and murder. In his own family he found rape, murder, and rebellion. David, in the hour of need, knew that he could not trust man.

We would do well to learn that lesson ourselves. When we are oppressed, rather than trusting in the sufficiency of God alone, we often reach out to man’s wisdom for help. Psychology, philosophy, and man-centered self-help become our tools of choice for dealing with our problems. But none of those things have anything on God Almighty. Not only is God the only trustworthy source of help, He is the only capable one. For David, one look at the sinfulness of men leads him to declare again the exclusivity and sufficiency of God in vv5-7.

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 

The Psalmist then moves on to exhort all the godly to put their trust in God rather than men.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah 9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

Men are but vapors. They are a delusion, he says. Think about that. He did not say they are deluded. He said they are a delusion. They will lead you astray. They will blind you. God alone is our refuge. Trust only in Him.

Having removed the possibility of mortal man as a help in times of trouble, David then moves on to the most worshiped god in our culture, material wealth. Whether ill-gotten or honestly earned, in the end, setting our hope in the riches of earth is just a form of self-reliance. But the Psalmist exhorts us to trust in God. Seek after God. Patiently wait for God. Do not set your hope on riches. Why? God alone is sufficient.

David was a man who lacked nothing. He had great material wealth, numerous wives, and he knew how to handle himself in a fight. In many ways, David could be considered one of the most likely people in history to feel a sense of self-sufficiency.

But he didn’t. He ends this psalm with another statement of his confidence in God:

11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.
God is all-powerful. God is loving. God is perfectly just. That cannot be said of anyone else. He alone is sufficient. He alone is God.

What concerns you today? Whatever it may be, it provides you with an opportunity to trust in the Lord, rest in the Lord, and wait on the Lord as David did in his darkest hour. Men will fail you. Money will fail you. You will fail yourself. But God fails none who trust in Him.

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