Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: Feb, 2020

Question

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was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”

Luke 20:4 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.20.4.ESV

When questioned by unbelievers, it’s tempting to feel obliged to give an answer, or at least to know the answer. But it’s interesting how often Jesus didn’t directly answer questions directed at Him. He knew whether the questions asked were red herrings or not, simply to catch Him out.

It would be amazing to know what people really needed to know when they ask questions. Jesus knows what we need to know whatever questions we may have for Him. The religious leaders were trying to catch Him out, so they asked Him by what authority He was teaching.

The religious leaders wanted to catch Jesus out for the accusations of blasphemy or treason they would eventually have Him crucified for. But Jesus simply sidestepped their question by firing back this verse. Either John’s baptism was heavenly and therefore his teachings to follow Jesus should be followed, or else it was manmade and all the people who followed him were misguided.

The religious leaders didn’t want to admit the truth of John’s teachings. But neither did they want to deny it, because that wouldn’t go down well with the people whose allegiance they craved. So they refused to answer Jesus’ question, and He refused to answer theirs.

“Lord, when people question us, please help us to know what the right response is. Thank You for always knowing how to respond to our questioning. Please help us to trust You whether we get an answer or not. For Your glory, amen”

Holiness

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You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
Leviticus 20:26 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/lev.20.26.ESV

What was true of ancient Israel is true of spiritual Israel, which includes Gentiles grafted in by faith to Israel’s Messiah and the Saviour of the world. Ancient Israel was literally separated from the peoples as the escaped from slavery in Egypt and wandered in Sinai’s desert for forty years. Spiritual Israel might not be required to literally become hermits, but we are to be different to the rest of the world.

Our difference isn’t to be so much the clothes that we wear or the food that we eat. It’s less about the externals and more about the heart. So where the world is full of lust and hatred, we as God’s people are to be pure and loving.

God doesn’t just tell us to do stuff without giving us reasons. We are to be holy because He is holy. Holiness might not be popular, but it is good. We are to be set apart from the world, not that we’re any better, but simply that we’ve received the transformative grace of God.

God wants us for His very own. But we cant be His own unless we’re holy, because He can’t tolerate sin. So we need Him to deal with our sins in Christ and make us holy by His Spirit.

“Holy Lord, we pray that You would make us holy and acceptable in Your sight, through faith in Jesus and by the work of Your Holy Spirit, for the glory of Your name, amen”

Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
Leviticus 17:11 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/lev.17.11.ESV

I think this is the main verse Jehovah’s Witnesses use to say they can’t have blood transfusions. But of course it isn’t forbidding blood transfusions, it’s simply saying that our lives are reliant on blood coursing round our veins. But this verse isn’t simply a biological observation.

Our lives are not dependant on the blood of animals being sacrificed on our behalf. Animal sacrifice was simply an illustration of the fact that without the shedding of blood, there’s no forgiveness of sins. But it can’t just be any old blood.

We need a human sacrifice to atone for our human sin. But we also need a perfect, divine sacrifice. That’s where Jesus comes in, 100% God and 100% man. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I think this verse is suggesting that our life isn’t just found in the blood coursing round our veins. Our life is ultimately purchased for us by the blood shed by Christ at Calvary. Our life is ultimately in the blood of Jesus.

“Father in heaven, we thank You for the blood of Your Son shed on our behalf. We praise You that in His death we have life, to the honour of Your name, amen”

Forgiveness

and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Luke 17:4 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.17.4.ESV

These words of Jesus seem to go against even “Christian” wisdom about sin, confession and repentance. In Christian understanding, if you sin, you should confess and repent. But with Jesus here the onus is on the wronged party to rebuke and to forgive.

We’re often so wrapped up in ourselves and our sins or the wrongs done against us, that we’re not proactive to deal with the sins of our brethren. Even if there’s no confession or apparent repentance, we should confront and forgive. So often we simply smoulder and resent instead.

If we don’t take the initiative to deal with our brethren’s sins, we’re in danger of being consumed with bitterness and rage, sins of our own. So often we allow unforgiveness to gnaw away at our spirits until we become spiritually ugly, nasty people. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean we have to trust the wrongdoer again though.

We assume that repentance is turning around from a destructive direction to a positive destination. It’s like changing direction on a walk when you’re going the wrong way. Jesus however suggests repentance is more of an ongoing thing than a one off event, more of a dance where you have to chose to face off and partner with God rather than the devil.

“Heavenly Father, may we confess, repent, confront and forgive wherever and whenever necessary. For the honour of Your name, amen”

Fasting: Some Lenten Reflections

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:16‭-‬18 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.6.16-18.ESV

Yes I know that Scripturally there is such a thing as communal fasts and that’s fine. But to be honest when it comes to religious fasts like Lent or Ramadan I can’t help of thinking of these words of Jesus.

We often think of fasting as abstaining from something. But Biblically fasting is to deprive ourselves in order to bless others, as Isaiah explains here…

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord ? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.
Isaiah 58:3‭-‬12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.58.3-12.ESV

May God help us to fast in a way that is pleasing to Him and beneficial to us!

Olive

“See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
Psalms 52:7‭-‬8 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.52.7-8.ESV

Here we see two men, the rich man and the Psalmist. The rich man refused to make God his refuge. Instead he trusted in his abundant wealth. We came to this world with nothing and we leave without any stuff so it’s pointless trying to accumulate possessions for security.

In fact, trusting in stuff that only perishes is like taking refuge in destruction. It’s like a foolish man building his house upon the sand. We need to be wise people who build our lives upon Jesus the rock.

We need to take refuge in the only reliable spiritual fortress that is God. We can be like fruitful and beautiful olive trees in the house of God. We can find safety and reliability in Him.

We can and must trust in God’s love forever. I heard a preacher say that Jesus’ blood is enough for Father God so it should be enough for us. Who are we to doubt God’s love, who gives us all good things to enjoy, and didn’t spare His own Son for us?

“God, may we be wise and root ourselves in You. Please don’t let us become foolish and trust in riches which will only be destroyed. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Joy

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
Psalms 51:12‭-‬13 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.51.12-13.ESV

One of the greatest privileges of being saved by God is the joy that He gives us in Him. But if we sin against Him we can lose that joy. That’s what had happened to murderous, adulterous David, so He asked God to restore the joy of his salvation to him.

For several months, David had been unwilling to admit he was wrong. He’d committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband murdered, and married her as though he’d done nothing wrong. But when Nathan confronted him with his sin, he finally admitted his guilt, and asked God to transform him.

It seems hypocritical for David to talk about teaching transgressors God’s ways after all he’d done. But when we’re genuinely repentant, it’s as though we’ve been cured and want other terminally ill people to be healed too. Only a truly repentant heart can genuinely teach transgressors God’s ways.

David was a repentant sinner who had returned to God. And he had faith that through his testimony, others would do the same. May it be the same for us!

“God, we repent of our sins and ask that You would make us joyful blessings to those around us. For Your honour and glory, amen”

Thanksgiving

Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
Psalms 50:13‭-‬14 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.50.13-14.ESV

The questions in verse 13 are clearly rhetorical. Of course God doesn’t eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats! But the Jewish people hoped that by sacrificing such things, they would be made acceptable to God.

Of course, the blood of animals can’t wash away the sins of humanity. But the blood of Jesus that animal sacrifices foreshadowed take away the sin of the world. We may look down on ancient Israel for trusting in animal sacrifices, but we’re no better when we trust in anything other than Jesus for our justification.

Instead of trusting in our own deeds, we are to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for all He’s done and sacrificed for us in Christ. Instead of trusting in ourselves, we’re to trust in Jesus, and as we find Him to be trustworthy, we are filled with thankfulness.

Just because salvation is of the Lord, doesn’t mean to say we don’t need to perform our vows to Him. If we promise God something, we should keep that promise. God is faithful to us, so we are to be faithful to Him.

“Father, we praise You for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus on our behalf. May we be truly thankful and faithful for You. In His name, amen”

Death

For he sees that even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.
Psalms 49:10 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.49.10.ESV

Ultimately, whoever we are, we all face death one day, unless Christ returns first. Wisdom isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t immunised us from death. What wisdom can give us is the wisdom to know we need a Saviour.

Even if we blinker ourselves to our mortality and play the fool, we’re still going to die one day unless Christ first returns. Living in denial isn’t as wise as preparing for an impending death. We need to trust in Jesus if we don’t want to perish without hope.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re rich or poor ultimately. We can’t buy eternal life. We can’t bribe God to stop ourselves dying.

We came into the world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. Anything we might have in this life is a bonus. As a secular song says, “we came to this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing but [ideally God’s] love”. If we receive God’s love we gain eternal life.

“Almighty Lord, please help us to be aware of our own mortality, and help us to prepare for the day we meet You. Please ransom our souls from death, in Jesus’ mighty name, amen”

Anxiety

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Luke 12:25 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.12.25.ESV

This verse taken in isolation could make Jesus seem like a stoic: anxiety’s pointless so just be fatalistic about your mortality instead. That’s not what Jesus is saying however. We see that in the context.

Jesus doesn’t just give us negative commandments like “don’t be anxious”. He gives us positive alternatives, like “trust in me”. Not only so, but He gives us reasons. If God looks after birds of the air, He cares much more for us!

We don’t need to worry about our daily bread because the One who provides for the birds of the air provides for us too. We don’t need to worry about clothing because the One who clothes the earth with vegetation will make sure we’re looked after.

Anxiety won’t help us when death comes knocking. Worry isn’t an antidote to disease. We need to trust God to keep us ticking until our time’s up and we go to meet Him and are ushered into eternity. If we trust Him we need not fear.

“Dear Father in heaven, please forgive us our anxiety and help us to trust You. Please help us to see the pointlessness of worry, for Your glory, amen”