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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • Recommended Reading

The Old Paths are Best

Loraine Boettner D.D.:

We can have no adequate appreciation of this world-order until we see it as one mighty system through which God is working out His plans. Calvin’s clear and consistent theism gave him a keen sense of the infinite majesty of the Almighty Person in whose hands all things lay, and made him a very pronounced predestinarian. In this doctrine of the unconditional and eternal purpose of the omniscient and omnipotent God, he found the program of the history of the fall and redemption of the human race. He ventured boldly but reverently upon the brink of that abyss of speculation where all human knowledge is lost in mystery and adoration.

The Reformed Faith, then, offers us a great God who is really the sovereign Ruler of the Universe. “Its grand principle,” says Bayne, “is the contemplation of the universe of God revealed in Christ. In all places, in all times, from eternity to eternity, Calvinism sees God.” Our age, with its emphasis on democracy, doesn’t like this view, and perhaps no other age liked it less. The tendency today is to exalt man and to give God only a very limited part in the affairs of the world. As Dr. A. A. Hodge has said, “The new theology, asserting the narrowness of the old, is discarding the foreordination of Jehovah as a worn-out figment of the schools, discredited by the advanced culture of today. This is not the first time that the owls, mistaking the shadow of a passing eclipse for their native night, have prematurely hooted at the eagles, convinced that what is invisible to them cannot possibly exist.” (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination)

The Tel Dan Stele

Archaeology and the Bible:

A stele is an upright stone that is inscribed and used as a monument of an important event or achievement. Rulers and groups of people from Egypt, Israel, and across Mesopotamia used these steles to commemorate great victories and accomplishments. The Tel Dan Stele is extraordinary because carved on its stone face is the expression, “House of David.” This stele affirms that the United Monarchy under King David existed in history and flatly contradicts the long-held opinions of skeptics who denied that David ever existed.

A Covenant Christmas

On this second Sunday of Advent, let us consider our covenant making God. It has always been God’s plan to create for Himself a people. We see this clearly in God’s relationship with Abraham. God comes to Abraham and establishes a relationship with him; He establishes a covenant.

A covenant is not just a mutual agreement or contract. It is a binding agreement between two parties that can never be broken on pain of death. God’s part of the covenant was to redeem his people and bring His people back to Him.

The Holy Child who was born on Christmas morning was bringing the fulfillment of God’s covenant. God had come to redeem His people and fulfill His covenant with Abraham. If our justification before God depended on us, it would never happen because we are sinful and unfaithful.

Over and over again we have rejected God and want to be independent of any relationship with Him. God, however, pursues man. God is not content to simply exist in some corner of the kingdom of heaven; He has not wound the world up like a clock and then walked away. Our God is intensely personal.

Christmas is a declaration of God’s faithfulness. Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

God’s covenant with Abraham was singularly one-sided. During the time of Abraham, the practice of making a covenant was to take a Christmas Nativityfew animals and cut them in half from head to tail. The halves were then positioned to form a path between them. The two people making the covenant would walk the path between the separated pieces; saying in effect, “If I break this covenant, may my flesh be ripped apart like these animals.”

In the covenant with Abraham, however, we see that only God walked the covenant path between the animal halves. The Bible tells us, “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.” (Genesis 15:17 ESV) Abraham did not walk between the pieces because Abraham could not keep the terms of the covenant. Therefore, God made a unilateral covenant. Even if Abraham and his descendants could not keep their side of the covenant, God would keep His.

We need to see that Christmas and covenant are linked to God’s eternal plan. We may not see it or understand it, but God is working out His purpose for each of us. Christianity teaches that history is headed somewhere and that it is “His-story”. Life has meaning and God rules over it. God is not asleep somewhere, He is watching over us. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

Most of us would like to have a god who we can manipulate. God will make good His promises and fulfill His covenant, but He will not be put into a box. When Jesus was born, people were probably not thinking much about a covenant fulfilling Christmas. Yet, the night skies were opened and filled with angels. A baby was born and His cry has echoed through the ages. Who would suspect that, through such a small child, God would fulfill His covenant and change the world?

Let us think on God’s covenant with Abraham during this second week of Advent. Remember that God saved Abraham’s son when He did not save His own Son from the sacrifice of the cross. Our God has given us an incredible gift!

 

 

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