Four Threads

No, it’s not the name of a Two Ronnies sketch, but the title of a sermon I preached a couple of months ago at Cuckfield Baptist Church.

Particularly for those who are new to the Bible, it can be difficult to understand context, or to see how all the different bits are a whole. This talk gives some pointers to look for while you read.

Four Threads Through the Bible

Four Threads

Feasting the Soul

Reading the book of Jeremiah can be quite daunting. At first glance it appears to confirm the assessment of Jeremiah as the weeping prophet – full of judgement and hopelessness. But nothing could be further from the truth! The book of Jeremiah is a beacon of hope in the throes of a hopeless situation: the exile of Israel & Judah.

Of course we all have our favourite, go to passages. One of these is chapter 31, which speaks of the New Covenant. But the temptation is to just jump to the bits that we understand and like, and in so doing to miss all that God is saying to his people.

The New Covenant, so wonderfully described in Jeremiah 31 is the foundation on which the community relationship of God with his people is built. It was Israel as a nation who had sinned grievously, and it was Israel as a nation who were judged and punished. They had broken the covenant and had separated themselves from God. The result was that God brought judgement on the whole community – the nation was punished. Their sin was ‘of the now’, it was the immediate satisfaction of the pagan rituals in which they indulged. In exile their here & now became a life of slavery.

But the promise of a New Covenant isn’t just a new foundation, but a new community built on that foundation. Satan would keep us living in the here & now, looking for small pleasures day by day and ignoring God.

God assures us that he has loved us with an everlasting love – it transcends the present. God also promises a life lived together as a community of his people: ‘they will be my people and I will be their God’. This is a life lived singing with gladness. It is a life lived as those who are redeemed, both personally and as God’s people. It is a life lived ‘radiant’ over the goodness of the I AM God. It is a life lived as God’s ‘watered garden’, bountiful in God’s care. It is a life of ‘feasting the soul with abundance’ and of being a people ‘satisfied with his goodness’. This is our hope and expectation, not just for the Day of the Lord and the world to come, but the here and now of God’s people, living in the light of his redemption, his love, his taking us to be his own.

So, let’s live now, in the light of this understanding of who God is and who we are in him, knowing that our life lived now as a community of God’s people, feasting our souls with his abundance and satisfied with his goodness is simply a ‘foretaste of glory divine!’

Feasting the Soul

Rejoicing the Heart – Psalm 19

Who doesn’t need some joy in their hearts? Life seems to be so full of stress and strain, of duties and obligations, of pleasant responsibilities and necessary employment. In the thick of it we can all too easily lose our joy and peace, that which keeps us centred both spiritually and emotionally. For those willing to stop and look there is abundant evidence in the world around us of our Creator God – the heavens are telling the glory of God, and the skies do show his handiwork. And yet there is a natural progression from seeing God in the world around us to wanting to know him more deeply.

This Psalm makes that transition. The law of the Lord in its perfection will revive my soul; his testimony brings me wisdom; his precepts rejoice my heart; his pure command brings light to my eye. This kind of fear of the Lord is cleansing and enduring.

These decrees of the Lord are both true and righteous. This should be my ultimate desire – to seek after and to find the word of the Lord active in my life, bringing revival, wisdom, rejoicing, light – hope. This love of the Lord and seeking to know him through his word is what will ultimately preserve me, guard me, and bring me great joy.

May this attitude of heart fill my desires, and may this constitute my thoughts and my speech in the light of the knowledge of and in the presence of my God, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Rejoicing the Heart – Psalm 19

What to do with the coming year…

There’s a gap in our history of the apostle Paul. In Galatians 1:17 Paul himself alludes to it, but gives no more detail than the fact that he went to Arabia for a while. I don’t often speculate, but in this case I think I have fairly firm ground.

Paul was steeped in the law. He knew the Jewish Scriptures inside out. We was versed in all the prophecies. But he was wrong about how it all fitted together. My dad says that prophecy without fulfilment is like having a jigsaw puzzle without having the picture on the lid – you won’t know how it all goes together until you can see the whole picture. Paul had all the pieces, but he didn’t have the completed picture.

When he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul was given the the whole picture; he realised that Jesus was the Christ, the fulfilment of all the Law, the prophecies and promises. That left Paul with a lot of pieces to rearrange. I believe that Paul left the country until he had put all the pieces of the jigsaw together, according to the picture that he now had. It would have taken some time for Paul to take all that he had known, and make sense of it on the basis of his new found understanding. Paul speaks of this in his letters as ‘the mystery revealed’.

And so, once Paul had got the revealed mystery understood in his own mind he came back so that he could share this understanding that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s great plan, that Jesus is all the Law and the Prophets. This mystery revealed, this light bulb moment for Paul drove the rest of his life.

In his letter to the Colossian christians Paul says this:

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:1–3”

Whatever your hopes or desires are for the coming year, this hope transcends all, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is in Christ. Paul’s desire was that all might know, and he struggled with all his might to share this understanding. For us, we should take this for our own. We have the mystery revealed, we know Jesus is the Christ. Let’s do what Paul did. Let’s determine this year to know God and his Son through the Word that he gave us. Let’s put all those pieces together in our own minds and let’s share that knowledge with anyone who will listen.

So, my goal for the coming year is to read God’s word, to prayerfully study and consider, and to put together the pieces of God’s eternal plan in my own heart, and then to pass on what I have learned, to whoever will listen.

What to do with the coming year…