The story of Saul’s Damascus road conversion stands as a pivotal moment in the beginnings of the the Church. Here are some thoughts on that event.
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.
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!’
When all you want to do is walk away from it all, where do you get your hope? This message encourages us to look where Jesus shines out – the Scriptures.
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.