Monday, March 28, 2011


Jonah is a book that everyone loves to teach to their kids. Except they glance over about half of it and leave out the most important parts. In fact when I think back to all the children’s stories about Jonah I can’t remember the point of the story (if there was any). Yet there is such a great point to Jonah that children would love and that we all need to hear!

I’m sure we’ve all heard Jonah’s story, so I won’t bore you with the details. Jonah’s hatred for Nineveh & its people makes him flee in the opposite direction. The ironic thing is, even when Jonah tries to run from his God-given calling, God still uses him to spread his kingdom. After throwing Jonah overboard, the sailors on the ship “feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows” (1:16). Jonah’s trying to flee from job, and God still makes him do his job! How futile it is for us to run from God & our God-given calling. What great power & grace God has to still work through us to spread His reign on earth! God works through us, even when we refuse to. God cares so much about His people that He will work even when we refuse to, yet He still calls us to be His messengers.

Then Jonah gets swallowed by a fish and stays there for three days and three nights. And he prays a prayer that is often brushed over, yet it is so beautiful. Jonah finds himself in the pit of despair, what he calls the “belly of Sheol” (2:2), yet God still hears him when Jonah cries out to Him. Through the prayer, Jonah uses imagery from his current situation to describe how his sin has crushed down upon him to take his life. Yet in those times God hears our prayer and saves us from the crushing depths of sin. Jonah’s prayer ends with the great exclamation that “salvation belongs to the LORD” (2:10).

So then Jonah goes to Nineveh and they repent and God has mercy upon them. And Jonah gets ticked off at God’s mercy! So ticked he wishes to die (4:3)! How often do we think about God’s mercy to all people and feel absolutely pissed off that God could have mercy on that adulterer, murderer, rapist or what have you and forgive their sins in the name of Christ and bring them to heaven. That’s a really hard pill to swallow, in fact it might even be impossible. But we have to ask are we any different? Have you looked at someone with lust in your heart? Have you thought a hateful word toward your neighbour? Then Jesus says that you are no better than that murderer or adulterer. You are a sinner and deserve hell just as much as those we house in our prisons.

God shows His care for the world in a gigantic object lesson using an actual tree (cause God can do that). He brings up this tree to give Jonah shade in the hot desert sun. And Jonah is happy and loves that tree.Yet the next day that tree withers and dies. And Jonah is once again pissed off and wants to die. So God asks, “Is it worth getting angry for this plant?” To which Jonah gives his emphatic “Yes!” (4:9) So God tells him that he’s cared so much for this plant, which he did not create, he didn’t labour to make it grow, and came and passed at night. So why shouldn’t God care for His creatures in Nineveh that He created and laboured to make them grow to a city of 120 000? Is the plant really worth more than them? God cares not only for them, but even for the cattle that live in the city, and desires that they too would be welcomed into His grace. God cares for you too, no matter how sinful, evil or worthless you think you might be, you are worth His own life. And He makes you holy and righteous. God cares for you and all people of the world, no matter how evil we think they are. God so loves the world. That’s the point of Jonah.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

God Brings Life

Here is my sermon from March 20, 2011. The text is John 3:1-17.


Today we take a look at a oft neglected, rarely read book: Obadiah. You can find him in between Amos and Jonah, but don't flip too fast, you'll end up missing him. Obadiah is a different book in that it doesn't seem to be addressed primarily to Israel but one of their neighbours and enemies: Edom. Through Obadiah God pronounces judgement on this little nation that has cheered, looted and mocked the defeat and destruction of Israel. God often uses the prophets to pronounce judgement on other nations, but rarely does one prophet give the other nations most of the air time. Yet these judgements prove that God is not just the God of Israel, but of all the world. Obadiah tells Edom and all the world that this Day of the Lord that the prophets keep talking about won't be for Israel alone. Israel isn't the only one affected by the Day of the Lord, but the whole world will fall under the judgement that God brings on the day that Christ returns. And in that day, Jesus, the saviour who will rule from Mt. Zion shall rule over all the world, even to Mt. Esau (21).

A shorter reflection for a very short book.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Amos is a book that is famous for its focus on social justice. And deservedly so. The point I think there might be some disagreement is on the why. Why does Amos focus so much on social justice? Is it because God’s people should make God’s kingdom on earth, a part of which is social justice? And so would not doing social justice and helping to bring that kingdom into this world be a sin?

Amos doesn’t say that.

What Amos does say is that those who seek the Lord “hate evil and love good” (5:15). Those whom God has made His people do good and love good. They do good things; they love their neighbour, provide, care for and protect him. They do social justice because it is good, not in an effort to bring some semblance of God’s kingdom onto earth. They love, just like God loves them (see 1 John 4:19).

This is what the Israelites weren’t doing (see Amos 2:7). God’s people weren’t loving their neighbour (unless it helped them), or caring for them (too busy caring for themselves), or protecting him, (but exploiting him [4:1]). That’s just what high class affluent businessmen do. That’s just what we sinners do. Oh, come on, how many times have you turned a good deed and thought about the wind fall that could come of it?

So God says, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (5:24). So justice does roll on all Israel, with their total and complete destruction. And so it does on every sinner, with their total and complete destruction. Ouch.

So, then, what’s the Gospel? God’s not done with Israel. He will restore them through Israel boiled down to one. Jesus does what Israel couldn’t and lives faithfully under God’s law. He loves cares for, and providing for His neighbour perfectly. And Jesus also goes to the cross where He pays for the sins of all sinners who put themselves ahead of others. Through Him righteousness flows like an ever flowing stream, covering us completely in His righteousness. And through Him Israel will be restored when He returns on the Last Day and gives all the new creation to the New Israel (all those who trust in Christ as the Messiah/Saviour of the world). “I will plant them on their land and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land I have given them” (9:15).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It didn’t take long to read this short, and often forgotten, book. Yet I found it very interesting this book that’s seems steeped in eschatology (the end of all things).

The book begins by referencing a locust swarm that has devastated the land (Joel 1:2-12). (To get a better understanding of locust swarms and what Joel is talking about, watch this video: This image of a multitude of invaders pops up again and again in Joel’s writing and plays a key part in his understanding of the day of the Lord.

Anyway, Joel uses this natural disaster as a call for repentance. He calls for the people to recognize their sin and their need for God’s forgiveness (Joel 1:12-20). So complete is the destruction brought by the locusts that even the beasts are left suffering, panting for the provision that God promises to all the earth (1:20). This image of the locust swarm destroying all the plants of the land seems to be the template as Joel contemplates the day of the Lord. As complete as the destruction of a locust swarm can be, the destruction on the day of the Lord is even worse. The heading usually put on this section (2:1-11) is “The Day of the Lord,” but as I read it I can’t help but wonder if maybe this is a reference to the destruction wrought sin, the devil and his minions. The Garden of Eden, which God created as perfect, has been destroyed by sin and the devil. It corrupts everything that God has made good, leaving desolation and death in its wake. Even man is not spared by their onslaught, but are corrupted themselves and subject to death. Who indeed can endure the day of the Lord, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?

And so the call for repentance and turning to God is repeated, “for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and He relents over disaster” (2:13). God promises to restore all that was lost to Israel with the coming of the swarm, so much that they will know that He is in their midst and that He alone is their God (2:18-27). More than that He will give to all people His Spirit and “show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke” (2:30). I found it interesting that the first in this list was blood. Perhaps a connection to the Exodus, when the Nile turned to blood. And perhaps pointing to the future, when the Lord would spill His own blood for the sin of the world. When He would be the lamb that pays the price for all sin and restores His people to Himself. When He would speak from the cloud (smoke??) that Jesus of Nazareth is His Son, with whom He is well pleased and who will take the sin of the world upon His shoulders and die for them all.

Joel closes with a decree of judgement on the nations that reject Him and oppress the people of Judah (3:1-16). And then a final message of hope for the future of Judah, being supplied by Lord from the house of the Lord. The New Jerusalem, the home and hope of all Christians, is not something that will last until some other Adam and Eve come along, but will stand forever in the love and mercy of our Almighty God.

Monday, March 14, 2011


During the season of Lent (a season in the church year that encourages repentance and focus on the cross) my wife and I decided that we would give up our personal reading time. What I mean by that is that we have given the time we would normally spend reading novels or such things and instead use that time to read the Bible. I decided that I would start to read the minor prophets, beginning with Hosea.

I just finished Hosea and would like to post my reflections on the book. The book of Hosea was written primarily to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, though Judah makes several appearance too. Hosea is a book of pretty heavy law as he convicts the people Israel, and Judah, of their sin of faithlessness toward God. But Hosea also contains some beautiful gospel as he records the great mercy that God will have on His people.
The book opens pretty quick with a larger than life object lesson. Hosea marries a whore, whom he must constantly chase after and buy back whenever she resumes her profession. In this way Hosea demonstrates for Israel God’s mercy for His people as He has constantly come to them to buy them back from their faithlessness, which has brought them under the firm hand of an oppressor. It also points to God’s act of coming to and buying all His people, the whole world, back from their sin. Like Hosea’s wife we constantly flee away from God and sin against Him. Yet still God comes to us in His Word and reminds us of how He bought us back by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

Hosea and his wife also have children, who take part in this great object lesson. One of their sons is called “Not My People” since the sin of Israel has separated them from God (Hos 1:9). Their daughter is called “No Mercy” since God will show no mercy in punishing Israel for her sin. Yet God gives them the promise that on the Day of the Lord, God will show mercy on His people and that the people will once again belong to Him. Not because of anything that they have done, but because God will bind them to Him in righteousness. All of this God does for us in Jesus Christ, who gives us His righteousness and in whom we find God’s mercy for us.
Much of Hosea deals with the lack of knowledge that the people have for the Lord. God makes an accusation to the priests of Israel for their failure in their office to teach the people about God’s covenant, His promises and His work for them. Hosea makes it clear that this is what God wants from His people, rather than sacrifice and burnt offerings (Hos 6:6). So often we treat God as having His little block of time on Sunday and then the rest is for us and us alone. That is hardly God’s idea of devotion. Trust in God, strengthened by knowledge of Him which is centred on the cross, that is devotion that is pleasing to God.

There is so much in Hosea, much more than I can put here. But the prophet closes his book by declaring the great love of God for His people. God promises to heal Israel of their apostasy and be the tree that gives them their fruit. Indeed we all sin and turn away from God, but God has healed us through His Son Jesus Christ. Apart from His there is no saviour (Hos 13:4) and He will look after us and answer us (Hos 14:8). The last words of Hosea exhort everyone (seems sorta universal to me) to know and understand these things, since God’s way is always right. Yet the transgressor stumbles in them, they are an offence to him. It is the offence of the cross, that God’s justice was satisfied in Jesus Christ, that by the death of one man we have been given life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Faith Is More Certain than Seeing

Here is the sermon for last Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday. The text is 2 Peter 1:16-21.