Restoration vs. Reconstruction (Jeremiah 30:1–24)

rome-974294_1920

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (Jeremiah 30:8–9).

I’m no Rushdoony Reconstructionist, nor a Bahnsen Theonomist but I do believe the law of God informs the Christian concerning justice and truth. It tells us, with absolute authority, what to advocate for and what to protest against. Still, and here’s the kicker, the cultural mandate is a mandate, not a promise. So, if you’ve got a few of those fancy five dollar theology words in your back pocket, you might venture I’m not a postmillennialist. Roger that. But don’t then libel me a pessi-millennialist. I am opti-millennialist. I am optimistic; fully believing that the kingdom has broken in and will fully come. This age is fading away like a mist. The age to come is raining down and a deluge is coming. God will gather every soul which the blood of Christ has ransomed and not lose one. His glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea and His praises will be sung in every language. Nothing happens but that which advances His kingdom according to His plan. Our God never sounds retreat. His strategies may confound us, but we privates shouldn’t doubt the strategy of the general. After all, He did deal the deceive blow by clothing Himself in weakness and dying on the cross. In other words, I’m not optimistic about man’s obedience to the cultural mandate. I’m optimistic concerning the church’s obedience to the great commission, though not because of the church herself, but because all authority has been given to Christ who has promised to be with her.

This world is a Babylon and it is doomed. Whist we remain, let us seek her welfare, for in it, we will find our own. Our hope is not in a Babylon built up, but torn down. Our hope is not in Babylon redeemed, but destroyed. Our hope is not Babylon lifted up, but Jerusalem coming down (Jeremiah 29:10).

When the bonds of Babylon are burst, we then serve Yahweh our God and the Son of David, our King, whom He has raised up for us. These burst bonds do not result in any Bolshevik Revolution. The tyranny of the one is not to be replaced with the anarchy of the many. Neither is the hope a democratic republic founded on God’s law. No, the hope Jeremiah speaks of is a monarchial theocracy. Our hope is neither that of Animal Farm, nor Manor Farm, but of Narnia. As Trufflehunter explained to the irascible Nikabrik,

“I’m a beast, I am, and a Badger what’s more. We don’t change. We hold on. I say great good will come of it. This is the true King of Narnia we’ve got here: a true King, coming back to true Narnia. And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a son of Adam was King.”

Yes, our King sits at the right hand of the Father ruling the nations, but things will not be made fully right until those nations are ultimately broken with a rod of iron, Zion descends, and His throne is manifestly established on earth. Then, things will be put to right. Then, all will be restored. This mountain is built, not by the nations, but on top of their crushed rubble. Our part is to be faithful to God’s law within the city of man, preaching His gospel, our hope—the gospel of Christ and the city of God ruled by His King.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 30:1–24 || Restoration || Josh King

Why then the Law? (Galatians 3:19–25)

blur-close-up-court-531970.jpg

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” —Galatians 3:19

The law is not a ladder for men to climb up towards self-righteousness, but a pit to fall into realization of the depths of our depravity. The law is the nail in the coffin of efforts at self-righteousness, showing man that he is dead in his trespasses and sins.

This is not to say that the law is contrary to the gospel (3:21), for the gospel speaks to none but sinners. One cannot hear the gospel unless their ears have been slapped by the law and are ringing with guilt. Luther comments,

“The Law with its function does contribute to justification—not because it justifies, but because impels one to the promise of grace and makes it sweet and desirable. Therefore we do not abolish the Law; but we show its true function and use, namely, that it is a most useful servant impelling us to Christ.”

But we have glazed over the mirror of the law, so that men may delude themselves they are more attractive than they are. We have not allowed the full weight of the heavy hammer of the law to crush the consciences of men. We have not preached the law so that sinners hear the prison door clink behind them and feel the coldness of their cell of death. We have not proclaimed God’s law such that they feel it’s discipline and long for the maturity of sonship in the Son. The gospel isn’t sweet, because the bitterness of the law isn’t tasted. Men do not thrust themselves on Christ in despair of themselves because they’ve never seen the terrors of Mount Sinai so that they cry out for a Mediator.

We must do what the Puritans referred to as “law work” before we herald the good news of the gospel. Yes, may we ever revel in the gospel. But this means preaching the law. Not as a means of justification, but to cause men to despair of any hope of self-justification. Let us preach the law so that men may see the depth of their sinfulness, their total depravity, their wickedness that permeates their every faculty such that they do not love God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their mind as He is worthy of being loved.

And then, once the image of the mirror horrifies, once the hammer has crushed, once the prison door has clinked loud, then may we proclaim that though we have not loved God, He has loved us and sent His Son to keep the law as our righteousness and to suffer the just wrath of God for all our lawbreaking.

Then we will marvel. Then we will weep. Then we will rejoice. Then we will sing.

The Exegetical Systematician: Immoral but never Amoral

The law of God extends to all relations of life. This is so because we are never removed from the obligation to love and serve God. We are never amoral. We owe devotion to God in every phase and department of life. —John Murray, The Nature of Sin

Commanded Love (Exodus 35:1–29)

God commands a voluntary giving in Exodus 35. If you can’t make sense of that, you can’t make sense of any of God’s commands because they all deal with the heart. God always demands more than outward obedience. All of God’s commands demand all of us.

Fallen man cannot understand the beauty of God commanding, “You shall love me.” Imagine a princess being blinded to the beauty of the prince who was once her greatest love and deepest joy. Instead, she hates him, irrationally, as intensely as she once adored him. Imagine a command came from him, to love him, with a power that awakened what was commanded. So it is with God’s commands. They do not constrain, they free.

Fallen man’s darkened, authority-hating, idol-loving hearts cannot conceive of love being commanded. Which proves we understand neither love nor authority. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).” So often, we believe those who love us say things like, “Do whatever makes you happy.” God sovereignly, with all wisdom says, “Only I can make you happy, all else is an illusion.” Then, for those He has redeemed, He speaks with liberating power, “You shall love the LORD your God with all.”

And so it is, when God commands, we receive. Obeying God’s commands is like a hammer finally hitting a nail after years of having tried to unscrew a screw. God’s commands are telling the adventurous beached whale, “Go back to the sea,” or the foolish bird, “You were not made to slither. Soar!” In all true God-enabled and faith-driven obedience to God’s commands, we ever remain the beneficiaries. Obeying God’s commands isn’t like being choked, but finally breathing.

Mountains Don’t Float (Exodus 19:1–8)

Contra Avatar, mountains don’t float. As a statue has a pedestal, so mountains have a foundation—a huge foundation. As Israel approaches the mountain of God’s law, it has a huge foundation and that foundation is grace.

When Israel comes to Sinai, Yahweh has delivered them, He has redeemed them, they are His people. The blood of the passover lamb has been spilt and applied. Grace covers them. The mountain of God’s law is surrounded by a thick perimeter of grace. Sinai, for the people of God, rests on the foundation of a continent of grace. This is the way God’s children come to the mountain of God’s law. Redeemed sons and daughters, if you’re hearing God speak His ten words from the fire, you’re standing on a continent of grace.

When good parents bring an adopted child home, one of the first loving things they do is explain the house rules. They don’t give the house rules so that the child can become a son. They give the house rules because the child is a son.

The problem we have is that the “ifs” of the law (Exodus 19:5) make us think we must do to become sons. So we either ignore the rules as impossible, or, we’re obsessed with earning covenant love. Children of the King should do neither. What do we make of this “if”? I take this “if” the same we we see it in the New Testament in the New Covenant.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1–2 ESV).

[H]e has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:22-23 ESV)

The “adopted” child can still be disinherited. Do I mean they can lose their salvation? No, they can prove they never had it. Adoption didn’t really happen. They were just in the home pretending. When God saves a soul He makes them His child and He does this from the inside out causing them to be born again and made new. They’re different. God’s salvation goes long. Calvin put it this way, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone: just as it is the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is not alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light.”

Listen to the “if” of Colossians 1 again. “He has reconciled…if you continue in the faith.” He doesn’t say He will reconcile you if you continue in the faith. The continuing in the faith is necessary not to merit the reconciliation but to demonstrate the reconciliation. Continuing in the faith doesn’t make sons, it marks sons. This is what John was getting at when he wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19).” Not everyone in the house is a son. Not all who claim to be sons are sons.

For those redeemed by the blood of the lamb, the law isn’t what must be done for salvation, it is what salvation does. Salvation is unto the restoration of the rule of God over the hearts of man. Under His rule, we are saved from sin, both its guilt and its power, to serve and glorify the Lord in obedience.

The law cannot lead to your justification, but it does lead either toward damnation or in sanctification. If the law is not leading you in sanctification, the foundation of justification isn’t there. You’re not standing on the continent of grace. You’re trying to make this mountain float, but it won’t. If the law doesn’t rest on the foundation of God’s grace, it will rest on you in damnation.

Compare, Contrast, and Transition (Exodus 18)

Why is this story here? “Well, it happened,” one retorts. Indeed, but the Biblical authors are selective. We’re never told everything, so why are we told of this event? Why is it given such attention? I believe this story primarily does three things. It compares, it contrasts, and it transitions.

It compares Moses and Israel, showing how they are similar.

It contrasts Amalek and Jethro, showing how they are different.

It transitions us to Sinai.

But to heighten and emphasize this, let me ask again, why is this story here? Often in the Scripture we find that events are arranged generally in a chronological way, but also, immediately in a theological way. As you read through the Gospels you will sometimes find a different order of events. The intent of the gospels isn’t to tell you the exact historical chronology, but to reveal the theological truth the episodes teach us about Christ. Generally, in the big scope, things are presented chronologically: Jesus’ birth, then His ministry, then His crucifixion, then His resurrection. But immediately, the arrangement is theological. This is often the case in all the Bible.

In Deuteronomy 1:8–19 there’s a very similar account to this one. Similar, I believe, because it recalls the same instance. There we have an account that complements this one, looking at it from a different perspective and tells us when exactly this takes place chronologically. When you read the context before and after, notably Deuteronomy 1:6, 19, it’s clear this happens as Israel readies to depart from Sinai. So, in Exodus, why here now? To compare Moses and Israel at this point, to contrast Amalek and Jethro, and to transition to Sinai.

Moses’ exile is a mini-exodus. Moses departs Exodus with Pharaoh wanting kill him. He was a sojourner in a foreign land, Egypt, but God brought him the place of his father’s wanderings to dwell among distant cousins. He comes to Horeb where he sins against God’s commands. Finally compliant to journey where God commands, he first returns to the mountain to be reunited with Aaron.

Now again, at Horeb, there is a reunion with family. Israel too has been delivered from the sword of Pharaoh. Having sojourned in Egypt, they’re traveling to the place promised to them, but first they come to Horeb, where they too will disobey the God who reveals Himself in fire.

Moses and Israel are compared. Amalek and Jethro are contrasted. The nations oppose Israel, but they also are grafted in. Amalek came and fought (17:8); Jethro came and inquired of Moses’ welfare (18:5–7). In 17:9 Joshua chooses men to fight, in 18:25, upon Jethro’s advice, men are chosen to judge. Previously Moses sat with the staff of God in his hand (17:12), now he sits in judgment (18:13). In both instances Moses does this all day and needs help. The parallels draw out the contrast. Amalek does not fear God (Deuteronomy 25:17). Jethro rejoices (18:9), blesses (18:10), and glorifies Yahweh (18:11). Then he offers sacrifices to God and has a covenant meal with Moses, Aaron, and the elders (18:12).

This compare and contrast sets up a a transition to Sinai. Jethro’s good advice helps Moses apply the law of God. But as this law is applied, don’t miss this, this mountain is surrounded by grace. We’re reminded of the grace shown to Moses, and to Israel, and we see a Gentile graciously grafted into the olive tree of Israel in the shadow of Sinai. Jethro’s wisdom helps the law be applied so that God’s people go to their place in peace (18:23). For the redeemed of God, His law is surrounded by grace.

The Penning Pastor: Unlawful Roots

Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes. This is the root of self-righteousness, the grand reason why the Gospel of Christ is no more regarded, and the cause or that uncertainty and inconsistence in many, who, though they profess themselves teachers, understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. —John Newton, Works, Vol. 1

The Pilgrim: Sweeping the Dusty Parlour of Our Heart

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, Bring hither the water, and sprinkle the room; the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

CHR. Then said Christian, What means this?

INTER. The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest, that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to shew thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue.[Rom. 7:6; 1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 5:20]

Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee, that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. [John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; Acts 15:9; Rom. 16:25,26; John 15:13] – John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

Matthew 15:1-20 & Holiness is a Dance

In the Old Testament Israel was drowning on one side of a boat. God delivered them. To prevent drowning again on that side of the boat they decided to throw themselves off the other side. To avoid falling off the starboard side of the vessel into the ocean of pagan libertinism, they jumped off the port side into the ocean Pharisaical legalism.

The Pharisees evaluated every boundary that the Bible establishes, and then tried to move the fence a few yards back, thus their traditions became more revered than the law. They thought that if you kept the traditions, you would never get close to breaking the law. But any time man tries to draw his own lines, his concern isn’t holiness, it’s sin. The Pharisees are like the lust filled adolescent who asks, “How far is too far?” I have no doubt that Jesus would reply to them as He did the rich young ruler, “One step, one thought, one glance, one touch!” The inflamed teen who asks this question, isn’t concerned about pursing purity, but lust. They want to know how close they can get to sin and be “ok.” Wanting to walk a line close to sin, is sin. It is the worship of sin.

God does draw a line in His law, and that line does differentiate between good and evil, righteousness and transgression, but it is less like a fence line, and more like the line of a rocket trajectory. It is not a line that you walk where sin is on the other side, and you can envy its green grass. It is like the rocket trajectory that lifts your eyes away from worldliness toward the heavens. The line God draws is a line toward perfection. Walk it and you walk away from sin, not towards it.

Be wary of reading this passage and concluding that, “Jesus is about a relationship, not rules.” Jesus want’s your heart. That is the point of this text. But the contrast here isn’t heart verses law, but tradition verses God’s commandments. When Jesus gives a new heart, it is a heart that loves the trajectory of the law (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

John is known as the apostle of love. The language of love pervades his writings. Listen to how often He connects love to obedience to God’s commands.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. ” (John 14:15, 23)

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments…” (2 John 6)

Commandments are not contrary to love, they are a means of expressing it.

Holiness is a dance. God wrote the steps. Jesus leads. We follow. No one looks at two skilled dancers who are wildly in love with each other and think that all the “rules” get in the way of their love. No, the dance does not choke love, it is a means of manifesting it, and it is beautiful, it is a delight.

The law for those redeemed by Christ is not merely a bridge between the two oceans of libertinism and legalism. It is a bridge toward holiness. Jesus traversed this bridge perfectly for us, in the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father. All whom He saves from the oceans, He sets on this bridge, and empowers by His Spirit to follow Him to the glory of the Father.

This is true holiness. Let’s dance.

Liberals and Conservatives

Liberals and conservatives both try to solve “sin” by law. Liberals think the solution is government, conservatives, a recovery of morality. Both are right and both are wrong. Liberals are right in recognizing that a solution needs to be found outside of us; conservatives are right in seeing that the problem is us, but the solution is further up, and the problem deeper within. The problem is the human heart, and the solution is the God of heaven. Only gospel light can eradicate the darkness.

The darkness in the hearts of men
Is not illuminated form within
It takes a sword to break the skin
And let the healing sunlight in
– Justin McRoberts, A Hope Deferred