God’s Picture Book

2020-09-20T08:38:46-04:00 September 21st, 2020|

The Book of Revelation paints astonishing pictures. However, the images are not the actual realities they represent. For example, chapter 6 presents the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first horseman is a picture of the gospel riding through history and to victory. Compare Psalm 45:3-5. War, famine, and death follow closely. Death’s footman is hell. These enemies of the gospel are both temporal and spiritual. The temporal and secular divert energies and resources from the more essential spiritual. The picture is a powerful portrayal of the forces working out God’s story at the behest of Christ (Revelation 5:9). Albertus Pieters, The Lamb, The Woman and the Dragon, presents this same helpful philosophy of history approach.

Revelation also introduces a pseudo-trinity composed of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is the devil, the serpent of old (Revelation 12:9). The beast rising from the sea of nations, the image of the dragon (Revelation 13:1-2), is anti-Christian governmental power. The beast was Rome in the first century. The USSR was a manifestation of the beast in the twentieth century. A professor from Ukraine visiting our church asked after a fellowship dinner, “Seventy years of atheism in the USSR proved its bankruptcy, why is America moving in that direction?” Good question!

Sadly the USA is a modern manifestation of the beast. Democrats and Republicans alike seek answers to our national problems by tinkering with government. Neither big government nor small government will answer the roots of war, famine, and death (James 4:1-4). The real answer to national woes is Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of God is the only eternal kingdom.

The mark of the beast is the work of the unholy spirit in unbelievers. It is the imprint of anti-Christian thought on their lives and conduct. This mark is, therefore, not physical but spiritual. It manifests itself in the deeds of the flesh; it advocates war, both carnal and spiritual. It promotes famine, both physical and that of the Word of God. It leads to death and hell.

The false prophet rising from the earth is a lying spirit infiltrating the prestigious institutions of culture, education, science, media, and the arts (Revelation 13:11-12). We know full well education, science, and the arts are not innately evil. Christians began most of our schools, colleges, and universities. Science first examined our universe to know the glories of God. Some of the world’s most outstanding art came from the hearts and hands of believers. However, an education rooted in anti-Christian principles leads young people away from Christ. Science, grounded in anti-Christian presuppositions, directs people away from their Creator. The arts and media too often propagate lawless living, which leads society to perdition. The false prophet is active today and is the handmaid of government. It is not inconsequential that education, science, media, and the arts are so enamored with and supportive of the power of the anti-Christian government in our own nations.

This assessment of the beast and false prophet of Revelation 13 reflects a conviction regarding the government. National confession of Christ is a great need. In terms of the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:18, God commissions us to build a society and culture honoring Him. This mandate means governments should honor Jesus Christ. The beast and the false prophet are the antitheses to this position. Yes, nations owe allegiance to Christ. “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (Revelation 15:3).

Denny Prutow

Our King Has Come (1-2 Samuel)

2020-09-12T10:19:37-04:00 September 14th, 2020|

Judges accentuates the need of the people for a king. Ruth promises the coming of the king. The Books of Samuel record his actual arrival. First Samuel begins with the birth of the prophet Samuel (c. 1140), the last of Israel’s judges. In 1 Samuel 4, the Philistines capture the Ark of God at Shiloh. Then, in 1 Samuel 10, Samuel anoints Saul as King at the insistence of the people (c. 1070) and contrary to the warnings of Moses (Deut. 17).

But God rejects Saul (1 Sam. 15), and Samuel anoints David as king (c. 1065, 1 Sam. 16). A long struggle ensues as Saul seeks to destroy his rival. David exercises great patience waiting on God’s time to assume the official leadership of the kingdom. In the meantime, Samuel dies (1 Sam. 25) and is mourned by the people (c. 1057). Finally, Saul is wounded in battle against the Philistines and, rather than being found by the enemy, he ends his own life by falling on his sword (c. 1055, 1 Sam. 31).

After mourning Saul’s death, the men of Judah anoint David as their King (c. 1053, 2 Sam. 2). Meanwhile, under the command of Abner, the remnants of Saul’s army anoint Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, as King over Israel. Civil war breaks out between the house of David and the house of Saul. After the assassination of Ishbosheth (2 Sam. 4), David becomes king over all Israel (2 Sam. 5).

At this point, David sacks the stronghold of the Jebusites. Mount Zion becomes the City of David. At this time, the Lord also gives the Philistines into the hand of David. And the Ark of God is returned to Jerusalem with great pomp and celebration (2 Sam. 6).

All of the preceding prepares the way for God’s covenant with David (c. 1042).

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son (2 Sam. 7:12-14).

David is astonished by God’s promise, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind” (2 Sam. 7:18-19, emphasis added).

David proceeds to consolidate the kingdom against all opposition. Once accomplished, he calls for a census against the advice of Joab, the commander of his army (c. 1017, 2 Sam. 24). God answers with a plague, and 70,000 men die. The prophet Gad directs David to build an altar and offer sacrifices (2 Sam. 24:18). God answers David’s sacrifice, halts the plague, and thus reveals the location for His temple, His chosen place for worship (Deut. 12, 2 Chron. 22:1). Second Samuel closes with David representing the people before God as both a king and a priest.

The kingship of David foreshadows the Kingship of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32). And as predicted and foreshadowed, Jesus Christ, our King, came into the world. The temple of old foreshadows the church of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 6:16). And as foreshadowed, Jesus Christ is building His place of worship, the church (Matt. 16:18). Thus we see that 1-2 Samuel, like the rest of Israel’s history, “were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

Denny Prutow

Needed: The King and Savior

2020-07-24T13:36:09-04:00 September 7th, 2020|

The Book of Judges recounts a downward spiral. “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 2:11). “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel” (Judges 2:14). “But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer” (Judges 3:9). “Whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers” (Judges 2:19)

Samson was the 12th and last of the judges in this book. In many ways, the story of his life is a “tragedy.” He is the hero who dies in the end. Judges 16:29-30 says,

And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

Three other stories intrude upon the narratives of the twelve judges, which embellish the larger story of Israel’s downward spiral into sin and degradation. None of these stories involve a judge in Israel.

The first story is the tragic life and death of Abimelech, a son of Gideon (Judges 9). He murdered his brothers and sought to be king. In the end, “a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull” (Judges 9:53). As Judges 9:56 testifies, “Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.”

Second, there is the tragic story of Micah’s shrine, household god’s, and personally ordained priest (Judges 17-18). Members of the tribe of Dan confiscated Micah’s idol and priest. “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves” (Judges 18:30).

Third, there is the story of a Levite and his concubine (Judges 19-21). She was ravished in Gibeah of Benjamin in a way reminiscent of Sodom. Civil war ensued. The tribe of Benjamin was nearly eradicated. The remedy was a plot to circumvent one vow by keeping another. The final words of Judges tell the tale. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

There is a fourth story, which follows the Book of Judges, in the Greek Old Testament. Ruth takes place during the time of the judges; it gives us the minority report. It is the story of how Ruth meets Boaz, a kinsman redeemer, marries him, and God restores Ruth to her deceased husband’s inheritance. As it “happens,” Ruth and Boaz are the great-grandparents of David (Ruth 4:21-22) and part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1).

The lesson of the Book of Judges is that Israel desperately needs a Savior and King. Ruth assures Israel that the Savior and King is coming. When David is born, His forerunner appears. Thus it was that Ruth gave birth to Him.

Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him (Ruth 4:14-15, italics added).

We also need this Savior and King, Jesus Christ, the LORD.

Denny Prutow

Labor Day: God and Faith and Work

2020-07-24T21:53:37-04:00 September 7th, 2020|

Labor Day is a good time to talk about work. God commands work. God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, build a culture and society in the world glorifying to Me. Building a God-glorifying culture requires work. The Eighth Commandments says, “You shall not steal” (Exod. 20:15). Putting it positively, “You shall work!” And the New Testament says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). God requires work.

But when we start putting God and work together, we can start patting ourselves on the back and think that since we are obeying God and doing our work, God is indebted to us. We think, wrongly, that God owes us. God may ask us, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” The most popular answer to this question is, “Well, I’m not so bad.” In other words, “I’ve done all my work faithfully and lived up to your expectations, God. So, of course, you should let me into your heaven. I’ve earned it.” Here is the big misconception. Simply doing our duty does not get us extra points in the ledger of life.

Enter faith. We have access to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. We have right standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are justified by grace through faith not on the basis of how well we have accomplished our work or conducted our lives. So where does doing our duty and accomplishing our work enter the picture?

James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17). Dead faith is not very helpful. James also says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24). Wait a minute! You just said that we are not justified on the basis of how well we conduct our lives. Correct. James 2:24 should be read as follows: “You see that a person is vindicated by works and not by faith alone.” That is, how you live outwardly displays the character of your faith. Dead faith has no accompanying works. Living faith is accompanied by a life that validates your faith. The proper formula is Faith leads to Justification Plus Works. Faith > Justification + Works.

Yes, the Bible connects God, our work, and our faith. On Labor Day, and on every other day of the year, it is good to remember how the Bible makes this connection. Faith > Justification + Works.

Denny Prutow

The Promise-Fulfillment Tension (Joshua)

2020-07-23T11:56:49-04:00 August 31st, 2020|

Moses is dead (Deut. 34:5; Josh. 1:2). Joshua is the new leader of God’s people (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:1-9). He leads the people across the Jordon as on dry ground (Josh. 3:17). As a result, “the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel” (Josh. 4:14). Yes, the name Joshua is Jesus in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. What is the promise of Joshua, aka Jesus?

Several promises are part of the backdrop: The promise of the seed who would crush the evil one (Gen. 3:15); the promises to Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), and “to your offspring I give this land” (Gen. 15:18); and the promise to Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers” (Deut. 18:18). How are these promises realized?

The Book of Joshua has three basic parts. First, Joshua leads the people in the conquest of Canaan (Josh. 1-12). Second, Joshua guides in the division of the land as the Lord commanded through Moses (Josh. 13-21). Third, as this slice of Israel’s history closes, Joshua leads the people in a renewal of the covenant, and he himself dies (Josh. 22-24). The close of the book also contains these words, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel” (Josh. 24:31).

Again, what is the promise of Joshua, aka Jesus? As far as the land is concerned, “The Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Josh. 21:44-45).

But already, there is a tension between promise and fulfillment. On the one hand, at the end of the conquest, the Lord said to Joshua, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess” (Josh. 13:1). On the other hand, “when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies,” Joshua warned the people about the “nations that remain.” You must “not mix with these nations remaining among you,” and not “cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you” (Josh. 23:1, 4, 7, 12).

What are we to make of this apparent failure of complete conquest, this tension between promise and fulfillment? Calvin’s argument gives us good help.

The apparent failure reminded the children of God that they were to look forward to a more excellent state, where the divine favor would be more clearly displayed, nay, would be freed from every obstruction, and shine forth in full splendor. Hence their thoughts were raised to Christ, and it was made known to them that the complete felicity of the Church depended on its Head (Calvin, 1979, p. xxii).

God was using the delay in fulfillment to raise the thoughts of the people to the greater blessing they would receive in Christ. “Meanwhile the moderate foretaste, which believers received of the divine favor, must have sufficed to sustain them, preparatory to the more complete realization” (Calvin, 1979, p. xxiii).

The promise of Joshua, aka Jesus, is the promise God gives to us. We also experience this tension between promise and fulfillment. Calvin’s words apply to us. The foretaste of the divine favor we receive must suffice to sustain us, “preparatory to the more complete realization.”

Denny Prutow

Work Cited
Calvin, J. (1979). Commentaries on the Book of Joshua. (H. Beveridge, Trans.). Grand Rapids: Baker.

The Gospel According to Moses (Deuteronomy)

2020-07-23T09:42:58-04:00 August 24th, 2020|

The key text of Deuteronomy is clear. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:4-6).

As Jesus says, “This is the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22:38). Deuteronomy sets forth this love in broad strokes and minute detail for the Old Testament economy to follow and for the New Testament economy dawning with the advent of Christ. This love is a matter of the heart: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart.” This love also involves heartfelt submission to God’s commands: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

Moses emphasizes these two aspects of life before God, love expressed through the observance of God’s commands. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 10:12). “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always” (Deut. 11:1). We hear echoes of our Lord Jesus Christ, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15); and of the Apostle John, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3).

However, a profound problem exists. After years of experience in the wilderness, Moses knows the hearts of the people. By God’s grace, Moses also knows that God will remedy the defect in their hearts. “The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6).

Here, circumcision of the heart is equivalent to new birth and the promise of the new covenant. “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:26-27). All of this is in accord with God’s love for his people. Deuteronomy 10:15, “The LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.”

But now, there is a seeming difficulty. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deut. 7:9). Reception of God’s love appears to depend upon the people’s obedience. But why would any people be faithful and obedient? Listen again to Moses, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers” (Deut. 7:7-8). “The full statement of covenant here, therefore, is of faithful love returned by faithful people” (McConville, 2002, 158). In other words, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This good news is the gospel, according to Moses, which we cherish and by which we live.

Denny Prutow

Work Cited
McConville, J. G. (2002). Deuteronomy. Downers Grove: IVP.

The Church in the Wilderness (Numbers)

2020-07-22T16:52:36-04:00 August 17th, 2020|

The Book of Numbers has five sections outlining three encampments and two travelogues. First, in Numbers 1:1-10:10, Israel prepares for travel. Second, Numbers 10:11-12:16 records the travel from Sinai to the area of Kadesh-Barnea. “Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys … according to the commandment of the Lord through Moses” (Num. 10:11, 13). Third, Numbers 13-19 records Israel’s trials as the people camp in the area of Kadesh. Fourth, Numbers 20-21 recounts the journey from Kadesh-Barbea to the Plains of Moab. Fifth, Numbers 22-36 tells the story of Israel camped on the Plains of Moab.

Before their journey, God has Moses number the people, organize them for war, and give them their order of march. At Kadesh, Moses sends the spies into Canaan. When the spies give their report, the people respond with fear and lamentation.

Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?” (Num. 13:1-3).

And so, the people languished in the wilderness. What was God’s objective? Once in Moab, God reminds the people, “The Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2).

The Apostle Paul highlights three incidents that Moses records in Numbers, the rebellion of Korah, the grumbling of the people resulting in the plague of fiery serpents, and the harlotry of the people with Baal of Peor (1 Cor. 8-10; and Num. 16:1-40, 21:1-9, 25:1-9, respectively).

Paul also interprets for us God’s testing of the people in the wilderness. “Now these things happened as examples [types] for us” (1 Cor. 10:6). That is, the Old Testament church in the wilderness was a type and shadow of the New Testament church. Paul repeats this assessment, “Now these things happened to them as an example [typologically], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

In other words, the Old Testament narratives in the Book of Numbers tell us about the weaknesses and sins of the Old Testament people. We can look back and see how God dealt with them and tested them. We can learn from their experiences, and we can learn how God will deal with us. Yes, the records of the wilderness experience in the Book of Numbers “were written for our instruction.”

Like ancient Israel, we too have been redeemed from bondage, and we also anticipate entering our own promised land, heaven. In this sense, we are now the church in the wilderness. However, our “wilderness experience” has a promise of better things, the commitment of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and bear us through our times of testing.

No temptation [test] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [test] will provide the way of escape [outcome] also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).

And so, the Book of Numbers teaches us how to live in this present world as the church in the wilderness.

Denny Prutow

The Focal Point of Holiness (Leviticus)

2020-07-22T15:55:56-04:00 August 10th, 2020|

Exodus ends, “In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month” (Exod. 40:17). Leviticus continues the story of God’s people settled at the foot of Mt. Sinai with the little word and. “And the LORD called Moses . . . ” The Book of Numbers begins “on the first day of the second month, in the second year” (Num. 1:1). Leviticus covers only one month of the story.

Holiness is the major theme of Leviticus. The English word holy appears 620 times in the English Standard Version; it appears 81 times in the Book of Leviticus or just over 13 percent of the total citations. The Hebrew root for this word, with various inflections, appears 776 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Of these citations, 137, almost 18 percent, appear in Leviticus.

In addition, the command to be holy is repetitive. “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44-45, see also 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, 21:8).

To be holy means to be separate and distinct from the world and to be consecrated to God. It was God’s special presence with them that made Israel distinct from all the other nations (Exod. 33:16). And God’s special presence was manifested in His Shekinah glory, His dwelling glory, over the Tabernacle. Yes, the Tabernacle was God’s special dwelling place among His people. God’s special presence was designed to make Israel a holy nation, not just externally, but also in their hearts.

Interestingly enough, Leviticus taught the priests and the people about their worship, which centered in the Tabernacle. Leviticus taught the priests and the people the rituals and sacrifices required in their approach to their most holy God (Lev. 1-15). Leviticus taught the people a “holiness code,” the rituals and sacrifices necessary to overcome their uncleanness and enable them to approach their most holy God (Lev. 17-27). And Leviticus prescribed the rituals and sacrifices of the Day of Atonement necessary to remove their sins and enable them to approach their most holy God (Lev. 16). In other words, Leviticus taught Israel, and teaches us, that worship was and is the focal point of holiness.

Picture the Tabernacle. White linen curtains mark the outer court of the Tabernacle; they shimmer in the bright desert sun. The golden altar of sacrifice is set before the Tabernacle proper and glistens in the sun. The curtains covering the Tabernacle are partially pulled back, revealing their vivid blue and scarlet colors. And the gold boards of the Tabernacle walls are also revealed in the dazzling sunlight. Beyond doubt, the Tabernacle was quite distinct from the surrounding landscape. Add to this picture, the Glory Cloud dwelling over the Tabernacle, and the tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle facing it. This picture portrays the fact that worship was the focal point of Israel’s holiness, her separateness from the world.

This lesson applies to us today. Gathering for corporate worship is one of the most visible ways we display our holiness, our separateness from the world. In worship, we meet with our God. He assures us that He is the One who sanctifies us; He makes us holy (Exod. 31:13). Yes, worship is the focal point of our holiness. From there, we disperse to live in this world as God’s holy people, individuals who are not of this world.

Denny Prutow

Redemption, Covenant, and Worship (Exodus)

2020-07-23T10:32:14-04:00 August 3rd, 2020|

At the end of Genesis, the sons of Israel are in Egypt, and Joseph dies. At the beginning of Exodus, the sons of Israel “increased greatly” (Exod. 1:6). A new king arose over Egypt “who did not know Joseph” (Exod. 1:8). Slavery followed. “They set taskmasters over them and to afflict them with heavy burdens” (Exod. 1:11).

In three major sections, the Book of Exodus tells the story of Israel’s redemption; its organization into a covenant community; and its formation into worshipping body. The first section, chapters 1-18, tells the story of God’s redemption of Israel under the leadership of Moses. The Passover is integral to Israel’s redemption.

It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt (Exod. 12:11-13).

As the Apostle Paul teaches us, the Passover points directly to Christ; “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). And so it is that God saved Israel from slavery, and God saves us from bondage to sin through the blood of Christ, the Passover Lamb.

Then God brings Israel to Mount Sinai. Section two encompasses chapters 19-24. Here God gives Israel His Law and forms His people into a covenant community.

And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words (Exod. 24:6-9).

Moses read the “Book of the Covenant” to the people. The people responded, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” This reading and response was Israel’s covenant of church membership. Moses sealed the covenant with blood sprinkled on the altar and the people. In like manner, God redeems you and me to make us a visible part of covenant communities. We, too, listen to God’s Word and take vows, reflecting our acceptance of God’s covenant.

Finally, God fashions Israel into a worshipping community. The third major section of Exodus is chapters 25-40, where God gives the directions for, and Moses leads in the building of the Tabernacle. Exodus 25:8 is a key verse, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”

The tabernacle, with all of its regulations and ceremonies, is Israel’s worship center. The Tabernacle later gives way to the more permanent Temple. In the New Testament, the church gathered for worship is God’s Temple, a special “dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). As Paul tells the church at Corinth gathered to hear his letter read to them, “We are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16).

Exodus displays God’s purpose for Israel to redeem them and form them into a covenant, worshipping community. God’s purpose for you and me is to redeem us and form us into covenant, worshipping communities.

Denny Prutow

The Beginning of the Gospel (Genesis)

2020-07-23T09:45:00-04:00 July 27th, 2020|

Genesis has three main divisions. Genesis 1-11 begins with creation and takes us up to the time of Abraham. Genesis 12-36 zooms in on the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Finally, slowing down to a snail’s pace, Genesis 37-50 give us what we call the Joseph stories.

Eleven statements Genesis calls the record the “generations” divide the book into twelve unequal parts. Here is the lineup. 1: “The generations of the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 2:4-4:26). 2: “The generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1-6:8). 3: “The generations of Noah” (Genesis 6:9-9:29). 4: “The generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 10:1-11:9). 5: “The generations of Shem” (Genesis 11:10-11:26). 6: “The generations of Terah” (Genesis 11:27-25:11). 7: “The generations of Ishmael” (Genesis 25:12-18). 8: “The generations of Isaac” (Genesis 25:19-35:29). 9: “The generations of Esau (that is, Edom)” (Genesis 36:1-8). 10: “The generations of Esau” (Genesis 36:9-43). 11: “The generations of Jacob” (Genesis 37:1-50:42).

These “generations” point back to Genesis 3:15 as the book’s theme verse. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” This promise is both God’s long-term plan and God’s Gospel in Christ.

The word “seed” is a collective singular; it may refer to one or many. If you buy a bag of grass seed, you have a bag full of seeds. On the one hand, the seed of the woman is the line of believers descending from Adam and Eve, and the seed of the serpent is the line of unbelievers. On the other hand, ultimately, the seed of the woman is Christ.

Accordingly, notice how God reiterates His promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17, “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore.” Compare Genesis 22:18, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Galatians 3:8 and 16 interpret: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’… Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”

The structure of Genesis and the “generations” emphasizes God’s gospel promise and the seed of the woman. Genesis 1-11 covers creation, the fall, the flood, and Noah’s family leading up to Abraham’s father, Terah. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob consume 25 chapters or about fifty percent of the book. The Joseph stories make up only one “generation,” rehearsed in fourteen chapters, or about thirty percent of Genesis.

The weight of Genesis is on the stories and promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At the same time, the “generations” of unbelievers receive little notice. For example, the “generations” of Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18) and Esau (Gen. 36:1-8) receive short shrift. The “generation” of Esau (Gen. 26:9-43) is repeated to emphasize Edom’s perpetual opposition to Israel. Finally, the Joseph stories set the stage for God’s unfolding plan in Exodus.

The structure of Genesis points us to the “generations” of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promise of the Gospel in Christ. As Galatians 3:29 teaches us, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Genesis leads us to trust in both God’s plan and God’s Gospel and to understand that God lifts us up into His plan by His Gospel.

Denny Prutow