Friday, 30 October 2015

The Devil’s Dispute about Moses’ Body?

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9)

What is this all about?  The licentious false teachers of Jude’s day were being condemned for defying the authorities of heaven itself.  Their guilt was heightened in that the very prince of angels refrained from direct confrontation even with so fallen a dignitary as the devil; the ultimate rebuke being deferred to the Lord himself.

To understand the ‘dispute’ with the devil about the body of Moses, we should aim to let the Bible interpret the Bible.  The clue lies in the name of the valley where Moses’ body was buried.  The account of Deuteronomy 34:6 informs us that it was at Beth Peor that his body was buried - and buried  by the Lord himself.

But Beth Peor had been earlier associated with the worship of Baal (Numbers 25:1-5).  It was here that God’s people were led by Balaam into immorality and idolatrous worship (see Revelation 2:14).

The implication of Jude 9 is now clear.  It had evidently been the valley of Beth Peor that the devil claimed as his own.  And Israel was condemned for resorting to this site of Baal worship.  Yet the eventual burial of Moses there was the Lord’s own transformation, from then on, of a Satanic stronghold into a place of resurrection testimony!  Here lay the ‘dispute,’ and the devil’s direct rebuke, not from an angel, but from the very Lord who had himself changed Beth Peor into a place of honour.

And history’s lesson is obvious.  False teaching eventually will ‘change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (Jude 4). 


Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Disciplines of Wealth

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.    (Deuteronomy 8:5)

The only tune I can play on the piano is a little piece called ‘Whispering Waltz.’  I received many piano lessons but I never practised.  Here, with Moses, it wasn’t music, but wealth - and its right use - that he was teaching, right there at the borders of the Promised Land.

1.  The lesson of the Wilderness is one of Trust.   The word ‘humble’ occurs frequently in Moses’ sermon (see v. 2, 3, 16).  His people had to reply upon God for everything in the wilderness, where God SAVED them, LED them, and FED them.  “Man does not live on bread alone” (v. 3) is bigger than any piano lesson.

2. The lesson of the Land is one of Obedience.  ‘Listen,’ says Moses in verse 7 – ‘the Lord has brought you into a good land.’  When life is flowing easily, then comes the tendency ‘to FORGET the Lord’ (v.11, 14).  If a family, a people, a church, a nation has at its centre an upholding of the God-given way to live, stability is the result.  And as C.H. Spurgeon declared, ‘Obedience must have Love as its mother, nurse and food.’

3. The lesson of Prosperity is one of Remembrance.  ‘You thought you had done rather well for yourselves?’ asks Moses.  “But REMEMBER the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (v. 17,18). 

There can be an age-old burden attaching to wealth: First there’s the burden of getting it, next that of keeping it, finally that of parting with it!  Clement of Alexandria highlighted the problem when he wrote "Wealth is like a  Viper". 


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Check the Small Print

“So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple”    (Luke 14:33 RSV)

How to detect a disciple of Christ?  Here were crowds, enthusiastic for a ‘Jesus Movement.’  But Jesus turns on superficiality - with a challenge:

1. THE LOVE TEST.   Jesus was not undermining the fifth commandment when insisting (v.26) that a disciple must first ‘hate’ father, mother and relatives; He was using the Hebrew idiom of ‘Selection.’ Romans 9:13 is entirely about God’s selective purposes with its quotation from Malachi 1:2,3: “Jacob I loved; Esau I hated.”  When love for Christ takes over, it must occupy the number one spot.  True – it may well enhance all other loves, but that’s the test!  Which comes first?

2. THE DEATH TEST.  Jesus then declared (v. 27) that those who did not carry their cross could not be a disciple.  Everyone knew that the cross was a terrible Roman instrument of execution.  Carrying one’s cross meant that you were to put your own interests last – to the very point of death if necessary.  Certainly it means death to self-interest, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction and self-esteem. Many are marked at baptism with the cross - the mark of death - upon their foreheads.

3. THE FINISHING TEST.  Jesus then told two parables – about the man who failed to think ahead about the cost of his building project, and the soldier-king who didn’t weigh up the full implications of going to war; both consigned ultimately to history’s book of heroic failures.

If discipleship is so demanding, then where does the appeal lie?  Surely in the Man of Galilee Himself.  Everything is worthwhile for His eternal friendship.