"What's The Bible About, Anyway?"
The Law gives the foundation for Christ
The Historical books show the preparation for Christ
The books of poetry express the aspiration for Christ
The books of prophecy proclaim the expectation of Christ
The gospels record the historical manifestation of Christ
The book of Acts relates the preaching of Christ
The Epistles give the interpretation of Christ
The book of Revelation reveals the consummation of Christ
J. Hampton Keathley III
"The Compass, Counsel, Benchmark, The First and Last Word"
The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God...The Bible must become the authoritative standard for my life: the compass I rely on for direction, the counsel I listen to for making wise decisions, and the benchmark I use for evaluating everything. The Bible must always have the first and last word in my life…Determine to first ask, “What does the Bible say?” when making decisions. Resolve that when God says to do something, you will trust God’s Word and do it whether or not it makes sense or you feel like doing it.
"Perfection of Word"
A few feet from my bed is a narrow wastebasket around which, on any given night, you will see crumpled paper projectiles like a game of horseshoe solitaire, all capsized attempts at correspondence that have been discarded for various reasons—too strong, too wimpy, too whiny, manipulative, exaggerated.
The person who will receive the final version of the letter will read it as if it were an objective reflection of my mind. If he is so inclined, he may weigh every word, parse every expression. He will freeze my thoughts in aspic as if he really has something solid, little knowing how tenuous and contingent it is, little knowing that it is draft No. 9. It is the gauge of temperature at one moment in a stream.
God’s Word is not like that. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30). God says exactly what He means to say, and says it how He means to say it, and does not change His mind. It is not too strong, not manipulative, not fickle, not exaggerated, not proceeding from evil motives, nor bitterness, nor selfish ambition, nor out of anything but love.
Because “the testimony of the Lord is sure” (Psalm 19:7), there are implications. As my NKJV Bible says in its introduction to Genesis: “The Word of God must always stand above the word of man; we are not to judge His Word, but rather, it judges us.” This is easier said than done. I am in the habit of running God’s words by the bar of reason and through the net of personal experience and anecdotal reports and denominational affiliation. I need to quit that and let God speak to me directly.
"Little Doorways Into Grand Pavilions"
The Psalmist says, “Oh, how I love your law!” (Psalm 119:97). Now I know why. The best-kept secret in town is that God’s commands are little doorways into grand pavilions of many rooms.
Put on “a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:3). “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud” (Isaiah 54:1). “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you” (Philippians 3:1).
I don’t know how God can stand it sometimes. He stocks his Word with escape hatches from depression and temptation, and we skim them and say, “What lovely poetry.” Poetry schmoetry—these are our deliverance. The commands are counselors; they are like a dentist’s instruments laid out neatly to hand him on an as-needed basis.
"Only Discerned From An Aerial View"
The Nazca Lines of the high plateau in Peru can only be discerned with any understanding from an aerial view. On the ground all you see is reddish pebbles. From a higher elevation, a menagerie of winsome creatures appears: fish, orcas, llamas, monkeys, spiders, and hummingbirds.
The principle holds true for observing the work of God in my life. From my 57-year perch, I now see that rebellion bore fruit for evil in the long run, though in the short run I seemed to have gotten away with it:
“But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? . . .” (Zechariah 1:6).
God’s words “overtake.” They catch up. They are living words. Put them on the shelf and they will vibrate till they jump off, or smoke till there’s a fire.
But I can trace also in my life the finger of His mercy, which at every juncture blunted the full impact of evil and brought beauty from ashes.
A day is coming when many of us will moan to see that “not one word” of God has failed—all those words we watered down, we relegated to poetry, we tamed into liturgy, we dismissed as culturally conditioned, we claimed had ceased in our day, we shunted off into the millennium, we submitted to the judgment of man rather than submitting the judgments of man to the Word of God.
Hold fast, indeed, warns Joshua (verse 8). Slipping away is easier than you think. Beware of the "nations" and don’t [spiritually] intermarry (verse 12). This is what we’ve done in America. It’s the frog in the pot thing.
Proverbs put old heads on young shoulders.
"What Does God Call That?"
...we should not blame our fathers, our genes, our hormones, and our stars. We should not uncritically adopt the language of “self-esteem,” “orientations,” “disorders,” “needs,” “psychoses” We should not describe ourselves as “emotionally scarred” or “vulnerable” or “stressed” or “traumatized” or wanting “closure” without continuously checking these notions against the Bible’s own language. Our categories of reality should be the Bible’s own categories, as we aim to conform our minds to the mind of Christ.
"Straight In The Eye"
Something surprising—I say supernatural—happens when one stops to commit to memory Scripture that one has been in the habit of skimming heretofore. My apologies to all the Christians I found “quaint” for so doing. What they knew all along was that to memorize the Word of God is to watch a frozen two-dimensional scene on the wall spring to life, and all the characters turn and look you straight in the eye. The Word yields its secrets only to the seeker.
"Clear and Simple English Sentences"
It has long been a curiosity of the Hillside cemetery that leashed dogs daily prance through its wrought iron gates past a sign that reads, “No dogs allowed.” When I was a newcomer, with my greyhound Spider in tow and contemplating that forbidding notice, I at first made the understandable foreigner’s mistake of thinking that the sign really meant, “No dogs allowed.” But upon careful observation of the casual comings and goings of human-canine pairs through the idyllic headstone-pockmarked acres, I came to the only reasonable conclusion that the sign was not serious. Maybe there had been a time when it was serious, but now it was wallpaper.
About two weeks ago I noticed a few new signs had been put up—more prominent, less weathered—that read “No dogs allowed.” And I also noticed a complete absence of dogs. I tried to understand the meaning of this—why the original signs were not effective but the new ones were. I detected immediately unflattering comparisons to my parenting: how the first command to “Come and eat” had very little impact on the environment. It took about two more calls of “Come and eat” at an increasing decibel level to get the job done.
But then, in a different direction, I thought more generally about how people learn what to take seriously or not, and what to fear or not. It occurred to me that we may hear an authoritative word every day, and it may have a simple enough meaning, and we may understand it very well at some level. But if we then look around and see that nobody is heeding that authoritative word, we tend to disparage its authority and join the crowd. It is, I take it, the relational component of the learning process. The importance of the company we keep. Of our “fellowship,” you might say.
Then I thought of all the Bible teachings and truths a person might read every day, mostly clear and simple English sentences. But if the person looks around him and doesn’t see other people (who read the same Bible) acting on those things, then he tends to think they mustn’t be very important after all. Or perhaps he has misread them. Or likely there will be no consequences for noncompliance.
Hold on, it gets even weirder: If that person reads something in his Bible that at first seems to be very plain, but if the preaching from the pulpit seems to tacitly deny it—either by consistently ignoring it or downplaying its power or relegating it to bygone age—then after a while, the person will not only disobey the plain word, but will even come around to the opinion that the word doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. The final stage is that he forgets he ever saw the plain meaning.
"Ravished By A Moral Beauty"
The Order of the Divine Mind, embodied in the Divine Law, is beautiful. [Therefore] what should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life? His “delight” is in those statutes (16); to study them is like finding treasure (14); they affect him like music, are his “songs” (54); they taste like honey (103); they are better than silver and gold (72). As one’s eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder (18)...it is the language of a man ravished by a moral beauty.
"Be Astonished, O Heavens! At This: Perhaps The Second Greatest Story Ever Told"
God appeared to (Abraham) as he had formerly done, called him by name, Abraham, that name which had been given him in ratification of the promise. Abraham, like a good servant, readily answered, "Here am I; what says my Lord unto his servant?" Probably he expected some renewed promise like those, Gen 15:1, and 17:1. But, to his great amazement, that which God has to say to him is, in short, Abraham, Go kill thy son; and this command is given him in such aggravating language as makes the temptation abundantly more grievous. When God speaks, Abraham, no doubt, takes notice of every word, and listens attentively to it; and every word here is a sword in his bones: the trial is steeled with trying phrases… "Take thy son”, (not “thy bullocks and thy lambs;")how willingly would Abraham have parted with them by thousands to redeem Isaac! "No, I will take no bullock out of thy house, Ps 50:9. I must have thy son: not thy servant, no, not the steward of thy house, that shall not serve the turn; I must have thy son." …"Lord, let it be an adopted son;" "No, …Thy only son; thy only son by Sarah." Ishmael was lately cast out, to the grief of Abraham; and now Isaac only was left, and must he go too? Yes, "Take Isaac, him, by name, thy laughter, that son indeed," Gen 17:19. Not "Send for Ishmael back, and offer him;" no, it must be Isaac. "But, Lord, I love Isaac, he is to me as my own soul. Ishmael is not, and wilt thou take Isaac also? All this is against me:" Yea,… That son whom thou lovest. It was a trial of Abraham's love to God, and therefore it must be in a beloved son, and that string must be touched most upon: in the Hebrew it is expressed more emphatically, and, I think, might very well be read thus: Take now that son of thine, that only one of thine, whom thou lovest, that Isaac. God's command must overrule all these considerations…
The place: In the land of Moriah, three days' journey off; so that he might have time to consider it, and, if he did it, must do it deliberately, that it might be a service the more reasonable and the more honourable… The manner: Offer him for a burnt-offering. He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, kill him devoutly, kill him by rule, kill him with all that pomp and ceremony, with all that sedateness and composure of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offerings… Abraham must kill him, and neither the one nor the other must know why or wherefore. If Isaac had been to die a martyr for the truth, or his life had been the ransom of some other life more precious, it would have been another matter; of if he had died as a criminal, a rebel against God or his parents, as in the case of the idolater (Deut 13:8-9), or the stubborn son (Deut 21:18-19), it might have passed as a sacrifice to justice. But the case is not so: he is dutiful, obedient, hopeful, son…How would this consist with the promise? Was it not said that in Isaac shall thy seed be called? …
He rises early, v. 3…He gets things ready for a sacrifice…It is very probable that he said nothing about it to Sarah. This is a journey which she must know nothing of, lest she prevent it. There is so much in our own hearts to hinder our progress in duty that we have need, as much as may be, to keep out of the way of other hindrances…. He carefully looked about him, to discover the place appointed for this sacrifice... He left his servants at some distance off (v. 5), lest they should interpose, and create him some disturbance in his strange oblation; for Isaac was, no doubt, the darling of the whole family. ..He obliged Isaac to carry the wood…, while he himself, though he knew what he did, with a steady and undaunted resolution carried the fatal knife and fire, v. 6. 7. Without any ruffle or disorder, he talks it over with Isaac, as if it had been but a common sacrifice that he was going to offer, v. 7, 8. …It was a very affecting question that Isaac asked him, as they were going together: My father, said Isaac; it was a melting word, which, one would think, would strike deeper into the breast of Abraham than his knife could into the breast of Isaac. He might have said, or thought, at least, "Call me not thy father who am now to be thy murderer; can a father be so barbarous, so perfectly lost to all the tenderness of a father?" Yet he keeps his temper, and keeps his countenance, to admiration; he calmly waits for his son's question, and this is it: Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?…A trying question to Abraham. How could he endure to think that Isaac was himself the lamb? …”My son, God will provide himself a lamb.”...
With the same resolution and composedness of mind, after many thoughts of heart, he applies himself to the completing of this sacrifice, v. 9, 10. He goes on with a holy willfulness, after many a weary step, and with a heavy heart he arrives at length at the fatal place, builds the altar …the saddest that ever he built…lays the wood in order for his Isaac's funeral pile, and now tells him the amazing news: "Isaac, thou art the lamb which God has provided." Isaac, for aught that appears, is as willing as Abraham; we do not find that he raised any objection against it, that he petitioned for his life, that he attempted to make his escape, much less that he struggled with his aged father, or made any resistance: Abraham does it, God will have it done, and Isaac (will) submit to both, Abraham no doubt comforting him with the same hopes with which he himself by faith was comforted. Yet it is necessary that a sacrifice be bound. The great sacrifice, which in the fullness of time was to be offered up, must be bound, and therefore so must Isaac. But with what heart could tender Abraham tie those guiltless hands, which perhaps had often been lifted up to ask his blessing, and stretched out to embrace him, and were now the more (straightly) bound with the cords of love and duty! However, it must be done. Having bound him, he lays him upon the altar, and his hand upon the head of his sacrifice; and now, we may suppose, with floods of tears, he gives, and takes, the final farewell of a parting kiss: perhaps he takes another for Sarah from her dying son.
This being done, he resolutely forgets the (emotions) of a father, and puts on the awful gravity of a sacrificer. With a fixed heart, and an eye lifted up to heaven, he takes the knife, and stretches out his hand to give a fatal cut to Isaac's throat. Be astonished, O heavens! at this; and wonder, O earth! Here is an act of faith and obedience, which deserves to be a spectacle to God, angels, and men. Abraham's darling, Sarah's laughter, the church's hope, the heir of promise, lies ready to bleed and die by his own father's hand…. but here the sky suddenly clears up, the sun breaks out, and a bright and pleasant scene opens…The angel of the Lord, that is, God himself, the eternal Word, the angel of the covenant, who was to be the great Redeemer and comforter, he interposed… Abraham did indeed love God better than he loved Isaac, the end of the command was answered; and therefore the order is countermanded, without any reflection at all upon the unchangeableness of the divine counsels: Lay not thy hand upon the lad….Now this obedience of Abraham in offering up Isaac is a lively representation, Of the love of God to us, in delivering up his only-begotten Son to suffer and die for us, as a sacrifice…Abraham was obliged, both in duty and gratitude, to part with Isaac, and parted with him to a friend; but God was under no obligations to us, for we were enemies…Of our duty to God, in return for that love. We must tread in the steps of this faith of Abraham. God, by his word, calls us to part with all for Christ---all our sins, though they have been as a right hand, or a right eye, or an Isaac-all those things that are competitors and rivals with Christ for the sovereignty of the heart (Luke 14:26); and we must cheerfully let them all go. God, by his providence, which is truly the voice of God, calls us to part with an Isaac sometimes, and we must do it with a cheerful resignation and submission to his holy will…
Matthew Henry's Commentary
"Circles of Increasing Faith"
The life of increasing faith is like a circle
that grows and grows
until everything is brought into it,
and nothing is left out of it.
Every area of your existence,
every plan you make,
every word you utter,
every argument you reason,
every mood you allow to dominate you,
every social situation you take part in,
every impression you receive,
every problem you work on,
every delight you choose,
every affection you embrace,
every thought you entertain—
is taken captive to God and His Word.
It means rigorously and consciously,
at every point,
putting the Word of God above the word of any man,
the report of any witness,
or the insistence of any emotion in your heart.
"Life-Changing Fruit To Be Picked Everywhere"
...the verses of the Bible are not strung pearls but links in a chain. The writers developed unified patterns of thought. They reasoned. "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD" (Isaiah 1:18). This meant that, in each paragraph of Scripture, one should ask how each part related to the other parts in order to say one coherent thing. Then the paragraphs should be related to each other in the same way. And then the chapters, then the books, and so on until the unity of the Bible is found on its own terms. I felt like my little brown path of life had entered an orchard, a vineyard, a garden with mind-blowing, heart-thrilling, life-changing fruit to be picked everywhere. Never had I seen so much truth and so much beauty condensed in so small a sphere. The Bible seemed to me then, and it seems today, inexhaustible."
“The Mysteries Are God’s Alone”
Blessed is that simplicity that leaveth the difficult ways of dispute, and go on in the plain and sure path of God's commandments. Many have lost devotion whilst they would search into high things. Faith is required of thee, and a sincere life, not the height of understanding, nor diving deep into the mysteries of God. If thou does not understand nor comprehend those things that are under thee, how shouldest thou comprehend those things that are above thee? Submit thyself to God and humble thy senses to faith, and the light of knowledge shall be given thee, as far as shall be profitable and necessary for thee.
"What's The Bible About, Anyway?"