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untitled“Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).

It was once asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” So in the same way, one might ask, can anything good come out of such dark, evil days, the days “when the judges ruled?” After all, though the era of the Judges was marked by heroic underdog-victories and feats of superhuman strength, yet they were spiritually and morally backwards. The days of the judges were days in which “there was no king in Israel,” and when “everyone did what was right in His own eyes.”  Those were days of gross idolatry, of tribal civil war, days of foreign invasion and occupation, and of shocking moral abominations. But in these days, there was a great story, the story of Ruth.  Following the Book of Judges is this small, precious pearl, the Book of Ruth. Like a diamond shining in the rough.

Really, it is the answer to the book of Judges! “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” Though Israel had sunk so low, yet God stepped in.  Through Ruth the Moabitess, the unlikely convert to the God of Abraham, God restored life. He revived a family on the brink of extinction. And he established the house from which David came – and David’s seed, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Can anything good come out of such evil times?  “Come and see.”

Close-up_of_Sirius“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

untitledUn escultor se sienta en su taburete, con las mangas enrolladas. Se extiende la mano y se afianza del barro, frío, pasivo y sin forma. En el torno, él gira y le da forma al barro, elaborándolo según lo que existe en su ojo mental. Está en control total, experto en su arte. Es el señor del barro, y el producto es completamente suyo.

Todos los escultores humanos no son más que una imagen borrosa, una sombra, de Dios. El es el Escultor Supremo, haciendo los mundos, formándolos según el patrón y uso para que él los ha predeterminado. La Escritura confirma lo que la naturaleza enseña: Dios es soberano, obrando su absoluta voluntad.

Esto se extiende no sólo a la tierra inanimada o al reino animal, porque Dios es también el Escultor del hombre. Tiene un propósito predeterminado para sí, un propósito tal como le gusta. Ahora, mirando los escombros de la historia humana, puede parecer que el propósito ha fracasado. Satanás secuestró el proyecto humano, y Adány Eva quedaron arruinados. Claro está. Pero en el análisis final la voluntad de Dios no puede ser frustrada. Si fuera posible, lo degradaríamos a Dios. Despojado de la omnipotencia, él viviría no como el Formador, sino como el formado. ¡Pero Dios es Dios! “El ha hecho todo lo que le ha gustado.” Adán y Eva, complícitos con el Diablo, abusaron de su libre albedrío, y nosotros en ellos. Además, como sus descendientes, les seguimos. Pero esto no lo sorprendió a Dios. Dios ya desde la eternidad pasada determinó que el hombre cayera en el pecado y la miseria, y hasta esto cumpliría su propósito. “Conocidas de Dios son todas sus obras desde la fundación del mundo.”

Y desde antes de todo tiempo, Dios escogió del barro de la humanidad cierto número de hombres y mujeres todavía no nacidos y no existentes. El determinó formarlos y no otros en vasijas sobre las cuales derramaría merced y gloria eterna. Luego Dios también escogió soberanamente que lo demás de la humanidad fuera designado para la ruina eterna por sus pecados concretos. La vida eterna y la muerte eterna . . . éstas Dios nos las presenta como los dos destinos invisibles para las cuales este mundo no es más que una breve preparación. Algunos irán al cielo, mientras que otros serán hundidos en el infierno. ¿Y por qué? Porque Dios es el Escultor Supremo. Es el Determinador de todo. O, en breve, porque Dios es Dios. “Toda obra del Señor tiene un propósito; ¡hasta el malvado fue hecho para el día del desastre!”

Esto los ofende mucho a los hombres pecaminosos. Pablo, anticipando esta protesta, escribió, “Respondo: ¿Quién eres tú para pedirle cuentas a Dios? ‘¿Acaso le dirá la olla de barro al que la modeló: “¿Por qué me hiciste así?”’ ¿No tiene derecho el alfarero de hacer del mismo barro unas vasijas para usos especiales y otras para fines ordinarios? ¿Y qué si Dios, queriendo mostrar su ira y dar a conocer su poder, soportó con mucha paciencia a los que eran objeto de su castigo y estaban destinados a la destrucción? ¿Qué si lo hizo para dar a conocer sus gloriosas riquezas a los que eran objeto a su misericordia, y a quienes de antemano preparó para esa gloria? Esos somos nosotros, a quienes Dios llamó no sólo de entre los judíos sino también de entre los gentiles.”
Ciertamente podemos apretar los dientes, agitar el puño y protestar hasta el último grado. Pero Dios es Dios. El hace lo que le gusta. “Muchos son los invitados, pero pocos los escogidos.” “Tengo clemendia de quien quiero tenerla, y soy compasivo con quien quiero serlo.” ” . . . predestinados según el plan de aquél que hace todas las cosas conforme al designio de su voluntad.”

Si usted se enoja ante esto, usted está en peligro. La voluntad de Dios es irresistible. Usted puede echarle la culpa a Dios, pero Dios queda sin culpa. Todos sabemos que Dios no nos hace pecar; no lo hace nadie. Pero usted lucha contra Dios sin ser forzado; usted camina por la ancha senda a la destrucción por su propio libre albedrío.

Pero así como el sol ablanda algunas materias y endurece otras, Dios puede tomar esta doctrina solemne de la predestinación y emplearla para efectuar una respuesta muy distinta. El Señor está siempre ante su banco de trabajo. El usa varias herramientas para su propósito. Y hasta esta herramienta, con sus filas agudas, dentadas, está a su disposición. Quizás aun ahora él está haciéndole a usted humilde. Quizás aun ahora está infundiendo temor y ansiedad espiritual. Quizás hasta ahora usted nunca haya pensado en su destino eterno, y mucho menos la perspectiva horrible del infierno. Pero quizás ahora está pensando en ello. Y ahora usted debe ser salvado.

Clame a Dios. Invoque su nombre. Y haga mano de ese único nombre que él ha otorgado entre los hombres mediante el cual pueden ser salvados, el nombre de Jesucristo.

Some robust natural theology, courtesy of the redoubtable Mr. Sherlock Holmes (from The Naval Treaty, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

* * * *

“What a lovely thing a rose is!”

He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

untitledA sculptor sits down on his stool, his sleeves rolled up. He reaches out and lays hold of the clay – cold, passive, and formless. On the wheel, he spins and shapes the clay, fashioning it into that which is before his mind’s eye. He is in total control, the master of his art. He is the lord of the clay, and the product is wholly his.

All human sculptors are but a hazy image, a shadow of God. He is the Prime Sculptor, making the worlds, shaping them into the pattern and use for which He has predetermined them. Scripture confirms what nature teaches. God is Sovereign, performing His absolute will.

This extends not only to lifeless earth or to the animal kingdom, for God is also Sculptor of man. He has a predetermined purpose for him, a purpose as it pleases Him. Now, looking at the wreckage of human history,  it may seem as though God’s purpose has failed. Satan hijacked the man-project, and Adam and Eve were ruined. True enough. But God’s will cannot in the end be thwarted. If it can, we demote God. Shorn of omnipotence, He lives not as the Shaper, but as the shaped.  But God is God!  And “He has done whatever pleased Him.”

Adam and Eve, complicit with the Devil, abused their free will – and we in them. Further, we have as their offspring followed suit. But this did not catch God off-guard. God had already from eternity past determined that man should fall into sin and misery, and even this would fulfill His purpose. “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.”

And from before all time, God chose from the clay of mankind a number of men and women as yet unborn and non-existent. He determined to fashion them and not others into vessels on which He would lavish mercy and eternal glory. Then God also sovereignly chose that the rest of mankind should be designed for eternal ruin for their eventual sins. Everlasting life and everlasting death – these the Bible presents to us as the two unseen destinies for which this world is but a brief preparation. Some will go to heaven, while others will be plunged into hell. And why? Because God is the Master Sculptor. He is the Determiner of everything. Or, in short, because God is God. “He hath made all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of judgment.”

This rubs sinful men the wrong way. Paul, anticipating this objection, wrote,

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles” (Rom. 9:20-24).

We can surely can clench our teeth, shake our fists, and protest all we want. But God is God. He does as it pleases Him. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” “Elect according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will .”

If you chafe at this, you do it at your peril. God’s will is irresistible. You can fault God, but God is faultless.  We all know that does not make us sin; no one does. But you fight God unforced; you walk down the broad path to destruction of your own free will.

But just as the sun softens some materials and hardens others, so God can take this solemn doctrine of predestination and use it to bring about a very different response. The Master is ever at His workbench.  He uses various tools for his purpose. And even this tool, with its seemingly sharp, serrated edges, is at his disposal. Perhaps even now He is humbling you.  Perhaps now He is instilling fear and spiritual anxiety.  Perhaps until now you have never thought of your eternal destiny before, much less the horrifying prospect of hell.  But maybe now you are.  And now you must be saved.

Cry out to God.  Call upon His name.  And lay hold of that only name that He has given among men through which they may be saved, the name of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

study-of-arms-and-hands“With our body we see, we speak, we walk, we descend, we climb, and so much more.  And in the Holy Scripture, all these functions, and so many more, are ascribed not only to our God, but they are ascribed in terms of the same senses and members of the body that we use for them. God also hears with his ear, sees with his eye, walks with his feet, strikes with his hand, saves with his arm, points with his finger, feels with his heart, moans in his inner parts, shows wrath in his face, and so much more. Of all these expressions and manifestations of life in God, an imprint has been put in man, and this imprint expresses itself through the members and senses of the body. And for this reason it won’t do to say that our body as such has nothing to do with the image of God.”

-Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace, 1:187

Altar-of-Sacrifice“And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. For what else but His righteousness would have
covered our sins?

“In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God?

“O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!”

Epistle to Diognetus, 5:2-5 (ca. 150 A.D.)

“Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match-all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

1280px-AuthorityOfLawIn the last several weeks, we’ve seen several states struggling to come to terms with the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell vs. Hodges decision. Most recently, Mississippi has passed a law protecting the freedoms of pastors, florists, and bakers, who do not wish their consciences implicated by the new reality. They have lost the battle but  are hoping to safeguard their right of dissent and simple non-participation. Let anyone who wishes to support same-sex marriages do as they please, but these folk simply want left out of it. That, however, is bringing down quite the storm of righteous protest from all quarters, from entertainers, to big business, to those in public office. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is just the most recent to join in the denunciation, backing it up with the rod of discipline for his errant, backward un-Americans.

Yes, Obergefell vs. Hodges was truly a watershed moment; but really, one could see it coming miles away. The court of public opinion had already ruled before Justice Kennedy penned his majority opinion. Kennedy only enshrined into law – by judicial fiat, no less – what had already become the new righteousness of modern America. It scratched the itch. Not an itch for true justice.  Yes, many would think that’s just what it was.  A fundamentally good America was simply becoming more consistently good. This was Civil Rights redivivus. But I see it differently – America was instead itching for justification.

Here’s the problem. We are not the impeccable, squeaky-clean nation that we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. We are rather depraved. And I’m not just speaking theologically here. We are actually, tangibly, viscerally depraved. The disease has reached the skin, and the stinking wounds are drawing flies. It has become painfully obvious. We are dirty, down to the fingernails. And when we look in the mirror, we just don’t like what we see.  We want to be clean. We want innocence back. We want to be rid of the nagging voice of conscience that rings in our ears, “We have abandoned God and played the prodigal. We have lost our spiritual virginity and have defiled the core of our beings.” But that’s just way too painful. So we desperately reach for cosmetics. We look for a new justification, to vindicate our consciences short of coming clean before God and the world.

Many Americans try to project their dirtiness on to others – playing some psychological slight-of-hand.  “It’s really the politician.” The voter is innocent. The polls are never wrong (and the customer is always right)!  But once that voter becomes elected and enters the Beltway, he falls from grace. At term’s end, a righteous, holy majority may well vote him or her out of office as a punishment for going bad.

But the facts tell a different story. No-fault divorce is now the norm. Porn is now the norm. Shacking up is now the norm (if you have to Google that, you’ve proved my point). Governor Cuomo is doing just that. No commitment, free sex. How noble!  But I wish I could say he’s any different from Joe Six-pack. Children across the United States are now accustomed to being tossed around like a Frisbee from home to home because their parents act like spoiled children. Is it any wonder this new generation is so troubled? Yet, at least they’ve survived the abortion epidemic.

To me, it seems rather obvious. Our nation joins the latest crusade in order to find justification on their own terms. It finds a new cause, a new righteousness – however warped. By championing that new righteousness, dignity is restored. The feeling of worth and value comes back with a flush. And when the baddies, who hold out for an older righteousness, speak their mind, they are shouted down. At best, they are marginalized – haters gonna hate!

I have little confidence in the American public, apart from God’s restraint. The jury is corrupt, full stop. But I have every confidence that when a sovereign God hears the prayers of His people, when He freely chooses to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, that nothing will stop the revolution in the minds of the people. That He can – when He pleases – stop the madness and bring back a prodigal nation in the mud of the pigpen to its senses. He can persuade America to renounce its new righteousness, its new justification, and receive His through Christ.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26)

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre“Y se arrepintio Jehova de haber hecho hombre en la tierra” (Gen. 6:6).

El arrepentimineto que aqui se atribuye a Dios no pertenece propiamente a el, sino tiene referencia a nuestro entendimiento de el. Pues porque no podemos entenderlo como es, es necesario que para nuestra ayuda, en un sentido, se transforme. Que el arrepentimiento no puede suceder en Dios, aparece facilmente de esta consideracion que nada sucede que es por el inesperado o no previsto. El mismo razonamiento, y comentario, aplica a lo que sigue, que Dios fue afectado por tristeza. Ciertamente Dios no siente pesadumbre o tristeza, pero permanece para siempre como si mismo en su reposo celestial y contento: no obstante, porque de ninguna otra manera se podria saber cuan grande es el odio y la detestacion de Dios para el pecado, el Espiritu se acomoda a nuestra capacidad. Por tanto, no hay necesidad de involucrarnos en preguntas dificiles y espinosas, cuando es obvio a que fin se emplean estas palabras de arrepentimiento y dolor; lo que es, para enseñarnos que desde el tiempo en que al hombre fue tan grandemente corrompido, Dios no lo contaba entre sus criaturas; como si dijera, ‘Esta no es mi maniobra; este no es el hombre que forme en mi propia imagen, y a quien adorne con tales dones excelentes: no me digno ahora reconocer esta degenerada y contaminada criatura como mia.’ Semejante a esto es lo que dice, en el segundo lugar, acerca del dolor; que Dios estuvo tan ofendido por la impiedad atroz del hombre, como si hubiesen herido su corazon con angustia mortal: Hay aqui, por lo tanto, un antitesis inexpresado entre esa naturaleza justa que habia sido creada por Dios, y la corrupcion que broto del pecado. En lo mientras, a menos de que queremos provocar a Dios, y causarle dolor, aprendamos aborrecer y huir del pecado. Ademas, esa bondad y ternura paternal debe de, en forma no leve, sojuzgar en nosotros el amor al pecado; puesto que Dios, para mas efectualmente penetrar nuestros corazones, se viste de nuestros afectos. Esta figura, que representa a Dios como transferiendo a si mismo lo que pertenece a la naturaleza humana, se llama anthropopatheia.

Juan Calvino (1509-1564)

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