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In our morning message, we considered Genesis 7, the ancient story of the Flood. On that day of reckoning, sinners saw God for what He is – God.  And then they breathed their last. All this fell out just as God predicted, with zero “margin of error.” Here’s a short clip:

To listen to the complete sermon, click here.

 

 

Jacopo_Bassano_workshop_-_Animals_boarding_the_Noah's_Ark_-_Louvre

“And  it  repented  the  Lord  that  he  had  made  man  on  the  earth.”

The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied; namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would say, ‘This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.’ Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief; that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought, in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called anthropopatheia.

– John Calvin (1509-1564)

 

We have just resumed our series on the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Kings during our morning Lord’s Day services.  Picking up after the ministry of Elisha, things go from bad to worse.  The glory fades and darkness drowns the light.  But Jonathan Edwards poignantly observes the greater significance in greater story:

The declining of the glory of this legal dispensation made way for the introducing the more glorious dispensation of the gospel. The declining of the glory of the legal dispensation was to make way for the introducing of the evangelical dispensation that was so much more glorious, so that the legal dispensation had no glory in comparison of it. The glory of the ancient dispensation such as was in Solomon’s time, consisting so much in external glory, was but a childish glory in comparison of the spiritual glory of the dispensation introduced by Christ. The church under the Old Testament was a child under tutors and governors, and God dealt with it as a child. Those pompous externals are called by the Apostle, ‘weak and beggarly elements.’  It was fit that those things should be diminished as Christ approached, as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, speaking of Christ, says, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease,’ John 3:30. ‘Tis fit that the twinkling stars should gradually withdraw their glory when the sun is approaching towards his rising.

As with Israel and Judah of old, so the night now closes on the West.  But whatever may be the particulars in God’s hidden plan, we are assured that light will break forth again – only infinitely greater than before.  “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.  The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him” (Psa. 72:8-11).

(from flickr.com)Human beings are greater imaginers. They dream big. What young person has never aspired to great things? To make something of himself? To invest, invent, exceed and excel?

Mankind has dreamed it, developed it, and done it. We dreamed electricity, and the dark nights shone. We dreamed, and the Model T rumbled off. We dreamed yet again and took flight. And then we dreamed once more, setting foot on the moon. “One small step for man” – the incarnation of our wildest dreams!

Yet, man’s imagination is actually quite meager. Yes, it is amazing when it comes to science and technology, music and the arts. But when it comes to things much higher, it’s actually quite, well, unimaginative.

Little does man imagine what he and his world could have been before sin. He can’t imagine history uncrippled by disease, death, and disaster, or unmarred by jealousy, envy, theft, and murder. Nor does he think of what this world could be. He dreams, but he’s so short-sighted. A dollar here, a trust fund there, a wife and two kids. He simply can’t dream of anything bigger than his own miniscule bottle, while all along it drifts on the ocean of eternity.

Even when many think of heaven, yet its just the best of this world times ten. It’s the big pie in the sky. Or for jihadists, it’s an orgy of wine, women, and song. Is that the afterlife? Just a big frat house up yonder? If so, I’d hate to experience the hangover!

Paradoxically, it was man’s very imagination that paralyzed his mind. The Devil told him to dream. ‘Think of the possibilities!’ he suggested. If only he ate the forbidden fruit, he would truly see – just like God. Tragically Adam, the father of our race, listened. He dreamed of something much greater and larger than God allowed him, and so disobeyed. God punished this sinful dreaming. Yes, Adam’s eyes opened. But instead of beholding something great, he only saw evil in all its starkness. That evil descended like a cloud over him, so that he could no longer envision truly great things. The best he could envision was a world stricken with the thorn and thistle, groaning under God’s curse. And finally, he and his world would be consumed in the fires of holy anger.

But then God, full of grand thoughts, stepped into man’s sin-shrinked mental world. He proposed something new, something truly big. Here are visions of what can be . . . what will be. And those who believe these promises will one day enjoy them.

Those who believed after that fateful fall of Adam, those who embraced these ideas, began to dream again. Abraham believed in God’s promise, that he would be the father of many nations. All peoples of the earth would be blessed in him. He, though his body was old and impotent, looked up to the stars and dreamed. His seed, his offspring would be just as numerous, God said. Moses, standing before Pharaoh, dreamed of Israel freed from oppression to serve God, according to the promise. And on the brink of death, he stood looking upon the land, flowing with milk and honey, and envisioned what could be – what would be.

Throughout their history, they dreamed of greater, bigger, and more glorious things, as God unfolded His ancient promise. And each and every time, the fulfillment of the promise was far beyond what their little minds could have conceived. That was especially the case when the Christ child was born to a poor virgin in Bethlehem. Yes, they had dreamed that God would come to be with them. But could they have imagined this? Immanuel was literally Immanuel – “God with us,” God in the flesh (Mat. 1:23)! This was truly beyond their wildest dreams: and yet there He was, quietly nursing at his mother’s breast. “When the LORD turned back the captivity of Zion, we were like those that dreamed” (Psa. 126:1).

But when Christ came, that wasn’t all. That was great, but there was something greater yet. The early Christians were given even more “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). The Christ who died, rose again (much to their initial disbelief!), and who visibly ascended into heaven, would one day come again in all His glory. He would come with fiery armies of angels, He would summon the dead from their graves, judge the wicked, acknowledge the righteous and usher them into the glorious and unending Kingdom of heaven on earth.

While Christians are reborn and can see things that others cannot (Jn. 3:3), yet still, they must admit that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). One writer has put it well, “Of these … promises we must have some intelligent apprehension. But the implications of his promises and the reaches of [God’s] mind and will surpass our understanding.” In that way, even believers after the coming of Christ are in many ways like those before them.

We dream like they dreamed, because the God who promised then still promises today.  But since the promise still awaits fulfillment, we yet dream of what shall be.  We are saved by hope unseen (Rom. 8:24).  While the believer must beware of wild speculation, yet he with pure longing, as a virgin anticipating her wedding day, wonders and imagines.  “Beloved,” writes the Apostle John, “now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).

Reader, God’s thoughts are much greater than yours.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8, 9).  His thoughts for men and this world are truly lofty.  He has promised salvation to those who believe, beyond their wildest dreams.  Promised!  Deliverance from sin, both its guilt and power.  Promised!  The restoration of all things – of the body, of the world – and the very reunion of heaven and earth (Acts 3:21, Eph. 1:10).  On that day, under the reign of the Messiah, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).

How long will you think so small?  How long will you imagine nothing but life darkened by sin and misery?  How long will you refuse to accept the vision of things truly great?  Won’t you turn, won’t you believe, and imagine?  Won’t you join those of us who have by grace relearned how to dream?

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