Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Comfort One Another

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Most of us are pretty familiar with these verses. You’re also probably well-acquainted will the usually divisive efforts to fit the “rapture” described here into Revelation, 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 24//Mark 13, or even Daniel (despite the fact that Paul doesn’t indicate that such integration is worthy of our attention). In consideration of these verses, the only time the last verse is mentioned is at a funeral. This is odd, since this verse is the only one with a command.

Just in case we don’t get it, though, Paul repeats himself immediately after this.

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (5:1-11).

Paul ends this section the same way he ended 4:13-18. In 4:18 he commanded us to “comfort [παρακαλειτε] one another.” In 5:11 he commands us to “encourage [παρακαλειτε] one another.” Same command. He says it twice. In the first section he is concerned with their knowledge (“we do not want you to be uninformed”). In the second section this is not his focus (“you have no need of anything to be written to you”), even though the theme is the same. What’s different about the second section?

Whereas the first section describes the culmination of the last days, the second section gives us an ethic for living day-by-day through the last days. All the days between the first and second coming of Christ are the last days (Acts 2:16,17; Hebrews 1:2; James 5:3; 1 John 2:18). We cannot live through the last days like they are any other days. We are reminded that we are “all sons of light and sons of day,” and have nothing to do with spiritual darkness/sleep. We are commanded to “be sober” by a constant living in and growth in faith, love, and “the hope of salvation.” The reality of the culmination (“we will live together with Him”) is repeated.

Again, we are to “comfort” or “encourage” one another. We cannot do it alone, and Paul reminds us by these commands that we must do it together.

There is a difficulty of translating the Greek word παρακαλεω (here “comfort” or “encourage”). Our English word “comfort” comes originally from the Latin phrase cum fortis (“with strength”). The origination of the word doesn’t carry with it the empathetic or emotionally-supportive meaning it has now. For example, in the Latin Vulgate, the “strong man” of Luke 11:21 is said to be cum fortis, or “fully armed.”

When Paul gives this command in 4:18 and 5:11, he is not commanding us to console one another. We are being told to live a last days ethic with a view to the completion of the last days that makes us stronger (not emotionally assuaged) in our faith-lives together.

Live in these last days in such a way that we – together - are strong in the faith. Live in these last days in such a way that we are motivated and inspired and emboldened by the reality that we will inevitably and gloriously be together with our beautiful Lord.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Riches of Delayed Judgment and Eternal Mercy

On Sunday nights we’re considering the book of Numbers. Last Lord’s Day evening we looked at chapter 21, where, for the first time, Israel engages in warfare during the wilderness wanderings. Some of the ethical questions that rise up when reading Joshua also come up here.

“When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. So Israel made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.’ The LORD heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Thus the name of the place was called Hormah” (Numbers 21:1-3).

Too often we allow the atomistic tendencies of biblical scholarship to govern our reading of the Scripture. We don’t consider Numbers in its greater context as part of the first five books of the Bible (I have no problem standing with tradition and calling them the books of Moses). Numbers 21 does raise ethical dilemmas – until we consider it as the “continuing story” of a much larger saga. In verses 1-3 the Canaanites are destroyed. Why? The greater epic tells us.

These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant’” (Genesis 9:19-27). The curse of Noah on Ham and his descendants begins to come to fruition centuries later in Numbers 21. The sin of their father is visited upon them.

What about the Amorites? “...Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, ‘Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king's highway until we have passed through your border.’ But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages...thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they captured its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there. Then they turned and went up by the way of Bashan, and Og the king of Bashan went out with all his people, for battle at Edrei. But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ So they killed him and his sons and all his people, until there was no remnant left him; and they possessed his land (Numbers 21:21-25,31,35).

Again, seeing this passage as part of the greater story answers some of our questions. “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete’ (Genesis 15:13-16). God’s plan was declared for this land and people centuries prior to the judgment. If we don’t consider this, Numbers 21 will seem unfair and even cruel. In light of Genesis 15:16, however, it is the end of an extremely long delay in judgment. What does the Bible say about this? “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Romans 2:4-6). Hundreds and hundreds of years of delayed (and deserved) judgment was a display of “the riches of His...patience,” but they never repented.

Judgment may be delayed, but it is never cancelled. It begins to fall in Numbers 21.

One day in Athens the apostle Paul stands in the Areopagus and speaks to the gathered intelligentsia: “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead(Acts 17:24-31).

Why did God create the nations of people, giving them boundaries and limited times? “...that they would seek God...” And, after centuries of existence with God’s patience but no repentance, judgment comes.

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me...” (Exodus 20:3-5//Deuteronomy 5:7-9). Unfair? No. Because each generation not only receives the consequences of the previous generations’ sin, but embraces this sin and makes the lawlessness its own.

“...through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...for as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:12,19).

A nation of people exists in a certain time and certain place for the sole purpose of seeking God. When they reject this purpose generation after generation, two things are happening. First, they are rejecting the wealth of God: His patience. Second, they are compounding the coming judgment by not only rejecting repentance, but taking their parents’ sin upon themselves and making it even greater in their generation.

Too many believers have a low view of the sinfulness of humanity. They conceive of humanity as full of “good” or “well-meaning” or even “innocent” people. So passages like those in Numbers 21 shock and disturb us. The Bible teaches a deep and eternally deadly lostness among all of humanity without exception.

There is a sobering application here, of course. From God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 15 to the fulfillment of that promise in Numbers 21 is something like 800-1000 years. The U.S.A. (just to use one example) is 238 years old. Delay is not suspended or non-existent judgment, especially since two centuries is a very small period of time compared to the average in human history.

Preach the Law, contemporary violation of it, salvation from its consequences in Christ, and command repentance in your preaching, Church (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; ; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20). May God’s rich patience and sweet grace bring revival so that instead of compounding the coming judgment we pass on an inheritance of blessing: “...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5,6//Deuteronomy 5:9,10).

This is not just a promise from the Law, but also of the Gospel:
  • “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him...if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me” (John 14:15,21,23,24).
  • “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:9,10).
  • “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:3-5).
  • “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2,3).

Judgment is promised and inevitable, but the blessing of forgiveness, eternal life, and the riches of God Himself are freely given in His Son. “...the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Repent and believe today. For those who do, the riches of delayed judgment today become the song of a rich mercy throughout eternity: “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Want It More Than I Want It

“Lord, Your testimonies are completely reliable; holiness is the beauty of Your house for all the days to come (Psalm 93:5, HCSB).

That forever-house is where we will experience the holy Father (John 17:11), holy Son (Mark 1:24//Luke 4:34; Luke 1:35; John 6:69; Acts 2:27; 13:35), and holy Spirit fully and eternally, hearing and joining in the heavenly song, “holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). It is where the battle against sin will be ancient legend, and the command to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16) will be as natural and free and exhilarating as breathing in rain-scented air in the desert.

I want it more than I want it.

That was my first thought when I read Psalm 93:5 yesterday morning. It was my thought when one of our men read it in the call to worship at the gathering of the saints later that same morning. Some part of me wants that unending beautiful holiness more than my distracted, stressed, and usually confounded mind wants it. I want it more than my often-divided and tempted heart wants it. I definitely want it more than my flesh wants it (Psalm 63:1...can my flesh realize this one day, please?). But there is something (Someone) in me that desires with a longing alien to this earthen vessel for that holiness which it barely knows or comprehends. I want it.

I understand the incredible promises of no more night (Revelation 21:25; 22:5), no more tears (Revelation 7:17; 21:4), no more pain, the banquet table (Matthew 8:11), the peaceful rest (Hebrews 4:9), and even to some extent the glory of heaven promised to us. I marvel at the thought of seeing Him face-to-face (Revelation 22:4)...but maybe even more that in seeing Him I will somehow, unimaginably, be like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2). Even in His beautiful holiness.

Holiness. Do you know what it is to be holy, or that He Himself is infinitely holy? Can you comprehend what it means for that holiness to be the beauty of our forever-home, Church? As the Holy Spirit makes us holy, He is preparing us for that wedding Day when the beauty of the Bride will be the beauty of holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:22). Beautiful holiness is our destiny.

Until then I will want it more than I want it, and by the grace found in Christ alone will sing and pray the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs of the ages about His beautiful holiness.

“Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29).

“Ascribe to Yahweh the glory due His name; worship Yahweh in the splendor of His holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

“Your people will volunteer on Your day of battle. In holy splendor, from the womb of the dawn, the dew of Your youth belongs to You” (Psalm 110:3).

Friday, July 11, 2014

Union with the Intercessor

I’m preaching on confession in a few weeks and have been reading the Scripture’s examples. There’s a pattern that has captivated my attention. Sometimes when interceding for either the Church or Nation we pray as those removed – it’s an “us-and-them” prayer. This is usually because we don’t accept any part in the problems for which we are praying. However, I noticed that the O.T. intercessors don’t have this attitude.

Nehemiah: “I said, ‘I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, Who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses’” (1:5-7).

Isaiah: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts’” (6:1-5).

Daniel: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, Who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day - to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, Who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day - we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name’...I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God...” (Daniel 9:3-20).

The intercessor does not stand apart from those for whom he is interceding. Even if he/she is the only one praying and seeking the face of God, there is no sense of separation from sinners. An intercessor stands both in the presence of God as the sinners for whom he/she is interceding. The intercessor does not pray for them, but for us. The intercessor does not confess their sin, but our sin.

This attitude carried over into the early generations of the Church: “Ye mourned over the transgressions of your neighbors: their deficiencies you deemed your own” (1 Clement 2.6).

Any judgment over this land will begin with the Church (1 Peter 4:17,18; cf. Proverbs 11:31). Peter, quoting the Proverb, speaks of the “difficulty” with which the people of God will be saved. Jesus called it “impossible” (Matthew 19:25,26//Mark 10:26,27//Luke 18:26,27). If the salvation of the Church is such, where is our broken heart for neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, family? Where is our “great sorrow and unceasing grief in...heart” (Romans 9:2)? As long as they’re just categories or ideologies or sins and not people, we don’t make confession to God as one of them. We’ll rail and not weep. They’ll be wicked or ignorant rather than souls on the edge of hell.

Moses said, “forgive their sin - and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32).

Paul said, “I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).

Can you pray like this? Are you broken-hearted intercessor before God, or venom-spitting idealogue who speaks to God like the throne room is a FaceBook page, blog, radio program, or letter to the editor?

May we learn to pray for them as them. We are, after all, eternally united with Christ, sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit according to the election of the Father. This same Christ with Whom we are one is the same Who “knew no sin” yet was made “to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are united with the One Who “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). I am not suggesting that we duplicate Christ’s saving work, but that we reflect the heart of the Incarnate One Who became the ones for whom He came to accomplish salvation. If we are united to Him, this attitude/heart ought to be imaged in our intercession for the Church and Nation.

We do not lessen their guilt. They are sinners meriting eternal hell alone and nothing else. Just like us. “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Pray as one of them for the salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ.

Lord, make us biblical, Christ-like intercessors. We have fashioned our tongues (physical and digital) into worldly weapons. Our words are the overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12:34//Luke 6:45), but there’s no heartbreak over the damned in our hearts or words! Create in us the Spirit of the Intercessor for Your eternal glory and – should You will it – their eternal joy! May we stand before You as one of them in confession and intercession, for this is what it means to be unified with the Intercessor.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Covenant Promises in Our Homes

The promise of the new covenant is one of the most precious of the entire Bible: “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them [only those who know Him will be in the covenant],’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

In the new covenant, He writes His Law on the heart of the covenant people (see also Deuteronomy 30:6,8; Proverbs 1:23; Ezekiel 36:26,27)! This promise is fulfilled in Christ (Hebrews 8:6-12; 9:15; 12:24), and proclaimed weekly at the Table of the Lord (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

His Law is on the hearts of those who are truly the covenant people. But it doesn’t stay there. Remember this other great promise: “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29//Acts 2:16-18). This promise is for all those who “repent” and are “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

The writing of the Law on the heart is parallel to the pouring out of the Spirit. The Word and Spirit cannot be separated. The presence of the Spirit is manifested by the presence of the Word in the heart. The Law, written on the heart of those in the new covenant by the Lord Himself, does not stay in the heart. The Spirit manifests His Word from the heart of the new covenant community members through “prophesy,” “dreams,” and “visions.” These three manifestations will not deviate in the slightest from the Word of God (or they show themselves to be of a different spirit that is not holy).

In the new covenant, the Lord Himself (through His Word/Law and Holy Spirit) works out obedience to His own command: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). I just read this passage to my children last night (we are considering Q.42 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism this week). The Spirit-spoken “prophecy” is none other than the teaching “diligently to your sons” and the “talk...in your house...by the way.” The “dreams” and “visions” are the “talk of them...when you lie down and when you rise up.” This is the blessed man who delights "in the Law of the LORD," and this delight manifests in his "day and night" meditation (Psalm 1:1,2).

Don’t miss the fact that we are to teach our children not just any “words,” but “these words,” commanded by Moses: the Law of God. They will never know their need for Christ apart from “these words” (Galatians 3:22-24). At the same time, don’t miss the fact that you cannot “teach them diligently,” “talk of them,” “bind them,” or “write them” apart from the Holy Spirit, Who speaks His Word/Law from the hearts of those who are the new covenant community in Christ.

“...be filled with the Spirit...fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18; 6:4). The instruction to our children of the Law of God in the power and help of the Holy Spirit in Christ is His great means of grace in our homes.