Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
JUNE 13 — Deuteronomy 18; Psalm 105; Isaiah 45; Revelation 15
THE PROPHECY OF THE COMING of a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18) must first of all be understood within its own context. Four observations bring this passage to sharp focus.
First, the preceding verses (18:9-13) condemn the religious practices of the nations the Israelites are displacing, especially those religious practices used for guidance: divination, sorcery, interpretation of omens, witchcraft, casting of spells, spiritism, and necromancy. These “detestable practices” (18:12) constitute part of the reason why these nations were driven out—a lesson many in the West have not learned, to our great danger. Such practices implicitly deny God’s sovereignty, and encourage people to rely for their safety and well-being on either superstitious nonsense or demonic power. In the transition verse (18:14), Moses contrasts the Israelites: “But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.” Far from it: as the Lord gave his word through the prophet Moses, so after Moses’ death God will raise up a prophet like Moses. “You must listen to him” (18:15). God’s people are to be led by the word of God faithfully delivered by his prophets, not by religious superstition.
Second, that raises the question as to who is a true prophet (18:20-22), a theme Moses had already discussed (Deut. 13; see the June 9 meditation) but which is here briefly reintroduced. For if people will know the Word of God through God’s prophets, it is important to reiterate some of the criteria by which one may distinguish true prophets from false.
Third, Moses reminds the Israelites of the essentially mediatorial role of the prophet (18:16-17). Of course, this is true at a fairly trite level: genuine prophets reveal words from God that would otherwise be unknown, and thus mediate between God and people. But Moses refers to something more profound. When God displayed himself at Sinai, the people were so terrified that they knew they dared not approach this holy God: they would be destroyed (Ex. 20:18-19). The people wanted Moses to be the mediator of the revelation from God. God praises them for this judgment, this right-minded fear of God (Deut. 18:17). In the same way, God will raise up another prophet who will exercise the same mediating function.
Fourth, at some level this promise was fulfilled in every genuine prophet God sent. But the language of this promise is so generous it is difficult not to see that some special prophet is finally in view: he will not only tell everything that God commands him, but if anyone does not listen to God’s words spoken in God’s name, God himself will hold him to account. Meditate not only on Acts 3:22-23; 7:37, but on John 5:16-30.
Now, we continue look at the chapters from Leviticus found in our Bible Reading Plan. Previously, we looked at the grain offering (chapter 2) and the peace offering (chapter 3). This time, we turn our attention to the sin offering in Chapter 4.
The sin offering was offered for those who sinned unintentionally. These sins were not calculated, but done in the moment. Some time may have passed between the time they were committed and when the transgressor became aware of the offense. The human heart is deceptive and we can go for a period of time before the Holy Spirit draws our attention to our wrongdoing. But, once we become aware of our sin, we must confess our sins and remember that we need a Substitute to pay for even those sins. Ignorance is no excuse.
In the chapter, there are different sacrifices prescribed for each type of offense. If a priest sins, he must offer a bull (verse 3). This is the same sacrifice that is given for the whole people. Because Christ in his role as High Priest took on the sins of all of his people, the high priest of Israel must have an offering equivalent to the sacrifice given for all the people.
After he offers up the sacrifice as in earlier sacrifices, this time he brings brings some of the blood to the tent of meeting in order to sprinkle some of the blood on the veil. In the New Testament, we learn that the veil represents the body of Christ. Again and again, we see the Levitical sacrificial system pointing to our blessed Savior. He also puts some of the blood on the horns of the altar, which is a public display of propitiation (see Romans 3:23-26). It is the altar of fragrance which symbolizes that God is pleased with the sacrifice. Finally, the rest of the bull is taken to a clean place outside the camp and is burned until only ashes remain, a reminder that God’s judgment toward those sins is completed.
In the following verses (13-21), the procedure is given for an unintentional sin of the entire congregation. This time, the elders must place their hand on the bull, showing that leaders have a special responsibility for the sins of the people.
In verses 22-26, the procedure for the unintentional sin of a leader is given. This is similar to the previous sacrifices, but this time a goat is given, since the people did not share in the sin. Finally, in verses 27-35, the procedure for a common person is given. The sacrifice can be a female goat or lamb. Since the seriousness for the congregation is less, the animal does not need to be as costly.
We all sin more than we are aware of. Jesus’ sacrifice pays for all of those sins too. But, when we become aware of those sins, we must take those sins to Jesus too, that he might get the glory as the Substitute for all of our sins, known and unknown, intentional and unintentional. Even one unintentional sin on our part would require that Jesus offer himself as a sacrifice to bleed and die that he might offer up his blood as a testimony to the Father that his holiness requires the death of the sinner. Praise God that Jesus takes our place in that punishment when we trust in him and place our hand on the Lamb of God through faith.
CONCLUSION: A Savior Is Born! God Gets the Glory, You Get the Peace
A Christmas Sermon by John Piper
Some of the most familiar and happy words of Christmas are these:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:11–14)
Let’s exult together over the wonders in this text. On our way to the glory and the peace of verse 14 there are wonders to see.
“For unto you is born this day . . .” It happened on a day. A day in history. Not a day in some mythological, imaginary story, but a day when Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome “and Quirinius was governor of Syria” (v. 2).
It was a day planned in eternity before the creation of the world. Indeed the whole universe—with untold light-years of space and billions of galaxies—was created and made glorious for this day and what it means for human history.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col. 1:16)
For him! For his appearance. For this day of his appearing. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4). It happened on a day. The perfect day. In the fullness of time. The perfect time appointed by God before the foundation of the world. “For unto you is born this day!”
“…in the city of David…”It happened in a city.Not in Narnia. Not in Middle Earth. Not in a galaxy far, far away. It happened in a city about seven thousand miles from Min- neapolis. The city still exists today. My mother was killed in a bus accident just outside this city. This city is real.
The city’s name is Bethlehem (Luke 2:4, “Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.”) Bethlehem, six miles from Jerusalem. Bethle- hem, the city where Jesse lived, the father of David, the great king of Israel.
Bethlehem, the city that Micah prophesied over:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Mic. 5:2)
It happened in a city. A real city, like the city you live in.
Savior, Messiah, Lord
“…a Savior…” “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” A Savior. If you have ever sinned against God, you need a Savior. The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Only God can forgive sins against God. That is why God sent the eternal Son of God into the world, because he is God. That’s why Jesus said, “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Therefore, a Savior was born.
“. . . who is Christ . . .” “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ.” Christ is the English for Christos, which means “anointed one,” which is the meaning of “Messiah” (John 1:41; 4:25). This is the one long-predicted, long-awaited, the one anointed above all others (Ps. 45:7). The final anointed king. The final anointed prophet. The final anointed priest. In him all the promises of God are yes! (2 Cor. 1:20). He would fulfill all the hopes and dreams of godly Israel. And more, vastly more. Because he is also . . . “. . . the Lord.” “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The ruler, the sov- ereign, the mighty God, the everlasting Father. The Lord of the universe.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. (Isa. 9:6–7)
Christmas in Sum
The Lord of never-ending, universal, sovereign governance. The Lord of all lords.
So I exult with you this Christmas that we have a great Savior, Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, born on a day in a city to save us from our sins—our many sins.
Two Great Purposes for This Great News
And when the angel had announced this news to the shepherds (Luke 2:11) and pointed them to the very animal shed where the baby lay, suddenly an army of angels appeared in the sky. Evidently, one angel can bring the news, but it does not suffice for one angel to respond to the news. The meaning of this news, the ultimate outcome of this news—that demands an army of angels.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host [army!] praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (vv. 2:13–14)
The joyful news that on a day, at the perfect fullness of time, in the perfect prophesied city, a Savior was born, who was Christ, the Lord—that news has two great outcomes. Two great purposes. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
God’s Glory and Our Peace
The coming of this child will be the greatest revelation of the glory of God even among the heights of heaven, and the com- ing of this child will bring peace to God’s people—who will one day fill the whole earth with righteousness and peace. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isa. 9:7).
First and foremost, God is glorified because this child is born. And, second, peace is to spread everywhere this child is received. These are the great purposes for the coming of Jesus: glory ever ascending from man to God. Peace ever descending from God to man. God’s glory sung out among men for the sake of his name. God’s peace lived out among men for the sake of his name.
There is hardly a better way to sum up what God was about when he created the world, or when he came to reclaim the world in Jesus Christ—his glory, our peace. His greatness, our joy. His beauty, our pleasure. The point of creation and redemption is that God is glorious and means to be known and praised for his glory by a peace-filled new humanity.
To Experience the Peace He Brings
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” The old King James Version trans- lated verse 14b, “and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Virtually all the modern translations agree that this was not an accurate translation. The NIV says, “. . . and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” The NASB says, “. . . and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” And the ESV says, “. . . and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The point is that even though God’s offer of peace goes out to all, only his chosen people—the people who receive Christ and trust him as Savior and Messiah and Lord, will experience the peace he brings.
You get a glimpse of this meaning in Luke 10:5–6, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ [that’s the offer of peace to all] And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.”
God’s peace in Christ is offered to the world. But only the “sons of peace” receive it. How do you know if you are a “son of peace”? How do you know if you are part of the angels’ promise, “Peace among those with whom he is pleased!”? An- swer: you welcome the Peacemaker; you receive Jesus.
The Main Point of Peace
God’s purpose is to give you peace by being the most glori- ous person in your life. Five times in the New Testament he is called “the God of peace” (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20). And Jesus said, “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). And Paul said, “[Jesus] himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).
What this means is that the peace of God, or the peace of Christ, can never be separated from God himself and Christ himself. If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. Christ must rule in our lives. God’s purpose is not to give you peace separate from himself. His purpose is to give you peace by being the most glorious person in your life.
So the key to peace is keeping together what the angels keep together: glory to God and peace to man. A heart bent on showing the glory of God will know the peace of God.
And what holds the two together—God getting glory and we getting peace—is believing or trusting the promises of God obtained by Jesus. Romans 15:13 is one of those fundamental texts pointing to this crucial role of faith: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” In believing. In other words, the way God’s promises become real for us and produce peace in us and through us is “in believing.” When we believe them. That’s true whether we are talking about peace with God, peace with ourselves, or peace with others.
Three Relationships of Peace
My great desire for you this Christmas is that you enjoy this peace. We know that there are global aspects to this peace that lie in the future when “the earth will be filled with the knowl- edge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). When, as Isaiah says, “Of the increase of his gov- ernment and of peace there will be no end” (Isa. 9:7).
But Jesus has come to inaugurate that peace among God’s people. And there are three relationships in which he wants you to pursue this peace and enjoy this peace. Peace with God. Peace with your own soul. And peace with other people, as much as it lies in you.
And by peace, I mean not only the absence of conflict and animosity but also the presence of joyful tranquility, and as much richness of interpersonal communication as you are capable of.
So let’s look at each of these three peaceful relationships briefly and make sure you are enjoying as much as you can. The key to each of them is not to separate what the angels kept together: the glory of God and the peace you long for. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.”
Peace with God
The most basic need we have is peace with God. This is foundational to all our pursuits of peace. If we don’t go here first, all other experiences of peace will be superficial and temporary.
The key passage here is Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith [there’s the pivotal act of believing], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Justified” means that God declares you to be just in his sight by imputing to you the righteousness of Jesus.
And he does that by faith alone: “Since we have been justi- fied by faith” (Rom. 5:1). Not by works. Not by tradition. Not by baptism. Not by church membership. Not by piety. Not by parentage. But by faith alone. When we believe in Jesus as the Savior and the Lord and the supreme treasure of our lives, we are united to him and his righteousness is counted by God as ours. We are justified by faith.
And the result is peace with God. God’s anger at us because of our sin is put away. Our rebellion against him is overcome. God adopts us into his family. And from now on all his deal- ings with us are for our good. He will never be against us. He is our Father and our friend. We have peace. We don’t need to be afraid any more. This is foundational to all other peace.
Peace with Ourselves
And because we have peace with God because of being justified by faith, we can begin to grow in the enjoyment of peace with ourselves—and here I include any sense of guilt or anxiety that tends to paralyze us or make us hopeless. Here again, believ- ing the promises of God with a view to glorifying God in our lives is key.
Philippians 4:6–7 is one of the most precious passages in this regard: “Do not be anxious about anything [the opposite of anxiety is peace], but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [in other words, roll your anxieties onto God]. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The picture here is that our hearts and our minds are under assault. Guilt, worries, threats, confusions, uncertainties—they all threaten our peace. And Paul says that God wants to “guard” our hearts and minds. He guards them with his peace. He guards them in a way that goes beyond what human under- standing can fathom—“which surpasses all understanding.”
Don’t limit the peace of God by what your understanding can see. He gives us inexplicable peace, supra-rational peace. And he does it when we take our anxieties to him in prayer and trust him that he will carry them for us (1 Pet. 5:7) and protect us.
When we do this, when we come to him—and remember we already have peace with him!—and trust him as our loving and almighty Heavenly Father to help us, his peace comes to us and steadies us and protects us from the disabling effects of fear and anxiety and guilt. And then we are able to carry on, and our God gets the glory for what we do because we trusted him.
Do that this Christmas. Take your anxieties to God. Tell him about them. Ask him to help you. To protect you. To restore your peace. And then to use you to make peace.
Peace with Others
The third relationship in which God wants us to enjoy his peace is in our relationships with other people. This is the one we have least control over. So we need to say it carefully the way Paul does in Romans 12:18. He says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
For many of you, when you get together with family for Christmas, there will be some awkward and painful relation- ships. Some of the pain is very old. And some of it is new. In some relationships you know what you have to do, no matter how hard it is. And in some of them you are baffled and don’t know what the path of peace calls for.
In both cases the key is trusting the promises of God with heartfelt awareness of how he forgave you through Christ. I think the text that puts this together most powerfully for me again and again is Ephesians 4:31–32: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender- hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Continually cultivate a sense of amazement that in spite of all your sins, God has forgiven you through Christ. Be amazed that you have peace with God. It’s this sense of amazement, that I, a sinner, have peace with God, that makes the heart tender, kind, and forgiving. Extend this to others seventy times seven.
It may be thrown back in your face. It certainly was thrown back in Jesus’s face on the cross. That hurts, and it can make you bitter if you are not careful. Don’t let it. Keep being more amazed that your wrongs are forgiven than that you are wronged. Be amazed that you have peace with God. You have peace with your soul. Your guilt is taken away.
Keep trusting God. He knows what he is doing. Keep his glory—not your success or your effectiveness in peacemaking or your relationships—supreme in the treasure chest of your heart.
And then you will be like the angels: glory to God in the highest is the first thing. Peace among his people is the second thing.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is why he came—on a day, to a city, as the Savior, Messiah, and Sovereign. That God would get glory and that you would know peace. May the God of peace give you peace and get his glory.
This sermon is from The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. You can download the entire book as a free PDF or purchase the Kindle or hard copy versions here: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Readings for Advent
Grace: The Dominant Note of Christmas
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. –JOHN 6:51
There is no traditional Christmas story about the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of John. You remember how it begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Instead of putting the Christmas story up front with its explanation, John weaves the story of Christmas and the purpose of Christmas through the Gospel.
For example, after saying that the Word “was God,” John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14–16).
So the eternal Word of God took on human flesh, and in that way the divine Son of God—who never had an origin, and never came into being, and was God, but was also with God— became man. And in doing this, he made the glory of God visible in a wholly new way. And this divine glory, uniquely manifest in the Son of God, was full of grace and truth. And from that fullness we receive grace upon grace.
That is the meaning of Christmas in John’s Gospel. God the Son, who is God, and who is with God, came to reveal God in a way he had never been revealed before. And in that revelation, the dominant note struck is grace: from the fullness of that revelation of divine glory, we receive grace upon grace.
Or as it says in John 3:16–17, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, [that’s Christmas and Good Friday all in one] that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world [Christmas is not for condemnation], but in order that the world might be saved through him [Christmas is for salvation].”
And at the end of his life, Jesus was standing before Pilate, and Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world [this is the purpose of Christmas]—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
What was the effect of the truth that Jesus witnessed to with his words and his whole person? He told us in John 8:31– 32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So the meaning of Christmas is this: the Son of God came into the world to bear witness to the truth in a way that it had never been witnessed to before.
He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). And the aim of giving himself as the truth to the world is freedom. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. Free from the guilt and power of sin. Free from deadness and blindness and judgment.
How does that liberation happen? Recall from John 6 that in coming down from heaven, Jesus was planning to die. He came to die. He came to live a perfect, sinless life and then die for sinners. John 6:51: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that he could give his flesh for the life of the world. We sinners can receive grace upon grace from his fullness because he came to die for us. Christmas was from the beginning a preparation for Good Friday.
So throughout the Gospel of John the meaning of Christmas becomes clear. The Word became flesh. He revealed the glory of God as never before. He died according to his own plan. Because of his death in our place, he is bread for us. He is the source of forgiveness and righteousness and life. This is the great meaning of Christmas in the Gospel of John. Indeed in the world. Today.
This advent reading is from The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. You can download the entire book as a free PDF or purchase the Kindle or hard copy versions here: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Readings for Advent