Month: October 2018

Pastor's Blog

Outmaneuvered by God

In Sunday’s message, we talked about Israel’s demand for a king in 1 Samuel 8:5. In spite of their sinful motivation, God still granted their request. He knew they needed a king—just not for the reasons they thought they did.

We saw how the book of Judges prepared us for this, by helping us recognize that a good king would bring some much-needed stability and leadership to the nation (Judges 21:25).

But if we go even further back then this, all the way to Deuteronomy 17, we’ll discover that God had long foreseen that Israel would ask for a king, and He decreed back then—before they had ever crossed the Jordan—that the king was to have a crucial role in leading the nation in faithfulness to God’s covenant.

Deuteronomy 17:14-15 says, “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you” (Deuteronomy 17:14–15).  

And then after warning them about the kinds of things the king should not do, the Lord says this in verse 18: “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18–20). 

God knew that Israel would eventually want a king, and so He declared that this king was to be a man of His word, a man who knew and kept the covenant—and thus, a man who would lead the nation to do the same. His rejection of Saul and choice of David (1 Samuel 13:14) shows His determination to give Israel this kind of king.

There’s a wonderful irony at work here—Israel’s desire for a king, which was in many ways the capstone of their rebellion against God (1 Samuel 8:7-8), was at the same time the very thing that would secure their obedience to God.

By trying to push God away, they found themselves closer to Him than ever before.

Pastor's Blog

Letting the Rabbits Run

When I prepare a sermon, I write a manuscript. That means writing out my whole sermon, sentence-by-sentence, in such a way that it could be picked up and read by anyone.

There’s three main benefits to doing things this way. First, it forces me to think through absolutely every part of my sermon, helping me to discover leaps of logic or “where did that come from?” moments. I’ve found it’s easy to scratch out an outline that looks good enough, only to discover in the manuscripting process that I’ve left huge gaps in the flow of thought that need to be filled in.

Second, it’s a safety net for those Sundays when I’m not in top shape. I’ve had to preach with the flu and a fever, or while otherwise being “out of it” physically, and if all I had on those weeks was an outline or some note cards (or worse, just my memory!), it would not be good for anybody involved.

The third main benefit for writing a manuscript is that it forces me to be ruthless with rabbit trails. Like many other preachers, I’m often tempted to try and fit the whole counsel of God into every single sermon. A manuscript allows me to step back and spot material that distracts from the message’s main flow of thought.

But the sad part about blocking off every rabbit trail is that not all rabbit trails are an evil. Many sub-points (or side-points) have to get axed because they would take too much attention away from the main point of the message, but in and of themselves they contain some really valuable truth. So the rabbit trails get removed, but now the rabbits have nowhere to run, and I finish writing many sermons with a whole group of them looking up at me with twitching noses and sad faces.

So, this blog. This will be a place for the rabbits to run: a place to paste some of the material I had to cut from my sermons each week. I hope to explore certain points in more depth, answer some questions more fully, and point to other resources that will hopefully help us all understand Sunday’s passage(s) better. Especially with our new series, where each sermon could be a series in its own right, I hope this blog will be a valuable supplement to our times together on Sunday morning.

If you have a question about anything I write here, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

Pastor's Blog

The Covenant With Adam

On Sunday, I mentioned that God’s covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:20-9:17) is the first covenant explicitly described as a covenant in Scripture, but that this does not necessarily mean it’s the first covenant that ever took place. In fact, there’s some good evidence of a covenant between God and Adam.

What is that evidence? It starts with the language of Adam and Eve being made in God’s image, after His likeness (Gen. 1:26). As we explored in the message on Creation, this language carries the idea of Adam and Eve being God’s representative here on earth. Combined with God’s commands to Adam, this assumes some sort of formal relationship.

And in fact, Hosea 6:7 points to this when it says, “But like Adam they [the people of Israel] transgressed the covenant.” This verse strongly suggests that Adam was in a formal covenant relationship with God.

Probably the biggest evidence for a covenant with Adam is the very language used by God in relation to Noah, when He says, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you” (Gen. 9:9). Every single time that this Hebrew phrase for “establish a covenant” is used in the Old Testament, it speaks of making good on or upholding a previously existing covenant, as opposed to making a brand-new covenant.1See Peter J. Gentry & Stephen J. Wellum, “Kingdom through Covenant.” p. 155.

All of this points to the fact that God had made a covenant with Adam, and through him, the creation over which Adam was to rule as God’s representative. Adam broke that covenant, and so, with Noah, God comes to (re)establish that covenant: to make good on His pre-existing covenant promises.

Even the covenant with Adam, however, may not be the first covenant in the history of redemption. In the second week of this series, when we talked about everything God was doing before the beginning, we saw evidence of a covenant between the Father and the Son. It’s there in those words from Titus 1:2, which speak of God promising eternal life “before the ages began.” It’s on this basis that some theologians speak of the “covenant of redemption” made between the members of the Trinity before the world was made. (See, for example,

What an incredible realization—that God has been building the story of redemption on the framework of His covenants from before the beginning of time itself! And as we’re going to keep learning in this series, these covenants will play an increasingly key role as the storyline progresses.

Stay tuned!

Pastor's Blog

What Eve Should Have Said

In this week’s sermon, we explored Genesis 3 and the tragic story of the fall. We considered the conversation between Eve and the serpent and the way the serpent led up to his Big Lie in Gen. 3:4: “You will not surely die.”

Now right at that point, right after hearing the serpent flatly contradict the word of God, what should Eve have said, had she been thinking clearly?

She should have said, “Why are you talking to me about this? My husband is the one who heard the command from God. Let me go find him.”

But Eve didn’t do that. Instead, she allowed the serpent to assume leadership over her.

Eve also should have said, “Why should I believe you instead of God? Who are you? You’re an animal. I’m supposed to have dominion over you. Why should I listen to your version of the story instead of God’s? Why would I ever doubt that God has given me the truth?”

But Eve didn’t say that. Eve laid down her charge to have dominion over the animals. And she decided to listen to a source of truth other than God. And then she decided that she could weigh and evaluate the claims of God herself. She decided to consider the possibility that God was either lying or didn’t know as much as this serpent. And she decided to trust herself, instead of God, as a reliable judge of these matters.

Eve should have said, “I trust God. I trust He loves me. I trust that He would not withhold anything good from me or command me to do anything not good for me.”

But she didn’t do that. She doubted God’s wisdom and love and care for her.

Eve should have said, “There is no way I can be more like God than I already am through my own attainments. God is the Creator. I’m something He created. It’s ridiculous to think that I could become like Him through things that I would do. And why would I want to? I’m content for Him to be God, and for me to be me.”

But she didn’t say that. She bought into the idea that she and God were equal players, and that she could work up to His level on her own. And that this was somehow a good idea to pursue. She wasn’t content to trust God. She wanted to be God.

Eve should have said, “God said not to do this. I may not understand everything perfectly, but I don’t want to disobey him. I don’t want to hurt my relationship with Him by doing what he doesn’t want me to do. And besides, that tree isn’t mine. It’s his. I don’t get to take something that doesn’t belong to me.”

But she didn’t. She gave no thought to God or how this would impact her relationship with Him. She disobeyed and she stole.

When you lay it out like that, when you really break down the levels of the decision that Eve was making here, it seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s insane that she would survey all of this and say, “Nope, I’m going to do my thing. I’m going to trust this serpent instead of my Creator.”

But here’s the rub: she didn’t survey all of this and come to a logical conclusion. Sin doesn’t work that way. Nobody sins because of a logical assessment of the facts. Like we saw on Sunday, the answer to the question “what was she thinking?” is, “she wasn’t.” Verse 6 tells us that Eve was driven to eat the fruit because of lust. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6).

And so it was Eve’s desire for the fruit which made the serpent’s ridiculous lie seem believable—just like the sluggard of Proverbs 22:13, whose sinful desire to avoid work makes the fantasy of a lion in the street seem plausible. This is what Romans 1:18 calls “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” It is the illogical, truth-twisting, soul-destroying sin we are all captive to—apart from the saving work of God in our hearts.

May this knowledge of the subtlety of sin cause us to heed the powerful warning of Hebrews 3:12-13: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”