Let Him That Thinks He Stands Take Heed Lest He Paint

“For many artists, ‘it became an acknowledged pastime to ‘shock the burghers’ out of their complacency and to leave them bewildered and bemused’ . . . While this stance may seem heroic, it also contains the seeds of arrogance that helped bring art to its knees—disdain for any other viewer of the art, including patrons and the public . . . legions of no-talent ‘artists’ have covered their lack of skill with a misplaced surfeit of pride” (Robert Knight, The Age of Consent, p. 148).

Classrooms Are Normal

“I want to defend the Christian classroom as a normal and appropriate way to teach children, one that has been used for millennia by covenant parents and that should not be rejected for modern ideological reasons. Covenant schools were common before the time of Christ. The classroom can (and often should) be rejected for practical reasons, but that is another thing entirely” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 196).

Rallying Points

“Whether it is a public hanging, a war, or a televised glorification of violence, a culture’s righteous violence will fascinate its onlookers. It will be a spectacle. Regardless of the rhetoric and details of its justification, if a society can heighten that fascination and bring it to a cathartic sacrificial conclusion, then the sacrificial violence will be a pharmacological cure for the society’s internal animosities” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 87).

Good Motivation

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

Growing Dominion, Part 100

“He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him” (Prov. 16:26).

This might seem a bit obscure in the Authorized Version. The NIV is blunter. “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” What this means is that God has built into the world a motivation for work, even for those who may not have the highest view of work possible. In other words, while work is a creation ordinance, established before the fall, all the work we do now is in a fallen order, and thorns and thistles conspire against the farmer. The resistance of Murphy and his minions to our efforts is enough to make any laborer, merchant, or businessman despair. Why bother? But after the frustrating job has been quit, and a couple of very pleasant days are spent sitting at home on the couch, the question of continuing the habit of meals arises. When we think about business and labor, we need to remember that God does not want this design feature of His to be removed in the interests of “kindness.” If any is not willing to work, St. Paul says, let him not eat.

Constant, Total War

The subject before us now is that of holy war and its relation to the First Commandment. In a pluralistic society, faithfulness to the First Commandment is necessarily a declaration of war. And this in turn leads to a certain lack of popularity. “When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it . . .” (Deuteronomy 7:1-26).

Our overview should take careful note of how Moses structured this chapter, and how he highlighted what was most important in it. This chapter follows a chiastic structure.

A—God requires the destruction of the gods of Canaan, and their worshipers—Israel is to be holy (vv. 1-6).

     B—God loved their forefathers and delivered them from Egypt (vv. 7-8)

           C—Yahweh is the God of covenant love (vv. 9-10)

     B—God will fulfill the promise made to their forefathers (vv. 11-16) so remember the Exodus (vv. 17-19).

A—The destruction of the gods of Canaan and their worshipers—lest Israel become detestable (vv. 20-26).

God will bring Israel into the land, and will cast out the seven nations before them (v. 1). This number is probably symbolic—Scripture elsewhere lists the number of nations there from three to ten. These nations are stronger than Israel (v. 1), which always provides the compromisers and realists with an argument they are not reluctant to use. But God prohibits any compromise with them—whether political (v. 2), social and marital (v. 3), or religious (vv. 4-5). Obviously, these categories all run together. Israel is to be involved in constant, total war. They are set apart as a holy nation (v. 6).

How did they come to be holy? God was kind to them with a gracious election. It was not because of their numbers (vv. 1, 7). God loved them because He loved their fathers, and He had made a promise to them (v. 8). And that is why they were delivered from Egypt.

The heart of this chapter is that God is a faithful covenant-keeping God. Our God, your God, He is the faithful God. But note that He keeps covenant with sinners, not with those who are perfect. He keeps covenant and mercy. The condition of the covenant is faith, not perfection. Moreover, it is faith, not perfect faith. Those who love Him and keep His commandments have Him as their covenant God for a thousand generations. But our covenant God has a response for covenant-breakers—those who hate Him openly. With them, God is not slack with them—He destroys them (v. 10).

Because God is like this, what should His people be like? They must keep His commandments (v. 11). God will keep His promise made to their fathers if they are faithful (v. 12). The blessings of the covenant are not invisible and “spiritual.” God will love, bless and multiply them. He will give them children (v. 13), fruitful fields, vineyards and orchards (v. 13), and meadows for grazing (v. 13). The blessing will surpass all other peoples, and barrenness will be virtually unknown (v. 14). They will be free from the diseases of Egypt, and their enemies will not be (v. 15). If they consume (eat) their enemies without pity, then the land will be fruitful in this way (v. 16). They must reject both idolatry (v. 16) and fear (vv. 17). The antidote to fear is a good memory (vv. 18-19).

There is to be no compromise. God will drive the heathen out—He will send a numinous panic upon them (v. 20). Israel must fear their terrible God, and not fear their enemies (v. 21). God will remove the Canaanites slowly, lest the land become too wild (v. 22). Nevertheless, they will be destroyed (vv. 23-24). Their idols, along with all the idolatrous paraphanialia, had to be utterly destroyed lest it become a snare (v. 25). Israel must remain holy, and not become detestable herself (v. 26)

The applications for us are not hard to find. Becoming like our god—we must abominate that which is false, or we become abominable and false ourselves(v. 26). If we serve idols we become detestable, just like them. We hear an echo of this in Psalm 115. No compromise—we must never compromise the Word. But we may compromise. A thousand generations—there is no such thing as isolated faithfulness (vv. 9-10). We are to love God over the course of generations.

Go, Eat Your Bread

In this Supper, all the benefits of Christ’s death are sealed for those who partake in faith. This includes everything He has done for us: forgiveness, justification, reconciliation, and infinitely more. We have our conversions renewed and ratified before God as we partake. We have our covenant relation to God renewed as we partake.

This renewal is not renewed like a lease about to expire, but is a renewal more akin to the renewal that food provides, or sexual communion in marriage. But it is renewal nonetheless, and it is renewal of what you have already received from God, all that you have received from God. In this meal, your salvation is growing to maturity. How is this accomplished? The answer is by faith, faith alone, from first to last.

But faith receives the grace of God with eyes wide open. Realize that your salvation is growing to maturity alongside all your brothers and sisters gathered here. So look around as you partake. Do not curl up into a little holy ball, content to go to heaven by yourself. God is renewing covenant with all His people. Look around, and as God gives faith, you will also see the saints around the world doing the same thing, together with the saints in heaven.

And for those who come without faith, trifling with holy things, they do incur the chastisements of the covenant. They defile the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, trampling it underfoot. But we fence the Table for the sake of the defilers, not for the sake of the Lord. The altar did not need protection from Nadab and Abihu. The ark of the covenant did not need protection from Uzzah. The Supper of the Lord did not need protection from greedy and drunken Corinthians.

Although we say this, we are confident of better things in this instance. You are coming in faith, and you are being restored and built up. Rejoice in it, and be glad. This is the day that the Lord has made. Go, eat your bread with a merry heart, for God has accepted you in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Arbiter

We will come at the conclusion of this service to the Lord’s Supper. Too often this Table has been made the occasion for disputes, but this has happened because one aspect of the Table has been neglected. We need to learn to think of this Table as a central arbiter of all disputes.

Too often we want to resolve (or perpetuate!) conflicts by arguments, wranglings, cold shouldering, or various forms of pressure. Not surprisingly, when we grab at our disputes (often with both hands), the result is usually just more jangling. But how can this Table arbitrate disputes? All of us instinctively know about this authority in the Supper, which explains our treatment of the Table in the midst of disputing. Just as an athlete committing a foul tries to have his back to the referee, to the arbiter, so many believers try to position themselves so that their back is to this Table.

In practical terms, if you are involved in disputes with husbands or wives, children or parents, brothers or sisters, hear this. The disputes may be personal, they may be doctrinal, or they may be practical. It does not matter. If you are involved in such a tangle, and the one with whom you are entangled is also here, and is also coming to the Table, and this makes you want to shrink back, or to turn your back, then know beyond any doubt that a certain part of the problem is within you.

Your turning may not be acted upon, but merely desired deep within your heart. You may refuse the bread and wine overtly. You may avoid church because of this. Whatever the manifestation, it is a sign that something has interfered with your communion with Christ—this is His Table, remember? It does not belong to the one with whom you have this dispute. It is the Lord’s Table.

You may be troubled by this and think it simplistic. You may believe that the one with whom you are disputing should be the one avoiding the Table, and because he does not, you must. But other servants answer to their own master. What are you doing? Whose fellowship are you really avoiding?