Weekend Reading: August 28, 2015

Welcome to your Weekend Reading, a roundup of my favorite stories, blogs, videos and more from the past week. If you’re new to the list, what you can expect is a mix of theology, politics, and fun everyday life stuff. Basically, I sort through all the stuff out there so you don’t have to.

Let’s start with a rather fascinating story about how one solitary little college student accidentally found herself in the way of a bunch of big companies working to redefine a political-geographic area for better tax reasons. They were trying to draw new political boundaries with zero voters…unfortunately they missed one. It’s actually quite amusing no matter what your politics are!

No doubt that by now you’re familiar with the news stories surrounding AshleyMadison.com, so I won’t describe it here. But Gizmodo has an interesting breakdown on the data that was leaked, and their conclusion is amazing, “we’re left with data that suggests Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.” (h/t Challies)

Video number 8 came out this week revealing more of the sin and corruption behind Planned Parenthood’s sale of human body parts – sometimes for upwards of $75 per body part. And after the protests from earlier this week, John Piper wrote a very thoughtful blog on his observations after attending one such anti-PP protest.

When we moved to our new house in NW Columbus last year, Kate and I often went back and forth about our motivation for moving. We had been living in a very “edgy” neighborhood, had our home ransacked, continually had drugs sold in front/back of our home, and even had gun shots fired in our front yard.  But ultimately we loved our neighbors (Danny had an endless supply of candy and kindness for our kids) and our home (components of which were 47% Lowes, 40% original, 13% unrecognizable), and our move was motivated by wanting to be near our church, and the people we were ministering to every week. This week Kate sent me a very thoughtful blog from Pastor Nick Nye that is worth reading if you’re thinking of moving in the near future.

On the Presidential Election frontJohn Kasich is now in second place in New Hampshire and building a formidable campaign. James Carville – Dem strategist/political guru – says that Trump has momentum that is basically unprecedented. And Carly Fiorina gave what I thought to be a really good answer this week on climate change. Tangential to all of this, yet somewhat related, is an article the Wall Street Journal did on the different Trump Towers/Buildings, really interesting stuff. Lastly, Kasich received another unconventional endorsement this week…clearly he’s got the election wrapped up…

Remember the Oregon couple who had their business devastated by activist judges after refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Ya, those people are now baking cakes (out of their home, mind you) for dozens of pro-LGBT organizations around the country to show them what love looks like. It’s a pretty cool story. 

In my position as a political operative and christian, devoted to my family and ministering to others, I’m often asked about how politics and religion mix appropriately. One of the questions I get from time to time is, “Is it appropriate for Christians to be involved in politics at all?” or from sort of the opposite end of the scale, “Can we expect christians to actually make effective changes in government?”  This week there was a decent piece of writing from Phillip Holmes on this subject, and I suppose its coming at the matter from that latter perspective. I like that he quotes Nancy Pearcey – find her seminal book here. 

Best of WSJ – a commonsense editorial from the Wall Street Journal on how reaction to Tim Cook’s email re: Chinese sales of Apple products (to Jim Cramer) is overblown. If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ll know that the stock market plummeted on Monday, mostly because of concerns over the Chinese economy. Also, they had an interesting piece on how women’s soccer is taking flight in Iran, of all places.

Wacko Article of the Week: There was a story/radio interview this week with a gay couple on the west coast who are raising their child in a species-less way. That means that they aren’t forcing “humanness” upon the child, but letting “it” identify with whatever it will. This is, of course, revolting, but it is also a real life example of how confusion over gender and sexual identity can lead to actually denying ones own humanity. These view points stand in conflict with the desire by the LGBT community who want to be treated “equal” – which begs the question of how they view themselves ultimately…are they human? How will people answer this question in years to come? We know the answer, of course. They are human, and they are because they were made so by God. In fact, they bear His image, and thus ought to be treated as such. (h/t Derek)

Powerful Article of the Week: Challies linked to a short post by Matthew Holst aimed at addressing men who look and lust at women. As he sits in Starbucks and notices all the men “checking out” women around him, he’s driven to write a few things for men to consider. Check it out here. 

Timely, provoking blog this week, addressed to Christians, on the matter of organic food, essential oils, and all, well, “non-essentials”.  I’m the first to admit that our family buys organic, uses essential oils, and homeschool our kids. So if you’re looking to stereotype us, that ought to help a bit. But the aim of this article is really good, namely it aims at the pride of people who spend all their time and energy evangelizing for what, at the end of the day, are really non-essentials. 

And, in case you hadn’t noticed my obsession with the DG website this week, here’s one last blog post that was worth reading by David Mathis. Mathis writes about Fasting for Beginners. This one really convicted me, and beyond that I found it helpful as well.

I don’t even know what to think about this new offering from Amazonorder TP right from the porcelain throne (h/t Ben F).

Sports lesson of the week: finish the race strong…aka: don’t celebrate prematurely

Finally, check out this hilarious video of a dude who goes into IKEA with his girl and starts clipping together IKEA-puns...laughed until it hurt (h/t Alex W.)

That’s it – go enjoy your weekend!

PJW

PS – If you’re desirous of not getting an email, just ping me.

Weekend Reading: August 21, 2015

Well it’s a beautiful day and looks like for a lot of the country it will be an equally beautiful weekend. So as you’re sipping on coffee, driving the kids around, or whatever you’re doing, pull up the weekend reading and catch up on the week’s most important and interesting stories (from my vantage point, of course!).

Let’s begin with the Presidential race. Charles Barkley is looking at supporting Gov. Kasich (is this a good thing for Kasich??), and Hillary Clinton ran into some more email secrecy issues. She tried to brush it off by acting stupid as if she didn’t know what “wiping a server” really meant, which prompted Republicans to start selling these handy items: Secret Server Wipes!  Then we learned that HRC didn’t even use a State Dept. issued Blackberry – she just used whatever she wanted, her own device, because hey, why not? And…it looks like the Blackberries of her two top aides have been destroyed (“wipe” that shocked look off your face!). Best line of the story:

“If the State Department was not providing secure email devices to Mrs. Clinton, who was? Best Buy? Target? Mrs. Clinton clearly did whatever she wanted, without regard to national security or federal records keeping laws,” Mr. Fitton said.

She must think we’re stupid, stupid, stupid…

In other super important Presidential news, Marco Rubio accidentally nailed some poor kid in the head with a football.  Best Tweet after: “WHY TRUMP COULD WIN: Rubio will apologize to the kid. The Donald would tell him he should develop better hands”.

And if you like Dr. Ben Carson, you might be interested in this in-depth article about his key advisors. 

Probably the biggest story of the week internationally was that the U.N., in all of their glorious wisdom and righteousness, has made a secret (well, now not so much) deal with Iran to allow them to inspect their own nuclear sites.………………..yes you read the correctly.

lando deal

One of the most interesting Wall Street Journal articles of the week was on ‘The Rise of Phone Reading’ – mostly explaining how kindles are in decline as more people are reading books on their cell phones. This was further confirmed for me yesterday during a conversation with friend Olivia who steals away moments to read books on her cell phone.

If you’re in the Columbus Ohio area then chances are you have eaten at a Cameron Mitchell restaurant (unless you’re living under a rock). This week there was a neat little write up on his entrepreneurial endeavors (h/t my Kate).

And this has to be the coolest video I’ve seen in a while: What happens to your checked luggage? (h/t Tim Challies)

Tomorrow a large nationwide protest has been organized against Planned Parenthood. Organizational website is here. Blog from Kuyperian folks on the day can be found here. 

Hilarious post from Foreign Policy Mag about Chinese misconceptions about Europe. They basically took all the silly Chinese stereotypes of European nations and mapped them! 

And I don’t even know what to think of this, but the New York Times has a story confirming that Warren Harding wasn’t America’s first black President…

I thought this was sort of interesting…Amazon now has a Siri-like product…for your home. I didn’t get a chance to finish reading about it, but there’s also an article in the WSJ about how the newest Corvette has integrated Apple apps for podcasting, maps, iTunes and more, check it out.

If you’re looking for encouragement this week, check out John Piper’s old sermon series ‘The Pleasures of God’ – I listened to this again a few weeks ago and it really gets your mind engaged and your heart reset.  Speaking of Piper, the latest on their upcoming national conference (now at Bethlehem Seminary) was announced this week. 

Another missive from the political world…Boehner goes on fishing trip. This was interesting because its more from the perspective of the local fishing guide, which I found intriguing.

Some of the best news saved for last: Jason Day won the PGA Championship last Sunday! I like Jason, although I was rooting for Jordan Spieth. Both are great golfers and great examples to onlooking kids.

Finally, there was a very powerful Op-Ed written by an Oregon Doctor about doctor assisted suicide, why its creating a climate of fear in Oregon, and why it needs to stop. It is made all the more powerful by the fact that this man’s own wife battled and eventually succumbed to cancer a few years ago. Don’t miss reading this one.

That’s it!  Enjoy your weekend, and happy reading!

PJW

Weekend Reading: August 14, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Weekend Reading. I took the week off last week, so I have several older articles that still might interest you as you head into the weekend.

In the wake of the Republican Presidential debate last week, there’s been a number of interesting articles. Politico has one that is one long list of outrageous comments Donald Trump has said over the course of the last few decades. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the top 5 most plausible candidates (Cruz, Walker, Bush, Kasich, Rubio). The LA Times did a piece on how Brett Baier preps for each debate (including a mention of his 10 min of prayer prior to hitting the stage). And apparently (I think pre-debate) someone at Gawker leaked Trump’s cell phone to the public, but he turned it into an advertising opportunity. 

Get this: the federal government is threatening Alabama by saying that they may withhold Medicaid funding because Alabama has voted to defund/not fund any contracts from their state’s dollars that go to Planned Parenthood. In other words, the federal government is standing on the side of a private contractor which has been caught in multiple acts of selling the body parts of children for profit. If that doesn’t anger you (in a righteous way) than I don’t know what will. Tim Challies has an article on how to best respond to the Planned Parenthood scandal.

Speaking of corruption. Here is a story and here is a story about the latest revelations on Hillary’s email scandal. She had extremely top secret emails – including satellite images – in her private email server.

And while we’re on the topic of lawlessness, the WSJ decried the lawlessness of our President once again – this time its over the National Labor Relations Board. They also have story on why minimum wage hikes kill jobs, using Wendy’s as the latest example, and one on how the Iranian deal with line the pockets of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and how there are a ton of secret side deals as part of this deal that even Congress hasn’t been able to get to the bottom of. 

If you’d like a bit of encouragement, check out this link to my notes on Luke 15 (this is the chapter with the prodigal son). Hopefully it is edifying to you!

I’m sorry to post another WSJ article, but if you don’t have a subscription you’re missing out!  Here’s an awesome (and more positive) story about electric skateboards. This is as close as we’re going to get to hoverboards in my lifetime!  I’m saving up for one of these babies!

You’ve doubtless heard all the kerfuffle over the dentist who killed some supposedly prized African lion, right?  All a bunch of nonsense if you ask me. Well here is a very interesting column from The Hill that explains why hunting parties actually help fund the preservation of these animals, and keep the biped population safe at the same time!

On a lighter note, there’s a new Star Wars trailer out, and unless I missed something…its only in Korean!?

On a sad note, the gal who played the role of Laura Ingles Wilder on that old show Little House on the Prarie is running for office – as a Democrat. However, she probably won’t get too far as it seems she owes a tidy sum of money to the IRS (didn’t her Pa bring her up better than that???)

I don’t know if anyone else saw this, but the New York Daily News had a story about how more scientists are saying that cell phones could cause cancer long term. 

Very interesting video about a master penman (ya, there is such a thing) and how he does his craft. Definitely interesting enough to check out.

My brother sent me this cool insiders scoop on what a PGA golfer’s life is like…some of it I buy, but I’m not feeling sorry for them.

Finally, thanks to Marc Wilson for also posting some crazy silly video on Facebook…this one was pretty funny. 

That’s it!  Enjoy your weekend!

PJW

What was lost is now found

Last night I taught on Luke 15, three parables that teach us about the lengths God has gone to save us, and the only proper response to His pursuit: joy and repentance.  Below are my notes, I hope you profit from them!

Luke Chapter 15

Introduction to the Chapter

Chapter fifteen features three parables which showcase many aspects of the character of Jesus, but only one essential truth: God has gone to great lengths to save those who were lost and not thought worthy of the kingdom of God, and finds great joy in doing so! If there’s a second point, it is that the lowly, the meek, the humble who seek repentance are those who populate the kingdom of God.

You’ve heard of “seeker-sensitive” churches, but in this chapter we learn that it is God who is the seeker, and we see his character and his chase highlighted herein. We also see the kind of person he is chasing (sinners) and what the proper reply is to his calling (repentance).

In each parable something that was lost been restored. In the first parable we see the lengths to which a good shepherd will go in order to find a lost sheep. In the second parable, the woman who has lost a valuable coin searches everywhere in order to find that which was so valuable. Finally, in the parable of the prodigal son, we see the longsuffering father, effusive with joy and love upon the return and restoration of his long lost son.

Through each parable we see the heart of Christ for the lost, the sinful, the wayward – He sees them as valuable beyond measure. God doesn’t do anything that is a “waste of his time” so to speak. Everything he does is supremely worthy of his effort. He always ordains and acts according to what will bring him the most glory – this is the wisdom of God.

Those whom Christ has chosen to set His love upon from eternity past as HIS. They are a love gift from the Father, and despite their wanderings, He will surely go to the ends of the earth to chase them down with His love.

Once again, Luke 19:10 serves as a wonderful guide to understanding this chapter, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

These sinners were the social outcasts. Tax collectors were traitors to their own people, collecting money from fellow Israelites on behalf of the Romans. They functioned as mercenaries who cared more about riches than holiness. Ryken says, The word ‘sinners’ was the catch all for people who had a notorious reputation for bad behavior – thieves, drunkards, prostitutes, and anyone else who refused to conform to the holy habits of the religious community.”[1]

In this culture hospitality was a very important part of the social order, and who you ate with was just as important. – so much so that when these Pharisees saw Jesus eating with sinners it was enough to throw them into convulsions.

Ryken says that this word “receives” (prosdechomai) was “to welcome them into fellowship, to accept them and associate with them. In that culture, one of the most tangible ways to establish this kind of friendship was to share a meal.”[2]

You have to ask yourself this: Are you so outwardly religious that no sinner would want to get near you?[3] Or are you compassionate, and full of wisdom? Do you welcome and surround yourself with sinners who need saving? It is easy to fall into a legalistic mindset, so much so that you are unwilling to have a beer with a colleague after work. And on the flip side, perhaps you are willing to eat with them, and you’re very approachable, but you don’t ever lead them to the reason for the hope within you. Jesus calls upon us to be both approachable and loving and also transparently truthful. His mission was to seek and save the lost – and that ought to be ours as well.[4]

15:3-7 So he told them this parable: [4] “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

There are three things we need to notice about this parable.

  1. Jesus is the shepherd in this parable, and he is seeking a specific sheep. He knows the name of that sheep. The shepherd of Israel was always seen as the Lord.

This is a truth rooted in the psalms:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. [2] He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. [3] He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. [2] Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! (Psalm 80:1-2)

This is a truth rooted in the prophets – He had a specific group of people upon whom He had set his affections:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. [12] As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. [13] And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. [14] I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. [16] I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

This is a truth which finds is greatest expression in the person of Jesus:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. [10] All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (John 17:9-10)

  1. Notice there is no guessing in what state this sheep was found – he was lost. He was a sinner. He needed repentance. This is what is sometimes chiefly missing from our study of these parables. The one thread that runs through them all in the case of the objects of God’s love is the central need of repentance.

What is it that fuels the joy of heaven? Repentance! This is a great insight for us because it shows us firstly that the priorities of heaven are not the priorities of earth. Those not valued here on earth are greatly valued in heaven. Secondly, it shows the importance of spiritual warfare and of sharing the gospel. If heaven is rejoicing at these things, ought we not to give them our attention as well?

J.C. Ryle gets at an important point that I hadn’t thought of right away, namely that the world “mocks” at repentance.[5] It isn’t a popular thing to “repent” of our behavior. If someone doesn’t like the way we behave, we say “tough, that’s what makes me unique!” We celebrate our sins and call them “diversity”, and we go endless days without doing business with God because we don’t take God as seriously as we ought.

  1. The shepherd goes to great lengths to rescue the lost sheep. As Geldenhuys says, “the shepherd considers no trouble, sacrifice and suffering too great to find the lost sheep and bring it back.”

This is the real central point of all of these parables, namely the great lengths to which Jesus has gone to rescue us from ourselves.

15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? [9] And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ [10] Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

This next parable was one that women of Jesus’ day could relate to – which actually cuts to the point that Jesus cared more about relating timeless truths to the lower classes of men and women than to the rich and powerful. He had a word for everyone because He was rescuing men and women from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Ryken comments, “Can you see what Jesus was doing? In contrast to the other preachers of his day, he wanted to teach women as much as men. To do that effectively, he made a point of using examples that related to their life experience.”[6]

In this case, the woman who lost her coin represents God. And the coin that is lost – well you guessed it, that’s the lost sinner God is searching after.[7]

One of these silver coins, called “drachamas”, was worth an entire days labor in the time of Jesus.

Imagine working all day long, getting dinner made, getting the laundry going, the kids finally in bed, the house somewhat clean (if you’re lucky), and you sit down to get the money ready for grocery day tomorrow. A sinking feeling takes hold when you realize that you’re missing an entire day’s worth of money in your bank account – what in the world happened? Where did it go? That’s when you start looking through your bank statements, scrolling furiously through the online line items. The horrid realization is setting in that everything you did today doesn’t even matter. It might as well never have happened – its gone. You immediately start combing your purse, your wallet, your statements, you stop and think – you must be missing something somewhere. That’s when you realize – you had gotten an extra $300 out of the ATM and put it in an envelope for tomorrow – that’s why it wasn’t showing up in the online statement!

We’ve all been there – in fact, more likely than some cash in an envelope is the case that the bank charged you 5 times for overdraft fees even though you have plenty of money sitting in another account. They just didn’t bother to ask if you wanted to transfer any of the over!

But the point is this: That silver coin was worth a lot to this lady. She needed that money to run her household. Losing the coin wasn’t just a write off, or bad business, it could be fatal.

Tony Romano talks about how this stops everything, it interrupts everything – life stops cold in its tracks in order to find this coin. All else, all other priorities fade for the moment, and the search consumes everything.[8]

Such is the value God places on the lost sinners of this world. And when He tracks one down, all of heaven erupts in jubilant celebration.

15:11-13 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. [12] And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. [13] Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

Notice two things. First, the father didn’t deny his son what he asked for. Sometimes God gives us the desires of our heart in order to show us that they are foolishness. He basically says, “Fine, you want these things? Take them and see that they are worthless and temporary compared to what I have to offer you!”

But it is devastating to realize that this son wants to waste everything his father has worked so hard to save.[9]

Secondly, the living of this son is the life promoted by the world. It is the “good life” – it prioritizes the self ahead of others, and the temporal before the eternal.

15:14-15 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. [15] So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

The privileges of this son in his own land were lost. What took years to save is spent in no time at all. And, ironically, the well-healed young man has now become the hired servant. His bondage is self inflicted – in more ways than one.

The son is now at the nadir of his life. Jews listening to Jesus’ parable would have been completely repulsed by the idea of feeding and eating with pigs – an unclean animal.

15:16-19 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. [17] “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

This is the moment – at his lowest – when he comes to himself. That is a very important statement. He is finally in his right mind – he sees reality for what it is. He isn’t trying to just get himself out of a spot with the intention of going right back to the life he led before. No, he is finally desperate enough to realize how much he needs saved.

Furthermore, he knows that what he has done has been an offense first and foremost against heaven.

What this says, and what all of these parables intimate, is that our sin is of cosmic importance. Angels celebrate when we repent and are saved. Our sins are recognized as that which is an offence first and foremost against God.

This is something that David realized as well:

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:4)

15:20-24 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. [21] And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. [23] And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. [24] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

We must notice three things about the Father:

  1. Even when the son was far off he felt compassion and “ran” to him. Pride, anger, resentment had no place in this man’s heart.
  2. He lavished upon the son great gifts and love. Such is the love the father had for his son.
  3. He recognized the state of his son as “dead” and now “alive” – so are all men who were previously outside of the family of God.

And once again, a celebration ensues!

15:25 “Now his older son[10] was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. [27] And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ [28] But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, [29] but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. [30] But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ [31] And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. [32] It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

What strikes me about this is the excitement, the party atmosphere, the joy, the dancing, the music – loud music! This is a real party going on here! The God of the Bible is not a stoic. He is a God who has created all of these lost men and women – fashioned them with His own hands. He cares deeply for them. And he has set his affection on a chosen number to save from eternal punishment. This special affection is seen in the profuse love of this father for his wayward son.

Also, God works from a different plane of reality here.[11] He says it was “fitting” that they celebrate. It’s a given, its natural. This is what we do, he says. That is not human logic; this is a statement motivated by someone with perspective on a higher plane of reality. Because we have the mind of Christ, we must also elevate our thoughts to His, to celebrate the significance of a lost sinner coming to salvation.

Now let’s examine once again some of the bigger picture here…

The Bigger Picture

We would do well at this point to pull back and remember the bigger picture of Jesus’ ministry, and how it fits into the larger scope of redemptive history. The history of Israel was one of disobedience, exile, and salvation.

To get a better picture of the cycle, remember that just as Joseph went ahead of the Israelites into the land of Egypt, so also Daniel went first into Babylon – into exile – before the rest of his countrymen joined him. Both men were elevated to the highest positions in the land due to their faith. And just as Moses came later to rescue the people from Egypt, so too Daniel predicted that even after the exodus from Babylon there would be a new exodus led by the One he referred to as the “Son of Man.”

Moses the great Midianite shepherd, rescued his sheep from the serpents of Egypt. Jesus, the son of Man, and greater son of David, has taken up staff and rescued the sheep of His Father’s flock, delivering them from exile to a new exodus – a spiritual exodus – an exodus from sin and death.

That is what is going on here – Jesus has come to usher in the exodus – and as He does this, He establishes His kingdom. It is a kingdom built upon a rock. It is a kingdom which will never be shaken. It is a kingdom which will cover all the lands as the water covers the sea. And as we see in chapter 15, it is a kingdom populated by sinners.

Which leads to the last points…

The Character of God

Underlying all of this the manifold character of God is seen. His sovereignty is manifested in ordaining, and indeed bringing about, the salvation of those who seemed (by all worldly standards) to have wandered beyond the reach of salvation. His justice is seen in His passing over those self-righteous “older brothers” who refuse to come in and eat with the prodigals. His mercy is showcased in the way in which He loves the unlovable – whom He amazingly sees as valuable enough to search the earth over for – and saves them out of a wretched situation.

Such is the mercy that He has showered upon each one of us, even if we don’t think very frankly about our state prior to His saving work. Listen to the reflections of C.H. Spurgeon:

“I must confess,” he says, “that I never would have been saved if I could have helped it. As long as ever I could, I rebelled, and revolted, and struggled against God. When He would have me pray, I would not pray, and when He would have me listen to the sound of the ministry, I would not. And when I heard, and the tear rolled down my cheek, I wiped it away and defied Him to melt my soul. But long before I began with Christ, He began with me.”[12]

We all must stand in debt and awe that the Hound of Heaven has chased us down, has set His great and mighty love upon us, and though we deserved it not, has rescued us from certain death. God be praised for His mercy.

Footnotes

[1] Ryken, Commentary on Luke, Volume II, Pg. 103.

[2] Ryken, Commentary on Luke, Volume II, Pg. 113.

[3] I appreciate the teaching of Tony Romano who brought this question to my attention two years ago during a campout when he spoke on this passage. My personal notes reflect several pages of introspection from those teaching sessions in August of 2013.

[4] Tony Romano, August 23, 2013 notes on Luke 15 teaching. He said, “The church is on mission because God is on mission.”

[5] Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Luke, Volume Two, Baker Books, Pg. 177.

[6] Ryken, Volume II, Pg. 117.

[7] Ryken points out that the H.S. is possibly represented by the woman in the second parable – Pg. 118.

[8] Romano, August 23, 2013, notes on Luke 15 talk.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ryken wisely points out that there is a progression in the three parables. The sheep was 1 of 100, the coin was 1 of 10, but the prodigal was 1 of 2. Although it is evident here that both sons were really lost, and many believe that the Pharisees are represented in the older son in this final parable.

[11] Romano, August 24, 2013, men’s campout, personal notes on his lesson.

[12] http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/bio2.htm

Weekend Reading: July 31, 2015

Welcome to your weekend – and an early edition of the Weekend Reading! So what were the most interesting articles, blogs, and videos of the week?

Let’s start with Iran – my friend Uri has written a very good column in the Times of Israel on the matter and I’d encourage you to take a look. I appreciate his

Next, the Blog Post of the Week: 9 Reasons Discerning Women are Leaving Your Church. (h/t the multiple people who sent this to me this week). Best line of the blog, “Discerning women who see unbiblical things happening in their churches and stand up for what God’s word says about biblical ecclesiology and teaching are often villified (sic) and labeled as troublemakers. We are called haters, threats to unity, complainers, gossips, negative, and a myriad of other scornful names. All this for wanting things done according to Scripture. Can you blame us for shaking the dust off our high heels and leaving?”

Next up: The (rightful) outrage continues over revelations that Planned Parenthood has been selling pieces of the children they killed for a profit. Erik Erikson’s short column here. Also, you should take a few minutes and read about Margaret Sanger, the inspiration and founder of PP. There’s a piece by the Daily Signal that will absolutely astound you, and bring things into sharper focus for why it is these people believe what they believe. They also have a post on how major companies are backing away from the group. 

Two interesting stories about Drones this week (one of my favorite topics these days). Both articles are from the Wall Street Journal. The first details how with the proliferation of these flying machines, there’s an increasing need to be able to shoot them down, and the second talks about Amazon’s increasingly aggressive plans to use them in the future. 

While I’m on the WSJ, there were three other interesting articles from the past week. First, one on how 3-D printers are making Hollywood nervous, second one on video game coaches...I’m not kidding. Lastly, one on how Microsoft has finally come out with a decent operating system (apparently it even works on Macs).

Props to my buddy Ryan Johnson for sending along this interesting piece on ‘Hipster Christianity’ from the Post. Best quote, “Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity as every epoch in history.”

And do you want to watch something super uncomfortable? I thought so…just check out what someone posted on FB this week re: Root Canals! 

Weird story in Politico this week about how influential Jon Stewart has been over at Comedy Central. This is his final week or so in that position, but the libs in this story drool all over him.

Thanks to Tim Challies for two really interesting links this week. First, one on how fireflies light up – super-oxide, and the second is a repost of a local news report on Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain is the storage place for some of the most valuable stuff in the world. 

If you like storm photos (and who doesn’t, right?) check these pups out…wild! (h/t David Clementson).

This must be the week of funny videos. Two more coming at you. First, the now notorious NBC Trump interview…so…funny.  The second, from Marty G. is comedian Sebastian Maniscalo re: Chipotle (warning a few choice words here). Hilarious stuff.

Now for something more edifying. Donald Whitney has a new thing with Crossway called ‘Praying the Bible’ and there’s a few free videos they have done with examples of how to do this – super enriching stuff here. (h/t Derek Stone).

Hypocrisy Parade – Obama galavants off to Kenya, and lectures them on how they need to be accepting of Gay people and rid their government of corruption. (h/t David C.)

That’s it!  Now go enjoy your final few hours before the weekend, and flag this email for reading over coffee tomorrow morning!

PJW

Weekend Reading: July 24, 2015

Welcome to the weekend – and a weekly recap of the best blogs, videos, and stories that I read and enjoyed. Since many of you aren’t immersed in the world of politics, news and theology, hopefully this serves as a helpful summary:

Let’s start on the President. Here in Ohio John Kasich announced his bid for president. The Wall Street Journal Editorial is here. While he was doing this, the Donald was giving out Lindsay Graham’s cell phone to a crowd of raucous supporters. The follow up interview with Anderson Cooper is the stuff SNL cast members long for. Hilarious cover on the New Yorker aptly sets the scene – not that I actually read the story…after all, it is the New Yorker!

Another big topic in the news is this deal with Iran that John “flip flop” Kerry negotiated (not sure if there’s a more accurate adjective for his effort…). Kerry was on the Hill getting absolutely grilled by GOP senators this week. Some Senators said Kerry walked out of Iran like a guest leaving a hotel with nothing but his bathrobe! Here’s the AIPAC overview of the (terrible) deal. Even the Daily Beast is saying its a “win win win” for Iran. Mitt Romney has a brutal op-ed in the WSJ on the thing.

You’ve heard about the planned parenthood fiasco, well it looks like CNN eventually reported on the matter. 

I love Gifs, don’t you?  I guess so does John Boehner?

I told you last week about the new documentary re: Martyn Lloyd Jones – well now it’s on sale (good thing too, it was ridiculously expensive, I mean $40 for a dvd???)

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse (or better depending on your party affiliation) for Hillary Clinton, there’s more email issues. That whole pesky classified communications and personal email thing is still dogging her precious presidential campaign. Funny thing is that the NYTimes actually softened both the story and the headline after HRC campaign flacks moaned and groaned – I know, you’re shocked.

Tim Challies posted some video of lightening at a really slow exposure rate (at least I think that’s what’s going on here). After the nasty lightening storm we dealt with in Dublin last week this one appealed to me.

Interesting perspective on how millenials need a “bigger God” and not a “hipper pastor” when they go to church.  Lots of truth in here. (h/t Tracy L)

It seems like every day I am reading about how drones are being used to do new things…even if not terribly efficiently. This week saw the first monitored government red-tape approved drone delivery flight. 

There’s a cool(?) new service that chefs around the world are providing for adventurous eaters. It’s called ‘Eat With’…check it out! (h/t my Kate)

Maybe you’ve been hearing about all the shark attacks along the atlantic shore? Well, with a vacation to the Carolina coast in the foreseeable future, this has been on my radar. However, concern has completely melted away now that Parris P. has located the perfect solution…

Best blog of the week: From Nathan Shurden for Ligonier. on simply tips to get started talking to your kids about sexuality. He especially takes into account the SCOTUS decision’s after affects, and how to get conversation going in the right direction.  (h/t my Kate)

Speaking of stuff from Ligonier, this week marked 50 years of ministry for R.C. Sproul, and Kate pointed out that there’s a new website to celebrate. 

How many of you have gone to church only to find that the music is just, well, not very well done. Like a bad 90’s mix tape, songs don’t flow well, keys aren’t singable, and music quality is just, well, lacking. Ya I thought so…well Challies re-posted an excellent starting point for those of you are are serving in this area. While some of this is admittedly above my head, there are many great points here that even this neophyte music lover could appreciate.

The Hill had a story about Edward Snowden this week – well, more about what Fmr. US Senator Saxby Chambliss said about him, “We need to hang him on the courthouse square as soon was we get our hands on him.”

That’s it!  Enjoy your weekend!

PJW

Revelation 8:6-13 – The First 4 Trumpets

The Seven Trumpets (the first four covered below)

8:6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

Introduction – More Answers to Saint’s Prayers

By way of introduction to this transition between the seals and the trumpets, we would do well to remember that earlier we read a tease of this section in verse two, which stated:

Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. (Revelation 8:2)

Beale believes that having teased the trumpet judgments before finishing up the seals indicates that the trumpets, like the seals, are also a response to what we read in chapter 6:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. [10] They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” [11] Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

The Outline and OT Pattern

These trumpets are another picture of what God is doing from the time of Christ’s ascension until His second coming, and therefore form a recapitulation of what we just read in the seven seals.[i]

The trumpets are broken up into sections – the first four trumpets are God’s judgment on the natural world, whereas the last three are His judgment on the men who live here and the spiritual realities that result from both God’s salvation and His judgment/justice.

Beale says, “The first five trumpets are patterned after the give of the plagues of Exodus. The first trumpet (hail, fire, and blood) corresponds to the plague of hail and fire (Exodus 9:22-25); the second and third (poisoning of the sea and waters) to the plague on the Bile (Exodus 7:20-25); the fourth (darkness) to the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-25); and the fifth (locusts) to the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:12-15).”[ii]

The Reformation Study Bible says this:

The seven seals began with announcements of riders commissioned to bring calamities. The seven trumpets, by contrast, contain descriptions of the calamities themselves. The intensity of judgment has increased. Yet still some things are spared: most of the trumpet plagues fall on a third of the people or the land, not all; the locust plague of 9:1-12 is over after five months; some people survive the collapse of the city in 11:13; by contrast, the later judgments with the bowls (15:1-16:21) are thoroughly devastating.[iii]

Beale agrees, and adds that, “The exodus plagues are probably understood by John as typological foreshadowings of punishments on the ungodly during the eschatological church age, which precedes the final exodus of God’s people from this world to the new creation. The result and goal of all seven trumpet judgments is not only to demonstrate God’s incomparability and the just judgment of sinners, but above all to highlight God’s glory (so 11:13, 15-16; cf. 15:4; 19:1-7).”[iv]

OT background also includes the trumpets that sounded before the battle of Jericho. Like at Jericho, trumpets sounded the alarm for battle and signaled the imminent demise of the enemies of Israel. In that instance, seven priests blew on trumpets – the parallel is pretty clear to verse 2.

Furthermore, Beale remarks that the placement of these trumpets after chapter seven’s description of the saints as a faithful army (7:3-8) is fitting (the tribal listing being that of a war time list of soldiers called up for battle). In the OT, the faithful were always called to battle by trumpets (so Numbers 10:2-9 et all).

The Reason for Judgment: God’s Glory

As to the reason for the trumpet judgments, while there is some emphasis on the partial nature of these judgments, and the opportunity for people to repent of their sins, the main focus is on judgment for those who rebel against God.[v] Furthermore, as we shall see, judgments do not necessarily successfully bring people to repentance. Like Pharaoh, the plagues in Egypt only caused him to harden his heart more. That is not to say he was not responsible for his actions, but that the judgments actually led to further hardening.

Hamilton sums up:

God judged Egypt in order to deliver Israel, and in doing so God was responding to the prayers of his people…So the fact that God brings on the world these judgments, which so closely correspond to the plagues on Egypt, points us to the significance of the deliverance that God is accomplishing through these judgments. As at the exodus, when Pharaoh and Egypt refused to repent, so here the earth dwellers will refuse to repent (9:20, 21). But as with Pharaoh and Egypt, God is crushing the strong by worldly standards in order to deliver the weak by worldly standards.[vi]

We see the same thing in our own day – people persist in their sins despite every indication that they ought to turn from their wickedness.

Mounce agrees, and writes very well on the subject:

The trumpet-plagues are directed against a world adamant in its hostility toward God. As the intensity of the judgments increases, so also does the vehemence with which man refuses to repent (9:20-21; 16:9, 11, 21). But the trumpet judgments are not final. They affect a significant proportion but not all of the earth (one-third occurs twelve times in vss. 7-12). Their purpose is not so much retribution as to lead men to repentance. Like the watchman and his trumpet in Ezekiel 33, they warn the people of impending danger.[vii]

Therefore the judgments of God executed upon the ungodly display the justice of God, and bring Him glory.

Amazingly, this is how God works throughout the Scripture. For Hamilton rightly says elsewhere regarding the Torah (but applying equally here):

He (God) will save his people by judging their enemies, and he will judge the sin of his people, saving them through the purifying judgment of exile. When he triumphs over the enemies of his people, he will be glorified for his matchless might. When he saves his people from their own wicked hearts, he will be glorified because he is might to save. No force in the wicked hearts of people, no power in heaven or earth, will keep him from winning for himself a people for his name.[viii]

And this is exactly what we see here. God is jealous for his glory,[ix] and will not be denied the glory due Him and no other.[x] For he has stated:

I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Isaiah 42:8)

8:7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

William Hendriksen provides a good overview of the first trumpet:

In all probability this first trumpet indicates that throughout the period extending from the first to the second coming, our Lord, who now reigns in heaven, will afflict the persecutors of the church with various disasters that will take place on earth, that is, on the land. That these calamities, of whatever nature they be, are controlled in heaven, and in a certain organic sense are sent by our governing Lord is clearly indicated by the clause ‘they were cast upon the earth.’[xi]

As to the nature of these calamities, commentators also seem to think that the main focus of the first trumpet is on the food supply.[xii] Dennis Johnson sees this connection and also the parallels with the four riders from chapter six:

As the trumpets sound, we begin to see the effects of the riders released with the breaking of the first four seals. The devastation of the earth by burning is an ancient strategy of war. God forbade the Israelites from destroying the fruit trees in the countryside surrounding a city they were besieging (Deut. 20:19-20), but other ancient armies felt no such compunction. The association of this judgment with warfare is shown by the fact that, mingled with the hail and fire mentioned in Exodus, John sees blood, which is symbolic of violence and reminiscent of the red horse on which War rides (Rev. 6:4).[xiii]

In the parallel Exodus passage is the 7th plague on Egypt, and much is devastated, including some of the food supply:

The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. [26] Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail. (Exodus 9:25-26)

Beale is right to note that John modifies[xiv] the exodus plague and actually adds blood and fire to it – in this case, it seems like the emphasis is on the fire, which is very devastating.

Ezekiel 5 also serves as some literary background to getting at the idea of famine here. In 5:1-12 we see similar judgment: “A third part of you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city” and then this fire is interpreted in verse 12 as famine. Similarly, in Revelation 18:8 “fire as a figure for famine is also implied.” This is specifically Beale’s case, and I think that while I defer to His exegetical brilliance, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that fire represents part of several images that seem to coalesce to create famine. For instance, in Ezekiel 5, you see verse 12 talk about the “sword” and also “pestilence.” Now, the end result is obviously famine, but also in Ezekiel it is being “scatter(ed) to all the winds” (Ezekiel 5:12b).[xv]

These symbols of fire, and hail are meant to remind us that during this age we will have many struggles in a fallen world – God’s judgment against the world for its rebellion started with Adam (Genesis 3:17-19) and the toil he was made to endure in brining forth fruit from the ground.

In all of this we have to remember that the earth is the Lords:

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, [2] for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

He can do what He pleases with it. And it pleases Him to send judgment upon it to illuminate His righteousness and justice.

8:8-9 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. [9] A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Dennis Johnson aptly reminds us that because of the volcanic activity on Pompeii and around the Mediterranean basin, these images, “would have magnified the horrifying vividness of this vision in the minds of Revelation’s first listeners.”[xvi]

The exodus parallel with the first plague on Egypt:

Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. [21] And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:20-21)

Hamilton vividly says, “A burning mountain would definitely affect water temperature, and it is easy to imagine sea life dying and ships being destroyed. In addition, one third of the sea waters become blood. Stench. Filth. Disease. Nasty!”[xvii]

This mountain is seen by some as representative of the “great city” of “Babylon”, which becomes a symbol of focus in later chapters. Jeremiah 51 informs some of our background on how God viewed the ancient city of Babylon, which in Revelation forms the symbolic idea of the kingdom of the earthdwellers, who are enemies of God.

“Set up a standard on the earth; blow the trumpet among the nations; prepare the nations for war against her; summon against her the kingdoms, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz; appoint a marshal against her; bring up horses like bristling locusts. (Jeremiah 51:27)

And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: “When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, [62] and say, ‘O LORD, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’ [63] When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, [64] and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted.’” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 51:61-64)

Beale explains, “That the burning mountain is the object of God’s judgment and not the agent of judgment is clear from Jeremiah 51 and from the fact that elsewhere in the OT that mountains representing nations are always portrayed as objects of God’s judgment (e.g. Is. 41:15; 42:!5; Ez. 35:2-7; Zech. 4:7).”[xviii]

The world of commerce is also alluded to here as a “third of the ships” have been affected. Men of the world feel as though they have control over their economic conditions. Men who control and manipulate world currency, who profit from the calamity of others, often think of themselves as invincible. But here we learn they are not. The devastation that belies the world and its commerce ought to humble unbelievers, but instead it does not, they become more and more arrogant. As believers, we ought not to have this kind of mind. For as James warns us:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

In John’s day, the sea was a huge source of economic activity for the Roman Empire. Many ships are destroyed because of God’s judgment in this scene, and it reminded me of the puffed up nature of the titans of industry, many of whom to this very day live only for themselves and are puffed up against God. They exploit the people, and feel as though everything is under their thumb – the forces of industry are at their command. But they do not realize that it is God who controls all things.

God’s judgment comes swiftly upon those who lift up their souls against Him.

8:10-11 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. [11] The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

The Third Trumpet

“Like the second trumpet, the effects of the third trumpet correspond to that first plague on Egypt, which affected the Nile and its rivers and canals (Exodus 7:19).”[xix]

As to the star that has fallen from heaven, this may simply denote a judgment from God that simply implies the grand method of which God acts to make life bitter for all the inhabitents herein. However, I think G.K. Beale and Michael Caird are on to something when they see an association with the “star of Babylon” which fell from the heavens in Isaiah 14:

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! [13] You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; [14] I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ [15] But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)

In this passage, “the judgment of the king of Babylon and his nation is said to occur because its guardian angel, ‘the star of the morning’, has ‘fallen from heaven…”[xx]

It is possible that this fallen angel represents Satan, or another evil angel. Many people see Satan as the focus of Isaiah 14. This needs more work, but the associations seem natural.

Finally, the word “wormwood” corresponds to a kind of bitter plant that also corresponds in a literary way to the concept of “bitterness” or “calamitous.”[xxi] Beale says, “’Wormwood’ is a bitter herb, and water contaminated by it can be poisonous if drunk over a long period. The occurrences of the word in Jeremiah are metaphors for the bitterness of suffering resulting from judgment.”[xxii]

8:12-13 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. [13] Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

The Fourth Trumpet

Here we have reached the fourth trumpet, and the exodus parallel is found in the 9th plague upon Egypt:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” [22] So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. [23] They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. (Exodus 10:21-23)

“Most of the exodus plagues were designed to be judgments on the false Egyptian gods (cf. Exodus 12:12). This was true with the plague of darkness, which was partly a polemic against the sun god Ra, of whom Pharaoh was considered an incarnation. This lends further force to the idea that the partial darkness of the fourth trumpet is sent against idolaters.”[xxiii]

It is the Lord who is able to light the entire earth, and it is the Lord who holds the planets and stars in His hands. He is able to create light, and He is able to take that light away.

Although in this case, what we read seems to be symbolic, like so many other passages here in Revelation. Beale sees a parallel with 12:1-4, and I can see why due to the parallel between Isaiah 14 and the third trumpet. Here are the most pertinent verses:

And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. [4] His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. (Revelation 12:3-4)

Beale notes that this judgment of darkness is figurative, and connotes judgment for the idolatry of the earthdwellers, and also the angels (one of which is described in the third trumpet as having been cast down to heaven).

It seems then, that the plague of darkness is probably a theological metaphor with idea of spiritual darkness in the present age being thought of.[xxiv] This seems to fit with what we read elsewhere about God’s judgment upon the world in these days:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. (Ephesians 4:17-18)

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)

In the context of these passages, God is said to have given over the earthdwellers (to use John’s terminology) to their own depravity, and darkness envelopes them. Beale rightly points out that the “vast majority of such imagery in the OT is clearly not literal but metaphorical.” He gives many examples, but the ones that hold the most weight in my mind are from Jeremiah 15:9, Amos 8:9, and Joel 2:1-10 because they use similar descriptors, but refer to actual events in Israel’s history.

Therefore, it seems that we can say the reference is most likely figurative of the theological outworking of God’s judgment, Satan’s being cast out of heaven (Beale infers but does not conclude[xxv]), and the minds of man during the church era being turned over to their own desires and passions (cf. Romans 1). Jesus is seen as the only hope during this time, as He is the light of the world. As Hamilton concludes, “If you trust in Jesus, no matter how dark this world becomes, you will know the light of the world.”[xxvi]

Woe to the “Earthdwellers”

Before the start of the final three trumpets, three “woes” are pronounced by a great eagle – this eagle could be one of the four living creatures from 4:7 who is before the throne of God sending out judgment at His instruction upon the earth and mankind.

Hamilton solemnly warns:

These judgments are not the outworking of impersonal forces. They come from God himself. The angel pronounces one woe for each of the three trumpets, and notice that the woes are directed at “those who dwell on the earth,” the earth-dwellers. These are people who live for this world. These are people who are not concerned with God and his purposes. God will judge them for their refusal to honor him as God and give thanks to him.

If you’re a non-Christian, these woes are directed at you.[xxvii]

The importance of realizing the woeful state of those whose lives are not lived for the Author of Life is paramount. God will not be mocked forever. Those who raise up their voice in opposition to His laws and flaunt their sins at heaven, will one day be judged. Yet even now, they will encounter judgment from God for their sins. For as Paul writes:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. [29] They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)

Make no mistake, those who revel in their sins are not experiencing joy in this life. They may have some amount of fleeting happiness from time to time. But the majority report from those whose God is their own flesh, is that they are miserable, unfulfilled human beings. This is why there is real truth to what Christ said:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:9-10)

Not only will their be eternal life and salvation from judgment, but even now there are hints at the joy we have as a result of being united to Christ.

Let us be thankful for this gift, and readily share it with a dying world. As Paul says:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. [15] For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, [16] to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? [17] For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17)

Footnotes

[i] Contra Mounce who says, “They neither recapitulate the seal judgments nor do they follow in a strictly chronological sense” (Pg. 183). And his reasoning is that, “While the first four seals depicted judgments which are the inevitable consequences of human sinfulness, the trumpets reveal the active involvement of God in bringing punishment upon a wicked world.” (Pg. 184). I always find it interesting to read things like this from men who are thoroughly accomplished in their fields, because it is so obviously incorrect that it keeps one humble. We are all of us prone to missing the obvious at times if we are not prayerful and careful in our exegetical study. In this instance, we know from our study of the Four Horseman (the first four seals) that they are sent from God and by God. This is also seen in Zechariah 1 as well. Furthermore, it is unwise to assume that anything coming from the throne of God is not decreed/ordained by Him. Therefore it is much better to say (as Beale, and the Reformation Study Bible say) that the 7 trumpets fill in some of the specific content that the seals did not explicitly state.

[ii] Beale, Shorter Commentary, Pg. 171.

[iii] Reformation Study Bible, Pg. 1856-1867, this is the first edition, not the revised edition.

[iv] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 467.

[v] Beale agrees with my assessment. In his longer commentary he says, “The exodus plagues are both a literary and a theological model for the trumpets. Therefore, the trumpet plagues are better viewed primarily as actual judgments on the majority of earth’s inhabitants, though secondarily they are warnings for only a remnant.” Pg. 466-467.

[vi] Hamilton, Pg. 202.

[vii] Mounce, Pg. 184.

[viii] Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Pg. 133.

[ix] Beale also says, “The ultimate purpose of the plague signs (in Egypt) was to glorify Yahweh.” Pg. 466 in the longer commentary.

[x] John Piper has written a great deal about this, heavily influenced by Jonathan Edwards. One such post on God’s desire for His own glory can be found here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/biblical-texts-to-show-gods-zeal-for-his-own-glory

[xi] Hendriksen, Pg. 118.

[xii] Many say this – Beale, Hendriksen etc.

[xiii] Johnson, Pg. 143.

[xiv] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 473.

[xv] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 476-477. This is where he discusses the idea of Ezekiel 5 serving as a backdrop (literarily) for the idea of fire being associated with famine. I think he’s generally correct, there are too many parallels to avoid the conclusion, though as I mention above, I think he could have stated a little more about the other symbols also involved in this – for instance the sword. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary to do so though. The fact that Ezekiel refers to “a third part” several times in that chapter, really makes the correlation come to life.

[xvi] Johnson, Pg. 144.

[xvii] Hamilton, Pg.’s 203-204.

[xviii] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 476.

[xix] Hamilton, Pg. 204.

[xx] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 479. There is some background from Jewish writing going on here, and other OT passages which indicate that angels can be representative of groups of people (pg. 478). I don’t disagree here – one sees this territorial assignment in Daniel, and very intriguingly, the Jewish writers see it in Exodus 23 where the angel of Egypt is said to be judged. I don’t see that in the text, but perhaps I’m missing something here. Interestingly, many people associate this angel from Isaiah 14 with Satan. Therefore, with all the context from Revelation, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that Satan represented the evil kingdom of Babylon and its earthly king. Indeed, Satan is representative of all of his seed (Gen. 3). This needs fleshed out some more, and Beale doesn’t take too long to go over it, but in his footnotes says that Caird agrees with him on this (Revelation, pg. 115).

[xxi] Vines says, “(Eng., “absinth”), a plant both bitter and deleterious, and growing in desolate places, figuratively suggestive of “calamity” (Lam 3:15) and injustice (Amos 5:7), is used in Rev 8:11 (twice; in the 1st part as a proper name).”

[xxii] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 479.

[xxiii] Beale, Longer Commentary, Pg. 481.

[xxiv] I read commentary after commentary and no one really wanted to take a firm stab at this. Beale sets it up to basically conclude that Satan, having been cast out of heaven along with his evil angels, is pictured in trumpets three and four, and therefore a parallel idea with 12:1-4. But he doesn’t come to that specific conclusion. Hamilton emphasizes the spiritual darkness, not explicitly, but again implicitly by calling on men to turn to the light of the world, Jesus. That the scene is likely a theological picture seems reasonable. For Ladd points out, “The independence of the picturesque apocalyptic way of thinking is shown by the nature of this plague, which is logically impossible. If a third of the sun, moon and stars were darkened, then their light would be diminished throughout the entire period of their shining by proportionate amount” (Pg. 127). Theological darkness seems to fit other NT teaching (e.g. Eph. 4:17-18; Rom. 1:21; 2 Cor. 3:14).

[xxv] Again, I think this is a wise conclusion because even Beale sees these events as inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Christ – chapters 4 &5.

[xxvi] Hamilton, Pg. 205.

[xxvii] Hamilton, Pg. 207.