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March 09, 2007

This evening marked the final session of the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference. It occurred to me quite suddenly this afternoon that I had been misplacing an apostrophe the entire time. The apostrophe in “Shepherds’ ” should be going after the “s” and not before. I’ll try to do better if and when they ask me to return next year.

Not too long before this evening’s session began, I started to feel a little bit queasy. I’m not quite sure what was going on, but I deemed it a bad idea to take my usual place at the very front of the auditorium. It just seemed that this would be asking for trouble should I have to beat a hasty retreat. I holed up somewhere less conspicuous and was really a little bit glad to hear MacArthur begin a sermon I’ve heard before. So I closed my laptop and closed my eyes for a few minutes and soon began to feel a little bit better. While the sermon differed in some details, it was much the same as the one he preached just a couple of weeks ago at Resolved. So if you’d like to learn about the content, I’ll simply direct you here.

And that was that. The conference is over. Where last year it extended until Saturday morning, this year it ends tonight. Tomorrow Paul and I will find something to do in the city for the morning and by 3 PM should (Lord willing) be making our way back to the Great White North.

March 09, 2007

I do not typically attempt to record the speaker panel or question and answer sessions at these conferences. The relaxed, casual and unplanned atmosphere makes it quite a challenge. However, today I thought I’d give it a try. And actually, I think it worked out quite well. Here is a brief rundown on what happened when the five speakers gathered on the stage (C.J. Mahaney was not present as he has already headed home) and MacArthur started asking questions. These reflect rough notes as I really wasn’t able to clean it up a whole lot.

MacArthur - What issue do you think is coming that will be critical for the life of the church?

Mohler - One of the most immediate problems is issues related to marriage and sexuality. Preaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality, practicing discipline, and so on can get you into trouble. The trends in society are particularly pernicious on this issue and the younger the demographic the greater the problem it becomes. They believe that these things are no one’s business but your own. I don’t fear persecution from the world as we can expect that, but that we will have cave-ins in the church. We need to preach them clearly and articulately now so the church knows what to believe and what we believe. We need to take our stand now.

MacArthur - The Emerging Church is happy to acquiesce to all of this, It accommodates their ability to reach into a younger generation and attract them without these people having to make any radical changes to their lives or worldviews. This is the first time that the church is really happy to be worldly.

Duncan - Not just in the crazy left-wing Emerging Church movement but in the more mainstream evangelicalism you’re now hearing pastors preaching theological reductionism and refusing to discuss ethical issues. All things to all men is used in Christian circles so we do not use culturally offensive teachings out front. People think you are not to deny these theological issues, but just not to address them.

Dever - Four resources to help with all of this: albertmohler.com, kairosjournal.org, Peacemaker Ministries (helps prepare for legal persecution), and have a church covenant—a statement that summarizes what the Bible teaches on behavior.

MacArthur - What is your advice responding to Christians who church-hop?

Lawson - The solution begins with us as pastors doing a better job of preaching the Word of God and giving people reason to stay under our ministries. Many people leave because they are not receiving what they are looking for. It all begins with the pulpit. From there there is a follow-up of enfolding them in the church during the week with Sunday School or fellowship or small groups. Everyone needs to be contained in the life of the church. Everyone needs to be plugged into a place where they are known and know others.

MacArthur - You need to provide life-transforming ministry for kids. Parents are so concerned about their children and you need to reach out to them. The same is true of junior high age children and high school ministry. Face-to-face, one-on-one, pouring your life into the lives of young children. If parents see their kids walking with Christ they’ll never leave that church.

Dever - Raise the importance of membership in our congregations and recognize the importance of membership in other churches. Ensure you have a meaningful membership by removing people who no longer attend. Also keep in mind the distinction between your church and the kingdom of God. Your church is not the whole show. Sometimes we way too quickly take people into membership from other churches. You can show the importance of membership by only taking in members carefully.

Mohler - Many problems come down to weak men and weak fathers. Father as the head of the household should be leading his family and making sure parents and children are together and are deeply involved in the same church. Teenagers should not be going to a different church than their parents. A feminized, gutless church is one that will see the men drifting away.

MacAthur - We need to train people to know that church is different from other organizations. People need to know that you don’t just go to church, but you actually become a member and participate in it. From here MacArthur spent a few minutes describing how Grace Church tracks membership and keeps tabs on the people.

Duncan - Ligon Duncan recommended the ministry of 9Marks and Stop Dating the Church by Josh Harris as applicable resources.

MacArthur - Steve, three favorite books.

Lawson - The Gospel According to Jesus was a defining book for me. Thomas Watson A Body of Divinity, Iain Murray The Forgotten Spurgeon and Arnold Dallimore’s two volume biography of Whitefield.

Mohler - (MacArthur said “This may be the hardest question you’ve been asked in your life.” Dever then joked, “How about just three you read yesterday…”). My biography is defined by three books. The first, as a teenager, was He is There and He is not Silent by Francis Schaeffer. In college the book was Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Theologically, the one that has meant more to him than any other is Calvin’s Institutes. He also commended the genre of biography as a means of spiritual growth.

Duncan - In seminary Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray and Warfield’s [didn’t catch the title], J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness, and David Wells’ No Place for Truth.

Dever - Spurgeon’s autobiography, J.I. Packer Knowing God. Three I’d recommend you read are: Christ in the Bible by John Wenham, Leon Morris’ The Atonement and the Canons of the Synod of Dordt (the simplest presentation of the gospel he’s ever read).

Mohler - Remember we’re recommending a book and not necessarily an author. John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is great as a defense of substitution when this doctrine is under attack from emergent type people.

MacArthur - You have just exposed us to the devotion you give to reading. On the other end, what do you do to relax? What kind of recreation do you do?

Dever - I talk to Lig and Al.

Mohler - What I don’t do: I don’t play golf or have anything to do with anything that is round or that you hit or catch. He reads to relax and rarely counts it as work. A lake, a boat, a beagle and a fourteen your old son. Figure it out. Al affirmed he can get by with four or five hours of sleep, that he blogs in the middle of the night and that he reads seven to ten books a week.

Duncan - He likes athletics but doesn’t have time for it. His time off is either reading or playing with his young kids. He is working on trying to fit exercise in. His obligation outside the Lord’s work is to the family and he’ll have a bit more time for recreation later on.

Dever - Watches documentaries on World War 2, read architecture books and walk with his wife. He also watches Antiques Roadshow with the family.

Lawson - Lawson has an athletic family and plays lots of golf. If he had one day to live he’d play a round, preach a sermon, kiss his wife and die.

Mac - Plays golf as well.

The final question was about theodicy. Sadly, I didn’t capture this one so well, so will just leave it. This is too bad, actually, since it was probably the most valuable of all the questions. You can listen to the MP3, I suppose…

March 09, 2007

The final session of the conference is set to wrap up sometime around 8 PM tonight. However, it won’t quite be over at that point. This year the five speakers (minus MacArthur, so Lawson, Dever, Mahaney, Duncan and Mohler) will each have the opportunity to share issues that are of particular concern to them. Five soapboxes will be setup around the Grace campus and each of the men will speak for a few minutes, sharing whatever is on his heart. Since they will all be speaking at the same time and in different places, I’ll only have opportunity to hear one of them. Let me know which you think I should listen to and I’ll try to give an idea of what he said.

I think I’m leaning towards Mohler simply because I enjoy his cultural commentary and would be interested in hearing his reflections on whatever issue is burning in his heart today.

March 09, 2007

Every time I’m down here in California, I’m surprised by how much the temperatures fluctuate from day to night. While it is supposed to top out at around eighty degrees by later in the day, right now I’m just about shivering sitting here in the shade. I suppose it must be the humidity that helps moderate the temperatures in the climate I am accustomed to. Either way, it’s pretty chilly right now!

This morning Mark Dever took the pulpit to bring us a message on the book of Daniel. He began by discussing the indigenous threats to our public ministries, threats to our liberties, threats to the free practice of the faith. He spoke of the entrenched secularism of the elites that dismiss the validity of Christianity and the exhausting reality of our addiction to comfort. We live in a culture where condemnation of homosexuality is seen as incitement against homosexuals. Statements denying the truth of other religions are soon to be classified as illegal. Christians, who have long dominated the scene in this nation, are facing the prospect of living in a world that does not give us freedom to state our affirmations and denials. So what do we do at times when we are under pressure as Christians and as Christian pastors when we are told it is illegal to say another religion is false or that homosexuality is wrong?

Of course there are many places in the world where these fears are already realized. Should our lot here in North America become like the lot of Christians around the world, what should we do? To answer this question, he first led us on a brief journey through the first few chapters of Daniel, showing God’s sovereignty through the story. After discussing the typical Sunday School understanding of Daniel as a book pointing to the importance of standing for what we believe, he explained the story differently. The book is primarily an example of what God does with the faithful. The point of the book is that God causes His faithful to survive and in this time and this culture, this is a message pastors need to hear.

He framed the message around briefly exposing three myths (or that’s what he said, but he also provided three anti-myths or three affirmations):

1 - God is our only hope. Daniel exposes the myth of the Godless world. This book shows that all Christians have hope in God. We stand at the mercy of no election, no legislation for God is the Sovereign of this world. His kind faithfulness is the reason for Daniel’s survival and influence. The central feature of this book is not Daniel’s faithfulness as wonderful as that is. Rather, the central feature is God’s faithfulness and this is what we are pointed to again and again throughout the book. To provide one example, we see that temporal power is unmasked in the story of the fiery furnace. At this time where he tries to show his power, He finds out who the true Ruler of the earth is. Nebuchadnezzar has now seen God reveal in his dream and save in the furnace. Later in his life he is once again proud of his power and proud of his reign. When he was made to be like an animal, he learned about the power and sovereignty of God.

Interestingly, at this point Dever broke to provide an evangelistic message. While this may have seemed unusual at a pastor’s conference, the sad truth is that there are unconverted men in the pulpits and Dever felt it wise to call all men to repentance—even pastors.

Returning to Daniel, he sad that the message of these passages in Daniel is to deconstruct the hopes of the people you preach to. Liberate them from lies by your preaching. Take on the errors of pride and the proud human heart and expose their folly. Serve your people by emancipating them from error. The message of these chapters is that God is our only hope.

2 - You can survive. These chapters expose the myth of the hopeless world. Daniel is to be an inspiration for the hope that we need. It is amazing that he survived for as long as he did in a time of absolute monarchs and sending people to death on a whim. From his story we can learn that there are no worldly circumstances you can face that should drain your life dry. Let us labor to keep our hope in the gospel and evacuate our hopes from wherever else they may be. Our hope must be in the gospel.

3 - You will face opposition. The book of Daniel exposes the myth of the moral world. The world at its best rewards righteousness and punishes godlessness but this rarely happens. I want to say to you. “Pastor, wake up. You will face opposition.” We don’t often hear this in the church today. Many preachers today are like used car salesmen, pointing out the good points and covering up the bad, but this is nothing like the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles. Dever showed also that righteousness is no guarantee of avoiding trials. The call of pastors today, he said, is to tar the ark before the flood of God’s judgment comes upon the world. You must teach your people about the Fall and the implications of the Fall in our lives. Some pastors spend much of their lives trying to avoid trials as if they can some how head off the effects of the Fall. Yet according to Scripture, the day we don’t suffer for Christ is the odd day. Our lot is not to escape pain and suffering but to walk through the thorns and learn then about the depths of God’s love.

The fact is that a commitment to God’s glory above our own will normally bring suffering in this world. The exhortation to pastors in all of this is this: Let your expectations for your ministry be set by what God promises in His Word. He promises trials. And how does a Christian prepare to face trials? He must grow in his love for Christ. We must prepare for prison now and set realistic expectations, knowing that the righteous often suffer cruely.

This was an urgent message and one that seemed to ring true with the pastors in attendance. In an are of relative prosperity, an era and culture in which pastors to not typically suffer, it is important to realize that this is the exception rather than the rule. Realistically pastors must expect to suffer and thus they must prepare to suffer.

And since we’re on the subject of Mark Dever, here is a picture I nabbed from yesterday’s candids. I believe at this point Mark was telling me exactly what he believes concerning eschatology. But I can’t tell you what he believes or I’d have to kill you.


March 08, 2007

The Shepherd’s Conference is infamous for being the conference that gives away the most and the best stuff. Every year each attendee walks away with a good pile of books and one big-ticket item. Last year I got in trouble for not posting an exhaustive list of the books and I thought I had best remedy that this year. So here is the list of books we got.

  • What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper
  • The MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur (a compact, one-volume N.T. commentary)
  • Because the Time is Near by John MacArthur (a concise and reader-friendly version of his commentary on Revelation)
  • The Second Coming by John MacArthur
  • Acts by James Boice
  • A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry
  • Life in the Body of Christ by Curtis C. Thomas
  • For the Sake of His Name by David M. Doran
  • Foundations of Grace by Steve Lawson
  • Assured by God edited by Burk Parsons
  • Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson

Also included was a DVD entitled “Why We Believe the Bible is True” by John MacArthur

This year’s big-ticket item was a very snazzy fountain pen which you can see here.

In previous years, the books have been piled on tables and the attendees have gone from table to table grabbing the books. Since this can become problematic (you do not want to stand between pastors and free books) the conference folk had the books pre-packaged and ready to go this year.

It is probably worth mentioning that two books have been released specifically on time for this conference. The first of these is Steve Lawson’s The Expository Genius of John Calvin. This is the first in a series of books that will be associated with Lawson’s Long Line of Godly Men series. This subset of books will be known as “Long Line of Godly Men Profile” titles. The other book is John MacArthur’s The Truth War. This is a book that deals specifically with the emerging church and its fundamental denial of the truth. Amazon is not yet showing that it is available, but I suspect it will be there in the next few days.

And finally, here is a picture I nabbed from the conference photographer. I bumped into Steve Lawson (not literally) after I served at the Scholar’s Desk and he needed to go for a stroll before he preached that afternoon, so he and I and Nathan Busenitz (and Lawson’s daughter) walked around the campus for a few minutes. I just thought it was a neat photograph. It looks like I am keeping Lawson at rapt attention. I think, though, that I was merely correcting assisting his pronunciation of the word “Huguenot” (and was pleased to hear that he got it right two of the three times I heard him use it during a seminar this afternoon).


March 08, 2007

This evening’s session began with a selection of songs being sung by the Master’s College choir. They are clearly an exceptionally talented group and sing absolutely beautifully. It was a real blessing to hear them. When they had finished up, MacArthur introduced Al Mohler, tonight’s speaker.

After regaling us with some hilarious stories of his own ineptitude (with the final story culminating in him buying a hilariously inappropriate Mother’s Day card for his wife), Dr. Mohler said that many preachers today really have nothing better to say than what is in a greeting card. All around us are preachers preaching greeting card theology that says the gospel comes down to this: you’re affirmed, you’re encouraged, you’re loved, be happy, God loves you, seize the day. After declaring “God save us from preachers with greeting card theology!” he turned to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, his text for the evening. This passage does not portray a greeting card theology, but a gospel-focused, Christ-centered theology. It is a theology that is nailed to a cross. And, in fact, Paul’s whole purpose in this letter is to point to the centrality of the cross. He then posed this question to the audience: To what extent are we really preaching the cross?

The cross makes no sense if you are looking for therapy or self-help. It only makes sense within the context of the full gospel. The cross is an always has been counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.

In this passage Paul sees two great enemies in gospel preaching:

The first issue he takes up is superiority of speech or wisdom. This is difficult to understand without stepping into the original context. Paul speaks effectively but does so without refusing to play the game and making the expectation. There was an expectation in Corinth of particular kinds of sophisticated rhetoric. There was intellectual association that amounts to absolutely nothing. There were three parts to the kind of sophistry that people of that day and that culture expected. Ethos - credibility because of who a person is, pathos - emotional connection, logos - reason. But Paul would not play this game or play the role of an orator. It is not that he couldn’t but simply that he wouldn’t. He refused to meet the expectation. The Corinthian church was being seduced by the flashy and skilled speakers. They were people who had itchy ears and just wanted those ears to be scratched. From this we see that it is easy to believe you can base your ministry on eloquence but Paul’s argument is simply that someone more eloquent will eventually come along and destroy your ministry. The greatest problem in all of this is not that they’ll be drawn to the eloquent but that they won’t be drawn to the cross.

We don’t worry too much today about orators coming to town or sophisticated eloquence being the problem in our churches. Our problem is that everything distilled to a sound bite, to commercials. If you can’t say it in 30 seconds it’s not worth saying. In our harmonic age, when people mostly want to feel better about themselves there are those who will package whatever you want to sell to meet the expectation. You can package things to meet any need, either real or created. Politicians play this game and spend millions to help them reframe and repackage their platforms in order to alienate the fewest and attract the most. This is all pathos, no logos, no need for ethos. Much the same is true in the church. Paul was concerned that any reliance on the game that was expected would reduce the gospel’s power.

Mohler then had the people in attendance imagine a scenario. What if there could be a great winepress for our ministry into which all the words we could ever preach and teach? And what if that winepress could distill these words to their very essence? What would this be? Would they be words about the cross and would they constitute the gospel? The Apostle Paul always distills this down to the essence. Mohler surveyed a wide variety of passages and proved just how consistently Paul returns to the cross. It is the very essence of his ministry.

Tragically, there are some who love theology more than the cross. However, theology without the cross is dead and sterile and lifeless. There can be learning and erudition but no saving power. When you preach the theology of the cross it does not make the preacher look wise, but it makes Christ look glorious. The theology of the cross is simple, clear and uncluttered theology. There are to be no tricks, no false and manipulative emotionalism - just the gospel and never selling the gospel short.

Paul’s second issue is weakness and he makes it known that he did not come to the Corinthian church in strength. Most pulpit committees today are not looking for weakness, but Paul makes very clear that when he came, he came in weakness rather than strength. He wanted to be sure that the church saw the strength of a crucified Christ. He wanted them to be sure they knew that the power they felt was the power of a gracious God through His gospel rather than his own skill in oration. There was no confusion about his strength because he is weakness personified. Who wants to sign up for weakness? Paul says, “Christians do.” We are the fellowship of the weak and the preacher should be the weakest in this respect. Paul wanted to be sure that the gospel was not reduced by any misunderstanding about who he was and how capable he was. And so he was unashamed to arrive in Corinth weak and fearful and trembling.

Paul was afraid of failing in his mission. He was afraid that he would appear falsely self-sufficient and would rob the power of the cross. From here Mohler described the power of the cross in words that just jumped out at me: “The whole counsel of God is summarized in the cross. The cross is a symbol of the gospel in its totality.” These days we know that the cross is robbed of its power by liberal revisionists who deny the blood atonement, who argue against the crosses necessity and so on. We know that these imperil our people as they are packaged by the slick. But the bigger problem is that in many pulpits the cross is not denied, but simply not preached.

Because Paul came in weakness, the people would know that it was not Paul who persuaded them but that it was the Holy Spirit. Most preachers want the wrong kind of power to be demonstrated in their ministries. But it ultimately comes down to whether they really believe in the power of the cross and that it is the Holy Spirit’s task to take that simple declarative message and save. It is tempting to try to look good and healthy and slick. But Paul was clear about his weakness. God uses our weakness in ways He never chooses to use our strength. At this point Mohler read the final letter of James Boice to his congregation (and if you have not read it before, you really ought to do so. You can find it here.). This letter serves as a beautiful illustration of strength in weakness.

And then Mohler closed by returning to the analogy of the winepress. He asked When you come to minister what are you going to come with? Power, purpose, charisma? We should learn from the example of Paul who brought only the testimony of God. What do you want your people to know? Again we learn from Paul who wanted to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Paul wanted nothing more than that his preaching demonstrate the Holy Spirit and His power. And then he finished with some rhetorical questions. In the great winepress of words, what will be left of your ministry? If we could reduce it to its essence, what would it sound like? What would it look like? Would it look anything like this? Would it look anything like the ministry of the Apostle?

We’ll be back tomorrow for the final day of the conference. We will have the privilege of hearing from Mark Dever and John MacArthur and to witness a panel discussion. See you then!

March 08, 2007

Yesterday I had the honor of serving at the Shepherd’s Conference Scholar’s Desk. This is a stand-up desk where experts on various fields are available to answer questions on a given topic. Together with Nathan Busenitz we fielded questions for an hour on the subject of blogging. And it was a lot of fun. Some theological questions arose and I pretty well just deferred to Nathan on these since he is, after all, a PhD candidate who works as John MacArthur’s personal assistant.

Scholars Desk

We had a good range of questions ranging from the best blogging software for particular blogging applications all the way to the usefulness of blogging for ministry. The questions gave me a lot to think about and at some point I hope to write a whole series about blogging. I’ve also been asked to lead a seminar about blogging and ministry at an upcoming conference and this has given me an idea of the questions and concerns I may want to answer at that time.

Me at the Scholar's Desk

View more photos here.

March 08, 2007

We’ve come to the mid-point of the conference (or at least the mid-point for those of us who do not stick around until Sunday afternoon). A round of seminars is beginning right now and a second round will happen immediately after these ones. I’ve decided to forego he seminars and am sitting between two buildings, in the shade, and am just enjoying the beautiful weather. It is warm, sunny and dry as a bone (as evidenced by the massive amounts of chapstick required to keep my lips from “hurting real bad!”).

This morning we had the privilege of hearing Ligon Duncan speak on the book of Numbers. His address at Together for the Gospel last year, which I really enjoyed, dealt with preaching from the Old Testament. This one was somewhat similar, but dealt with a more specific example of mining seemingly-strange and irrelevant passages of the Old Testament and using it to point to Christ. “I want you to see how exciting, practical and applicable the book of Numbers is.” Not words we are accustomed to hearing in the church!

After laying out several of the challenges of preaching from Numbers, Duncan read from 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. He showed that Paul valued the book of Numbers as everything that happened to the Israelites in this passage happened in the wilderness and much of it was recorded in Numbers. Paul is telling us here how Numbers is edifying and important for us today. He says that the events recorded in Numbers actually happened for us and that God wants us to learn from them as Christians how we are to live today.

Here are nine things Paul says about the book of Numbers:

1 - The events that occurred in the wilderness were examples to us. The New Testament often uses examples from the Old Testament to draw application for the reader. The inspired writers use the Old Testament to encourage and exhort Christians to live the Christian life. Here Paul says the examples in the Old Testament happened to teach us.

2 - The events that happened in the wilderness happened as a moral warning to us. Those events are designed to warn us off from evil cravings.

3 - The Apostle does not merely say these things are recorded as examples for us but that they happened as examples for us. In God’s design, all the pain and suffering in the wilderness happened so that we can learn from it and from this we learn just how much He loves us.

4 - The events of Numbers provide exhortation to New Testament believers. God in His providence has in view New Covenant believers even in the events that happen in Numbers.

5 - Paul specifically applies this to New Testament believers in four areas. 1) Do not be idolaters. 2) Do not be immoral. 3) Do not presumptuously test the Lord. 4) Do not grumble against providence.

6 - Not only did these events happen for Christians, but they were written down for Christians. They were written for our instruction.

7 - The Apostle warns us against thinking that we will not fall like they did. Don’t think that just because you have seen the glories of the cross that you are impervious to the temptation to fall like the people in the wilderness.

8 - We are to learn from their temptations and failures in order to escape ours. Duncan quoted the old phrase “He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it” and suggested that this is the spiritual corollary.

9 - Christ is at the very center of this story and the whole wilderness experience. He is the rock and it is all about Him.

He then said that if we weren’t convinced of the value of Numbers from reading Paul, we should turn to “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.” You’ve already been singing about God guiding the believer through Numbers!

Duncan then turned to Numbers 5 which falls into three sections.

Verses 1-4 - These verses discuss physical impurities that defile and cause you to be removed from the camp.

Verses 5-10 - These verses discuss certain moral offenses that defile and cause you to be removed from the camp.

Verses 11-31 - These verses discuss domestic tensions caused by marital infidelity or the fear of it.

The purpose of this chapter is to tell us what the requirements are for a people to live close to God. Each of these impurities were a danger to the camp. From physical illnesses and diseases the people would come into contact with bacteria and other contaminants. There were no medications for this and disease could spread like wildfire. So there are obvious physical reasons to keep these people out of the camp but there were also theological reasons.

This passage also teaches us what God is like: He is holy and He is present. Because of this, there are requirements if we are to dwell near Him. The laws are God-centered, pointing us to Him and teaching us who He is and what He has done. There is also much of sin and grace in Christ.

He read verses 11-31 and pointed out five things in the passage (which he shared with us he first preached on Valentine’s Day!).

1 - The larger theological significance of this ritual. This ritual is something not wholly different from the trials of ordeal that are found in other cultures. In the ancient world when crimes were committed that could not be proven, trials of ordeal were used to prove guilt or innocence. But this is where the similarity ends. God’s ways are just and wise even when they seem strange. In the ancient world you were assumed guilty until proven innocent and cruel tests were often used. This biblical test, though, is dependent on the effectual Word of God (in this case, literally drunk in to the woman). The Word of God is effective. The test is also both controlled and public. This test is here because adultery defiles and pollutes the camp and God does not want His people to be sexually unfaithful in His camp. Belief and behavior go together; truth and practice; faith and life. God is saying through this passage that you cannot love Him and live like a pagan. You must love Him and live like a disciple. This whole passage presses home God’s concern for discipleship.

2 - What this ritual teaches us about the importance of sexual purity to the whole of the people of God. Individual sexual purity matters to the whole people. We see that this aggrieved or suspicious man may not take matters into his own hand for he must go to the priest. There is an echo of this in Jesus’ teaching where he says that issues must be told to the church. Sexual immorality is a spiritual issue and not only this, but also a people of God issue. Sexual purity is a test of faithfulness to God. Why is there only a law for a jealous husband rather than a jealous wife? Three answers: 1) Ultimately, we don’t know. 2) This does not mean that God’s law was chauvinistically tilted towards husbands. The laws of adultery extended to both husbands and wife and both were ultimately under the penalty of death. 3) There may be a logic here that is precisely designed to protect a wife who is unjustly suspected of infidelity.A husband cannot just get rid of his wife, as men could in many ancient cultures, but he must bring her before the priest. The whole ordeal involved should convince a husband of his wife’s innocence. If this can’t convince him, nothing would. This may show that men have a temptation to ungodly jealousy that women do not and so he graciously provided this as a way of dealing with this ungodly temptation.

3 - What this ritual teaches us about the appointed ordinances of God in the Scripture. We have a pictured oath here. A self-maledictory oath is pictured through this ritual. Dust from the tabernacle floor has been near the mercy seat. This is dust from holy ground. But it also reminds of a serpent who once had to lick the dust. They remember their forebearers, the Israelites who had to drink the dust of the golden calf. So God constructs a ritual that aggressively pursues the sin and encourages the person to come to repentance. The woman is acting out in a picture the word-curses of God. The ordinances of baptism picture word promises. The Lord’s table shows us that we are to pull up to the table of God and fellowship with Him. These are pictured oaths and promises.

4 - What this ritual teaches us about the importance of the marriage bond and how it relates to us as the people of God. These public measures highlight the importance of marriage and the sacredness of the marriage bond. Moses’ point is that marital infidelity is incompatible with membership in the people of God and being part of the camp. The New Testament presses this home, explicitly telling us that marriage is a picture of the gospel. It is a picture of union with Christ. For the gospel’s sake we must live out the gospel in marriage. Marriage matters to the gospel.

5 - What this ritual teaches about the work of Christ on the cross. The drinking of these curses reminds us of another who drank curses. This passage point us to the atoning work of Christ—the one who drank the cup of the Father’s wrath, who died, but who lives again.

As one who loves history and who loves the Old Testament, I really enjoyed this message and appreciate Duncan’s fervor for preaching the full counsel of God.

Tonight’s session will feature Dr. Albert Mohler. Check in later to see what he is going to share with us…