Skip to content ↓

God’s Pop-Up Book

Pop-Up Book

With a group of friends, I am reading Sinclair Ferguson’s Devoted To God, a book about holiness and the ways in which God instructs us to be holy even as he is holy. In this week’s reading I found a helpful illustration of the Old Testament rites and ceremonies and thought you might benefit from it as I did. Ferguson describes them as acting like pop-up picture books…

The Lord unfolded it at first through liturgical rites and ceremonies prescribed in the law given to and expounded by Moses. Think of these as being like the pop-up picture books we give to and read with small children. They learn not only from words but also from pictures. The appeal is made to their senses: they hear the words; but they can also see and touch what these words express. In the same way the Lord built physical ceremonies and objects into old covenant life, which the people could hear, see, touch, and even smell. They experienced a multi-media expression of their sin and of God’s grace and way of salvation. They also learned that they were to be separated from the world, different from others, and devoted exclusively to the Lord. Their lives had a distinct rhythm outwardly (they had a unique calendar), their daily existence was governed by personal and community laws that made them different from other nations. It was all meant to express the basic principle that the Lord had claimed them for himself. They were his. Therefore they were different from those who were not his. That was what being holy meant. The Lord had chosen them, redeemed them from Egypt, and claimed them for himself. Now in turn they were to reserve themselves exclusively for him. There was to be no unrequited love.

As the narrative of the Old Testament progressively unfolded, God explained what being devoted to him meant at a personal and moral level. This process reached something of a climax in the ministry of the prophet Isaiah, especially in the way he spoke about God as ‘the holy one of Israel’. In his own experience and prophetic ministry it became crystal clear that holiness was never intended to be merely a matter of keeping the Old Testament rituals, nor simply of outward obedience to the Ten Commandments. Holiness meant knowing God, the Holy One, and reflecting and expressing his character—having fellowship with him in such a way that, as his bride, his people became like their Husband, the One with whom they lived.


  • We All Have To Do With God

    We All Have To Do With God

    Every one of us must deal with God. Every one of us must, at some time, face God. Every one of us must be prepared to give an account to God. For, as Scripture says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (February 24)

    A La Carte: Wherever he leads, he’ll go / Britain’s loneliest sheep / Helping your teen with porn / How do the Arminian and Calvinist views of election differ? / Exposing the good in digital distractions / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Coram Deo Pastors Conference)

    This week the blog and this giveaway are sponsored by the Coram Deo Pastors Conference. Dear brother pastor, In a spirit of prayerful expectation, I want to invite you to the Coram Deo Pastors Conference. This new event is hosted by Clearly Reformed (a new ministry I help to lead) and Christ Covenant Church (where…

  • The Kindness of God

    God’s Goodness in a Cruel World

    There is much to love and appreciate about our God, much for which we ought to give him praise and thanks. One of the attributes we may consider too seldom is his goodness, and as an aspect or component of his goodness, his kindness. And that is the subject of

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 23)

    A La Carte: Order, preparation, and the Spirit’s leading / Desecration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral / Why did God stigmatize the disabled? / Who would I be if I was happy? / 7 parenting errors that can influence adult children to leave the faith / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 22)

    A La Carte: Ice, wind, and unanswered prayers / Was it all a waste? / Prepping for the impending apocalypse / The best analogy for the Trinity / Getting to stop by woods on a snowy evening / Bible translation and AI / and more.