The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Dear Prime Minister, Jesus Christ is Lord: A response to Rudd’s comments on Q&A 2nd September, 2013.

In response to a Pastor insisting on a biblical view on marriage from Jesus’ words “ a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (quoting Genesis 2:24), the PM said,

 “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition. Because St Paul said in the New Testament, “Slaves be obedient to your masters.” And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war.”

A number of Christian commentators have already made responses. I want to make two comments I haven’t seen made yet: A historical comment, and a redemptive comment.

The PM’s citation of the Bible comes from two places: Ephesians 6:5, and Colossians 3:22. Firstly, at a historical level, what was this ‘slavery’ that Paul was referring to? Are we really to imagine African chain gangs labouring away under a hot sun in the southern parts of the United States of America? 

Slavery in the Roman Empire was an integral part of life. And no doubt it could be brutal. Slaves from the north and west of the empire were often given the most difficult tasks, and worked in chain gangs. But this was not always the case. The preference was for slaves from the east, who would go on to be household servants, teachers, librarians, accountants, and estate managers. It’s estimated that 85-90% of the population of Rome and the Italian peninsula were slaves. These slaves were granted many rights. Slaves were able marry, and accumulate money to purchase their freedom and start their own business. Slaves also held other prominent positions in the community such as artisans, architects, physicians, administrators, philosophers, and grammarians. To equate Roman slavery with the American slave-trade is to be irresponsible with history.

Secondly, at a redemptive level, why does Paul even raise the issue of slavery. By these words, is Paul endorsing the ownership of human beings by other human beings? In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul seems to be encouraging slaves to gain there freedom. Presumably, this means to buy their freedom, as we also have Paul sending a slave back to his master with letters of commendation (Philemon 1:8-19). Paul can’t be endorsing slavery as we might imagine it. So what is Paul endorsing? Paul is endorsing a gospel-shaped life – a Jesus-centered life. Paul lists a number of positions in life including wives, husbands, children, and fathers that are to comply to such a life. The thing to take away from this passage is Jesus Christ is Lord no matter what your life situation is. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re a slave or a free capitalist. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re a part of a democracy or under a dictatorship. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re an employee or an employer. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re straight or gay. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re young, old, sick, healthy, disabled, able, educated, uneducated, married, single, whatever!! Even if you’re a historically irresponsible, Bible-twisting public servant, Jesus Christ is Lord.

There is one other position Paul mentions that I have deliberately left out until now. And how disappointing it is that those who wish to disparage the Bible can’t even be bothered reading a few more lines on to appreciate just how radically different the Jesus-centered life is. “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:5). The Bible never accepts the brutality that comes with slavery, but seeks to transform it, as surely as it seeks to transform any life situation. This doesn’t mean the Bible endorses slavery, but it does seek to minimise it’s impact.

The concern here is, wherever we are in life, we are to respond to the grace God has lavished upon us. Firstly, as general providence as God gives us food to eat, clothes to wear, places to stay, and things to enjoy. Secondly, as a special providence in saving us by the forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of His only son, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

THAT, Prime Minister, is the fundamental point of the Bible.

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September 4, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Saved by Grace!

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 111

At this time of Easter, Lord, we pause to remember that you sent Jesus to pay for our sins, in our place, and raising from the dead to new life. Lord, even if we’ve heard the story of Jesus death and resurrection 100 times before, may it spark a new passion in us. May we long for the new life Jesus has won for us. As we consider again the story of Moses, and how you saved your people from the Egyptians, may it serve as a picture of what you have done with Jesus for us.

In Jesus name we pray.

Saved by Grace

Read Exodus 12:1-13

Last time we talked about the 10 plagues of Egypt, and we said that by these 10 plagues, God was showing that he is all knowing, all doing, and all powerful. He is God almighty! This time, I want to focus on the last plague of Egypt, the plague of death as a picture of how God saves people. It’s also a picture of how Jesus has saved us.

The last plague God set upon Egypt was by far the worst. This meant every first-born, whether animal or human, would die. It was a terrible thing to have happened! Every house in Egypt would’ve tasted death – whether a person or an animal. We might wonder how can God do such a thing! This is the point I want to focus on.

As terrible as the plague of death may have been, God was gracious in his judgement. God did provide a way out. This was the last night God’s people were to spend in Egypt and be established as their own nation. They were to mark this occasion with a commemorative meal of roast lamb which they were to celebrate each year. Now God told his people to take some of the lamb’s blood and paint it on the doorframes of their houses. That sounds a bit gory doesn’t it? But blood would be a very important symbol, and we’ll find out why in a minute. God promised that when ever he saw a house with lamb’s blood on the doorframe, he would pass over that house. His judgement would not come upon that house, and no animal or person in that house would die. So there was a way to escape God’s judgement.

I also want to add that there was no favouritism here. God did give his instructions to the Israelites – his people. But this doesn’t mean that everyone who was an Israelite would be saved, and everyone who was an Egyptian would be judged and suffer the plague of death. I suspect on one hand there would’ve been Egyptians who had seen the first 9 plagues, got wind of the 10th, and did what the Israelites had been told. On the other hand, there would’ve been Israelites who would’ve thought this is all a bit beyond the pale and ignored God’s instruction, and ended up with death in their houses. God’s grace demands a response. Those who did what they were told and painted blood on the doorframes of their houses did not suffer death.

God’s judgement against the Egyptians isn’t the last judgement God will make. There’s another judgement coming, a final judgement, and it will be greater and more terrible than the one in Egypt. This time, God will judge the whole universe! But God has provided a way out – Jesus.

The night before Jesus died, Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover – the same meal that the Israelites used to remember the way God saved the Israelites from the Egyptians. It was a party! But Jesus does something special on this occasion. He takes the symbols of the meal, and applies them to himself. Instead of lamb’s blood on doorposts turning away God’s judgement, it would be his own blood on a Roman crucifix turning away God’s judgment.  Our response is not to paint lamb’s blood, but to believe and trust in Jesus. Just as the people in Egypt escaped God’s judgement by responding to his provision of grace, we too will escape God’s judgement by responding to his provision of grace in Jesus.

So with the story of Moses, we have seen how God can work from the most impossible of situations. We have seen when God acts, it’s not always in a way that we may expect. Sometimes we end up doing things we don’t want to do. We have seen that God is all knowing, all doing, and all powerful. And today we have seen today that God is also judge, but out of love for his people, he provides a way out of his judgement. At Easter we particularly remember how God provided Jesus as our way out – a way out of his final judgement.

God is a gracious God who loves his people very, very much. All he wants from us is to respond by loving him back.

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Biblical Theology, Moses, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Behold your God and Saviour!

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Editor’s Note:

I have been privileged personally to study the 10 Plagues of Egypt, and to understand something of God’s greatness and all sufficiency. I began to write a much more extensive work on this piece of history of God’s people, however it was distracting me from my formal studies. I hope in the next few months, I’ll be able to complete the work and publish it on The Student’s Desk. For now, here’s the devotional…

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Isaiah 45:22-25

Lord, hearing your word spoken through Isaiah we often forget how great you really are. Even when we do think about your greatness, we hardly grasp how great you are. We call you ‘Saviour’, and yet go looking into other things to provide for our needs which are just so insignificant compared to you. As we look at what you did in Egypt many years ago through Moses many years ago, allow us to understand something of your greatness, and that you control all things. Let us know that no matter how big or how small something may be, we can come to you with it, and you have the authority to deal with it.

In Jesus name we pray.

Behold your God and Saviour!

Read Exodus 6:1-9

Or extended reading Exodus 7 – 12

Last time we talked about how God was sending Moses back to Egypt – the last places Moses wanted to go! – and bring God’s people from Egypt where they had been working as slaves.  God was about to save his people.

Now when God saves people, he doesn’t do it just for the fun of it, or just to be kind. When God saves people, he does so to establish them in a relationship with himself. In order to have a right relationship with someone, it helps to know a few things about them. The same goes for God. Ask around today and you’ll find all sorts of crazy ideas about who God is that have little to do with what the Bible says. Perhaps one of the most popular notions of God is someone we carry around in our back pocket to be whipped out every time we want something – not unlike a credit card! When we have what we want we tuck him away, safe and sound, and forget about him until the next time we want something.

So we come to the problem in Egypt. God’s people had been immersed in Egyptian culture and Egypt beliefs for 430 years – twice as long as Europeans have been in Australia. It’s estimated the Egyptians had some 80 gods, each with there own responsibilities and powers. It was believed that it was these gods who made Egypt the great civilization that it was. Such thinking was intolerable to God because it was a lie. If God was going to his these people as his most treasured possession (Exodus 19:5),  they would have to know just who he is.

God did this through 10 great miracles, or what is often known as the ‘10 Plagues of Egypt’. Perhaps at one level, we may be tempted to think this is God ‘chucking a tanty’. But these miracles are precisely controlled and deliberate in what they reveal about God. In the mist of these catastrophes, we find God exercising mercy and grace. God could have snuffed out Egypt like a candle. But it was God’s concern that the Egyptians also knew who he is. So these plagues are much more than God giving the Egyptians a good spanking for enslaving his people. As the severity of the miracles increases, the Egyptian magicians and officials begin to realise the God of these foreigners is not airy fairy idea or some localised deity, but the Lord of the universe and is greater than all the 80 gods of Egypt put together. Even Pharaoh began to crack under pressure but was too stubborn to yield.

The 10 plagues that God sent included blood, frogs, gnats, flies, sickness of livestock, skin disease, hail, locusts, darkness, and death. Now some of those sound pretty aweful. But by doing these things, God shows that he’s more powerful then anyone else, and that he alone is God. From these 10 plagues, God demonstrates the he is the one that sustains nations, the earth and the universe; he controls life and death; he has authority over new life and resurrection; he is the one who provides health; he is the one who controls the weather; he is the one who provides food and clothing; he alone is the eternal God. He is God almighty! All knowing. All doing. All powerful. All we need is to submit to God.

This has great significance for us as there isn’t anything God can’t handle. God is much more than someone we whip out of our back pocket every time we need something. We have what we have because of who God is. Further more, he wants each of us to know him in a personal relationship. God hasn’t saved us for the fun of it. He has saved us for a personal relationship with himself. Therefore we ought to be thanking him for all that we have, and going to him with all our concerns. In this way, we come to know God better and better.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

March 9, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Moses, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God has a plan, but…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 145:1-13

Lord we can easily forget how much you love us, especially when things don’t seem to be going our way. But we know Lord that you are God who’s constantly at work to draw us even closer into a relationship with you. Help us to see your works, to marvel at you mercy and love, that we may praise you, and tell everyone else just how great you are!

In Jesus name we pray.

God has a plan, but…

Reading Exodus 3:1-10

Last time we left Moses as a young boy growing up in the Royal household of Egypt. God’s people were slaves in Egypt, and we had hoped this Moses would change all that. But now, many years later, we find that Moses is living in Midian which was at least 400km away, by horse or by foot. Moses has settled down with a wife, and has a good life. Further, Moses had no interest in returning to Egypt because his own people don’t respect him, and Pharaoh would probably take his head for killing an Egyptian. Things don’t look good for God’s people. Has God lost the plot? Was the birth of Moses just a false hope?

No. For all this time God had been in tune with what had been going on. God had been hearing the cries of his people and is about to act, and another great miracle of the Moses story occurs: God speaks to Moses from a burning bush that wasn’t being destroyed by the fire. Now that might be telling us something in itself. Even though God’s people were going through all kinds of suffering, they weren’t going to be destroyed. And God was about to tell Moses how.

God is going to send Moses to Egypt to bring his people out. WHAT!? God’s people didn’t respect Moses last time, Pharaoh wants him dead, and God wants to send him packing back to Egypt!? Besides all that, Moses has a good life Midian. Surely God’s lost the plot this time!

Have you ever been in a position where you’ve been asked to do something and you don’t want to? What happens? You give every excuse you can think of not to do it, and then some! Well this is what Moses does with God. It sounds like a teenager having an argument with their parents! Listen to the excuses:

Excuse #1: ‘I’m nobody!’ Well that’s a fib to start with! He was raised in the Royal Court after all. Besides that, Moses wasn’t doing this on his own. This was God’s work, and God was going to be with him every step of the way.

Excuse #2: ‘I’ve got no authority!’ That was true. So God told him his name which referred to his relationship with his people, and meant he loved them very much.

Excuse #3: ‘What if they ignore me!?’ God enabled Moses to perform 3 different miracles that Moses could perform at any time to show he was more powerful than the Egyptians. Now that’s someone you don’t want to ignore!

Excuse #4: This is my personal favourite – “I have a speech impairment!” That doesn’t wash with God either. God promises Moses he’ll help him speak, and give him the words to say. And if that wasn’t enough, Aaron his brother could speak for him.

Poor Moses. He just ran out of excuses, and not long after, he was packing for Egypt. The hope of Moses bringing God’s people out of Egypt was still very much a real one. But we’ve learned some important things today. 1) God never forgets about his people. 2) God uses the most unlikely people to achieve his purposes. And 3) when God does use people, he gives them everything they need to do what they are asked.

So we can trust God, even when things seem out of control. And if we’re to be part of the solution, God will provide everything we need to do his work.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

February 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Moses, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moses: The Beginnings of Hope

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Introduction

In this series of devotions, we take a flying overview of the story of Moses. It’s an incredible story of the way God brings about his purposes out of hopeless situations. God really is God of the impossible. A feature that should stand out to us is time. Often we expect God to fit in to our lifestyle of instant coffee and microwave dinners, and get frustrated when God doesn’t seem to be responding to our prayers. However, God’s plan for his people would span the life of Moses, and the final acts of deliverance would only be experienced by the next generation. Not only that but the story of Moses is part of a bigger picture that began 4 generations ago when God promised Abraham that he would become a father to a nation, and that nation would be God’s own people. It was a promise that would culminated in the person of Jesus, and wont be fulfilled until his return. Who knows what God has in mind for our lives, and the purposes he has for not only us, but for generations to come! The story of Moses in a microcosmic way shows us how God brings about his ways by intimately working through people in ways we would never think of. The story of Moses teaches us to be patient and wait upon God’s timing; to marvel at the way God works and to have complete confidence in him; and ultimately, look to God for our salvation.

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 121

Lord we can look at the world sometimes, or what’s even going on in our own lives, and feel intimidated, even scared. We can feel frustrated Lord, labouring day in and day out, and not get anywhere. So it is a great comfort to know that our help comes from you. That we’ll never find you sleeping, you’re always watching over us, keeping us from destruction no matter how difficult life gets. Lord these truths are so evident in the life of your people. As we look at the story of Moses, help as to be amazed at the way you work, and to know we can have our trust in you.

In Jesus name we pray.

The beginnings of hope…

Reading: Exodus 2:1-10

Sometimes we find situations that are just hopeless. It may be an event we’ve heard on the news, or it may be circumstances in our own life. And there appears to be no way out. No matter how hard we think, and try to fix the problem, we’re stuck there. But I want us to know that God knows when we’re stuck, and he does care deeply about us. Even when it seems nothing is happening, and we’re getting frustrated, God is at work to solve our problems in ways that we would never think of.

It’s at such a time in the life of God’s people the baby Moses was born. This was around 1,500 years before Jesus. Let me paint the scene: God’s people had migrated to Egypt and had become a large number of people – there were thousands of them! The King of Egypt, Pharaoh, began to worry about how many foreigners there were in his country. He was worried that one day they’d all run-a-muck and take over Egypt. So he hatched a plan, to stop this from happening. He had all God’s people put into slavery where they were forced to do hard work. But that didn’t work because they just became more and more numerous. So Pharaoh came up with another plan that was even worse than the first. Pharaoh was going to have every new born baby boy killed by throwing them in the river. NASTY! He did this for 2 reasons: 1) so little boys couldn’t grow up to be big soldiers and fight him, and 2) so that the only men the girls could marry would be Egyptians. God’s people were in serious trouble, and they couldn’t do anything about it.

But God was at work, and miracles were happening. A baby boy was born, and his mother was able to hide him for three whole months. Can you imagine trying to hide a baby with all the noise they make??? But then she got one up on the Egyptians. She made it look like her baby was thrown into the river just like all the others, but somehow survived the ordeal. Then who else should find the baby then Pharaoh’s daughter? Uh oh! This baby is a gonner for sure! There’s no way the Pharaoh will allow his daughter to keep a foreign baby! But no. Pharaoh’s daughter had pity on the baby, and took him to be her own. The plan has worked. Pharaoh’s daughter believed the baby had been thrown in the river and gave him the name ‘Moses’.

But we haven’t heard the best part. Moses’ sister is standing at a distance watching all this happen. Now royalty never bring up their own. They always have nurses or nannies to do the job for them. So Moses’ sister goes running up to Pharaoh’s daughter and offers to get a nurse for her. Pharaoh’s daughter says, “yep, go get one!” But who does Moses’ sister get? Mum! So not only does Moses get to live, but he gets to be raised by his Mum in the Royal Court. So Moses is going to get the best education, the best food, and the best lifestyle. The only catch is, Moses’ mum can’t let anyone know who she really is. But that’s ok, because there’s a much bigger issue at stake – the rescue of God’s people. We’ll get to see how Moses’ childhood plays a big part in this in the coming weeks.

Well so far, God’s people are still stuck in slavery. They’ll be in slavery for a while yet. In fact, things are about to get a whole lot worse for them. But already we have seen God busy behind the scenes setting up something big, even though we might be wondering what baby boys have got to do with people in slavery. For this reason, we can be confident that God is at work, even though it may not look like it. So we ought to be praying to God about the things we struggle with. We ought to be patient and wait for his timing, and his purposes. Because whatever God has in mind will be far better than what we could ever imagine!

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

February 9, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Moses, Old Testament | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment