Weekly Devotion 3/31/2013: A Shoot from Jesse’s Stump

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This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Weekly Devotions

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of theLORD” (vv. 1–2).

- Isaiah 11:1–11

Continuing his look at the restoration of God’s people that would come after the destruction Assyria would visit upon Israel and Judah (as well as after the Babylonian exile), Isaiah in today’s passage records another well-known prophecy. This is the famous text that foresees a shoot coming forth from “the stump of Jesse,” a shoot whose reign would destroy all evil and bring peace to the earth (Isa. 11:1–11).

Let us not miss the significance of all the prophet is saying. First, Isaiah speaks of “the stump of Jesse” (v. 1). The image here is of a tree that has been so devastated that only a stump remains. Jesse, of course, was the father of King David (1 Sam. 16:1–13), so Isaiah is speaking of the Davidic line of kings. The prophet saw that things were going to get very bad for the people of God. David’s line would decline to such a degree that it would be essentially left for dead. History tells us this is exactly what happened, with David’s royal dynasty all but dying out as a result of God’s judgment of His people through Assyria and Babylon. Nevertheless, Isaiah also saw that while the Davidic line would seem to be dead, life would remain within the stump. A shoot—life barely detectable at first—would emerge. But once this shoot went forth, it would become a mighty tree. A king of humble origins would be a signal for the nations after the exile (Isa. 11:2–10).

All of this is brought out in Isaiah’s reference to the shoot “from Jesse,” not “from David” (v. 1). John Calvin comments that Isaiah “does not call him David, but Jesse; because the rank of that family had sunk so low, that it appeared to be not a royal family, but that of a mean peasant, such as the family of Jesse was, when David was unexpectedly called to the government of the kingdom.” However, that is not the only significance in Isaiah’s reference to the coming Messiah being the shoot of Jesse. Commentators point out that the only king in the Old Testament who was called the son of Jesse was David. All of the rest of the kings were called sons “of David.” In applying the parentage of Jesse specifically to the coming Messiah, Isaiah is doing more than revealing the family from whom the Messiah will come. He is revealing that the Messiah will be at least as important in the history of redemption as David was. In fact, as later revelation tells us, the Messiah is even greater than David, being David’s Lord as well as David’s son (Ps. 110:1; Mark 12:35–37).

Coram Deo

One of the things that makes Jesus the Messiah greater than even David himself is His righteousness in judging the poor and deciding with equity for “the meek of the earth” (Isa. 11:4). Christ is the incomparably noble and righteous King, the only one who can flawlessly ensure that the least of all people will receive perfect justice. This is a great comfort for us in an increasingly anti-Christian society that seeks to marginalize and silence us.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 16:18–20
Psalm 96
John 5:22–23
1 Peter 1:17

Courtesy of Ligonier Ministries

Eight questions to ask when discussing Christian liberty

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John Feinberg suggests eight tests for moral decision-making in matters that are not absolutes:

The first question is, am I fully persuaded that it is right? Paul says (Rom 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not fully persuaded, we doubt rather than believe that we can do this and stand acceptably before God. If there is doubt, Paul says, there is sin (v. 23). So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed, and then one could indulge; but while there is doubt, one must refrain.

Second, can I do it as unto the Lord? Whatever we do, Paul says, we must do as unto the Lord (Rom 14:6–8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.

Third, can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ? Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20–21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.

Fourth, does it bring peace? In Rom 14:17–18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.

Fifth, does it edify my brother? The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities that both bring peace and edify.

Sixth, is it profitable? In 1 Cor 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages or social dancing, but if my indulgence in either of these activities causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.

Seventh, does it enslave me? (1 Cor 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.

A final test is, does it bring glory to God? Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes between actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

From the second edition of Ethics for a Brave New World.

I think this quote from Doug Wilson gets the difficult balance of legalism and liberty largely right: “The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it.”

MVBC Sermon 3/24/2013: “Jesus, the Son of God” (John 10:22-42)

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This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series MVBC Sermons

This past Palm Sunday, my pastor, Aaron Menikoff, preached the sermon “Jesus, the Son of God” from John 10:22-42 continuing a series titled “The Jesus You Need.” See below for more information.

For the Romans Sunday School class, here are the notes on Romans 6:1-14.

MVBC Sermon 3/17/2013: “The Treasure of Moses”

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This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series MVBC Sermons

A bit late with this one!

This past Sunday, Dr. Michael Haykin, a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (and a former professor of mine and, my pastor, Aaron Menikoff) preached a sermon titled “The Treasure of Moses” at my church. I was the monitor on the greeting team that morning so I was unable to take notes but I did listen to the sermon and found it to be very good. You can listen to it here.

For the Romans Sunday School class, here are the notes on Romans 5:12-21.

The fine print of “marriage equality”

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A great post by Trevin Wax over at The Gospel Coalition. Below is an excerpt:

Historically, marriage has been envisioned as a physical and emotional bond designed for procreation and family life. Laws have regulated marriage differently than other friendships and relationships because society has recognized and sought to preserve the notion of an institution that points beyond the partners to the responsibility of raising children.

Supporting same-sex marriage means redefining marriage as something no longer comprehensive (directed toward procreation and family life), but primarily emotional in nature. It’s about the romantic feelings of the partners, not the exclusive fidelity of a man and woman who agree to constitute and nurture a family.

The case can be made that gays and lesbians want permanence as well as emotional union, and the push for same-sex marriage shows they are willing to go to great lengths to manufacture a sort of permanence in order to sustain the emotional bond.

Still, once marriage is totally separated from reproduction, it will likely become as inconsistent as our emotional whims. If marriage is based on something other than complementarity, why should it be exclusive? Why permanent? Why should the government be involved at all?

Embrace tradition and orthopraxy

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“It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 1.

“Tradition is the fruit of the Spirit’s teaching activity from the ages as God’s people have sought understanding of Scripture. It is not infallible, but neither is it negligible, and we impoverish ourselves if we disregard it.”

—J.I. Packer, “Upholding the Unity of Scripture Today,” JETS 25 (1982): 414

“The best way to guard a true interpretation of Scripture, the Reformers insisted, was neither to naively embrace the infallibility of tradition, or the infallibility of the individual, but to recognize the communal interpretation of Scripture. The best way to ensure faithfulness to the text is to read it together, not only with the churches of our own time and place, but with the wider ‘communion of saints’ down through the age.”

—Michael Horton, “What Still Keeps Us Apart?

“There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries.”

—Larry Woiwode, Acts (New York: HarperCollins, 1993).

MVBC Sermon 3/10/2013: “Jesus, the Good Shepherd” (John 10:1-21)

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This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series MVBC Sermons

This past Sunday, my pastor, Aaron Menikoff, preached the sermon “Jesus, the Good Shepherd” from John 10:1-21 continuing a series titled “The Jesus You Need.” See below for more information.

  • Click here to hear the sermon.
  • Click here to read Aaron’s blog post about this sermon and read his study guide.
  • Click here to read my notes on the sermon.

For the Romans Sunday School class, here are the notes on Romans 5:1-11.

Back from the wilderness

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After a two year hiatus, I’m back.

Please bear with me as I attempt to get as much content from the previous site imported into this new one. It is going to be a long and tedious process and I appreciate your patience. If you have any suggestions or just want to drop me a line, please do so by using this form. If you want to keep up to date on new posts, please enter your email address in the “Subscribe” area on the right sidebar.