Saturday, October 15, 2005

Meanwhile, this Sunday Night in North Finchley … 2

Sermon preparation for the record and for the day ahead:

—•—The Bones of Joseph—•—

Genesis 50[19-26]

19 • But Joseph said to them,
“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?
20 • As for you, you meant evil against me,
but God meant it for good,
to bring it about that many people should be kept alive,
• as they are today.
21 So do not fear;
I will provide for you and your little ones.”
Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

22 • So Joseph remained in Egypt,
he and his father’s house.
• Joseph lived 110 years.
23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation.
• The children also
of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own.

24 • And Joseph said to his brothers,
“I am about to die,
but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land
to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
25 • Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying,
“God will surely visit you,
and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

26 • So Joseph died, being 110 years old.
They embalmed him,
and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

The tenth plague that was visited onto the Egyptians was directly linked to sonship in Israel by it’s nature. Because of obedience to the command to slay a lamb and then place its blood on the door posts and on the lintel, the firstborn sons of Israel were ‘passed over’ by the plague. Because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart and his refusal to let Israel go in spite of all his promises during the other nine plagues, the firstborn of every family in Egypt died that night. This irreconcilable loss of sons marked the division of these peoples as Pharaoh at last commanded the children of Israel to leave and the Egyptians thrust the inheritance that their dead sons would now not receive into Israelite hands. Tombs prepared for fathers would now be filled with sons, all over Egypt but the most prominent tomb that would commemorate their loss was to be one that would now stand empty because as the Israelites left, they took the bones of Joseph with them.

Exodus 13[16-22]

16 • (“)It shall be as a mark on your hand
or frontlets between your eyes,
for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”
17 • When Pharaoh let the people go,
God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines,
although that was near.
• For God said,
“Lest the people change their minds when they see war
and return to Egypt.”
18 But God led the people around
by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.

• And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt
equipped for battle.
19 • Moses took the bones of Joseph with him,
• for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear,
“God will surely visit you,
and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”

20 • And they moved on from Succoth
and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness.
21 • And the LORD went before them
by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way,
and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light,
that they might travel by day and by night.
22 • The pillar of cloud by day
and the pillar of fire by night
did not depart from before the people.

The tomb of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was separated from his brothers, stood empty on the morning of the Exodus. He — who in life was the symbol of salvation to Egypt and Israel both, and the means of salvation to both — became, in death, the symbol of the curse that Egypt brought upon itself and the sign of that curse was an empty tomb. The father-Pharaoh had arisen who ‘did not know Joseph’ and when he died the son-Pharaoh who replaced him faced his nemesis, Moses, with the arrogant claim not to know the LORD.
Now this son-Pharaoh’s own son lay dead and the bones of Joseph were ready to be taken from the place where his honourable place had been so disgracefully and disastrously forgotten. We are quite right to take up Joseph’s own words to his brothers and echo them concerning the Pharaohs who so conveniently forgot what they owed because, while those Pharaohs meant what they did for evil, God meant it for good.
The honours of inheritance — initially piled onto Joseph when he was released from the prison and then taken from him long after his death — those honours were now returned in kind as his dry bones became the symbol of the life of a new nation, brought out of captivity with, proverbially and literally, ‘not a hoof left behind.’
Joseph, who was first of all given undue prominence by his father as the son of the loved though junior wife, exalted over the heads of his older brothers in the matter of the coat — Joseph, who was then disinherited by the violence, greed and scheming treachery of his brothers — This Joseph, though being dead, now takes his honoured place in the phalanx of the living on route to Canaan, via Sinai.

Joshua 24[28-33]

28 • So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.
29 • After these things Joshua the son of Nun,
the servant of the LORD, died, being 110 years old.
30 • And they buried him in his own inheritance at Timnath-serah,
which is in the hill country of Ephraim,
north of the mountain of Gaash.

31 • Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua,
and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua
and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.
32 • As for the bones of Joseph,
which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt,
they buried them at Shechem,
in the piece of land that Jacob bought
from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem
for a hundred pieces of money.
• It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

33 • And Eleazar the son of Aaron died,
• and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of Phinehas his son,
• which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

When’s Jacob died, Joseph was his heir, receiving the birthright and he was privileged in turn to live long enough to ‘see Ephraim’s children of the third generation.’ Jacob’s body was taken back to be buried in Canaan when he died but [Heb 11:22] ‘By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.’ Joseph’s bones had to wait. The last words of Genesis are about the bones of Joseph so it is fitting that, in the last few verses of Joshua, the bones of Joseph are finally laid to rest after the conquest of the land.
His burial is placed in between those of Joshua himself, who inherited the leadership from Moses and Eleazar who inherited the high-priesthood from Aaron. The parallels are striking. Joshua died, being 110 years old, the same as Joseph. Eleazar was buried in a town belonging to his son just as Joseph’s bones were buried in land that his father had bought but which his sons inherited. Note the ominous implication that a generation would arise that would parallel the advent of the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph [Joshua 24:31] ‘Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel.’
Judah was the brother whose tribe was to produce the kings and ultimately the Messiah but the birthright belonged to Joseph and so he is representative of the people to whom the Messiah would come.

From the Cliff-edge of Mt. Nebo 3

From where Moses stood:On the edge of the promised land, Moses stood here and saw far more than physical geography. He saw a political map of the twelve tribes and a redemptive history stretching away to the coming of the Messiah.

I took delivery of a new book this morning and if ever a book represented a lost cause this is it.
Tom McIver in Anti-Evolution: A Reader’s Guide to Writings before and after Darwin. describes it thus:
Gosse, Philip Henry. Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, 1857. London: Van Voorst. Gosse: member of Plymouth Brethren; respected naturalist, marine biologist (popularized the aquarium). Gosse tried to accommodate his strict belief in literal creation with mounting evidence for old earth and succession of fossil organisms. He expected this book to be a triumphant breakthrough, a reconciliation embraced by atheist geologist and fundamentalist alike. Gosse argued for creation with appearance of age: just as Adam was created with a belly-button (‘omphalos’), so too all creatures and the earth itself were created with apparent age — illusory evidence of previous existence. God created all things in cycles of existence, so His creations showed signs of previous stages of the cycle from the moment of creation. He created trees with tree-rings (from non-existent previous growth), and animals with signs of earlier growth and wear — even with excrement in their intestines. The living world had to be created as an ongoing process in order to function. When God created organisms, he necessarily created them at some point in the cycle of existence. He gave each an arbitrary beginning, “but one which involved all previous rotations of the circle, though only as an ideal, or, in another phrase, prochronic,” (Gosse contrasts such “prochronic,” created events with ordinary “diachronic” events which occur “during” time.) Geological strata were created with fossils already in them. “The past conditions or stages of existence in question, can indeed be as triumphantly inferred by legitimate deduction from the present …; they rest on the very same evidences; they are identically the same in every respect, except this one, they were unreal. They exist only in their results; they are effects which never had causes.” Gosse’s theory was rejected by all sides. Most creationists today are embarrassed by the bold totality of Gosse’s concept, but continue to rely on creation with appearance of age for specific cases of refractory evidence.

Omphalos has been reprinted by the Ox Bow Press, P.O. Box 4045, Woodbridge, Connecticut. They did the reprint in 1998 and I’ve only just noticed but I obtained this copy through and, colophonically speaking, it is the most inviting looking paperback reprint I have ever seen. Their back-page blurb is as off-putting as McIver’s:-

In the mid 1850s, a terrible dilemma presented itself to the distinguished English marine biologist Philip Henry Gosse. The emerging scientific evidence for the great age of the earth and the fossils that were being uncovered was in opposition to the fundamentalist beliefs of the Plymouth Brethren. As a lay preacher of this group, he faced the terrible choice between faith and reason. In a valiant effort to have it both ways, he wrote Omphalos (London, 1857). This work maintained that God created the world the biblical five millenia ago with newly created evidence of a much older world in order to account for continuity such as annual rings on the trees in the Garden of Eden for years that had never existed. The book was met with scorn by the scientific community and suspicion by Gosse’s co-religionists who thought that God was being accused of fraud. A year later, the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species consigned Omphalos to obscurity.

So why do I want to read this book? I have liked Gosse’s theory in principle for years and I’ve never been able to get my hands on a copy to read the original. Now I can. The theory appeals to me for itself but also because something so universally but dichotomously derided ought to be worth looking into. I suspect that much of the criticism was ill-placed then and possibly remains missclassified now so it is interesting as an historical event. Already I have some alternative theories to those of McIver and Ox Bow. For example, when Ox Bow talks about ‘co-religionists’ I suspect that they mean ‘Christians’ in general but the Brethren, being Dispensationalists, were perhaps more displeased with the way Gosse dealt with the gap theory.

So why am I not avidly reading it now instead to doing this? Well, I do have other things to do including getting ready for tomorrow and writing a thesis but also I thought it would be good to mark out the theological cliff edge before I start so that I don’t automatically rule out some byway as being closed when that byway might be ‘the strait and narrow’ leading to the edge but not over it. So I’m putting up before me five ¶s from what I believe to be the best cliff edge marking ever done in this area as a guide:
Francis A. Schaeffer, Complete Works. Vol. 2 A Christian View of the Bible as Truth, pp. 136f.:-

… I will now mention two limits that seem to me to be absolute. The first is that the use of the word bara insists that at the original creation, at the creation of conscious life, and at the creation of man there was specific discontinuity with what preceded.
One other limitation is that Adam was historic and was the first man, and that Eve was made from Adam. It could not be: male-female-male-female-male-female, and then suddenly Zip!—male-female of man. It would be worthwhile here to read again all the New Testament references to the early chapters of Genesis found on pages 12-14. Among these it is most important to recognize that 1 Corinthians 11:8 affirms that Eve came from Adam: “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man.” First Corinthians 11:12 and 1 Timothy 2:13 also relate to Eve’s coming from Adam.
Consequently, what is involved here (as in this whole discussion) is not just the first chapters of Genesis, but the authoritativeness of the New Testament as well, and especially the writings of Paul. If Paul is wrong in this factual statement about Eve’s coming from Adam, there is no reason to have certainty in the authority of any New Testament factual statement, including the factual statement that Christ rose physically from the dead. If we say this factual statement about Eve was culturally oriented, then every factual statement of the New Testament can be said to be culturally oriented; and any or all of the factual statements of the New Testament can be dealt with arbitrarily and subjectively. The Bible gives a specific limitation: Adam was created by God, and then Eve was made from Adam by God.
In passing it should be noted that it is not inconsequential that Eve came from Adam; rather, this gives the basis for the absolute unity of the whole human race.
Having set forth these two limitations, I must now say I have never heard anyone holding any form of theistic evolution who follows these two limitations. I think the reason for this is that holding these limitation in any system of theistic evolution would separate the one who holds such an evolutionary theory from the usual evolutionists as completely as holding a totally nonevolutionary theory would. To put that another way, someone affirming these limitations would be as completely separated from those who hold the evolutionary position in its normal form as would someone who did not hold any form of evolution. And this is the reason, I think, it has not been put forward, at least never to the best of my knowledge.

Just to add that I will also be looking for what Gosse has to say about the discontinuity caused by the fall and the expulsion from Eden.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Selah 3

Psa 3:8
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah.

Sunshine in the placid sky,
fresh-plucked olive leaf in mouth,
the rocks' jaws' gaping teeth are worn flat,
the sea's mouth robbed; landfall on Ararat.
East, West, spreading, North and South;
rainbow colours; 'Multiply!'

Sound of victory — a sigh,
shoot of life from sapling death.
The counsel of the wise to silence brought,
the bite of lion's whelp amounts to nought.
Wind of change is dying breath.
Life is hard and then you die.

Risen at the break of day
and still, 'The Way,' 'The Life,' 'The Truth.'
The unchewed cud is bursting from its gut
the ungnawed bone has not had time to rot.
Eagle's flight renews his youth,
counterpoint of 'Gone away.'

I suspect that I ought to give my friend Guy Davies the credit for the last line in the second verse since I think that that's the outline for a sermon he gave while a student 16 years ago. That's how I remember it anyway. The middle lines of the last verse are just about the most vivid I've ever written and I hope they are not thought to be inappropriate descriptions of the resurrection.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

18th Century Theology with Thomas Boston 3

Thomas Boston was a Scottish preacher of genius. His writings are more readily available than ever before, in book form (including the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man ), increasingly on the web (including bits of the ubiquitous Fourfold State of Man), on unsearchable CD rom and 0n searchable CD rom.

The Fourfold State in a Nutshell

1. All mankind were, by Adam’s fall, separated and scattered from God, as sheep gone astray, 1 Pet. 2:25. Mankind was at first joined to God in the bond of the first covenant, and so they were his family about his hand, headed by him, and enjoying his favour. But by sin they broke away from him, and being gone from him, the centre of unity, they were separated in affection one from another, Tit. 3:3. And in this state they remain while out of Christ, scattered and wandering on the mountains of vanity.

2. To bring scattered sinners to God again, Christ was appointed the head to whom their gathering should be, 1 Pet. 2:25, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Chap. 3:18, "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." The first Adam was the head under whom they went away, and he left them wandering, a ready prey for the devourer; the second Adam is the head for their return, by whom they may be brought back unto God, and put up in safety with him for ever, John 11:52. He is the great Shepherd, entrusted by his Father for gathering the strays of mankind, into one stock and fold.

3. There is a double gathering of scattered sinners to Christ. The one is now a doing, has been from the beginning, and will be to the end of the world; and that is a gathering of sinners by the gospel to him into the bond of the covenant of grace, Gen. 49:10. The other is to come certainly at the world’s end, and that is a gathering of them by the angels to meet him in the air, never to set their foot more on the cursed earth, but to go away with him to heaven. And that will be a gathering quickly dispatched, as appears from the text [Ps:50:5 “Gather my saints together unto me: those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”].

4. There are many who will not be gathered to Christ now, whatever pains he is at to gather them, Matt. 23:37, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" He sets up his standard among them, he calls to them to come to him; but they get away from him. They love better to wander on, than to return; they prefer a vain world, and their deceitful lusts, to Christ; and they love rather to be at their liberty, than to be brought into the bond of his covenant. They cannot endure to be so hedged up, Ps. 2:3. So they refuse to gather to him.

5. Yet there are still some who, with heart and goodwill, gather to him, and willingly come into the bond of his covenant. Efficacious grace makes them willing, Ps. 110:3. They are weary of their distance from God, and their wandering life, seeing how in that case they are exposed to the utmost danger, and are in no safety from the roaring lion, who goes about seeking whom he may devour; and so they willingly gather to Christ, and come into the bond of his covenant, as their only safety.

6. Lastly, At the end of the world, whatever separation there is between these parties now, the wanderers and those within the bond of the covenant, there will be a greater then. The wanderers and the gathered being both raised out of their graves at the sound of the last trumpet: all those gathered within the bond of the covenant, shall be gathered together to Christ in the air, to go with him, and be ever with the Lord; and the wanderers will be brought together on the earth before him, receive their dreadful sentence to depart from him; and then, they going away, the earth will be set on fire. Mankind, in the garden, was a family with God as its head, united, as symbolised by the marriage bond between the man and the woman, and free to choose between good and evil. In glory, we will again be a united family, symbolised by our being taken there by the angels who are also sons of God (but who neither marry not are given in marriage) and we shall be perfectly free there to do the good that will be natural for us to do. We differ from the angels in this, that some of them fell into sin but not all and all of us have fallen in Adam. We, by nature, now have Adam as our head, are alienated from the family of God and have wills that are in bondage to choose evil only. Our course will take us from the wilderness of this world to the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
(Works V 517-518)

Monday, October 10, 2005


At ten in the morning with their duties all done
and the crowd standing round for the kill
they sat on the ground and just looked at the man
they were putting to death on the hill.

His private effects they had claimed as their own,
they divided them up on the ground
but they had to cast lots for his coat
for it seems that no seam in that robe could be found.

The seamless robe that the Master had on
was considered too good to be torn
but the Servant who wore it to Calvary Hill
was torn in the place of his own.

Our first parents sewed fig leaves to cover their shame
but the wind blew their cover apart
and God made them clothing of animal skin
for humanity, naked at heart.

The seamless robe that the Master had on
was considered too good to be torn
but God’s Lamb was led to be nailed to the tree,
to be shorn for the sins of his own.

All heaven must have marvelled as the Son of God said,
"Here I am, send me out in their place."
Swaddled at birth, he was stripped at the death
and to cover the church with his grace.

The sinless life that the Master took on
is eternally part of our race
and you can’t get to God till you go to the Man
on the cross wearing God’s human face.

The seamless robe that the Master had on
was considered too good to be torn
but the Son took upon him the form of a man
and he died in the place of his own.

I don't think that this song would have found a place in Praise! but then SNAP!'s Not Another Praise!