Matthew 25: Chan vs Bell

Daily Scripture readings for August, set #11:

Numbers, chapters 26-27
Psalm 58
Matthew 24:36-51
Romans 7:13-25

Numbers 27 shows the succession of Joshua as Israel’s leader after Moses. God says this of Joshua in verse 18: “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Being that Pentecost was long in the future, I wonder what it meant for Joshua to be filled with the Spirit. Is this a different kind of “being filled” than in Acts 2?

The overall vibe of Psalm 58 is pretty dark. How do the last few verses fit in with the Biblical themes of love and forgiveness? “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth” (vs 10-11). It’s interesting to me that the vengeance in verse 10 (and even the righteous’ rejoicing about the vengeance) has a purpose in verse 11 – that the earth would acknowledge the Lord.

Matthew 24:36 creates a lot of haze for me in my understanding of the Trinity. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” In trying to wrap my mind around the concept of “three-persons-in-one,” I think I often err on the side of “one.” Jesus and the Father… they are one, as in, the SAME. Clearly they are NOT the same, however, if the Father has knowledge that the Son doesn’t have. What a mystery this doctrine is.

I saw Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life a few nights ago with some buddies. It’s a cool film about God’s sovereignty and mankind’s struggle to make sense of the world. During the section of the movie dealing with sin and temptation, the Sean Penn’s character as a young boy quotes Romans 7 in his own words: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (vs 15). It’s incredibly perceptive of Malick to include this verse as a fundamental component in forming an understanding of life. The world isn’t just full of love and pain, it’s also full of people who, on their own, can’t help but choose the route of pain (nature) instead of love (grace).

Daily Scripture readings for August, set #12:

Numbers 28-30
Psalm 59
Matthew 25:1-13
Romans 8:1-17

Numbers 29 is another contender for the most boring chapter in the Bible award. It’s amazing that such repetition is included in God’s Word. At this point I have the perspective that anything and everything in the Bible is there for a reason, as I trust that God’s Word is truly GOD’S WORD. And yet, I have no idea why Numbers 29 is in there. God knows.

Psalm 59, like Psalm 58, contains a picture of God’s anger and wrath in retribution. David is seeking shelter in the Lord from his enemies, whom he hopes the Lord will punish. “Consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth” (vs 13). Here again is a purpose behind the wrath of God: “that they may know that God rules.” But, it begs the question, how does the knowledge that God rules have any value if you’ve been “consumed”?

I’m reading Francis Chan’s recent book Erasing Hell right now. It’s in large part a response to Rob Bell’s controversial Love Wins, which I read when it was released back in March. Bell’s primary argument is that God will, in the afterlife, essentially give second/third/etc chances to those who didn’t choose Christ in this life. Chan makes specific mention of Matthew 25 in responding to Bell’s claim. “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’” (vs 10-11). These verses sure SEEM to exclude the option of second chances for salvation in the afterlife. It’s disappointing that Bell didn’t engage Matthew 25 in his book.

Romans 8 brings to fruition Paul’s teaching that the law is not intended to save us, but instead meant to expose humanity’s deep sinfulness. The law then, in showing us our wickedness, also shows us our need for a Savior. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (vs 3). What the law doesn’t do, GOD does. It’s all about God. BUT, this chapter also unpacks how it is that the law fails save us. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, IT CANNOT. Those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God” (vs 7-8). So, the law’s failure to save us isn’t due to any flaw in the law, but because we are UNABLE to follow it.

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