Archive for the ‘covenant continuity’ Category

Perhaps you haven’t heard me bang my ‘Christ in the Old Testament’ drum.  (In which case you must be very new to the blog!).  Welcome!  Here’s a half hour talk introducing the theme.


Powerpoint Slides


I consider the subject systematically, from the New Testament and from the Old Testament.

Systematically:  Jesus really is the Word of the Father – if the OT saints knew God, they must have known Jesus.

From the NT:  Jesus and the Apostles seemed to think He was known and trusted in OT times.

From the OT:  Moses and the Prophets proclaim Christ in their own context on their own terms.

If you want to take the issue further, this page may help.


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In January our Church plant will be starting on a three year programme of Reading the Bible Together.  It is the simple plan of reading the Bible that Steve Levy has developed at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea.

Beginning with Matthew in January, Romans in February and Genesis in March the whole Church family will read the books of the Bible asking the questions that the Bible itself tells us to ask.  Instead of reading the Bible with all kinds of frameworks, formulas, books, charts and diagrams we will read the Bible as if the Bible had been written in the best possible way with the ordinary church member in mind.  Yes, many of the details are beyond most of us the first time we read through the Bible and there are all kinds of questions and problems that we face; yet the Ultimate Author and the character, work and glory of Jesus shine through.

What causes such excitement about reading the Bible is the LORD Jesus Christ Himself.  There are endless articles and conferences in some circles that complain how hard they find it to preach or even read the Hebrew Scriptures.  Down the centuries the Church has found such freedom and joy in all the Scriptures when we see the glory of the crucified Christ in them all – in all the many and various ways that He encountered the Church from Genesis to Revelation.

Steve Levy’s RBT programme has been so helpful to many different churches. As I go around the UK I find that more and more of us are trying it out.  Even The Briefing has provided an article about one church that has taken Steve’s RBT method with a few modifications.  Steve has provided a very helpful response here.

The fact that Pete Woodcock is running a version of RBT, and acknowledges his debt to Steve Levy, is great.  Pete is such an outstanding Bible teacher.  My son Jonathan has been to two of the Contagious summer camps and has become a huge fan of Pete.  Every time I say anything at all about the book of Revelation, Jonathan gets out his notes to shows me exactly what Pete said and then explains how Pete preached it so much better than I have done.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery so Steve Levy presumably is very flattered that his RBT programme has been re-marketed in The Briefing as TBR [The Big Read].  I’m sure this was done as a helpful tribute to Steve’s work, and it is great that another network of churches is getting into this pattern of reading whole books of the Bible.

There are some great new features in TBR, and to be honest, I think I’m going to use some of these when we start up RBT in January.   The Experience Bible has been a fantastic resource produced from a top team of black Christians, and it is by far the best dramatized Bible reading out there.  Reading long sections of the Bible out loud is an overdue return to the patterns of local church worship from apostolic times.

However, there is one key way in which TBR falls a little short of the original RBT.  Steve has explained in his response on The Briefing website how the opening question is a question about myself rather than a question about Jesus, and as Steve says, we need so little encouragement to think about ourselves.  My own experience of group Bible studies is that we are all too willing to talk about what the passage made us feel or think, but we often miss out on the original author’s intent.

My own main concern is with TBR’s fourth question and the different Scripture that is used – “How is Jesus previewed/revealed? (Luke 24:27)”  The original RBT question is “What did you learn about Jesus? (Luke 24:45-47)”

First, I’m not convinced that it is helpful to introduce the language of “previewed/revealed”.  I understand that some churches are committed to the idea that Jesus is previewed in the Old Testament and then revealed in the New Testament, so I can see why they might want to build that scheme of Bible overview into the question.  However, it seems to impose a limiting scope to the question.  Yes, there are all kinds of ways in which we might talk of Jesus begin ‘previewed’ in the Hebrew Scriptures – from Abel’s offering, the Passover lamb, the day of atonement and David’s defeat of Goliath etc etc.  However, there are other ways when the LORD Jesus Christ is actually present, as the pre-incarnate Eternal Son/Logos – as the Angel of the LORD, the Son of Man, the LORD who is seen, the Commander of the Angelic Host etc etc.  There are other times when the prophets and psalmists just speak directly about Him – “The LORD said to my Lord…”, “The LORD’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps”, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” etc etc.

What we like about Steve’s original RBT questions is that the horizon is wide open to any and every way in which the LORD Jesus Christ is shown off in the Scriptures.

Second, notice the different Bible references given for each question.  The original RBT question refers us to Jesus’ own mini Bible overview – “He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  Here Jesus sets the expectation that  the heart and soul of the Hebrew Scriptures is that He would suffer, rise from the dead on the third day and that this resulting change of life and forgiveness is for everybody in the world.  This allows the Bible to set the horizon of expectation as we read it.

The Bible reference given in TBR is Luke 24:27 – “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”  It’s a good verse, but on its own it doesn’t tell us much about what to expect as we read the Bible.  On its own, out of context, we might be wondering what kind of things Moses and the prophets had to say about the LORD Jesus Christ.  If we were to include the preceding two verses we would get a much clearer picture – “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Why does this matter?

If we used Luke 24:25-27 or Luke 24:45-47 we expect the Hebrew Scriptures to teach us how Christ had to suffer and then rise on the third day.  Recently I actually heard a leading evangelical speaker say that Peter fell into Satan’s deception in Mark 8:32 only because the relevant information had not yet been revealed.  In other words, the speaker said that Peter could not have known about the suffering of Jesus Christ and that is why Peter rebuked Jesus.  The speaker said that the idea that the Christ would suffer was a new idea that was concealed in the Hebrew Scriptures.

We might think that Peter would want to excuse himself, but in his letter Peter specifically affirms that the Hebrew Scriptures do in fact teach the sufferings of Christ and the glory that would follow – 1 Peter 1:10-12.

If we are going to run either the original RBT or the new TBR, why not leave more room for all the ways that Jesus is presented in the Bible and for the whole scope of His Person and Work, including His Cross?

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Dan Hames eats patristics for breakfast, that’s why he glows with an ancient and other-worldly glory.

He passed this onto me today from his studies in Eusebius.  This is from Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius, 1981, p. 126–127

‘Christianity, for Eusebius, was not a new religion but the primeval religion from which the traditional religions of mankind were mere offshoots or declensions.  The Christ who was crucified in the reign of Tiberius was the Divine Word, the Son of God, the Wisdom of God, the Light of the World, the first and only-begotten Son of God.  He was, in philosophical terms, the second cause and hence partner with God the Father in the creation of the universe and its inhabitants.  Since the dawn of history, the human race has been divided into two classes.  The righteous and reverent (who included Abraham and the Jewish patriarchs, Moses and the prophets) have always worshipped the Son of God, who has acted as a mediator between God and man, instructing the pious in the knowledge of his Father by the theophanies which the Old Testament records.

‘The majority of the ancients, however, neither worshipped the Son of God nor originally possessed the capacity to receive his teachings.  Adam disobeyed God, forfeited a life of blessedness and delight, and was condemned to a mortal and accursed existence.  Adam’s immediate descendants filled the earth and, with few exceptions, lived no better than beasts: they had no care for political organization, for law and morality, for intellectual activity, but lived as nomads.  Their self-inflicted wickedness destroyed their natural reason, and they indulged in all types of unholiness, even preparing to go to way with their creator.  God therefore chastised them with floods, fires, famines, plagues, and wars.  Yet, when mankind was sunk in a drunken torpor of wickedness, the Word of God appeared to some of the ancient worshipers of God, who planted the seeds of godliness on the earth and soon made a whole nation devoted to godliness.  They were the ancient Hebrews, on whom God enjoined, through the prophet Moses, religious practices which were the images and symbols of a spiritual reality not yet clearly revealed.  The laws of Moses became widely known and had a gradually civilizing effect throughout the world.  Hence, when the Roman empire came into existence, the whole world, including the gentiles, was ready to receive knowledge of the Father.  The Word of God, therefore, appeared on earth as the savior of all mankind.  His birth, life, miracles, teaching, death, and resurrection had all been predicted exactly by Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament, who even revealed, to those who could read the Bible aright, that the incarnate Word would be called Jesus Christ…

‘The Christian religion, therefore, Eusebius holds, is not novel or strange…  Christianity is identical with the religion of the patriarchs, and the worshippers of God from Adam to Abraham were Christian in all but name…

Thus Christianity is the most ancient and most venerable of all religions: accepted of old by Abraham and the patriarchs, now proclaimed to all mankind through the teaching of Christ, Christianity is the original, the only, the true way to worship God.’

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It’s been ten years.  Ten years since that fateful afternoon in Oak Hill chapel.  And I was there.  Graeme Goldsworthy and Paul Blackham debated the object of faith in the Old Testament (yes that was the issue – I know these things get muddled up, but that really was the issue).

If you haven’t heard of these names, sorry – this post won’t make a lot of sense to you…

A little background.  I grew up and was converted in Sydney Anglican churches (my Canberra church, St Matthew’s, was essentially a Sydney church plant and all its clergy have been Moore College educated).

On the other hand, I had been working at All Souls, Langham Place for the previous 9 months and, against all my background and initial protests, I had begun to lean towards Blackham’s view on Christ in the OT.  (You can read more on my current position here).   Nonetheless, my mind was not completely made up and I was extremely interested to hear Goldsworthy.

I can pinpoint the moment when I swung decisively against the Goldsworthy position.  A young student I’d never heard of called Mike Reeves asked the first question from the floor:

“What exactly is faith? And what exactly is the proper object of faith? The importance of that is to do with whether it has changed or not.”

Blackham answered:

Faith is trusting, loving, knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is always the object of faith. From the beginning until the end. So Martin Luther, “All the promises of God lead back to the first promise concerning Christ of Genesis 3:15. The faith of the fathers in the Old Testament era, and our faith in the New Testament are one and the same faith in Christ Jesus… The faith of the fathers was directed at Christ… Time does not change the object of true faith, or the Holy Spirit. There has always been and always will be one mind, one impression, one faith concerning Christ among true believers whether they live in times past, now, or in times to come.” The object of faith is the person of Christ, explicitly so. A trusting knowledge of him.

Goldsworthy answered:

“How can I disagree? Faith is defined by its object. There are all kinds of faith that people have: the truckdriver has faith in his truck that it will get across the bridge; he has faith in the bridge that it will bear him up. A Christian has faith that God’s assurances in his word that what he has done in his Son Jesus is sufficient for his salvation. The point where we may disagree is that to me if God puts the person and work of Christ in the form of shadows and types and images in the OT and assures people that if they put their trust in that they are undoubtedly saved, then that is deemed to be faith in Christ. It is faith in Christ in the form in which he is given, and the work of the Spirit all through the Bible is with regard to Christ as he is presented.

It was hearing that question and those two answers that tipped me decisively towards Blackham on this question.

Goldsworthy rightly identifies the point of disagreement.  For him, God puts Christ in the form of shadows etc such that Israelites who trusted the shadows and had no knowledge of the Person were deemed to have trusted in the Person.

Now over the past decade that answer has seemed to me to be less and less satisfactory.  To me that’s a bad reading of the OT, a bad reading of the NT and a bad reading of systematics (Doctrine of God and soteriology for starters).

But here’s the point of this post.  Ten years on it’s very encouraging to hear more and more people who say that OT faith was in the Person of Christ.  Wonderful.  But it’s interesting that they still might identify themselves on the Goldsworthy side of the debate.

And, hey, whatever, I don’t really mind.  “The LORD is my banner” not men, right?  Absolutely.  But there is a point of disagreement here.  And Goldsworthy himself has identified it.  He says God put Christ in the form of shadows, OT saints trusted the shadows only, God deemed it to be faith in Christ.  Blackham says God presented Christ explicitly in the OT (shadows being one consciously understood means) and the OT saints explicitly trusted Him.  That’s the point of departure.  Forget the names – the positions are significantly different.

Now to me, a person who says ‘OT saints hoped in the Messiah but were fuzzy on details’ lies decisively on Blackham’s side of this debate.  But often they are an anonymous Blackhamite.  And anonymous even to themselves.

Here’s what tends to happen.  It is assumed that the debate is merely a disagreement over the degree of progress in revelation.  And so a person figures that they’re with Goldsworthy because they acknowledge progress and Blackham doesn’t so much.

But really, the debate is not about progress.  It’s about the object of faith.  Therefore if you say OT believers hoped in the Messiah Himself, Goldsworthy has told you which side of this debate you’re on.  And it’s not his.

We can still all be friends, brothers, sisters, co-workers in the gospel.  This is not some ‘foul, wide ditch’ dividing evangelicalism and I’m not interested in creating one.  But let’s at least acknowledge that there are distinctions and on which side we stand.

Maybe you believe they trusted Christ, but still you identify as Goldsworthian.  That’s ok.  I say you’re speaking better than you know.  I deem you to have trusted Blackham anyway.



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I’ve had many discussions under the title of “Christ in the Old Testament.”  But perhaps the issues would be seen more clearly if we labelled the debate: “God in the Old Testament.”

And actually, the fact that those two titles sound quite different tells you everything you need to know about the dire Christlessness of evangelical God-talk.

We (and I include myself here in my knee-jerk western deism) imagine that there’s a bed-rock deity called “God” who is obviously the God spoken of in Genesis.  And then we discuss whether the Patriarchs also knew this shadowy figure called Messiah.  And we debate how Messianic certain discrete verses are, and to what degree the author was aware, and to what degree the first audience was cognisant of specific promises and appearances, etc, etc.  But we almost never challenge that view of “God” which we all signed off on in the beginning!

Thus from the outset God is defined as – essentially – ‘the God of monotheism’ (broadly conceived) and Christ is defined as a nuance to a more foundational divine reality.  Then we spend all our time debating how clear the nuance was!

But what if, from the beginning, Elohim was not the god of Aristotle!  It’s a shocking thought I know, but let’s run with it.  What if He makes all things by His Spirit and Word and says “Let us”?  And what if this is not something that needs to be kept in check by a hermeneutic that expects only the omnibeing?  And what if the LORD God stoops down and breathes into Adam’s nostrils and what if, under the name “Voice of the LORD”, He walks in the garden in the cool of the day and encounters the couple as a divine Person.

How much clearer Adam saw God than us!  Without the “benefit” of our western theistic presuppositions, he sees the “very God from very God.”  He doesn’t think in that exact language, but he certainly doesn’t think in unitarian categories either.  To think of “the Son” as something extra to his simple belief in “God” betrays disturbing assumptions about who we think “God” is.

Who is this “God” for whom the Son is an addendum?  Why on earth are we beginning the Scriptures with that “God”?  And if the primary truths about God are unitarian, is our own faith primarily unitarian, just with a Jesus nuance?

The question is deeper than “Christ in the Old Testament.”  It’s deeper even than “God in the Old Testament.”  It’s the question of God.  Which explains why the issue can get quite heated at times.  But also why it’s so crucial.

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I’m preaching on Ecclesiastes on Sunday so I’ve been listening to some other preachers.  They pretty much all preach Ecclesiastes as the futility of atheism.  And of course when you preach it like that, what’s the solution?  Good old theism.  Yay theism.

And one or two preachers have even suggested that Christian theism gives the most amount of meaning.  So yay Jesus too.  (Although the last preacher I listened to — BIG NAME —  was way too excited about theism to get around to that Jesus nuance.)

Anyway, just thought I’d state something that’s pretty darned obvious but it seems like it needs saying.  The Teacher aint no atheist.  He’s a hard-core theist.  Check it:

Ecclesiastes 1:13; 2:24-26; 3:10-22; 5:1-7, 18-20; 6:1-2; 7:13-14; 18,20; 8:2, 11-17; 9:1,9; 11:5,9; 12:1-14;

Here’s just a sample of what he says:

God has set eternity in the hearts of men…. He’s done it so that men will revere him… Stand in awe of God… God made mankind upright but men have gone in search of many schemes… I know that it will go better with God-fearing men who are reverent before God… God will bring you to judgement… Remember your Creator… Fear God and keep his commandments.

He’s a theist right?  A pretty ardent one.

But what do you expect from a son of David, a king of Jerusalem? (Ecclesiastes 1:1)  Here is a christ – an anointed king.  But, here’s the thing, he’s not the King of Heaven.  He’s a king under heaven (notice how ‘under heaven’ and ‘under the sun’ are parallel 1:3; 3:1).  He’s not the One full of the Spirit without measure, instead he seeks to shepherd the Spirit (or chase the wind, e.g. 1:14) while he must receive his teachings from the true Shepherd (12:11).

The teacher is self-consciously not the Messiah (he’s a very naughty boy!).  He’s not the Christ with a capital C certainly. But he is a christ with a small c.  And so he embarks on a sustained meditation of life in which the king is subject to all the forces that we are.  This christ is also under the sun and therefore under the powers that enslave mankind and even nature itself.  This king, for all his wealth and power and wisdom cannot pierce through the shroud of sin, law, judgement and death.   And so what hope is there?  None!  Not with this king.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  And then we are judged – by the God is who is ever-present in Ecclesiastes.  But ever-present as Judge.  And who knows how we will fare under His judgement.

That’s life under the sun.  Here’s what we can expect if the Teacher is our christ.

But if that’s the problem, what’s the solution?  The glories of theism?  The truth that God knows us and has a wonderful plan for our lives?  The thought that my actions have eternal significance?  The Teacher knows all these things and declares them utterly meaningless.  Our only hope is Christ.  The true Christ.  The Christ from Heaven.  The Christ who conquers sin and law and judgement and death and bursts through into resurrection hope.  That’s the answer to Ecclesiastes’ meaninglessness.

Any other solution is vanity of vanities.


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Jesus… saved a people out of the land of Egypt. (Jude 5)

That’s Exodus in 10 words.

Let me give a more expanded but less inspired version.  I will focus on the who of Exodus rather than the what.  My attention will not be on Moses or Pharoah or the plagues or the Red Sea or the law or the tabernacle – that can be for another time.  I happen to think there’s a more fundamental issue to tackle: Who is the LORD who redeems Israel?  Given that this is precisely how the God of the Old Testament defines Himself  – ‘the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt’ – getting this question right will be absolutely crucial.

We begin at the non-burning bush – Exodus 3.

burning bush

Here the Angel of the LORD (v2) confronts Moses. This Sent One from the LORD is “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (v6).  (Note that Jacob agrees – the God of His fathers is the Angel: Gen 48:15f).  The Sent One calls Himself “I AM WHO I AM.” (v14)

Note: When Jesus, in His incarnate ministry, calls Himself “I AM” (for e.g. John 8:24,28,58; 13:19; 18:5-8) He is not saying that He’s closely related to the God of the Exodus.  He is the God of the Exodus.

This is important to note because verse 12 may just be the book’s theme sentence:

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Ex 3:12)

The Angel does not say “God will go with you and you will worship God.” Nor does He say “I will go with you and you will worship Me.”  No, the Angel is the saving LORD (see Judges 2:1-5) and He relates the people to Another.  Jesus saves a people and brings them to worship God on the mountain.  The Son redeems a people for the Father.  That is what Exodus is all about.  And the rest of the book is the playing out of this truth.

pillar cloudAs the people come out of Egypt – there He is in the pillar of cloud/fire.  At one point He’s called the LORD (13:21,22) at another, ‘the Angel of God’ (14:19,20).  The Sent One who is God is the redeeming LORD.

When He carries them on eagles wings to the mountain (as promised) He makes sure they are prepared to meet the LORD:

“The LORD [who carried Israel on eagle’s wings – v4] said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.”  (Ex 19:10-12)

Here the LORD is on the mountain warning the people about how dangerous it will be when the LORD meets them on the mountain.  If this were some unitarian god it would be strange talk indeed but we know that the divine Angel is the LORD who is bringing them to meet God (the Father) on the mountain (Ex 3:12).

As Deuteronomy 4 and 5 underline, the encounter on Sinai was utterly unique (e.g. Deut 4:15; 5:26).

giving law

No-one had ever heard ‘the living God’ speaking out of fire on the mountain as they did on that third day.  Of course Moses had heard the I AM speaking out of fire on that very mountain (Exodus 3).  But this is different.  This is the unseen LORD.  This is the Most High God and it has taken 70 chapters of the bible – and the mighty redemption of the Angel – to make this kind of encouter possible.

And just when you thought Exodus might finish in chapter 19, the people don’t actually go up the mountain at the trumpet blast (Ex 19:13).  Instead Moses goes up on their behalf (cf Deut 5:27).  Everything will now be presented by intermediaries, shadows, types.  For the second half of the book it’s mainly Moses on the mountain, in the cloud, receiving the law and the tabernacle blueprint from the unseen LORD.

Attention turns to the future as the unseen LORD promises Moses that the Angel will continue to deliver them (Ex 23:20-23).  They can trust Him because the name of the unseen LORD is in Him (Ex 23:21).  The Angel commands, leads and forgives the Israelites.

Perhaps Moses wasn’t listening at this point because in 33:12 he says:

“See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.”

The unseen LORD replies: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (v14)  The word ‘Presence’ is the word for face and it recalls a very memorable phrase from the same chapter.

In Exodus 33:7-11 we hear about what used to happen.  We leave the mountain-top briefly to be told how Moses used to meet with the LORD down on ground level.  At that time he’d go to the tent of meeting and speak with the LORD “face to face as a man speaks with his friend.”

That was the ‘face to face’ LORD at ground level.  But when Moses is on the mountain, the unseen LORD reassures Moses that the Face (Presence) would continue to go with them.  Moses considers this to be absolutely essential – if the Presence doesn’t go with them he’d rather just perish in the wilderness (v15).  Give me Jesus or give me death!

Having been encouraged greatly, Moses is now bold enough to ask something with echoes of Philip’s request in John 14.  Now he wants to see the glory of the unseen LORD (v18)!  The LORD’s reply is very telling: He would pass in front of Moses, He would proclaim His name, but, v20, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Again in v22 He emphasizes “my face must not be seen.”

Now Moses is not an idiot.  He’s just recounted the incident in the tent of meeting (33:7-11) for a reason.  He’s deliberately distinguishing the ground-level appearing LORD with the mountain-top unseen LORD.  But distinguishing them so as to intimately relate them.

Because as soon as Moses hears the name of the Unseen LORD (Ex 34:5-7) he exclaims:

“If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us.” (Ex 34:9)

When he hears the name of the Most High God he asks Him to send the Lord in their midst.  The name of the LORD is in the Angel who is in their midst (Ex 23:21).  So when Moses hears this gospel character he knows he’s experienced this very name in the Angel.  The seen LORD is everything that the unseen LORD proclaims when He reveals His name.  And so Moses asks the Father to send the Son in their midst – the redeeming Lord-from-Lord.

Moses’ plea of 34:9 is granted and, at the end of Exodus, the Glory / Presence / LORD fills the tabernacle and directs all their travels (40:34-38).

pillar cloud tabernacle

We see throughout the Old Testament that this promise of the Presence of the LORD being in the midst of His people was kept. Numbers 9:15-23 is one example of many showing the seen LORD going in the midst of His people.  Number 14 tells us that even the surrounding nations knew that the Face-to-Face LORD travelled with the Israelites and fought for them (v13ff).  When Solomon finally builds a Temple for the Name of the LORD, the LORD fills it in exactly the same way as He filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40. This LORD appears to Solomon in 1 Kings 9 and to Isaiah in chapter 6. If we were in any doubt as to who this Divine Person is, the Apostle John settles all dispute: “Isaiah said this [Isaiah 6] because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.” (John 12:41)

In the fulness of time this LORD – this Angel of the covenant, this sought after and desired Redeemer – would come in a definitive judgement and salvation (Mal 3:1ff).

Jesus has always been the saving, ground-level, appearing LORD.  He has always perfectly mediated the saving plan and character of His Father.  Jude was speaking absolutely plainly and straightforwardly – Jesus is the LORD who brought the Israelites out of Egypt.  In other words He is the God of the Old Testament.  Exodus is a wonderful demonstration of this foundational truth.


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Here are my Powerpoints and links to the video clips I used.

1. Jesus and Adam (Powerpoint file)

Genesis 3

Jesus – there in the beginning.
Jesus – promised from the outset.

Defeating Doubts:  Is Jesus really that important?

Video clip: Gethsemane scene from The Passion


2. Jesus and Abraham (Powerpoint file)

Genesis 22

Defeating Doubts: Isn’t the bible weird?

When you read it without Jesus it’s awful!
When you read it with Jesus it’s incredible!

Video clip: That’s Real Love


3. Jesus and Moses (Powerpoint file)

Exodus 3

Defeating Doubts: Where is God when it hurts?

Jesus comes down into suffering
To bring us out.

Video clip: Richard Wurmbrandt – Tortured for Christ (first 3:20)


4. Jesus and David (Powerpoint file)

1 Samuel 17

Christianity is not Do it for Christ
Christianity is Christ did it for you as your Champion

Defeating Doubts:  I’m too weak to be a Christian!

Video clip: Tim Keller – What is the Bible about?

If I had time for a fifth I’d do…


5. Jesus and Isaiah

Isaiah 6 and 53

Christ is high and lifted up on the cross
He is my substitute.

Defeating Doubts:  I’m too sinful to be a Christian.

Video clip: Nothing but the blood

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I’ve been asked to give some talks to teenagers on Christ’s “mission impossible” – that’s the name of the camp they’re on.  They suggested I do it from the OT.

I thought at some point in each talk I’ll address a sneaking suspicion that Christians have deep down that eats away at our faith.  So, something like:

Jesus and Adam (Genesis 3) – “Jesus can’t be that important.”

Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the world’s only hope.


Jesus and Abraham (Genesis 22) – “The bible’s weird and sometimes shocking.”

The bible is not a rule-book, but with Christ at the centre it makes sense.


Jesus and Moses (Exodus 3) – “I can’t believe in God in a suffering world.”

The LORD meets us in suffering to lead us out.


Jesus and David (1 Samuel 17) – “I’m too weak for Jesus.”

The gospel is not, do it for Jesus, it’s: Jesus did it for you.


Jesus and Isaiah (Isaiah 53) – “I’m too sinful for Jesus.”

Jesus’ mission is for sinners – He’s for you!


Anyone have any ideas for good youth-friendly video clips or jazzy stuff.  I’m not the youthiest, jazziest speaker ever!


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… the ultimate plague (i.e. judgement)  (Ex 11:1)

… judgement upon the gods (Ex 12:12)

… the defeat of the Enemy (Ex 6:1)

… liberation from slavery to overlords (Ex 13:14)

… liberation to the service of the LORD (Ex 8:1)

… the cause of unparalleled sorrow for the enemies (Ex 11:6)

… the cause of great joy for the redeemed (2 Chron 30:21)

… the distinction between the LORD’s people and the world (Ex 11:7)

… in darkness (Deut 16:6)

… a sacrifice (Ex 12:27)

… substitutionary (Ex 12:13)

… bloody (Ex 12:13)

… a sign for the LORD’s people (Ex 12:13)

… for the LORD Himself to see (Ex 12:13)

… to be memorialized in perpetuity (Ex 12:14)

… community-defining (Ex 12:47)

… open to non-covenant people (Ex 12:49)  but…

… for those who enter the covenant and own its sign (Ex 12:48)

… time renewing (Ex 12:1)

… the ultimate revelation of the LORD (Ex 6:7)


What is the cross?

Exactly the same.

[this is a repost]


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I’ve been chatting to three different mates about their sermons this week.  In each case the commentaries they have read and the sermons they have listened to have, in the end, put us in the driver’s seat.  Ironically, those commentators and preachers who make the most noise about being “God-centred” have seemed to be the most keen to put us at the centre.

And it doesn’t seem to matter which testament they’re preaching from.  Two friends are preaching from Psalms.  And even though the Psalmist is described in impossibly lofty terms – an Ideal King and Sufferer and Worshipper – yet the applications from the great and good leave us aspiring to approximate the Psalmist’s experience.  (And Jesus is brought in at the end as someone who really approximated the Psalmist’s experience rather well!).

My other friend is preaching on the parable of the man who finds the treasure and buys the field.  He is surrounded by evangelical interpretations which make us the protagonists in the whole kingdom drama.  (Suffice to say, that is not the way I take it!)

It’s reminded me yet again that “Christ in the Old Testament” is just the tip of the iceberg.  We need to fight a much more basic battle – Christ in all Scripture.  Is it really all about Him?

It’s also reminded me: You gotta watch those “God-centred” preachers!

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…unfortunately, that’s how some people view and use the Old Testament. They see Christ emerge from the picture at the end of Old Testament history (and that’s good), but they do not see him in all the little pictures. …For example, some see all the Old Testament priests as pointing forwards to Christ’s priestly work; and they do that. Some see all the Old Testament kings as pointing forwards to Christ as King of all kings; and He is that. But is Christ only seen at the end of these long lines of priests and kings? Does He only emerge from the picture when we look back with New Testament eyes? Sometimes that’s the impression that’s given. But where does that leave Old Testament believers? Did they simply put their trust in Moses’ sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s monarchy? No! By faith they saw the coming Messiah pictured in the Mosaic sacrifices, Aaron’s priesthood, and David’s kingdom. They saw Christ in the small pictures. True, they only saw Him in shadow form; but shadow implies at least some light, doesn’t it!

From David Murray

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Many preachers on OT passages seem to have an arbitrary ranking system when it comes to theophanies (appearances of God).  Sometimes they are clear that the appearing LORD is Christ, sometimes they tentatively suggest it, sometimes they claim that all is shrouded in darkness and who can know and sometimes they ignore the issue altogether.

I’m never sure what might be the rationale behind such decisions.  But there seems to be a ranking at play.  So I’ve decided to reconstruct what I think the ranking might be.  Here is just  a top ten (with the number one being the most likely to be desginated a Christophany).  There are, obviously, many more appearances than these.  But I’m not sure you’ll find many today who will acknowledge more than these ten.

10.  The LORD who eats with Abraham  (Genesis 18)

9.  The Glorious Apparition of Daniel 10

8.  The Voice of the LORD walking in the garden  (Genesis 3)

7.  The God who eats with the 70 elders of Israel  (Exodus 24)

6.  The fourth figure in the fiery furnace  (Daniel 3)

5.  The I AM of the burning bush (Exodus 3)

4.  The Man who wrestled Jacob  (Genesis 32)

3.  The LORD who rebukes Satan (Zechariah 3)

2.  Isaiah’s Temple vision  (Isaiah 6)

1.  Commander of the LORD’s host  (Joshua 5)

Have I got the ranking about right?  Are there other more worthy candidates for the top ten?

Against this arbitrary system, Jonathan Edwards’ advice will be a much safer and saner approach:

When we read in sacred history what God did, from time to time, towards His Church and people, and how He revealed Himself to them, we are to understand it especially of the Second Person of the Trinity. When we read of God appearing after the fall, in some visible form, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the Second Person of the Trinity.  (A History of the Work of Redemption)

See more from Owen and Edwards here.

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I just finished a preaching group where a fine preacher gave a fine talk on Judges 14.  At the end he included a sentence about ‘another Saviour who came to deliver His people eternally’.  That sort of thing.   He didn’t make anything of the point and he didn’t mention the name ‘Jesus’, but he included the sentence.

During the feedback session I asked him in as non-leading a way as possible, “Why did you include that sentence about Jesus?”

Quick as a flash another student answered “Because we’re supposed to.”

Let me ask:

Do we preach Christ from the OT “because we’re supposed to” or because the Hebrew Scriptures are already and inherently a witness to Christ?

Is the ‘Jesus bit’ a token effort to fulfil some preaching requirement?  Or is Jesus actually witnessed in and through the passage?

Is Jesus as incidental to the proclamation of this passage as those terrible jokes that are also tacked on?

Is it the preacher’s job to ‘bridge to Christ’?  Or has God’s word already done a good job of that?

Is Jesus forced into our sermons?  Or is He present as the Ground, Grammar and Goal of the whole Scripture?

Congregations can really tell the difference between the former and the latter.

Churches where the former is the common practice often produce Christians who know that Jesus is very important.  But they’re not so sure why.

Preachers that follow this model can start to think that Jesus is a homiletical necessity, but not so much a spiritual one.  So when they speak of God’s sovereignty, the importance of holiness, the necessity of prayer, they give powerful illustrations and pointed applications.  For these ‘main points’ of their sermon it’s aged wine and the best of meats.  But then at the end they give their people Jesus as though He’s cod liver oil.  Out of the blue, unappetising, supposedly good for you but we’re not quite sure why.

Know what I mean?

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David Murray’s latest video on Christ, the Angel of the LORD.

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Here’s David Murray’s latest Christ in the OT video.

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David Murray is professor of Old Testament at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in the States.  And he proclaims Christ from the Hebrew Scriptures the way the Puritans did.  Which is the way Calvin did.  And Luther.  And the early church.  That is, he makes the bold assumption that Christ is the one true object of saving faith.  Insane I know.  Who believes that today?  Well he does.  And I do.  And many of you do too.  But it can often seem like modern evangelicals have lost a great deal of clarity on the issue.

Well David writes and speaks with the kind of plain speaking insightfulness we expect from Reformed Scots.

Check out his blog here.  He has much on preaching Christ from the OT here.  And he has produced a series of 10 videos on appearances of the Son of God in the OT.  The first two will be up indefinitely.  Later ones will be up only for one week at a time.  You can order all of them on DVD here.  Enjoy!

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By promise

By prototype

By presence

Genesis 22 is a good example of Christ being there in all three senses.

By promise, He is there in the Seed, first promised in 3:15, threatened through sacrificial death but renewed so that in Abraham’s Seed all nations will be blessed (22:18).

He is also promised very strikingly in v14.  Abraham said the LORD would provide a lamb (v7-8).  On this occasion a ram is provided (v13).  And “So Abraham caled the name of that place “The LORD will provide.”  As it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”   The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world will be provided on that mountain in the region of Moriah (Jerusalem – cf 2 Chron 3:1).  And everybody knew about it.  They kept saying ‘On that mountain the LORD shall provide Himself the lamb.’  (It’s a reflexive verb, tricky to translate but fascinating all the same!)

By prototype, there is Isaac the very first promised offspring of Abraham.  The beloved son.  The heir of the promises.  He carries the wood on his back up the hill while his father holds the tools of judgement (v6).  He is laid on the wood for sacrifice, but through divine intervention Abraham receives him back from death (cf Heb 11:19).  And all of this on the third day (v4)

By presence, the Angel of the LORD intervenes.  In v12 He sees that Abraham fears God because he didn’t withhold his son from Himself (that is, from the Angel).  In verses 15-18 the Angel speaks as the LORD, swears by Himself and promises to bless Abraham as above.   He both is the LORD but He is also clearly distinct from another Person called LORD.    Interesting isn’t it – this is the only time the Angel is said to speak from heaven.  Christ chose not to come down to this pre-enactment of the cross.

So Christ is present in a mixture of these three ways throughout the OT.

And it’s important to highlight all three and to relate them to one another.  The Angel is present not as a freaky apparition but as a portent of the gospel work He would do as the promised Seed, the promised Isaac etc.  Check out these quotes by John Owen that interweave Christ as actually present and Christ as promised:

“After the promise [of Gen 3:15] was given, he appeared ‘in human form’ to instruct the Church in the mystery of his future incarnation, and under the name of Angel, to shadow out his office as sent unto it and employed in it by the Father; so here, before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice of the Father. (John Owen’s Works, Volume 18, p220)

[On the LORD’s appearance in Genesis 18]  Neither is there any ground for the late exposition of this and the like places, namely, that a created angel representing the person of God doth speak and act in his name, and is called Jehovah; an invention to evade the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, contrary to the sense of all antiquity, nor is any reason or instance produced to make it good. (ibid, p221)

[On Genesis 32:24-30]  From what hath been spoken, it is evident that he who appeared unto Jacob, with whom he earnestly wrestled, by tears and supplications was God; and because he was sent as the angel of God, it must be some distinct person in the Deity condescending unto that office; and appearing in the form of a man, he represented his future assumption of our human nature.  And by all this did God instruct the church in the mystery of the person of the Messiah, and who it was that they were to look for in the blessing of the promised Seed. (ibid, p225)

[On Exodus 3:1-6] He is expressly called an “Angel” Exod. 3:2 – namely, the Angel of the covenant, the great Angel of the presence of God, in whom was the name and nature of God.  And he thus appeared that the Church might know and consider who it was that was to work out their spiritual and eternal salvation, whereof that deliverance which then he would effect was a type and pledge. (ibid, p225)

When we highlight the presence of Christ with the people it is not to minimize the importance of the promise nor the proto-types.  Christ is present among them that He Himself might prefigure His promised work.  So the OT is not various promises and types moving towards Christ but is Christ Himself striding towards His own incarnation.  (Blackham’s phrase).

But then why specifically highlight the presence verses?

Well often when I speak about Christ in the OT I mention the promises and people say “Ah yes, but they spoke better than they knew.”  Sometimes they’ll bring up 2 Cor 1:20 and say ‘There were lots of promises about all kinds of stuff but, unbeknown  to the OT saints, these promises ended up being about Christ.’  Of course they never quote v19 which says ‘These promises have always been ‘Yes’ in Christ.’  But still the ‘promises’ route seems to slide off people’s backs.

The proto-types route very readily slides off backs too.  ‘David was David’ they say, ‘No-one had to know he prefigured the divine Messiah.’  Now of course you can quote Gen 49:10, you can point to the immensely exalted ways David is spoken of in the OT, you can do what Jesus did and quote Ps 110 or what Peter did and quote Psalm 16, but still people don’t want to admit that the OT saints consciously knew about the typology in which they participated.

And so we turn to the presence verses.  And here there is still resistance – “Ok so Jacob knew that the name of the God of Abraham was the Angel (the Sent One) and He was the Source of blessing (Gen 48:15-16).  So what?”

But my hope is that banging on this particular point may just soften up an assumption that resists this teaching very strongly.  The assumption is that OT saints could not have understood that the divine Visitor who encountered them was Himself LORD and also sent from the LORD.  It is assumed that OT saints are effectively unitarian in their understanding.  It is assumed that the OT saints had no ability to conceive of ‘God from God’ the way we do and therefore no conceptual framework for knowing and trusting the distinct Person of the divine Mediator.

My hope is that banging on these verses may just loosen up such a tight set of assumptions, because those assumptions really do straight-jacket these discussions.

It’s not by any means the only way by which we should speak of Christ in the OT but it’s a significant plank in the argument.


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