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Indelible Grace Church Blog

Social Justice in the Old Testament

"The LORD executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing."  Deuteronomy 10:18

It's interesting that the passage above speaks about engagement with the poor as a matter, not simply of mercy, but of justice and equity.  Why?  Because the world, as God intended it, was not supposed to have wide disparities of wealth.  We can see this in the very structure of the civil laws of Israel.


For example:

(1) Land was evenly distributed in Israel. Numbers 26:52-56
(2) Land ownership could never be permanently transferred or lost. Leviticus 25:23-28
(3) Every 50 years, the original equitable distribution of land was restored. Leviticus 25:8-17
(4) Every seven years, the entire produce of the land was for the poor. Exodus 23:10-11
(5) Each year, a portion of the harvest was set aside for the poor. Leviticus 19:9-10
(6) When the poor needed a loan, it was to be given interest-free. Exodus 22:25-27
(7) Every seven years, the debts of the poor were cancelled. Deuteronomy 15:1-2
(8) The tithe was to support the poor. Deuteronomy 14:28-29

It’s easy to gloss over how radical these laws were.  There was no such thing as private property (since all the land belonged to God and everyone was only stewards of the land).  No one could accumulate vast amounts of wealth since land could never be permanently bought and sold.   No family would ever suffer permanent destitution since all debts were to be forgiven and all land holdings would eventually be returned.

Moreover, the requirements to share with the poor are breathtaking.  We often think of only the tithe (10% of earnings) being for the poor.  But if you also take into account the various gleaning laws, debt-forgiveness laws, etc., the actual percentage that was to be shared with the poor was probably closer to 20% of earnings.  This is the society God intended, and Israel, as the people of God, was to be a unique community of social justice – so that the Bible can boldly proclaim, "there will be no poor among you; if only you will obey and do all that I command." Deuteronomy 15:4-5

But tragically, Israel failed to obey and one of the major themes of the prophets is a scathing indictment of Israel's neglect for the poor.  As we turn to the New Testament, what’s fascinating about the gospel is that Jesus rescues us by reenacting the very compassion to the poor commanded in the Old Testament – while he was infinitely wealthy and we were spiritually destitute, on the cross, he impoverished himself for our enrichment. 2 Corinthians 8:9  And now, as the redeemed people of God, we are to reenact this gospel love through social justice as the early church did – "they had everything in common and there was not a needy person among them." Acts 4:32-35  Notice the deliberate echo of Deuteronomy 15:4, cited above.  This is the hope of the gospel.

(We covered this topic in Sunday school, which you can listen to here.)

Last Updated on Saturday, 06 July 2013 12:59

Christian Marriage


On the radio program, This American Life (you can click to hear the actual story), there is an amusing tale of a woman who in a moment of romantic despair, decided to write her name “Esther” on a dollar bill with the idea that if some guy should give it back to her, it would be a cosmic sign that he was the one she was destined to marry.  A few weeks afterwards it actually happened.  She was dating a guy, Paul Grachan, who by the most remarkable coincidence, happened to find Esther’s dollar while receiving change at a deli and, not knowing the story behind it, thought it would be fun to present it to Esther in a frame.

Years later, they were married.  And the dollar has been the source of much commitment and strength in the relationship.  As Esther explained it, whenever she and Paul experienced difficulties, whereas she might have ordinarily just broken up with him, she would go into her room, take out the framed dollar, and remind herself, “how can I break up with him if he’s the one who gave me this dollar?  How can I walk out on my cosmic soul-mate?”

There is something so very charming about this story.  We can all relate to Esther wanting certainty about who to marry.  But that certainty does not come from some cosmic sign but it comes from a promise – the marriage vow.   How do I know this person is the one God intended for me to marry?  In truth, we don’t know until we’ve made the promise on our wedding day.  And from that day forward, we know this is the one we’re supposed to be with.  So that whenever we experience marriage difficulties (and they will happen), whenever we encounter someone else who seems more intriguing, whenever the love feelings ebb and flow, we can go back to the promise and remind ourselves, “how can I leave him if he’s the one I’ve promised myself to?”  Marriage is ultimately not based on romantic feelings or situational happiness.  Marriage is based on a covenant – a life-long promise to be faithful and true.

You can listen to the two-part Sunday school series on Marriage this blog post is based on here.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 09:44

Christian Singleness


The gospel defines every area of our lives, including our relationship status. Therefore, when we talk about singleness we have much more to offer than mere advice on dating and tips on how to deal with the struggles of being single. The narrative arc of the Scriptures gives us a much deeper understanding of what it means to be a single person. If we properly understand what the Bible has to say about singleness, those who are single can have freedom from anxiety in this stage of life. And those who are not single can better appreciate the vital role single people play in the Kingdom of God.

The Old Testament was marked by a number of covenants, including the Adamic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant. Each of these covenants included a component of offspring (which implies marriage and familial relations). In fact, continued offspring was the primary promise of these covenants. Physical procreation was the primary mechanism God used to build up the covenant people. In the Old Testament marriage was assumed for everyone; almost every person ended up marrying. Starting a family, raising children, continuing a lineage and gaining honor for a family name was of utmost importance to those living in the days of the Old Testament. If a person was married and able to procreate, he was considered blessed (in accord with the Mosaic covenant). Those that did not marry or were unable to produce children were considered cursed by God. While this seems harsh to modern minds, we must remember that these things were assumed in light of the covenants Israel lived under.

The book of Jeremiah introduces another covenant that fulfills and supersedes all previous covenants. The New Covenant is first given to Israel and ultimately to all mankind. In this covenant, God promises to forgive sin and open up a whole new relationship with people that is marked by deep acceptance and intimacy. This relationship is not brought about by keeping the rules, but by the work of God alone. The book of Isaiah speaks of a man who has no family but will have offspring (Isaiah 53:8-10). How is this possible? The man the prophet speaks about is Jesus the Messiah, and it is Jesus who sheds his blood to make the New Covenant possible. He fulfills the law of Moses (Matthew 5:17) by perfectly obeying God’s commandments and living the life that we could not live. And we find in the New Testament that the promises of offspring in the Old Testament covenants are finally and fully fulfilled in Jesus. It is ultimately Jesus who the covenants were promising when they promised offspring.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

And it is no longer physical offspring that make up the covenant people of God, but the Church.

And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29)

Marriage and children are no longer necessary to continue God’s work in creating a covenant people as it was in the Old Testament. The implications of these truths for the single life are many:

• It means that we are all children of God’s promise and that all the blessings of God fall on us. It means that our season (or life) of singleness are not an indication of God’s curse upon us. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us something incredible: singleness is a good thing (1 Corinthians 7). Christianity is the only religion that affirms both marriage and singleness as good. That is because the gospel says we are already blessed and already have everything we need because of what Christ has done for us.

• It means that even in our moments of deep sorrow and loneliness as single people we never have to wonder if God has forgotten us.

• It means that the family we long for is found in the Church, whether or not we ever have a biological family of our own.

• It means that because we are free to be single, we are free to direct our time and energies toward serving the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) rather than be anxious about our relational status. The command to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) is much easier for someone who does not have the responsibility of caring for a boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife.

• It means that while our desire for relational intimacy in a romantic relationship may go unfulfilled, our deeper desire for relational intimacy with a better and truer Lover will never go unfulfilled.

In the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire tells his romantic interest, Dorothy Boyd, how much she means to him and caps off his mini-speech with the famous phrase “you complete me.” That phrase articulates what so many people want someone else to do for them. They hope for someone who will complete them. But the gospel tells us that we are already complete if we are in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

It is not wrong to want and actively seek a romantic relationship. This is a good and godly desire. But while we wait for God to intersect our lives with those of whom we will eventually end up with, we can know that we already have everything that we need. For the believer, every relational stage in life is an opportunity to showcase the goodness of God. For those that are waiting for the right person to come along, we can use our season of singleness to tell people that even though the loneliness of singleness hurts deeply, Jesus is enough. And even though we are unsure if we will ever find marital bliss, we know for certain that we will one day know an eternal joy that even the best romantic partner cannot compare to.

You can listen to Pastor Wade’s two-part Sunday School series here.

For an extensive yet accessible exegetical treatment on the topic of singleness, check out Redeeming Singleness by Barry Danylak (Crossway, 2010).

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 April 2013 00:06

Easter 2013

The parents and children at our Easter service:



Skeptics Night


This past Saturday was our second Seminar for Skeptics.  The goal was to address an objection that keeps people from considering the plausibility of Christianity.   This time, we looked at the question: Isn’t it narrow-minded for Christianity to claim to be the one true religion?  Here, in brief, was the presentation given by Pastor Michael:

(1) Religious pluralism (the idea that relativizes all religions as equally valid) logically contradicts itself because it positions itself as The Truth over all other truths.

(2) Religious pluralism is itself intolerant because it doesn’t respect the integrity of world religions as they are.

(3) Christianity is the most inclusive exclusive-truth because its exclusive-truth is a man dying for his enemies.  This exclusive truth creates compassionate, loving people.

Several other questions were also asked, which keep coming up at each Seminar for Skeptics.   Here are the top three:

(1) Isn’t it unfair for God to send people to hell for all eternity just because they don’t believe in Jesus?

Our culture typically thinks of heaven and hell in material/experiential terms: heaven is like a great day at the spa, hell is a fiery torturous pit.  But Christianity describes heaven and hell in relational terms: heaven is to be in the presence of Jesus, hell is to be away from Jesus.  Therefore, understood in this light, those who reject Jesus are already experiencing hell in this life, and this trajectory will continue for eternity after death.  Therefore, no one will be in hell against their ultimate desire.

(2) How can a good and loving God allow for evil and suffering?

God has a good and loving reason for the suffering he allows.   We just don’t know what that reason is.  But we know what the reason can’t be.  It can’t be that God doesn’t love us.  Because on the cross, God took evil and suffering into his very heart.  Therefore, we can trust him.  And one day, at the Resurrection, all evil and sadness will be swallowed up into glory.

(3) Isn’t it bigoted for Christianity to say that homosexuality is a sin?

Christianity has always taught that sexuality is to be practiced only in the confines of marriage.  This excludes pre-marital sex, prostitution, infidelity, divorce, polygamy and pornography.  And homosexuality – because the purpose of sex is not ultimately for our personal happiness (though that is a wonderful by-product), but to image God, and therefore, there must be complementarity in marriage: male and female.  And therefore, Christianity is not particularly focused on homosexuality as the uber-sin, as our culture makes it out to be, but Christianity is at odds with all modern notions of sex.  Christianity asserts that sexuality, like all aspects of the human condition, is subject to broken desires.   But there is forgiveness in the gospel.   And therefore, Christianity embraces our gay brothers and sisters to experience grace and reconciliation in Christ.

You can also hear the audio recording of the evening here.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:24

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