God is the sovereign ruler over everything that happens both good and bad – Bruce Ware

Photo credit sweetepistles.hubpages.com

It is so clear, God has control over what happens, over these nations of the world and the choices that people make, so that His will is accomplished. This is one of the areas that Christian people struggle with most deeply, when they come to these difficult teachings of Scripture. And I understand that because I struggled with them for many, many years and I understand your struggle as well. What ultimately brought me to accept this is  simply the conviction: This is the teaching of the Bible. And if I think I know better, good grief, what does that say about me? So, are you willing to accept God on the basis of what God says about Himself?

Isaiah 45:6b-7
I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

So, indeed, God has complete control over everything good. Oh my, we love that teaching. It is true and it is glorious. James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Indeed, God does control every good thing that happens.

But, this text and many other texts in the Bible also indicate He has equal control over everything bad that takes place. Indeed, He is the one ultimately who has the say so, as it were, of whether these bad things happen, and to whom, and in what manner, and the like. God is the one who ordains not only the good, but the bad as well.

There are a couple of things we have to bear in mind here. Even though God exercises complete control over both good and evil, God is good, and in no respect is He evil. My goodness, how important it is for us to affirm that. God is not yin-yang, as the god of Shintuism is. God is not light and darkness. God is good and not evil. 1 John 1:5 –  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. God is light, not darkness, God is good, not evil. Which brings me to my second point: Because God is good, He is light, then His control of evil would be for what purpose? For good purposes, that He will bring about only through the evil things that take place.

The supreme example of this in the Bible is the cross of Christ. It is so clear. Think for example to a statement by Peter in Acts 2:23 – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Question: How would you answer the question- How did Jesus get put on that cross? How did this happen? What’s the biblical answer to that question. Well, it’s complex, isn’t it? Don’t you have to say two things, not just one. You have to say, „God put Him there.” Delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Right? Was Jesus there on the cross because God put Him there? Absolutely. This was the Father’s design, to send His Son, by whom we would be redeemed of our sin. This was the design of the Father, that His Son would be crucified for our sin.

But, is that the only answer you give? How did Christ get there on that cross? You also have to say, „Wicked men put Him there.” Delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to the cross by the hands of Godless men and put Him to death. So you realize that the answer to that question involves two answers: God did it, men did it, wicked men did it. Now, get this further. God, in doing that is praiseworthy, men who did this are blameworthy, are Godless men, wicked men and they are culpable for what they did.

One more thing I’d like you to see. You’ve got this dual agency here: God did it, men did it. The next question is this: Is one of those 2 agencies ultimate? Does one have priority over the other? Yes, indeed.  delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Clearly, God’s agency is ultimate, so that they carried out what He designed they do, and yet, they bear full responsibility for the evil that they committed. That’s one example of many examples in the Bible, where you realize God exerts control over evil that takes place, but our confidence is this. Because God is the one who controls it… Let me stop there. What if He weren’t the one who controlled it? What are the other options that we have? Satan, demons, evil people, forces of nature that are outside the control of God? Honestly, if that’s the case, stay home, stay in your bed and hope for the best, because, wow, what a scary world this would be if God is not the one in control of the evil that takes place. But, because He is in control and He is good, His ways are right, He is just in all that He does, we can have strength of confidence and hope that God’s purposes will not fail. Even though we read the paper, even though we see horrible things happening, we know God is in control and His purposes will be fulfilled in the end.

VIDEO byMars Hill Church  Watch the full sermon here: http://jesus.to/1cTmYRw Check out the full Best Sermon Ever series here:http://marshill.com/bestsermonever

God is exclusively God, incomparably God, and through that deserves ultimate glory because he is the sovereign ruler over everything that happens in heaven and earth, including sovereign ruler over good and evil. Because God is good, he is light, then his control of evil would be for what purpose? For good purposes, that he will bring about only through the evil things that take place. The supreme example of this in the Bible is the cross of Christ.

This clip is excerpted from the sermon „The Incomparable Glory of God,” the second part of our sermon series Best Sermon Ever. It was preached by Dr. Bruce Ware out of Isaiah 40–45 at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue and released on August 18.

Ancient wall found in Israel matches up with Bible’s tale of Assyrian attack

A mud-brick wall was found at the heart of ancient fortifications at the Ashdod-Yam dig. Photo credit and story from http://www.nbcnews.com/science/ancient-wall-israel

Archaeologists say they have unearthed the remains of massive fortifications built about 2,700 years ago around an Iron Age Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel. The ruins appear to have a connection to Assyria’s takeover of the region, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah.

„The fortifications appear to protect an artificial harbor,” Tel Aviv University’s Alexander Fantalkin, leader of the excavations at the Ashdod-Yam archaeological dig, said in a news release issued Monday. „If so, this would be a discovery of international significance, the first known harbor of this kind in our corner of the Levant.”

The discovery was announced at the end of the first excavation season at Ashdod-Yam in the contemporary coastal city of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. At the heart of the fortifications is a mud-brick wall measuring more than 12 feet wide (3.6 meters wide) in some places, and 15 feet (4.5 meters) high. The wall is covered in layers of mud and sand that stretch for hundreds of feet on either side.

When they were built in the 8th century B.C., the crescent-shaped fortifications would have defended an inland area covering more than 17 acres (7 hectares).

Philip Sapirstein / TAU – A 3-D rendering created by Tel Aviv University’s Philip Sapirstein shows the collapse of mud-brick structures that was thought to have occurred in the 2nd century B.C., during the Hellenistic period.

Age of Sargon II
During the late 8th century B.C., Assyrian King Sargon II ruled the entire southeastern part of the Mediterranean basin, including Egypt and the Middle East. Inscriptions tell of a Philistine king in Ashdod, named Yamani, who tried to organize a revolt against the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians responded harshly, took control of Ashdod in 711 B.C. and eventually destroyed the city. As a result, power shifted to the nearby area of Ashdod-Yam, the site of the current excavations.

Tel Aviv University said the fortifications appear to be related to these events, although the precise relationship is not yet clear. They could have been built before or after the Ashdod rebellion was put down, either at the initiative of the local defenders or at the orders of the Assyrians.

Based on earlier excavations, the late Israeli archaeologist Jacob Kaplan concluded that the rebels built the fortifications in anticipation of the attack — but Fantalkin said the construction seems too monumental to have been done under such circumstances.

„An amazing amount of time and energy was invested in building the wall and glacis [embankments],” he said.

Staying out of the fight
Sargon II’s harsh action against Ashdod was mentioned in Isaiah 20, as a warning to those who backed the rebellion. „In that day, the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria!'”

Hezekiah, king of Judah, stayed out of the fight — presumably at the urging of Isaiah.

Fantalkin and his team found more recent ruins on top of the sand of the Iron Age fortifications, dating to the Hellenistic period, between the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C. They say the buildings and walls were apparently built after the earlier fortifications were abandoned, and were probably destroyed by an earthquake in the second half of the 2nd century B.C. Ancient coins, weights and other artifacts were found among the ruins.

During the Byzantine era, Ashdod-Yam was known as Azotos Paralios, or Azotus Paralus. An impressive citadel called Kal’at Al Mina was built on the site during the Early Islamic period, sometime between the 8th and the 11th centuries. In 1033, that citadel was badly damaged in an earthquake.

Update for 10:50 p.m. ET Aug. 20: The caption for the 3-D representation has been revised to indicate that it reflects the collapse of the mud-brick structures during the Hellenistic period.

By Alan Boyle who is NBCNews.com’s science editor. Read more here http://www.nbcnews.com/science/ancient-wall-israel

God is the glorious Redeemer of his chosen people – Bruce Ware

My friends. I know that this is something that is highly objectionable in the culture in which we live. It’s an offense, out there in the culture to proclaim Jesus as the only way to be saved, but it’s true. And because it’s true, we cannot shy away from it. Goodness, their destinies are at stake, and our fidelity to God and Christ is at stake, in whether or not we are faithful to the Gospel message that Jesus is Savior of all who believe in Him.

Photo credit www.kammyskorner.com

God is exclusively God and incomparably God, and therefore deserves the highest glory because he is the glorious Redeemer of his chosen people. I want you to pause here with me and realize that this second point didn’t have to be in the Bible. Here’s what I mean by that: God created us, we’re dependent upon Him, we owe Him our allegiance, we owe Him our worship, we owe Him the adoration that He alone deserves. Because He is Creator, we owe that to Him. But, what did we do as His creatures? We rebelled against Him and went our own way. We committed tyranny against the Most High. And so, we brought upon ourselves the just condemnation of our Creator God, and He could have said, „That’s it!” and consigned us all to an eternity away from Him. Oh, yes,He could have. (Photo on right http://www.sbts.edu)

But, I am here to tell you something amazing, and that is that this Creator God, who looks down upon us now as sinners deserving judgment, designed a plan by which He could redeem us, save us from our sin, and bring us back to Himself, so that we could, with him, then again experience the fulness of joy we will only know because we are with the one who has it all. What did God do to accomplish this? Look with me at Isaiah again, chapter 52 and chapter 53. We’ll begin in Isaiah 52:7-10 and then read on in ch. 53:4-6.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Now, how did He bring about this saving work? Isaiah 53:4-6-

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This is astonishing, amazing! That this God who is the Creator, who did not need the world that He created, now looks at this world that He created with its human population, sinful- all sinned against Him, turned away from Him, and in His compassion, devises a means by which we may be freed from our sin and brought back to Him. You see, that has to happen. Do you understand why that is the case? Because God is holy, and as the holy God that He is, He cannot have in His presence those who are sinful. And yet, He looks at us and we’re all in our sin. And He cannot have us with Him until sin is dealt with.

But, here’s the next problem. If He gives to us the task of getting rid of our own sin, it will never happen. There are no works we could do. There’s no amount of church going, or deeds that we can do that would rid us of the sin of our lives, that would qualify us to be in the presence of God. So what did God do? In His mercy He sent His Son, no less than His own Son to come and take on our human form and then bear our sin in His body, on the cross. That He might pay for that sin, and that we by faith, and faith alone, might be brought back to Him with sins forgiven, restored in fellowship to Him and enter into newness of life that will never ever end. What an incredible thing this God has done in giving His Son!

And, look at the ways in which it is expressed in Isaiah 53:4 „Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” but now, the second part of the verse- if you were there on that day, when Jesus was hung on the cross between two thieves at Ghetsemane, what would it look like to you when you’d see this beaten, bloodied man crucified on this cross? What would it look like to you? Isaiah 53:4b „yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” Here’s what it would look like: It would look like He is getting what He deserves. He is smitten of God and He is being judged of His own sin.

That’s what it looks like, but here’s the truth my friends. Verse 5 „But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; Do you see it? On the cross, He was not getting what He deserved, He was getting what we deserved. And He bore the sin of our lives, and the penalty of that sin, so that by faith we could be forgiven and be brought into newness of life and the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit forever. It’s an amazing work that God has done for us in Christ. And, no other work of salvation is possible. That is, this is the only way to be saved. It is through what Christ has done for us.

My friends. I know that this is something that is highly objectionable in the culture in which we live. It’s an offense, out there in the culture to proclaim Jesus as the only way to be saved, but it’s true. And because it’s true, we cannot shy away from it. Goodness, their destinies are at stake, and our fidelity to God and Christ is at stake, in whether or not we are faithful to the Gospel message that Jesus is Savior of all who believe in Him. By the way, ask yourself this question: How many Saviors does a sinful world need? You just need one that works. Guess what? We’ve got one that works. And Jesus is that one Savior, whose death on the cross paid the penalty of the sins of the world, that anyone who believes might be brought into relationship with Him. So indeed, God as Redeemer of His people took upon Himself the cost of our salvation in His son and paid the penalty for it.

„The Incomparable Glory of God,”

God is exclusively God and incomparably God, and therefore deserves the highest glory because he is the glorious Redeemer of his chosen people. Creator God, who looks now upon us as sinners deserving judgment, designed a plan by which he could redeem us, save us from our sin, and bring us back to himself so that we could be with him. What an incredible thing this God has done in giving his Son.

This clip is excerpted from the sermon „The Incomparable Glory of God,” the second part of our sermon series Best Sermon Ever. It was preached by Dr. Bruce Ware out of Isaiah 40–45 at Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue and released on August 18.

VIDEO byMars Hill Church  Watch the full sermon here: http://jesus.to/1cTmYRw Check out the full Best Sermon Ever series here:http://marshill.com/bestsermonever

Dialogue on holiness with John Oswalt – author of Isaiah NIV Commentary

John Oswalt talks about holiness through it’s proper understanding of the Christian life and what it is all about, an example from the trinity vs. an overemphasis on externals (i.e. a holy outward life where we judge it by counting buttons or length of hair). His most recent book ‘Called to be Holy’, 

„traces the doctrine of personal holiness through both the Old and New Testaments, showing that holy living is an overarching theme of the entire Bible. Dr. Oswalt explains the intimate connection between forgiveness and a life of holiness, and underscores the practical consequences of walking in the Spirit. The result is a well-rounded portrait of the Bible’s teaching on godly living.” (source – book description – Amazon)
Oswalt in the 2nd video:
A New Testament without an Old Testament borders on heresy. It seems to me that a lot of the demise of a Christian understanding of the necessity of ethical holiness, of living out the life of God is the result of our ignorance of the Old Testament, because the New Testament assumes the Old Testament. Often times people will say to me, „There’s the Christian Bible, that’s the New Testament, and the Jewish Bible, that’s the Old Testament. Well, we’re Christians. Yeah, you sort of need the Old Testament, just for sort of background, so you can know where the New Testament came from, but, you don’t really need it.” That is, to put it bluntly- non Christian. The Christian church, for 2,000 years has said, „No, the whole Bible is Christian. A proper understanding of the Old Testament is that it is preparatory to Christ. And, in the same way, the New Testament assumes that we know the Old Testament. What is the question of life:
***How can a sinful human being ever share the character of a holy God? If you don’t know the Old Testament, you don’t know that. Well, the Old Testament is laying these foundations: God is transcendent. He is absolutely holy. He’s beyond anything we can imagine in His essence and His character. He is just. This is a cause and effect world. He is majestic, He is glorious. Salvation is to be found in community. Righteousness is to be lived out in a society. Revelation comes through historical narrative. The other points are there: His immanence, His love, His grace, the reality of an individual relationship with God, the reality of personal righteousness, revelation through teaching- they’re there. But, they’re minor points. The New Testament just reverses that order. The New Testament says, „OK, you got the point now: God is transcendent. Let us talk about His immanence. Let us talk about God having come here. You understand about God’s absolute holiness, now let us talk about His love. And so forth… down that list, just reversing them. If you know your Old Testament, the it fits together. Then, it is awesome Good News, that the awesome Holy God, who could fry you alive by looking at you, loves you. But, if you don’t know the Old Testament, then what you’ve got is a friendly little god, who says, „Oh honey, that’s all right. It doesn’t really matter, it’s okay. A little god, who exists under my bed, to answer my prayers.
A religion that is purely individualistic, about me and my righteousness, and interestingly, a religion that’s primarily through teaching, that actually, whether this stuff happened or not, it’s not that important. In other words, all too much of modern evangelicalism. 
***God’s jealousy in the OT. (2nd video, 10 min. mark)  We need to constantly help people to understand that God’s rage, especially in the prophets is the flipside of His love.  We’ve lost a good word in English: Zeal. As you know, it’s one word in hebrew: Zealous and jealous are the same word. Unfortunately, in English, jealousy is now a petty emotion. My wife smiles at another man, and I get bent out of shape, because I’m jealous. But jealous and zealous go together. And I think of Jesus cleaning out the temple. And what did the disciples remember? „The zeal of Thy house has eaten me up.” God is so furious because He loves His people so much and is so broken over what they are doing to themselves, and so I love to say to students and to others: „You know, the most frequently quoted 2 verse passage of the Old Testament in the Old Testament is Exodus 34:6-7 – TheLord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.  This gets quoted explicitly 6 times, and it’s alluded to another 11 (times). So you say to the Hebrew, „What’s your God like?” „Oh, He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger…” Ha? Looks to me like He got angry a lot!” And they say, „Yeah, He should have! That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is He hasn’t.”  We need to have people understand: You can’t have His love without His rage. He is a fully impassioned person.


Dr. John N. Oswalt (PhD, Brandeis University) is Visiting Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including the two-volume commentary on Isaiah in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and Called to be Holy: A Biblical Perspective. Three other important books from John Oswalt are:

  1. The Bible among the Myths: Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature? by John N. Oswalt (Jul 28, 2009)
  2. Called to Be Holy by John N. Oswalt (Jun 15, 2011)

  3. Leisure Crisis (Critical Issues Series (Wheaton, Ill.).) by John Oswalt (Jun 1987)

(Source – Amazon, Photo credit Amazon).

VIDEOS by TheHenryCenter located at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School  of Wheaton College, Deerfield, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). For more videos (many debates) click here – http://www.henrycenter.org

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 1 (36 min)

Dialogue with John Oswalt – Part 2 (21 min)

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