Archive for the ‘Providence’ Category

Slavery, Oppression and Providence

June 24, 2009

I’ve just read this quote from Absalom Jones, the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church in the USA.  He stated,

‘There’s always been a mystery why the impartial Father of the human race should have permitted the transportation of so many millions of our fellow creatures to this country to endure all of the miseries of slavery. Perhaps his design was that a knowledge of the gospel might be acquired by some of their descendants in order that they might become qualified to be messengers of it to the land of their fathers.’

It is a remarkable view of God’s providence rooted in the biblical portrait of the God who is able to transform terrible evil into eternal good. It also, in a very Pauline way, puts the sufferings of this life in their eternal perspective. Like the children of Israel in Egypt, like the church in the 1st century slavery, slavery in Africa is an evil that God used for good. That is the eternal good of not only our African-American brothers in Christ but for teh church as a whole as they in turn became a blessing to the very peoples who enslaved them.

You can read the quote in the context of the article at

Grace in the life of Jacob

July 16, 2007

I have been reading again Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology and thoroughly enjoying it. I have just finished the section on the life of Jacob. What struck me most about Jacob was the abundance of god’s grace in his life. How God called him rather than Jacob showing his grace and establishing Jacob, as Paul shows us in Romans, as the paradigm for predestination. How Jacob’s vision of the angels ascending and descending the ladder- Vos says the order is important!- reminded Jacob of God’s providence in his life. And of course that wonderful mysterious wrestling match where God deals with Jacob so graciously.

The other great thing that struck me form the point of view of preaching the life of Jacob was how important it is to keep God at the centre of our message. If you like the story of Jacob is not about Jacob but about God’s great plan of redemption. The danger is that if we keep Jacob at the centre then we preach the passage and apply it by substituting ourselves for Jacob. When, to borrow from one of Dick Lucas’ preaching instructions, ‘Its not about you silly!’

I’m reminded also of DR Davis advice that if we keep God at the centre of preaching narrative we’ll not go far wrong in our interpretation.

I Will Build My Church

June 13, 2007

I came across this account of the growth of the church in Ethiopia recently and think it really deserves to be more widely known. Sudan Interior Mission (now known as SIM) began its work in Ethiopia in 1919. By 1938 the last SIM missionaries left Ethiopia due to the Italian invasion. When they left there were less than 150 believers. During the following war years SIM had no contact with the Ethiopian believers. When they returned to the country in 1941 after the Allies had pushed out the invading Italian army they found a church of 10,000 members! By 1943 there were over 40,000 believers in almost 300 churches. By 1950 there were over 350 churches. Today despite a history of persecution, famine, poverty and political unrest in Ethiopia there are over 5,000 churches.

It is yet another wonderful story of the many that could be told of how Jesus is fulfilling His promise that He will build His church and not even the gates of Hades will overcome it.

Esther and the Unseen God

May 4, 2007

I have really enjoyed reading Dale Ralph Davis’s book ‘The Word became Fresh.’ It is a book about reading and preaching from OT narrative and in a very warm-hearted way Dr Davis gives us a number of worked examples. It has encouraged me to read familiar passages in a new light and to savour some of the detail.
I particularly enjoyed reading the story of Esther again. It is a Bible book which famously does not mention God. He remains unseen throughout the book. Yet His imprint is everywhere in the book most notably in the many ‘coincidences’ that occur in the book. These include that farcical moment where Haman falls upon the reclining Esther to beg for mercy and the already enraged King assumes he is making a pass at her! Every detail in the story is governed by the unseen God.
It is therefore that great word of encouragement to us that when we cannot see God, which is sometimes our complaint especially in times of difficulty, He is everywhere present governing each and every detail that will bring our salvation and the glory of His name.