Someone recently told my wife how someone had said this to her. “I’ll see for coffee on Wednesday so long as something better doesn’t come along.” It warms your heart to know people value and are committed to you so much they’ll still keep their appointment with you so long as “something better” doesn’t come along!
Sadly, we are living in a “something better” culture, a culture wanting in commitment and a knowledge of those things that are truly excellent and valuable:
Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Jos 21:45; c.f. 1 Ki 8:56).
God in His very being keeps His promises and is true to His word.
Thankfully that means His promise of salvation and forgiveness to our “something better” culture is certain and true (and praise the Lord that this is the case otherwise our falsehoods would utterly condemn us, leaving us with no hope). But not only do the Lord’s promises in the Gospel mean He will forgive the repentant who come to Jesus in faith, He will also transform them. In Lev 19 He says, “Be holy as I am holy.” In the vein of this blog’s subject He could have equally said, “Be faithful and true as I am faithful and true.” By God’s Spirit He transforms and enables and calls us to be vastly different from the “something better” culture we live in. He calls us to be faithful and true and share in His likeness.
My prayer is that as Christians are transformed by the renewing of their mind through the Word and Spirit and become less like culture and more like Christ that the world will take notice when we keep our appointments, place value on commitments and people and the Lord, His worship and ways, and that He will be glorified through us as we offer something better.
While we may not all be preachers or elders, the following word is directly applicable to those who are and indirectly to those that are not as they seek out and seek to cultivate genuine ministers of the Gospel.
The Chapel I served in England was not structurally fancy. It was built in 1819 of plain stone. Its expansions over the years were practical and yet of good quality. Thankfully the building was not a designated historical building which enabled us to make any changes without hassle. We sought to modernize the building yet not without compromising its heritage. One change we made when we introduced A/V was to move the historic plaques on the front wall in the Chapel. There is a certain theology of architecture and this said that we worshipped our past. Valueing our past we moved these marble plaques to the rear of the Chapel and put an elegant and yet simple cross on the front wall. In this way we not only made space for a blank area on which the lyrics of songs could be projected, but fixed our eyes on Jesus with the cloud of witnesses behind us (Heb 12:1–2a).
Though our Chapel had few unique features it did have one, one rich in theology and one that we kept. It was so unique that no one, including visiting preachers or even myself, had ever seen the likes of it anywhere else. On the wood panelling of the balcony facing the pulpit was a Georgian (pre-1837) plaque noted in the picture above. In old KJV English it read:
Thou therefore gird up they loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command these; be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. (Jeremiah Chap. 1 Ver.17)
In contemporary English it is translated:
But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. (Jer 1:17, ESV)
At first glance this appeared rather an odd text. Why not something more along the lines of “woe is me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16) or “preach the word in season and out of season” (2 Ti 4:2). Yet on a closer inspection this verse is of great relevance for it reminds the preacher, and any interested in truth, to fear God above pleasing man.
Jeremiah had a very difficult ministry. He had to speak God’s truth into the deteriorating covenant relationship between God and Judah just before the Babylonian invasion. Yet it was only this biting ointment that could be a balm for their wounds.
The Lord gave Jeremiah four commands:
 James Culross, The Three Rylands (1897), 73.
On May 15, 2019, I was fresh off the plane in the UK from having travelled to Ontario to preach for a call at Markdale Baptist Church. It was a whirlwind of a trip, I was tired among other things. We returned to our home church, Cromhall Chapel, and I attended the Wednesday Area Bible Study, where once a month we would host a guest preacher. Roger Page, pastor of Phillip St. Baptist Church, Bristol, was the speaker. His sermon was on Job and suffering and comfort and could not have been more timely. In fact it was providential for during our trip back to Ontario we had suffered a miscarriage. Since we are presently studying through the book of Job at MBC in our Cover to Cover series I thought reposting it here would enable others to benefit from his excellent sermon.
*Firstly, let it be said that Job is a book that must be understood in its entirety. It is best to read it all at once even and to recognize that some things—for instance what the friends say—may not be true but serve the book in highlighting what is ultimately true. For a good overview watch this video from the Bible Project.
Was Job real?
Some have suggested that Job never existed, that Job is merely a fictitious story about a man meant to convey eternal truths that are real. If this were the case, Satan’s presence in the story wouldn’t raise so many questions—it would be hypothetical.
However, the rest of the Bible interprets the story as being real. This is the case with Ezekiel (Ezk 14:14) and also James the brother of Jesus (Ja 5:11). So, this doesn’t provide an answer.
It wasn’t Satan but the Satan.
The Hebrew word here means accuser or adversary and is generally used in these ways, not speaking of a person. It could be that this is not Satan but an angel whose role it is to accuse those on earth in the heavenly courtroom—“the accuser.” However the presence of the definitive article, along with other contexts in which it refers to a specific person make it more likely it is to be understood not as a role but a name—THE accuser. Thus, this is Satan as seen in 1 Chr 21:1 and Rev 12:9. That his appearance is out of place and his role fits that of Satan’s generally further supports this.
Did the episode take place in heaven?
Maybe the way around the natural uncomfortableness of seeing God’s arch enemy appear in heaven—a place of holiness—can be resolved by seeing the location of this court as somewhere other than heaven. This is possible. The scene is of a king’s court, where in years past the executive, legislative and judicial aspects of governance were executed through one man, the king. Usually this took place in the throne room of the castle or palace, however, it was also common for there to be an assize, a travelling court throughout the kingdom. Could this be a cosmic assize where the LORD is executing governance in one specific location other than in heaven? After all He is omnipresent.
Two things suggest otherwise. The first is that the courtroom of heaven is the normative location for such events described in the Bible. The second is that when Satan is asked where he has come from his reply is “earth.” This world clearly conveys that the LORD must in fact be holding court in heaven.
Before we decide, two other important details can be noted:
Still, what on earth was Satan doing in heaven? Satan is the head of the rebellion against the LORD. Satan stands for evil and yet Ps 5:4 says “You allow no evil in your presence.” Here lies the dilemma, Satan is there as the epitome of evil, yet God has said this cannot be, yet both are recorded in the Bible—what now?
I would suggest we need to understand “your presence” in the language of the courtroom as meaning—at least one possibility—seriously entertaining. God cannot and will not seriously entertain Satan in his courtroom. He is the Rebel of rebels. He does not belong there as his awkward entrance makes clear. Yet God permits his entrance and between the LORD and his fallen angel a higher battle plays out, one in which God will triumph over Satan through His servant Job. I would suggest this episode may be likened to a good employer who fires a troublesome employee. One day, the employer is having a board meeting or a meeting with supervisors on the workplace floor, and in struts the ex-employee, full of no good. The good employer’s character and wisdom is so great that he is not threatened by this ex-employee who stoops so low. The man is out of place, even permitted to enter by the employers discretion, yet for the manifold declaration of the employers justice and control, he allows even this worthless ex-employee to enter, even scheme, so that in the end it may be shown how utterly foolish he is, and how wonderful the employer is. The employer is not threatened or his goodness impinged and it is clear the incident is not normative.
There are other questions from this passage that remain, but this at least provides an answer to the question “what Satan may have been up to in heaven and how it was possible.”
 We also need to remember this happened quite early in Creation, I dare say things have change a bit since then in the dynamic between heaven and hell. Since Satan is part of the created the role that he presently has has not always been that way, so their relationship could have still been evolving.
 Can Satan, as the prince of this world, influence the weather, I thought that was God’s prerogative?; How is it that God wills Job harm?
I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it—Mt 16:18b
Sometimes it feels as if the visible church in Ontario is struggling, battles within, battles without, slow decline. In large part that is true, however, amongst faithful Gospel congregations there is hope, signs of growth, and indeed often already vitality. In light of all of this it is encouraging to see what Jesus said about His Church.
A few observations may be drawn:
Yet still, does prevailing against mean the Church is really on the defensive or ought it to be understood as an offensive promise? Well, gates are a defensive structure in a city’s defence, so if it said, “and the gates heaven shall not prevail against the force of hell,” then it would clearly view things defensively, but that is not what we see. Rather, we see that hell is on the defensive, and neither now nor ultimately shall hell ultimately prevail against the forces of authentic Christianity. This is the normative promise in Mt 16:18b, that as we are faithful, though hell may hurl its darts at us and try to block our advance, hell must decrease in power and the Church will increase until Jesus has put His enemies under His feet and the Church rules with Christ in heaven.
So may we be faithful and look to the head and builder of the Church to do great things in Markdale as the Church increases and as Satan’s forces go on the defensive.
 I say normative because sometimes in God’s providence faithful churches are persecuted and don’t grow. As a normative rule, however, Mt 16:18 stands.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.
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