What Is Honey For? [Exe-Jesus]

Lately I’ve been cultivating a growing love for the book of Proverbs. In the past I’ve always had difficulty with the book, mainly because it’s so scattered and non-linear. Give me a good treatise on justification by faith any day of the week.

But I’m beginning to love pithy one-liners. The power of a sentence to illuminate is really quite remarkable. In the future I hope to have a whole category devoted to exploring Proverbs. For now, I’ll just keep it in Exe-Jesus.

My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24:13-14

One of the stated goals of this blog is to help us learn to read God’s two books, the Bible and Creation. We learn to read the latter by listening carefully to the former. Here we see one of the many purposes of honey, and by extension other pleasant foods that we encounter.

Why did God make honey so tasty and sweet? So that we would have some idea what wisdom was like. The sweetness of honey points beyond itself to the wisdom of God. Honey is “good” and we are exhorted elsewhere to “Taste and see that the LORD is good!” Our souls have taste buds, just like our tongues, and we can train the soul-buds by exercising the tongue-buds. We savor the sweetness of honey or sweet tea or pumpkin crunch cake, and in the moment engage in a fancy bit of remanating, transposing the physical enjoyment of taste onto our souls and offering thanks to God, not only for the simple pleasures of food, but for the spiritual pleasures to which the food is but an echo.

Who’s Doing the Saving Around Here? [Exe-Jesus]

During D.A. Carson’s Bible overview messages this weekend at Bethlehem Baptist Church, he drew attention to Matthew 1:21, where Joseph is told the true story of Mary’s pregnancy and commanded to name his new “son.”

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Carson noted that Jesus is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua (okay, Jesus is actually the English translation, via German I believe, of the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua, but you get the point). Anyway, the name “Joshua” means “the LORD saves.”

Now Carson hinted at this, but didn’t flesh it out in detail (for goodness’ sake, he was covering the whole Bible in two weekends!). Notice the logic of the second and third parts of Matthew 1:21 (INSIGHT students, think arcing). The word “for” indicates that 21c is grounding 21b. But how is it grounding it?

Call his name Jesus (i.e. Yahweh saves) because he (i.e. Jesus!) will save his people from their sins.

Note the relationship between the italicized and bolded words. Who exactly is doing the saving around here?

Jesus’ name coupled with the rationale for that name is just one of the many subtle and profound ways that the Bible teaches us that Jesus is himself Yahweh in the flesh.

Don’t you just love the Bible?

The Great Kick-In-The-Pants [Exe-Jesus]

Galatians 5:22-23 describes self-control as a fruit of the Spirit. Other passages teach us that it is the grace of God that trains us to live self-controlled and godly lives in the present evil age (Titus 2:11-14).

So self-control is not mere willpower, but is in fact a result of vital communion with Christ.

When the Spirit produces this wonderful fruit, I find that my greatest temptation is to forget where it came from. I easily forget that self-control is never automatic. I begin to think that I can keep the fruit without remaining attached to the vine, that I can refuse to sow and still wake up and have the harvest waiting for me. The biblical term for that way of thinking is folly.

But God gives a greater grace. The same Spirit that produces self-control also produces gratitude. And gratitude is the great kick-in-the-pants that reminds faith to keep hoping, keep trusting, keep abiding in the living God and his promises.

Saved Through Childbearing [Exe-Jesus]

I was talking with my father-in-law the other day about Genesis 1-3 and the fall of Adam and Eve and at some point our conversation turned to that mysterious passage in 1 Timothy where Paul says that women will be saved through childbearing. In the course of our discussion, a thought occurred to me about that text that was new (to me anyway). Here’s the 1 Timothy passage:

1 Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

The two most common interpretations of this last verse are

1) “saved through childbearing” is a reference to the promised Messiah in Genesis 3:15 (“saved through the birth of the Messiah”) or

2) “saved through childbearing” means that woman are saved through faithful embrace of their God-given femininity, epitomized in motherhood.

The thought that occurred to me was that these two options may not be as far apart as they would appear.

Note the connection between “saved through childbearing” in 1 Timothy and the curse of the serpent and the woman in Genesis 3:15-16. When the LORD God curses the serpent, he promises conflict between the seed of the snake and the seed of the woman. This conflict will culminate in the crushing of the serpent’s head by her seed. This passage is often called the proto-euangelion—“first gospel.” Deliverance from the serpent’s enmity will come through the Seed of Eve. So, the bearing of children carries the promise of great Blessing.

Then, in 3:16, the LORD God curses the woman by promising to greatly multiply her pain in bearing children. Birth-pains, as any mother will tell you, are indeed a result of the Fall. So the bearing of children carries the reminder of the great Curse.

These two realities—the Blessing and the Curse, the Promise and the Pain—are a tremendous summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-6).

But how did Jesus redeem us? Compare the passage above to the similar one in Galatians 3:13-14. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

So the One born of woman redeems his people by bearing the curse. The Promise of Blessing will come through the Pain of the Curse. Restoration arrives through Crucifixion.

So then, isn’t this simply the first option given above: “saved through childbearing” refers to the birth of the Messiah? Yes, but it’s more. For if Paul is connecting Genesis 3:15-16 in his summary statement, then this gospel promise is embodied and portrayed anytime a woman gives birth. For every birth contains both Pain and Promise, Blessing and Curse. The pain of childbirth reminds us of the curse of God upon our sin. But the joy following childbirth reminds us of the Skull-Crushing Seed of the Woman. At least, that’s the connection that Jesus made in John 16:21-22:

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

In this way, every birth, marked as it is by pain and promise, by the curse and the blessing, displays the gospel in miniature. When a woman sees this microcosm of the gospel for what it is—that is, when she abides in faith, love, and holiness and views the pain and glory of childbirth through faith-filled eyes—she will be saved by the redemption accomplished for her by the One born of woman who himself bore the curse of the Law.

Not a bad remanation to reflect upon this Christmas season.

Category Intros: Exe-Jesus

exegesis (n.) – a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of the Bible

Jesus (n.) – the Eternal Son of God, made flesh for us; the one who “makes known” the Father (John 1:18)

“John declares that the incarnate Word made [God] known (exegesato). From this Greek term we derive ‘exegesis’: we might almost say that Jesus is the exegesis of God. Elsewhere in the New Testament the verb means ‘to tell a narrative’ or to narrate’ (Lk. 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19). In that sense we might say that Jesus is the narration of God.”

–Don Carson, The Gospel of John (p. 135)

Though this category may get broken up later, for now I will put all of my general reflections on the Bible in this category. If we are going to learn to “read” the world rightly, then we must seek to master the Grammar. Or rather, we must seek to let the Grammar master us.