King David Encounters The Awesome Presence of God


King David was a man who sought the Lord and wanted to know his presence of God in his and the nation’s life, because of this he wanted the Ark of the Covenant to be in Jerusalem.In his zeal to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, he fails to follow the commands of the Law and instead he imitates the way Philistines had used to return the Ark. god uses this incident to remind David and all those who read this account that he is a Holy and Righteous God who commands us to seek him in his own way. David was right to want to practice the presence of God, where he went wrong was trying to do it in a way that seemed right to him. It takes the death of Uzzah to make David realise how awesome God really is.

David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” 10 He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.
The New International Version. (2011). (2 Sa 6:1–10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

David’s heart was in the right place but he used the wrong means there were strict instructions as to who was to carry the Ark and Uzzah is not one of the Priests and he is therefore not entitled to touch the Ark. Notice that the actions of Uzzah are described as  an “irreverent act”, The Lord is able to protect his own ark, he does not need the help of man. We must remember too that as we seek to practice the presence of God, we need to do so as those who realise that our God is holy as well as gracious. We must not explain this away as being just an Old Testament story because we see that God moves in judgement in similar ways in the New Testament. The Apostle John in the book of Revelation shows the greatness ,glory and majesty of our God, yet John and David were to also realise that this Holy God is a Gracious and Loving God. When we realise that God is present and working powerfully in our lives , we encounter God both as holy and gracious. Our sins condemn us in the light of God’s holiness but God in his great grace grants us forgiveness and newness of life. As the account continues we see that God’s grace is manifested,

11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.
12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.The New International Version. (2011). (2 Sa 6:11–15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Notice here that Obed-edom is blessed because the Lord is present, this is god acting in his grace towards people. It soon became obvious to all around that the presence of the Lord made a great difference, Obed-Edom and his whole household were blessed. The word soon got back to David and he realised that he needed to bring the ark to Jerusalem in the right way. This next attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem was successful because it followed the pattern of the Law of God. At every step of the way, God is honoured. David organises the Priests to carry the ark but he also provides sacrifices. These actions show that David realised that he was entirely dependent upon the grace of God. This time, he comes up to Jerusalem with rejoicing knowing that God is great and that he is gracious. David found the presence of God to be exciting, reverence for David did not mean standing quietly but rather he excitedly dances before the Lord. Sometimes we see others worshipping in a way we are not used to and we find ourselves being critical when we should be rejoicing with others.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
The New International Version. (2011). (2 Sa 6:16–7:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Michal, David’s wife was critical of David for his dancing before the Lord and she despised him for it. these actions brought about God’s judgement upon her. David was confident that he was worshipping the Lord with his whole being and he knew that he was not being dishonoured by the ordinary person. David was willing to be seen as undignified if that would exalt God more, David sees his so called lack  of dignity as coming directly from his worship of God.

How can we apply this to ourselves today, (1) We should seek the Lord as wholeheartedly as David did,  (2) We must remember that we serve a God of holy love, a God who is righteous and gracious? (3) We must realise that God is always present to bless his people and he desires that they walk closely with him.

Will we desire to pursue the presence of God in our lives because we know how great a God he is and because we want to give him all the honour and glory?

Posted in almighty God, AWESOME GOD, Discipleship, faith, God's love, Greatness of god, holiness, Theology, Word of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doing things God’s way


When David became King of Israel the author purposely contrasts David’s listening to the Lord with Saul’s disobedience. Saul was defeated because of his disobedience, he had not listened to the Lord. David, on the other hand, is portrayed as someone who enquires of the Lord. David realises that each situation is different and he needs to seek the Lord in fresh ways. People often say that God has spoken once for all in His word and that is true but that does not mean that he is now a silent God, or a God confined to speaking through the pages of a book. The character and attributes of the Triune God show that he is a God who relates to his people. Obviously, in that relationship, he never contradicts his written word and it is that Word which we use to test everything else. David knows that as he seeks God he will guide David in the best way to act. We too can have a confidence that the living God wants to guide and direct our paths. We should live more in the expectancy of hearing from God through his word and through prophetic direction and the varied gifts of the Holy Spirit.

David found himself as we so often do in the situation where he was being attacked because he was walking in God’s ways, David had been anointed not only by the people but much earlier by Samuel at the express command of God. After years of problems he is at last able to walk in the path, God had singled out for him. It is important to stress here that David knew years before what God would eventually do but he had to wait for God’s timing, David’s life was far from easy as he waited but the trials of the waiting period would help shape his characters for the battles that lay ahead of him. When God keeps us waiting we grow impatient but the Lord uses these times to cause us to grow and become more godly. But I want to show now how David had learnt to depend on the Lord when life gets tough.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”
The LORD answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”
20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the LORD has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. 21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.
The New International Version. (2011). (2 Sa 5:17–21). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The Philistines were opposed to everything that the Kingship of David stood for and they wanted to rid the world of this man. They declared war and gathered in a great number to oppose David but David does not just go and attack the Philistines, he enquires of the Lord and it is only when the Lord promises him the victory that he goes into battle. David knows that his victory has come about because of God’s deliverance not because of his skills as a warrior. We need to realise that in the conflicts of life we too need to see the Lord guiding and leading us.

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25 So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.The New International Version. (2011). (2 Sa 5:22–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

David realised that fighting the Lord’s battles was not a technique but rather depended upon listening to the Lord afresh in each situation, so he does not presume to go into battle the same way again but rather seeks the Lord and receives his strategy from him. We need to take this same attitude with us into the conflicts of spiritual warfare and indeed as we seek guidance as to how to live our lives in a way that honours our God. Sometimes as in David’s case here we need to go about things in a way that is not obvious but David proved that God’s way is the best way.     The challenge of this passage is to remind us that we are in a dynamic relationship with almighty God who in his love and grace know far better than us what is wise and good and therefore we are to depend upon him for all that we need.

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“The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution” by Jenna Ellis: Some reflections in response.


Regular readers of this blog will know that I am British and may wonder why I would deal with a book looking at the American Constitution, there are several reasons for this, firstly, I am married to an American citizen. secondly, I owe a debt to many American Christian thinkers and especially the work of Francis Schaeffer. The most important reason to respond is that I applaud the Author’s determination to uphold Biblical morality. Obviously as a Briton, I am not used to having a written constitution, our constitutional settlement is made up from several strands of law going back to the Magna Carta and the development of both representative democracy and the constitutional monarchy. However, the erosion of the biblical basis of both societies is similar.

It is vital that evangelical Christians stand for biblical morality against the growing forces of humanism but sometimes our understanding of various issues linked to these issues will differ.I want to make it clear that any disagreements expressed below with some of the author’s positions are meant to be constructive criticism. I hope that any discussion will be civil and will show the love and respect that Christians should show to one another. For a quick summary of my own position on the importance of being pro-life please read my https://pneumaandlogos.com/2012/10/18/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life/                 and also on the issue of marriage see  https://pneumaandlogos.com/2013/01/08/letter-to-the-british-prime-minister/

The author is absolutely right to maintain that any document including the Constitution must have an original meaning which must be maintained. If any organization is governed by a Constitution then the meaning the authors assigned to the text must be maintained. The American Supreme Court has treated the constitution as though it can mean different things at different times which to my mind goes against the whole of idea of a constitution having a fixed meaning to guide the governance of a society, state or church. When I was part of a team that drafted our Church constitution we intended every word to have a fixed meaning and the same is obviously the case with the drafters of the American Constitution.

Social Contract Theory: Jenna Ellis rightly critiques Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s view of the social contract theory and on the basis of that critique claims that the American constitution is not influenced by social contract theory. However I am not sure that this judgement is correct because historians have often said that the Founding Fathers of the United States were influenced by the philosophy of John Locke. John Locke’s social contract theory was written by a man who claimed to be a Christian and examines the Biblical text in his writings. To not engage Locke in this book is a real oversight his form of Christian rationalism had a great impact in Great Britain and in Early American colonies. Until I had started reading this book I had not read anything by John Locke for over forty years but I have started reading him again. One of the things that has come to light is how similar Locke’s critique of tyranny is to the quotes from the founding fathers in this book. Locke also refers to the work of Hobbes who also held the social contract theory. These two authors and the impact they had in their day make me very hesitant to agree with the author on the matter of the social contract. If she had engaged with Locke and Hobbes in the same way she did with Rousseau I might well have been convinced. At this point I am not saying the author is definetly wrong but rather she has not proven her case because of insufficient evidence.

Marxism: I mus admit I groaned inwardly when I saw the “Naked Communist” quoted, I thought that this work had been discredited many years ago. Just looking through “The Naked Communist” makes me wonder if the author had read much of Karl Marx. I have huge problems with some of his assertions,  in the 1960’s British Communist Party officials told me that the permissive society was a threat of social change as it risked leaving the workers more content with their chains. At this time, I was shown a booklet printed in Moscow highlighting the dangers of the permissive society. I find it fascinating that the President of Russia, who is a former KGB official holds to quite a strict moral code, this is in line with what I was told in the sixties by prominent British Communists.

One sentence on page p148 is just wrong, we are told that “Marxist theory is rooted in Communism” This is to get things back to front we should have been told that Communism is rooted in Marxist theory, I don’t know if this is just sloppy thinking at this point or what. but having studied Marx and Marxism quite closely The original statement does not make sense to me. My three lectures critiquing Marxism are still availble for purchase (These were given in 1977 or 1978)

http://soundword.com/l-abri-rollings–david-marxism—part-1.html

One of the problems with the Naked Communist and many other reactions to Marxism and Socialism is that they are seen as a monolithic whole rather than understanding the differences of emphasis and at times worldview. Many Social Democrats who would call themselves socialist are definitely not revolutionary Marxists but work within the democratic structures to bring about social change.

Is Violent Revolution consistent with biblical revelation? Obviously, Jenna Ellis thinks the answer to this question is yes she believes that the American colonies were warranted in their rebellion because of my own background of political involvement I would like to have found reasons in Scripture to justify a revolution but I cannot find them. On the contrary I find numerous trxts that lead in the opposite direction. Romans 13:1-7 leaves no room for revolution but rather calls for submission to the Roman authorities, Titus 3:1-2 contain the same teaching and the Apostle Peter also says much the same thing in 1Peter 2:13-17 these passages collectively and by themselves show that we are to rebel. But this does not rule out civil disobedience to unjust laws, we have examples of this in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, but civil diobedience recognizes that we may have to face the cobsequences of being punished by the State. We see this in the book of Daniel and again in the Book of Acts.

Pacifism: some have already asked me whether I am a Pacifist, The answer to that is no I am not. I however do believe that the use of nuclear weapons is always unjust as is Chemical warfare. A just war tries to repel evil using the minimum force necessary. In our modern world warfare is often engaged in before other options have been explored.

If you have not read the book I am engaging with and you are interested in the issues raised you can obtain the book from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legal-Basis-Moral-Constitution-Constitutional/dp/1512722758/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qi

or http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Basis-Moral-Constitution-Constitutional/dp/1512722758/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=146348

My purpose in engaging in this whole excercise is to offer consructive criticism, I repeat again that what we stand against unites us more than divides us and we both serve and love the true and living God.

 

 

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Celebrating our Glorious Liberation: An Invitation to receive Holy Communion


We are invited to come to this Sacred Table by our Lord himself. The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed shared the Passover meal with his disciples during this time he instituted this meal as a sign of the New Covenant.

It is because of his grace that we can come freely knowing that our sins are forgiven through what the Lord Jesus accomplshed through his death and resurrection.

We come to this table knowing that the way has been made to come into the very presence of God, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea and the River Jordan because God had made the way for them, how much greater is the love and grace that is shown to us in the death of Christ. so we look back with assurance knowing that he has finished the work of salvation for us.

The people of Israel had to depend upon the Lord to guide, direct and provide for them as they went on their wilderness journey, we too are called upon to seek the Lord for his grace which is on display before us today. we are called to this table to receive the bread of life in a fresh way today.

As the Lord leads his people through the wilderness to the promised land, he reminds us today that one day He will come back again to make all things new. On that great day we will enter the eternal promised land from which no man can expel us because we will be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

So let us come to this table with gratitude in our hearts and praise on our lips to receive again the grace we need.

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Enjoying God and Knowing God’s Heart For The Poor


Very often when we think of God’s heart for the poor we tend to feel guilty about what we possess the perspective that the Lord gives us in chapters 14 and 15 of Deuteronomy is very different from that. We are told that we can rejoice in what God has given us but at the same time we must look out for others. Obviously, this does not include any form of exploitation in gaining our own income. God,  in fact, does not want there to be any poor but he desires equality however he realises that fallen humans will make unwise,mistaken and foolish decisions that can lead to poverty. He also cares fro the widow and the orphan who are poor through no fault of their own. The New Testament Church cared for the truly needy and the New Testament is quite explicit that we should continue to provide for the poor. The Bible always protests against injustice and stands for righteousness, truth and justice.

Firstly, We need to look at how God commands us to rejoice in all the good things he has given to us.

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.

The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 14:22–27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

It is important to notice here that this tithe is for rejoicing before the Lord with good food and drink. We must notice that although there is the command to consume these things, it is before the Lord acknowledging his Lordship over our lives. this is having a party in the presence of the Lord. When we look at this way it is quite radical and certainly gives the lie to the idea that God is a spoilsport.  God intends us to enjoy worshipping him. But this is only one aspect of his care for people as chapter 15 demonstrates. In chapter 15 We find that God is concerned about the economic welfare of his people. He is A God who has instituted economic justice for his people. The economic provisions of the Mosaic law show that God’s best purpose is economic equality. Yet being the all wise God he knows that fallen man will have problems with their use of money and possessions and to this subject we now turn.

15 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. 4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 15:1–12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here the Lord shows the Israelites that they should have the same gracious spirit as he does. The Lord wants people to be cheerful givers when it comes to helping the poor. Notice he says they are not to be tightfisted or hardhearted towards those in need. Fallen man makes foolish decisions, can have things go wrong or he can be exploited by others, in all of these situations they are to provide help. This provision of the Lord for cancelling debt runs contrary to the exploitation of those in debt we see in contemporary society. Just imagine if Wonga or one of those other exploitative companies were to start forgiving debts instead of charging outrageous interest rates how that would transform the lives of so many people. If this would happen many people would be freed from unjust loan repayments where the interest amounts to more than the original loan. Such things are highly offensive to a God who is just and loving.

When people got into debt in Ancient Israel, they became slaves but this is not in the modern sense of the term, they had to be treated with dignity and it was for a limited time period after which they were set free with abundant provision for starting their debt free life.

12 If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. 13 And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.
16 But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, 17 then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant.
18 Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.

The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 15:12–19). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The Lord here is very clear about the generosity of heart that is required of those setting their Hebrew slaves free, this runs contrary to the normal inclination and action of the fallen human being, this relationship is to demonstrate something of the Character of Israel’s God who is a God of holy love and he expects his people to demonstrate that love to one another. This type of action can only come from the hearts of those who know what it is to rejoice before the Lord and therefore we come full circle to our starting point. This whole discourse calls us to demonstrate something of the wonder of God’s grace to a broken and needy world, will we heed the call of God to rejoice in him and be gracious to others?

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Praying For Our Nation


Wherever we live, we are called to pray for our nation this is not an optional extra, sometimes however circumstances highlight the need for this. Across the wWorld at the moment, nations are in turmoil, other nations are having elections and referendums while still others live under authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and yet the Word of God calls us all to pray for our nation. Paul says to Timothy,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

The New International Version. (2011). (1 Ti 2:1–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

This is one of the clearest instructions in Scripture that we need to pray for those in authority and if we had only this one command  we would have to face the fact that God call us to pray for those in authority over us. What is helpful about this passage is that it gives a gospel reason to pray for those in authority over us. Here is a seamless link between the gospel and social concern. But it is not good enough to know we have to pray but we must also look at some of the attitudes and motives that underlie this command.

We need a God Centred approach. When the Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he showed them that God was to be honoured over all others and we are to seek his kingdom, We need to think about the significance of these familiar words,

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 6:9–10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

All true  prayer starts with a reverence for God, we must see that he ios the Lord of all, the almighty one and at the same time he is our loving heavenly Father. Having seen something of his greatness we will want to seek His kingdom and therefore want to see His will done here on earth as it is in heaven. It is easy when we are praying for our nation to start with our agenda, or even our political ideology, instead of this we need to seek god both in prayer and in his word. What does God want should be our big question? It is very easy when opinion is divided in the Church about a matter to get into debates rather than seeking God and his will.

We need to be a people marked by humility. When Solomon prayed to the Lord at the dedication of the temple the Lord answered him using these well-known words,

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land

The New International Version. (2011). (2 Ch 7:14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The people of God are called to humble themselves and we can see how Daniel does that as he prays for the nation of Israel,

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, LORD, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Da 9:7–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Daniel identifies with his people, he does not think of himself as superior, the Scripture tells us that Daniel was a righteous man but he identifies with his people. Notice also that he acknowledges the justice of God in his dealings with his people. But Daniel is also aware and very conscious of the covenant promises of God and his nature as a merciful God.  We know from chapter 10 that Daniel had an unexpected revelation of the glory of God, he uses words almost identical to those in the Book of Revelation chapter 1. Daniel says,

5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.
The New International Version. (2011). (Da 10:5–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

We too need a revelation of the Glory of God, he comes at times in His holy glory and reveals more of himself and we need that so we need to come to him in a Spirit of humble dependency realising that he is the Sovereign Lord.

So Let us seek God in prayer for our nations and for those who rule over us as God commands us to do and may we do so in ways that Honour our God, with true humility of heart and with the expectation that he will hear and answer our prayers.

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Total Depravity: horrible words that describe humankind’s falleness


No words can adequately describe the result of humankind’s fall into sin, the words total depravity have been used and are frequently misunderstood by those who do not hold to a Reformed Theology. When we say that men are totally depraved we are not saying that all men are as evil as possible, what we are saying is that sin has affected the totality of a person’s being. The fall into sin has affected our minds, our emotions, our will, and our bodies. Some people try to exempt some part of our being such as the intellect or the will but this is not tenable in light of the biblical revelation. In this article, we will see the radical results that sin has brought upon humankind as we look at the Biblical text.

In Genesis 3 we have the well-known account of the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, by believing the lies of the serpent they find themselves separated from God and expelled from the Garden of Eden. In the garden, God spelt out the results of his curse upon humankind and the creation The following chapters are not a pretty picture as they describe how sin spread, we read of Cain murdering Abel and it goes on until in chapter 6 we read,

5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ge 6:5–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

God’s righteous judgement is shown here against the backcloth of the sin of humanity. The writer describes the state of humans in their thinking as “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” This description shows how God views fallen humanity. We will see that even though Noah was a righteous man, sin still pervaded the earth and still does.

Jeremiah 17, shows us something more of the sinfulness of man,

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it
The New International Version. (2011). (Je 17:9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The heart is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions in Hebrew thought and therefore, this is a very radical statement indeed, humankind is in a desperate state and only God can bring salvation to him.

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we find humankind’s plight described in a radical way sin has has corrupted every part of humankind’s being, this can be seen in the writings of the apostles and I want to to look particularly at the letters of Paul. I want to start with the Book of Romans. in the first 5 Chapters, we find Paul dealing with the topic of sin in some depth. I will just touch upon a few key points from this letter and then note some other key passages in his writings. In Romans 1 Paul says,

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 1:18–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here Paul shows that human beings have sinned against their creator and have believed the lies of satan and ignored the evidence of His being, humankind exchanges the truth of God for a lie. In chapter 2 he develops his argument about sin even more but he shows clearly the dreadful plight we are in, in chapter 3,

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 3:9–21). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul shows the extent of sin by this group of quotations from the Old Testament and the verdict is not very complimentary, we are totally in bondage to sin and its corrupting influence. All are under the sentence of death because of their transgressions. Paul goes further in Romans 5,

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:12–15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Sin has become part of fallen human nature (see also Psalm 51) and has polluted us, even before the giving of the law death reigned because men and women have sinned against a holy God.

Ephesians 2 shows the plight of man before the grace of God comes into his life,

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

The New International Version. (2011). (Eph 2:1–3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

We are dead in our sins, this shows how radically sin affects us, it is not until the grace of God works in our lives that we are truly alive. We have all followed the false pathways of sin until we were called into the light by the grace of God.

Paul encouraging Titus to witness to the gospel reminds him of the plight of man in these words,

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another

The New International Version. (2011). (Tt 3:3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Paul uses strong language to describe the plight and power of sin but he is confident that the power of the gospel exceeds every sin.

I could list many other verses but I will close this post with a helpful quote from the Pentecostal Theologian, Bruce R Marino, he says,

Corruption. Because human nature was so damaged by the Fall no person is capable of doing spiritual good without God’s gracious assistance. It does not mean that people can do no apparent good, but only that they can do nothing to merit salvation. Nor is this teaching exclusivelely Calvinistic. even arminius (although not all his followers) described the “Free Will of man towards the true good” as “imprisoned, destroyed andlost …it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine Grace” Arminius intent, like Wesley after him, was not to retain human freedom in spite of othe Fall, but to maintain divine grace as greater than even the destruction of the Fall”

(Bruce R  Marino in Systematic Theology edited by Stanley Horton pages 261-262, Logion Press 1995  Springfield, Missouri.)

Here we see a remarkable unity amongst Calvinists and Arminians on the doctrine of sin.

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The Glory of God manifested at Sinai and the Ressurrection


The Biblical revelation tells us of a God who reveals himself in space and time. A  God who shows great love towards his people and yet a God who is Holy. This Holy God can not bear the sight of si…

Source: The Glory of God manifested at Sinai and the Ressurrection

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The Glory of God manifested at Sinai and the Ressurrection


The Biblical revelation tells us of a God who reveals himself in space and time. A  God who shows great love towards his people and yet a God who is Holy. This Holy God can not bear the sight of sin and, therefore, he must deal with it so that his holy justice is vindicated. We see this throughout scripture but I want to share something of the parallels between God’s revelation at the Exodus  and also at the resurrection. In both cases,  the Lord only appears to his people but there are contrasts as well as continuities, at Sinai we see a great manifestation of glory but at the Resurrection we see a gentle, humble revelation of the glory of God. What is important to emphasize is that this is the God of the covenant who reveals himself.

In Exodus 34 We see the story of the reinstatement of God’s covenant with his people, this follows their act of idolatry worshipping the golden calf. God is justly angry at his people’s unfaithfulness but Moses pleads for them in response to this God is gracious to his people. It is in this context that he reveals himself to Moses in all his glory. I will look at the first ten verses of Exodus 34 and then I will reflect on the accounts of the resurrection.

34 The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
10 Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.
The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 34:1–10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here we see that Moses is to chisel out two more stones for the LORD to write his gracious commandments on. The God who was justly angry reveals himself to be a gracious God. When the Lord came down he was still veiled in the cloud no one could withstand the awesome glory of God and live but Moses is privileged to have a great personal revelation of the Lord. although the Lord emphasizes his love and compassion we must not miss the fact that at the same time he reveals his holiness. Sometimes today we get an emphasis on holiness without love or the opposite love without holiness, the Bible always speaks of the two together. Notice too that the Lord only punishes sin to the third and fourth generation of those who disobey him but blesses to the thousandth generation of those who love him. This issue of punishment to the following generations can be perplexing but in the light of the whole of the biblical revelation, we must understand this to only apply to those who continue to sin.

God promises that with his covenant he will perform wonders that no one has seen before, people will see how awesome the true and living God is. God does not act in a secret way but rather reveal himself in all his greatness and glory not only to Israel but to the watching nations.

The Resurrection: when we turn to the story of the resurrection we find accounts of divine revelation and the promise of divine power but we also find a new commandment.

Luke 24 is full of accounts of divine revelation, whether it is through the angel speaking to the women or Jesus speaking to his disciples. The well-known story about the disciples on the road to Emmaus illustrates this, even when they did not know that it was Jesus speaking to them their hearts were touched, it is only after Jesus had prayed and disappeared that they realize what has happened to them. On returning to Jerusalem these disciples recount their story and as they do so Jesus appears again and proves that it is him by the marks in his hands and feet. The next few verses record how Jesus revealed more of himself and his purposes to them.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Lk 24:45–50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

By opening their minds to understand the Scriptures he is revealing more of himself and indeed the God who is gracious and compassionate. He does not open their minds so that are excellent scholars but so that they should be excellent witnesses. His plan is to send these humble people into the world with the gospel of God’s grace. Linked to this is the promise of power, which we see fulfilled in the book of Acts. They will not be able to carry out their ministry until they receive this great power. If we read the Book of Acts carefully we will see how this promise of power is fulfilled on many occasions.

This is not just a matter of history but rather the great commission still exists and in Matthews version of it, we see how Jesus assures the disciples of all ages of his power and his presence.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 28:18–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

We too are called to be disciple makers who go in the power and authority of the risen Lord, knowing his presence. Theirs is a huge task to be fulfilled and looking at the task can be overwhelming but when we look to the Lord who has called us to the task we see that he has given us the authority that we need, the promise of his presence and his power and that should make us realise with Him all things are possible. If we look at the task we may get discouraged but if we look at the Lord we will be encouraged and strengthened.

In the above words, we have seen a little of how God reveals his glory to us, it can be with the mighty spectacle of Sinai or it can be the gentle revelation of the Resurrection accounts but the important thing to grasp is that it is the same wonderful Lord.

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The Call of Moses and the Character of God


The account of Moses being called by God to leadership is one that reveals much about the character of God. It is the account that reveals something of the majesty of God and yet shows his faithfulness to his covenant purpose. We often think of Moses being the central character in Exodus chapters 3 and 4 but the truth of the matter is that the central figure is Almighty God. But this God is not remote but rather is aware of the needs of his people. Here we also see the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The Lord is one who keeps his covenant promises and this is very evident in this whole narrative. These chapters are an important key to understanding the God of the Bible. Now we need to look at these chapters a little more thoroughly.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 3:1–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Notice that Moses is going about his daily tasks when he meets with God, he was not in a worship gathering or even spending time in prayer, God just sovereignly acts and reveals himself to Moses in a way that will change the history of the world. Yet he is responding to the cry of his enslaved people, God’s concern and love for his people are clearly shown here. Once again we have encountered the mystery of how God answers prayer in his own sovereign way, surely the people of Israel cried out to their God they did not expect him to call a shepherd who was not even living in Egypt  as their leader and under God the one who  would deliver them from bondage But this is just what happened.

God has an amazing way of Getting Moses attention, Moses sees a bush that is on fire and yet it is not consumed by the fire, if we were to see such a sight we would do what Moses did and have a look at what was going on. But the whole situation gets even more unusual when a voice addresses him from the burning bush, this person addressing him knows him by name. This is a very personal encounter that will have far-reaching results, Moses call is to serve his people but this very personal encounter is with a Holy God and Moses needs to respond to that Holy Presence. Moses when he is addressed, he responds as one who is willing to listen to what God has to say.

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.

16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”(Ex 3:12–4:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Here we come to the revelation of the name of God, this is one of the most important statements about who God is in the whole of Scripture. This revelation of who God is governs all that is to follow on the pages of Holy Scripture. There is something about this passage that demonstrates both the otherness and the immediacy of God, He is present as the Holy One who is high and lifted up and yet he dwells with and cares for his people. God is the one who IS, he exists not in some greek notion of the God who experiences everything in the eternal now but a God who interacts with his people in time and space. The very name is dynamic I am who I Am can be translated many ways legitimately, it is a phrase which shows that God is dynamically present. This is echoed in the way John picks up on how Jesus uses the phrase “I am” which is immediately seen by the Jewish leaders as blasphemy. Jesus claims to be the bread of life and the way the truth and the life, his use of I am soon reminded those around him that he was making a great claim about himself. As we see in Jesus himself, majestic greatness and the willingness to be present in a special way with his people do not contradict themselves, when we look at Jesu we see the character of not only  Jesus but of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.

Even in the light of God’s revelation of himself, Moses continues to try and make excuses for himself basically he does not want to accept the call to leadership. He makes every excuse conceivable and then he comes out with the honest request please send someone else. He sees at once the huge responsibility that leadership, power and authority bring with it. Moses was not an arrogant power grabbing man like Donald Trump but rather a man of humility, but at times his humility got in his way and this was one such time. It is possible to know that God is calling us to some task and realising our own weakness, we begin to make excuses, however, the Sovereign Lord will have his way, he leads us into ways of seeing things differently and then we accept his commission.  The Lord has a way of breaking down our resistance and making us willing to follow his calling with joy in our hearts. When the Lord first called me to preach I thought it was the most miserable thing to do but now people often say to me “you enjoy preaching don’t you” to which I always answer yes. The Lord is patient with us as he was with Moses but we can not expect to test that patience indefinitely without provoking the Lord’s discipline. Moses found that out the hard way and so will we but we will always find that walking in the will of God is best, he is a great and glorious God, he is Holy and Gracious, High and lifted up, yet present with his people. The God who reveals himself in Exodus as the covenant-keeping God, the almighty God, the all-knowing God is the same God as Jesus reveals and the Holy Spirit testifies to. This is the God we are called to worship, to serve and to love with all our being.

 

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