Two Vital Old Testament Questions

When Old Testament believers read their Bibles, they were asking the same two questions that we ask when we read the Old Testament:

1. What does the passage reveal about God?

2. What does this passage reveal about the coming Savior?

They knew they were not just reading a national history about themselves and their ancient ancestors. They knew they were reading about God and their promised Messiah.

Let’s take these two questions to the Old Testament passages that describe the cities of refuge (Numbers 35, Deuteronomy 19, Joshua 20). These were six cities in Israel that God designated as places where anyone who accidentally killed someone could run for safety from the family members who wanted to exact vengeance upon them.

What would the Israelites learn about God and the coming Savior from reading about these cities?

1. God is just: Blood-shedding was to be punished: by death if deliberate, by exile in the refuge cities if accidental.

2. God is merciful: God’s provision of these safe places reveals him as far more merciful to the killer than the dead man’s relatives who chased him there and who often lingered at the city gates for the least chance to kill him.

3. God is sovereign: God decides the way of deliverance. He chose which six cities would be safe places. No other city would do.

4. God desires to save: God chose the locations so that each city would be within a day’s journey of most Israelites. He also ordered that the highways be kept clear, open, and well signposted.

5. God is available: The city gates were never to be closed but to be open all hours and to all-comers, to Gentiles as well as to Israelites.

6. God guarantees salvation: As long as the killer stayed within the city gates, he was guaranteed safety. It wasn’t enough to know this, the offender had to get to and stay in the city.

7. God frees through the death of the mediator: The only way for the killer to eventually be freed from exile was when the high priest died. What a moment for all these killers in all these cities when news came that the high priest had died and so freed them to return home to their families in safety.

When I preach from Old Testament passages like this, I often find it helpful not only to explain the passage, but to describe the experience of someone in that situation.

Surely we can use a bit of sanctified imagination to picture and portray someone who accidentally kills, remembers this passage, starts running without a thought of home, doesn’t stop until he gets within the city gates, enjoys the increasing sense of thankful wonder as he experiences the safety God has provided, talks to other refugees about their experience and what they learned about God and the Savior, prayerfully studies the passages as never before, longs for the liberating death of the mediator, etc.

These are rich, graphic, vivid, and memorable displays of the God of Israel, and ultimately of the coming Savior who far exceeds and excels these cities as a place of refuge for all kinds of condemned sinners.

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Beyond color blind: Why race still matters
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How to keep ahead of your email by keeping score
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Four Good Reasons to Read Good Books
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The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability

There’s one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life: teachability.

Those who are teachable, and remain so, usually succeed. The unteachable usually fail. I’ve seen that in business, I’ve seen it in the ministry, I’ve seen it among students, and I’ve seen it in my children.

No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.

The Distinguishing Difference
Think of all the successful people you know, what is it that distinguishes them all? It’s teachability, isn’t it.Think of all the people you know that never really made the most of the gifts and opportunities God gave them. Unteachability is the common thread, isn’t it?

If there’s one thing I want to to teach my children and students, it’s teachability.

When I speak to young people or students, I can usually tell quite quickly the ones who will do well in their lives and callings. And those who won’t. Teachability makes the difference.

Teachability gets people to the top. But if you lose teachability at the top, you won’t be at the top for long.

So what does unteachabilty look like?

  • Don’t take notes, read books, or learn anything unless it’s the bare minimum or what’s essential for exam purposes.
  • Don’t ask questions or attempt anything that might reveal your ignorance or risk you looking stupid.
  • Don’t accept responsibility for your failures but blame anyone and everyone else.
  • Don’t seek or accept one-to-one personal guidance or mentoring from parents, teachers, pastors, elders, etc.
  • Don’t listen, but talk, talk, talk about yourself, especially when you’re with someone you could learn a lot from.
  • Don’t take criticism or correction without resentment or retaliation.
  • Resist moving out of personal comfort zones in work, study, ministry, or relationships, but always look for the easy and familiar route.
  • Don’t read, listen to, or learn anything that challenges existing presuppositions, practices, and prejudices.

In contrast, teachability means:

  • You’re aware of the limitations of your own knowledge and abilities.
  • You admit limitation, inability, and ignorance to others who can teach and help.
  • You regularly ask for help, instruction, guidance, and advice (before the event, not after disaster strikes).
  • You learn from anyone and everyone you can (the best educated pastor I know writes notes for his own benefit even when listening to a novice preacher).
  • You listen to others carefully and patiently with a desire to learn from everyone.
  • You’re prepared to move out of your comfort zone, try something different, make mistakes, look stupid, answer wrongly, etc.
  • You don’t give up when you fail at something, but seek help, and try again and again until you get it right.
  • You’re willing to change your views and practices when convincing evidence is presented to you, even if it means admitting you were wrong.

There’s another word for teachability.


A Balanced Preaching Menu [Video]

Are you serving up a balanced diet to your congregation? In this video I give a brief summary of ten kinds of sermon (email and RSS click here to view video)

  1. Doctrinal Sermons
  2. Theistic Sermons
  3. Apologetic Sermons
  4. Controversial Sermons
  5. Practical Sermons
  6. Historical/Biographical sermons
  7. Experiential Sermons
  8. Topical Sermons
  9. Evangelistic Sermons
  10. Discriminatory Sermons

Previous videos in the How Sermons Work series here.

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20 Free Entrepreneurship Courses Online
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Four Ways to be a Courageous Leader
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Children’s Daily Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, has very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life