This morning the national news was downright depressing. Political corruption. Religious hypocrisy. Sexual (dis)orientation. I confess, sometimes it’s tough to see God working in the world.
We seldom ask the questions out loud. But we all think it: Where exactly is God working in this fallen world? Why does He seem so silent—and even distant?
We know the answers in our heads. The Bible gives us good ones:
- God allows evil so that we may choose good. Yep. Got it. God is patient (2 Pet. 3:9).
- God uses evil for His good purposes. Yes, of course. God is sovereign (Rom. 8:28).
These answers give an explanation for what we see. But what about what we don’t see?
How come there seems so little of God’s work in the world?
Dr. Pentecost first taught me the life of Christ in such a way that my Bible became one book and not just two Testaments; I’ll never forget the moment that clicked. I’ll treasure the personal conversations I had with him.
After I gave him a copy of my book, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus, he called me a few weeks later to tell me how much he enjoyed the book and planned to require it as a textbook for his class, “The Life of Christ on Earth.” I was completely surprised and tremendously honored.
When I visited David Ben Gurion’s modest home in the Negev of Israel, I noticed in his vast library a surprising volume: Things to Come, by J. Dwight Pentecost.
Visit Dr. Pentecost’s memorial page on the Dallas Theological Seminary Web site. The video was also produced by DTS.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a Jewish man who had hard questions about what Christians believe. His questions were excellent. His inquiries about Christianity boiled down to three questions.
I’ve listed his questions here without changing his wording:
What I can never fathom is how you can honor and accept the ‘teachings’ of one called Paul—an apostate and traitor to his people—to be the truth.
• Is this Paul who wrote 13/27 books of the Greek New Testament any more authoritative than the great Hebrew prophets such as Jeremiah or Amos?
• Are we to assume that G-d changed His Mind regarding His People and the Torah, and simply informed one solitary man about a new dispensation 100 years after the death of the man from Galilee?
• When Hashem [“The Name”] gave us the Torah, there were millions of witnesses to this earth-shaking event. It has become part of our collective spiritual DNA. How can a ‘new revelation’ be given with no witnesses to one individual who wrote in Greek things that are anathema and inimical to Jewish belief?
To me, these questions all boil down to one: Is Jesus the Messiah?
Here is my open-letter answer. Would you have answered differently?
Whenever I visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, I’m eager to walk to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount. I’ve never been to this corner on Rosh Hashanah or during the Feast of Trumpets, but I’d love to go there then. Archaeologists have uncovered a large portion of the first-century street that stretched north along the original Western Wall.
One hundred meters north of the corner is the part of the Western Wall where locals and tourists pray. But beneath the ground, Jerusalem’s Central Valley has been filled in with the rubble of the Second Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70. As a result, the beautiful modern plaza stands about 30 feet above the first-century street uncovered at the southwestern corner.
There at the corner lies a reminder of something Jesus predicted 37 years before the temple’s destruction.
And of a promise He made that could be fulfilled at any moment.
It happened again. A man I know shook my hand and said, “Let’s grab a coffee soon; I’ll call you.” I didn’t say it, but I wanted to reply: “No, you won’t.”
I always try to give someone the benefit of the doubt when he or she makes a commitment. But honestly, it doesn’t take many times for someone to fail keeping a promise, and I lose confidence in the person.
The only way we can trust that people will keep their word is if they have kept their word.
The same is true of God’s promises.
We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways? The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament?
After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).
Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.
In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.
This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?
As I made my way down the Mount of Olives, I couldn’t help think about the day Jesus rode down the slope on the back of a donkey.
His words that day hardly seemed fitting for a “Triumphal Entry.”
When Jesus saw Jerusalem, He wept over it:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. —Luke 19:42
I pondered the words. Why did He say: “this day . . .”?
The prophet Daniel penned a meticulous prediction of the very day when the Messiah would appear in Jerusalem.
It was that very day.
Herod the Great is often remembered for the story that never appears on Christmas cards.
Hearing from the Magi that the “king of the Jews” was born in Bethlehem, the paranoid Herod sent and slew all the male boys under two years old in the town—a cryptic fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15.
Of course, Jesus’ family got word of the impending threat and escaped by night to sojourn in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-18).
Whenever I visit the area of the Herodium, I can’t help but think of the historical irony that Herod tried to kill Jesus—but failed. Instead, Herod himself died and was buried in the Herodium overlooking the very city the Messiah was born (Micah 5:2).
This offers a lesson of great encouragement in God’s sovereignty.
Local schoolchildren ate their lunches across the olive grove from my wife and me.
Like the kids, we came on a field trip to explore ancient Shiloh. Although our lunch was hardly a feast, it reminded me of the reasons the young nation of Israel initially came to this site. They came to worship at the annual feasts before the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
Ask most Americans where Shiloh is, and you’ll likely get a blank stare.
- Historians may point to a Civil War battle in Hardin County, Tennessee.
- Music buffs may start singing the chorus to a Neil Diamond song.
But question someone who knows his or her Bible, and Shiloh means something far more significant.
Piles of driftwood, bleached white like old bones, surround the shoreline. If bodies of water could be ghost towns, the Dead Sea would top the list. It’s the lowest place on earth, it’s the hottest spot in Israel, and nothing visible can live in its waters.
With a name like the “Dead Sea,” one might expect a disappointing visit. And yet, anyone who experiences the place never forgets its wonder.
Nothing on earth compares.