Why doesn’t God do something about injustice? Lessons from Amos 5

What about suffering? Why doesn’t God do something about injustice? If God is a God of love and power then why doesn’t he stop wars and end poverty?

I wonder if you’ve every asked questions like that.

For some people they’re merely a way of pushing the thought of God away – much as you might wave your hand at a fly. I don’t really what to think about God so I’ll play the suffering-card. This morning we’re going to see that that’s a dangerous attitude.

But for some people those questions are deeply personal and painful. Their question, Is why doesn’t God stop my suffering?

It was a question the people in Amos’s day were asking. Look at verse 18: ‘Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD!’

Here are people who long for the day when God intervenes to things right. ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ they were saying. ‘Why is he just letting things drift and ignoring our problems?’

What’s the prophet Amos’ answer?

  1. God will bring judgment on those who do wrong

Look how Amos 5 begins:

Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:

‘Fallen is Virgin Israel,
never to rise again,
deserted in her own land,
with no one to lift her up.’
This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel:
‘Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.’ (5:1-3)

Israel is going to be decisively defeated. The land will be deserted.

And look at the final verse of the chapter:

‘Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,’
says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty. (5:27)

Damascus was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, the superpower of the day. Assyria is going to defeat Israel and Israel will go so deep into exile that she’ll never come out.

And that’s exactly what happened. By this point Israel had split into two kingdoms – ten northern tribes and two southern tribes. Amos is talking to the northern tribes and what he says came true. They were defeated by the Assyrians and carried away into exile – never to return.

So what was their crime? Elsewhere the focus is on other things. But here Amos’ focus is on injustice and corruption. Three times he says, ‘There are those who …’

Verse 7:
There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground …

Verse 10:
There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.

Verse 12:
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

The word ‘courts’ is literally ‘at the gate’. That’s because legal issues were resolved at the city gate. It was their court room. But it was also their marketplace. So Amos is talking about legal corruption and business corruption.

Those are very contemporary issues. Around the world corruption is a big issue and major reason the poor stay poor. But they’re also issues for us. What would Amos say to us? Make sure you do a fair day’s work – not spending work time on Facebook. Make sure you’re honest in business. Make sure you tax return is accurate.

When we see colleagues over-claiming expenses and throwing a sickie, it’s easy to feel we’re missing out. But actually what we’re missing out on is God’s judgment!

God judged Israel for her injustice. It was a judgment in history. But it’s a picture of God’s judgment at the end of history – the final judgment. Look at verses 18-20:

Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light –
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

It’s the stuff of nightmares or horror movies – fleeing from danger into worse danger, thinking you’re safe only to find things are worse than before. But perhaps that final line is the most chilling. It’s a description of hell: ‘without a ray of brightness’.

I realise people don’t like to think about hell. I don’t like to think about hell! People like what Christianity says about Jesus, but not its message of hell. It seems so ‘medieval’. But the fact is Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. In the Old Testament they were hazy about life after death. It’s Jesus who brings that reality into focus. You can’t believe in Jesus without believing in hell – not the real Jesus.

Now, you may not think there’s a hell. You may find the idea abhorrent. But let me invite you to ponder two things.

First, it’s interesting that so many people do long for justice. The people of Amos’ day longed for ‘the day of the LORD’. We may not use that language, but we still say, ‘Why doesn’t God do something about suffering, war, evil?’ We want justice. And in that sense we want hell – a place where evil is punished. What we don’t like is the idea that we might be accountable for the wrong we have done.

Here’s the second thing to ponder. Suppose for a moment that Jesus is right and there is a hell – an eternity ‘without a ray of brightness’. Wouldn’t it make sense to check that out? To see if it’s real? To find out what you can do to escape? Even if there’s only a slim chance it’s real, it would make sense to look into it.

Amos says the day of the LORD is coming. God will intervene to stop injustice. The problem is that when he comes, he will come knocking on your door and my door.

But Amos also have good news for us.

  1. God offers life to those who do wrong

Amos has three invitations to find life:

Verse 4:         This is what the Lord says to Israel: ‘Seek me and live.’

Verse 6:         Seek the Lord and live …

Verse 14:      Seek good, not evil, that you may live.

It’s the offer of life – eternal life. If you seek God, what you find is life.

Why doesn’t God intervene? What doesn’t he do something about injustice? Amos’ answer is: He will. He will come in judgment and when he comes he’ll knock on your door. But now in the meantime he offers you life. The delay of his judgment is not a sign of complacency. It’s a sign of God’s patience and mercy.

The Apostle Peter faced exactly the same questions that Amos faced and we face. He wrote:

You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” [God] promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’ … The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-4, 9)

God delays justice to offer us life. God is offering you life.

But Amos’ invitation comes with a warning. Don’t confuse religion with God. Don’t think that because you’re religious, you’re right with God. Look at verses 4-5:

This is what the Lord says to Israel:
‘Seek me and live;
do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,
do not journey to Beersheba.
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.’

Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba were the leading shrines in Israel. They were the York Minster and Ripon Cathedral of their day. Just because you go to church, Amos is saying, doesn’t mean you know God. Or look at what God says verses 21-24:

‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

There are four couplets here. Four times God describes what the people do: they attend religious festivals, they bring offerings, they bring choice offerings, they sing songs of praise. But four times God rejects their religion: it stinks (21). I will not accept (22), look (22) or listen (23).

God is talking about religious hypocrites. People who do and say all the right religious things, but it never touches their hearts and lives. And the evidence of this is the corruption at the city gate.

‘Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel.’ The key phrase is: Seek me. God doesn’t want our religion. He wants us. He wants our hearts. God wants a relationship.

  1. We can worship God in everyday life

The flipside of this, the good news, is that we can seek God and know God and enjoy God everywhere and every day. We can seek him at the shrine of Gilgal and at the city gate.

Think about those three invitations to seek: ‘Seek me … seek the LORD … seek good’ (4, 6, 14) Can see how seeking God and seeking good are lined up together? Every time we seek good can be an act of seeking God. Every time we choose good can be an act of choosing God. When you do good you can enjoy a sense of God’s pleasure.

Sometimes when we gather on a Sunday we talk about coming into the presence of God (and there is something special about the gathering of God’s people). But we can enjoy God’s presence everywhere and every day. Every act can be an act of worship.

Or consider again verse 24. God hates their religious festivals. Instead, he says, ‘let justice roll on like a river’. We worship God by loving our neighbours.

The lovely thing is that this elevates everything we do. Everything is an opportunity for worship. Monday morning is as sacred as Sunday morning. Your home, your workplace, your neighbourhood are as sacred as any cathedral.

What we do on a Sunday is kind of re-tune our hearts. We call one another back to Christ. We sing, we pray, we hear God’s word so they are our hearts are captured afresh. And then we go out to continue worshipping God.

The local church is to be a community which is known for fairness and honesty. Think of it like this: We gather on a Sunday to be filled afresh with the truth of God’s patience, the glory of Christ, the joy of the gospel. And then as we go out into Boroughbridge and the villages righteousness flows with us and through us like a never-failing stream. Think of us spilling out of the door into our neighbourhood as a kind of wave of God’s goodness. We spread righteousness throughout the area through our actions and our words. We spread the glory of Christ.

Continue reading

The Glory of the Story Sample: Day 115 – Jacob’s son, Judah

Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.

1. Jacob’s prophecy
Read Genesis 49:8-10. In tracing the history of Jacob and his family we need to understand the special role Judah, the fourth son, plays in the total story. Jacob prophesies on his deathbed that Judah will be praised by his brothers and from him will come one whose right it is to rule. We might have expected Joseph the experienced governor and morally upright son to succeed as clan head, but it is to Judah, not Joseph, that Jacob sees his sons bowing (8).

2. The nation of Judah
The tribe of Judah is given the leading role as the tribes march through the desert (Num. 2:9; 10:14). When, in later history, the ten northern tribes revolt and establish their own monarchy (1 Kgs. 12:16-17), Benjamin joins the small nation of Judah, and Jerusalem remains the capital city ruled by the dynasty of David. The nation continues until 586 BC when Judah is invaded by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and most of the citizens taken into exile. Never again does a human descendant of David sit on an earthly throne.

3. Judah and the Messiah
Jacob’s prophecy, however, looks beyond the nation of Judah to a ruler to whom the nations will give their obedience (10). No doubt Jacob’s faith is quickened by all that God has achieved through putting Joseph on the throne of Egypt. As we will discover, God’s promise and purpose come to focus on the royal line of David from the tribe of Judah.

Just as David will be born in Bethlehem, so will the coming Christ (Mic. 5:2). Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea (Matt 2:1), a descendant of David and of the tribe of Judah (Luke 2:4, 11; Rom. 1:3). As the term ‘Jew’ was commonly used to refer to the people of Judah (Jer. 52:27b-30), this may shed light on the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (John 4:22).

4. Judah and the future
Judah is the lion of the tribes (9) and so Jesus is fitly styled the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). But he displays a finer strength than that of the lion, for he is also the slain lamb (Rev. 5:6). He, and he alone, is able to open the scroll so that all God’s purposes in history can be unfolded.

Closing thought
With a truly thankful heart, read again Genesis 49:10.

Continue reading

A Reformation glossary

Today is 499th anniversary of the Reformation, or at least its iconic start – the nailing of Luther’s 95 theses. In the course of writing Why the Reformation Still Matters and Rediscovered Joy: Exploring the Dynamics Power of the Reformation in Galatians (forthcoming) I came across this ‘glossary’ written by Luther in the preface to his commentary on Romans. It’s a great guide to both understanding Paul and the heart of Luther’s theology.

Why the Reformation Still Matters can be bought from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

Law

You must not understand the word ‘law’ here in human fashion, i.e., a regulation about what sort of works must be done or must not be done. That’s the way it is with human laws: you satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works; rather it punishes as hypocrisy and lies all works done apart from the depths of the heart. All human beings are called liars (Psalm 116), since none of them keeps or can keep God’s law from the depths of the heart. Everyone finds inside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Where there is no free desire for good, there the heart has not set itself on God’s law. There also sin is surely to be found and the deserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and an honourable life appear outwardly or not.

Therefore in chapter 2 St. Paul adds that the Jews are all sinners and says that only the doers of the law are justified in the sight of God. What he is saying is that no one is a doer of the law by works. On the contrary, he says to them, ‘You teach that one should not commit adultery, and you commit adultery. You judge another in a certain matter and condemn yourselves in that same matter, because you do the very same thing that you judged in another.’ It is as if he were saying, ‘Outwardly you live quite properly in the works of the law and judge those who do not live the same way; you know how to teach everybody. You see the speck in another’s eye but do not notice the beam in your own.’

Outwardly you keep the law with works out of fear of punishment or love of gain. Likewise you do everything without free desire and love of the law; you act out of aversion and force. You’d rather act otherwise if the law didn’t exist. It follows, then, that you, in the depths of your heart, are an enemy of the law. What do you mean, therefore, by teaching another not to steal, when you, in the depths of your heart, are a thief and would be one outwardly too, if you dared. (Of course, outward work doesn’t last long with such hypocrites.) So then, you teach others but not yourself; you don’t even know what you are teaching. You’ve never understood the law rightly. Furthermore, the law increases sin, as St. Paul says in chapter 5. That is because a person becomes more and more an enemy of the law the more it demands of him what he can’t possibly do.

In chapter 7 St. Paul says, ‘The law is spiritual.’ What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart. But no one can give such a heart except the Spirit of God, who makes the person be like the law, so that he actually conceives a heartfelt longing for the law and henceforward does everything, not through fear or coercion, but from a free heart. Such a law is spiritual since it can only be loved and fulfilled by such a heart and such a spirit. If the Spirit is not in the heart, then there remain sin, aversion and enmity against the law, which in itself is good, just and holy.

You must get used to the idea that it is one thing to do the works of the law and quite another to fulfil it. The works of the law are every thing that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless. That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3 when he says, ‘No human being is justified before God through the works of the law.’ From this you can see that the schoolmasters [the Medieval scholastic theologians] and sophists are seducers when they teach that you can prepare yourself for grace by means of works. How can anybody prepare himself for good by means of works if he does no good work except with aversion and constraint in his heart? How can such a work please God, if it proceeds from an averse and unwilling heart?

But to fulfil the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly and freely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live well and in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law or punishment. It is the Holy Spirit, however, who puts such eagerness of unconstained love into the heart, as Paul says in chapter 5. But the Spirit is given only in, with, and through faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul says in his introduction. So, too, faith comes only through the word of God, the Gospel, that preaches Christ: how he is both Son of God and man, how he died and rose for our sake. Paul says all this in chapters 3, 4 and 10.

That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfils the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself. That is what Paul means in chapter 3 when, after he has thrown out the works of the law, he sounds as though the wants to abolish the law by faith. No, he says, we uphold the law through faith, i.e. we fulfil it through faith.

Sin

‘Sin’ in the Scriptures means not only external works of the body but also all those movements within us which bestir themselves and move us to do the external works, namely, the depth of the heart with all its powers. Therefore the word ‘do’ should refer to a person’s completely falling into sin. No external work of sin happens, after all, unless a person commit himself to it completely, body and soul. In particular, the Scriptures see into the heart, to the root and main source of all sin: unbelief in the depth of the heart. Thus, even as faith alone makes just and brings the Spirit and the desire to do good external works, so it is only unbelief which sins and exalts the flesh and brings desire to do evil external works. That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise (Genesis 3).

That is why only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John 16, ‘The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.’ Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (Genesis 3).

Grace and gift

‘Grace’ and ‘gift’ differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favour which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, ‘Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.’ The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galatians 5. And Genesis 3 proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favour for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

In this way, then, you should understand chapter 7, where St. Paul portrays himself as still a sinner, while in chapter 8 he says that, because of the incomplete gifts and because of the Spirit, there is nothing damnable in those who are in Christ. Because our flesh has not been killed, we are still sinners, but because we believe in Christ and have the beginnings of the Spirit, God so shows us his favour and mercy, that he neither notices nor judges such sins. Rather he deals with us according to our belief in Christ until sin is killed.

Faith

‘Faith’ is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, ‘Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.’ The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, ‘I believe.’ This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought, and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.

Righteousness or Justice

‘Righteousness’ means precisely the kind of faith we have in mind, and should properly be called ‘divine righteousness’, the righteousness which holds good in God’s sight, because it is God’s gift, and shapes a man’s nature to do his duty to all. By his faith, he is set free from sin, and he finds delight in God’s commandments’. In this way, he pays God the honour that is due to Him, and renders Him what he owes. He serves his fellows willingly according to his ability, so discharging his obligations to all men. Righteousness of this kind cannot be brought about in the ordinary course of nature, by our own free will, or by our own proper powers. No one can give faith to himself, nor free himself from unbelief; how, then, can anyone do away with even his smallest sins? It follows that what is done in the absence of faith on the one hand, or in consequence of unbelief in the other, is naught but falsity, self-deception, and sin (Romans 14), no matter how well it is gilded over.[1]

Flesh and Spirit

You must not understand ‘flesh’ here as denoting only unchastity [moral or sexual impurity] or ‘spirit’ as denoting only the inner heart. Here St. Paul calls flesh (as does Christ in John 3) everything born of flesh, i.e. the whole human being with body and soul, reason and senses, since everything in him tends toward the flesh. That is why you should know enough to call that person ‘fleshly’ who, without grace, fabricates, teaches and chatters about high spiritual matters. You can learn the same thing from Galatians 5 where St. Paul calls heresy and hatred works of the flesh. And in Romans 8 he says that, through the flesh, the law is weakened. He says this, not of unchastity, but of all sins, most of all of unbelief, which is the most spiritual of vices.

On the other hand, you should know enough to call that person ‘spiritual’ who is occupied with the most outward of works as was Christ, when he washed the feet of the disciples, and Peter, when he steered his boat and fished. So then, a person is ‘flesh’ who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are of use to the flesh and to temporal existence. A person is ‘spirit’ who, inwardly and outwardly, lives only to do those things which are of use to the spirit and to the life to come.

Unless you understand these words in this way, you will never understand either this letter of St. Paul or any book of the Scriptures. Be on guard therefore against any teacher who uses these words differently, no matter who he be, whether Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Origen or anyone else as great as or greater than they.

[1] The translation of this paragraph is by Bertram Lee Woolf and is taken from John Dillenberger (ed.), Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, Anchor Books, 1961, 24-25.

Why the Reformation Still Matters can be bought from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

Continue reading

The One True Light introduction

I used to be a big curmudgeon about Christmas. Not quite Ebenezer Scrooge—but close. I moaned about the rubbish on the television. I moaned about the terrible Christmas songs that get repeated every year. I moaned about all the tatty decorations—tinsel and snow globes and illuminated reindeers. In my mind, Christmas was unavoidably associated with the oppressive warmth of my in- laws’ home.

In my high-minded moments I moaned about the commercialism that seems to be replacing the Christmas message. Or I moaned about versions of Christmas that sanitise Jesus and make him “safe”.

But, of course, by “high-minded” I really mean “self-righteous”. I used to be a curmudgeon—a proud one.

However, I’ve noticed a change over the past few years.As I slide into middle age, I’ve somewhat given up the fight. I let Christmas happen to me. I embrace the festivities. I even sometimes allow myself to have fun.

But, whether being curmudgeonly or celebratory, it is easy to get distracted from the wonder of God becoming man.The build- up to Christmas is a busy time.There are presents to buy, parties to attend, food to prepare, cards to send and relatives to visit.

So it’s easy to forget about Jesus, even at Christmas—especially at Christmas. But the truth is that we’ll never enjoy Christmas properly unless we understand who it is who was born in Bethlehem that night. Indeed, we won’t enjoy life to the full until we see God in a manger.

In these Advent readings, we’re going to look at John’s version of the Christmas story. It’s not the Christmas story as we’ve come to expect it. There’s no stable, no donkey and no star. There are no angels, no shepherds and no wise men. Even Mary and Joseph don’t get a look in. Instead the focus is entirely on Jesus, the God- become-man.This is Christmas stripped bare.All that’s left is Jesus. And that’s all you need to make your December explode with joy, and your life revolve around the One who brings truth, life, community, reality, clarity—light.

So by all means make sure you’ve bought your presents, ordered the turkey, attended your parties and ticked off seeing the relatives. But see the 24 daily readings in this book as an opportunity to focus not on the to-do list, or even on Christmas as such, but on Christ—to join John in fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one true light.

Click here for sample chapters.

The One True Light is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk

Continue reading

The One True Story introduction

Everyone loves the Christmas story—Mary meeting an angel, being told she’s having a baby by the Holy Spirit, Joseph faithfully standing by her, travelling to Bethlehem while Mary is heavily pregnant, no room at the inn, the baby in a manger, God in human flesh, choirs of angels, shepherds on the hillside, Magi following a star.

But the Christmas story is not just a great story. It’s the great story. It’s the story that ties together a thousand other stories. Everything came together on that night in Bethlehem. “The fulfilment of the ages,” Paul calls it.

Matthew can’t get the old stories out of his head as he tells the Christmas story. Five times he says that what happened at the birth of Jesus took place to fulfil what the prophets had said (Matthew 1 v 22-23; 2 v 5-6, 15, 17-18, 23). Luke makes the same point in the four songs he records.The songs of Mary, Zechariah, the angels and Simeon all riff on “tunes” from the past. Mary ends her song with the words,“He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants for ever, just as he promised our ancestors” (Luke 1 v 54-55). As the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.

The Christmas story is the one true story because it completes and fulfils all the stories of the Bible.

But it also goes on being the one true story.This is the story that makes sense of my story and your story.We were made to know God. All our longings only truly find their fulfilment in him and through him.The plotlines of our lives are meant to find their resolution in the enjoyment of God. But we’ve set our lives on other trajectories which always lead to disappointing endings.

But through the Christmas story God is rewriting the story of human history, bringing it to a glorious climax. In all the busyness of Christmas, don’t miss the opportunity to discover or rediscover how you can be part of the one true story.

Click here for sample chapters.

The One True Story is available from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Continue reading