The Agenda

Acts 1:6-8
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
God’s kingdom is coming in and through the work of Jesus, not by taking people away from this world but by transforming things within this world, brining the sphere of earth into the presence, and under the rule, of heaven itself (8).

The apostles are to go out as heralds, not of someone who may become king at some point in the future, but of the one who has already been appointed and enthroned (9).

Jesus gives the apostles an agenda: Jerusalem first, then Judea (the surrounding countryside), then Samaria (the hated semi-foreigners living right next door) and to the ends of the earth. Sit back and watch, Luke says. That’s exactly the journey we’re about to take (10).

“The Acts of Jesus (II)”

Acts 1:1-5
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
N. T. Wright, Acts for Everyone (Part One)
[The book of Acts] is all about what Jesus is continuing to do and to teach. The mysterious presence of Jesus haunts the whole story. He is announced as King and Lord, not as an increasingly distant memory but as a living and powerful reality, a person who can be known and loved, obeyed and followed, a person who continues to act within the real world. That, Luke is telling us, what the book is going to be all about. We call it “The Acts of the Apostles,” but in truth we should really think of it as “The Acts of Jesus (II)” (2).

Bringing Joy

Acts 15:1-3
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.
Aaron Orendorff
Here are Paul and Barnabas, going up to Jerusalem, in the very heart of “no small dissension and debate.” The stress of the situation must have been enormous. The questions they were facing as well as the issues around which those questions turned were not merely theological, they were profoundly personal: Who are God’s people? How is a person saved? What place does the law of Moses (Israel’s heritage and ethnic identity, in other words) have in the life a follower of Jesus Christ?

Yet amidst all of this debate and stress, Luke tells us that as they went through the churches in “Phoenicia and Samaria,” Paul and Barnabas “brought great joy to all the brothers.” What an amazing statement. How easy it would have been to simply relay their side of the story, to jockey and position for power, to make sure that the right side won. But instead of simply bringing news (or even simply bringing “the truth”) what they bring is joy. May that be what true of us as well as we enter into the situations in our life where debate and stress abound.

Again with the Speaking

Acts 14
1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.

3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace . . .

7 . . . and there they continued to preach the gospel.

9 He listened to Paul speaking.

12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

15 Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch . . .

25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia,

27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
Aaron Orendorff
Luke is again absoltuely relentless upon this point: it through speaking the word of God (i.e., preaching, declaring, bearing witness, and heralding) that (1) people believe, (2) disciples are made, (3) riots are started, (4) converts are encouraged and built up and (5) the church is established.

. . . as many as were appointed . . .

Acts 13:48-49
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
After the detailed account of Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch, we are told that many Gentiles “honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (13:48). An excellent exercise is to discover all the ways Acts, or even the entire New Testament, speaks of conversion and of converts—and then to use all of those locutions in our own speech. For our ways of talking about such matters both reflect and shape the way we think of such matters. There is no such biblical passage that speaks of “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior” (though the notion itself is not entirely wrong). So why do many adopted this expression, and never speak in the terms of verse 48? (July 26).

A “Turning Point”

Acts 11:1-4 & 17-18
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began and explained it to them in order . . .

“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Galatians 5:6
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Galatians 6:15
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
Luke sees this as a turning point. Peter is called on the carpet by the churches in Judea for going into the house of an uncircumcised person and eating with him (11:3). Peter retells his experience. The vision of the sheet with the unclean animals, its repetition three times, the instruction from the Spirit to go with the Gentile messengers, the fact that six of the (Jewish) brothers accompanied him and therefore could corroborate his story, the descent of the Spirit in a manner that tied this event to Pentecost, the linking of this with the word of the Lord Jesus—all lead to Peter’s careful conclusion: “So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” (11:17) (July 24).

The Gospel and Words (Again)

Acts 10:34-37 & 43
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened . . .

“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
Kosher Jews were always nervous in a Gentile home—but here God sends Peter not only to spend time in a nonkosher Gentile home, but to preach the Gospel there. Initially, no one is more surprised than Peter (10:28-29, 34), but it is not long before he swings into a full-orbed presentation of the Gospel to these Gentiles. Even while Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on this Gentile household as he had descended on the Jews at Pentecost, and no one is more surprised that Peter and the Jews traveling with him (10:45-47).

The initial impetus to cross lines of race and heritage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ arose not from a committee planning world evangelization, but from God himself (July 23).
Aaron Orendorff,
Peter’s gospel presentation (tailor to this particular situation) unfolds in three parts. First, the nature of God: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.” Second, the “words” of Jesus’ story: “you yourselves know what happened . . . .” Third, the application of those words: “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The verbal (or word-bound) nature of the gospel is again powerfully stressed. Cornelius asks to “hear” (33) and Peter open his “mouth” (34). V. 44 then concludes, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.”


Acts 9:3-6
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Acts 9:15-16
But the Lord said to [Ananias], “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
For [Paul], the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The Law insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. . . . But now on the Damascus Road, Saul meets the resurrected, glorified Jesus. . . . If Jesus were alive and glorified, then somehow his death on the cross did not prove he was damned. Far from it: the claim of believers that God had raised him from the dead, and that they had seen him, must be true—and that could only mean that God had vindicated Jesus. Then what on earth did his death mean?

From that vantage point, everything looked different. If Jesus was under the curse of God when he died, yet was vindicated by God himself, he must have died for others. Somehow his death absorbed the righteous curse of God that was due other and canceled it out. . . . Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes (July 22).

The Gospel and Words

Acts 8:4-5, 12, 25, 35 & 40
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
Thus the Gospel reaches outward in the book of Acts. All the first converts were Jews, whether reared in the Promised Land or gathered from the dispersion. But the beginning of Acts 8 witnesses the conversion of Samaritans—a curious mixed race, only partly Jewish, joined to the mother church in Jerusalem by the hands of the apostles Peter and John. The next conversion is that of the eunuch—an African, not at all Jewish—sufficiently devoted to Judaism to take the pilgrimage to Jerusalem even though he could never be a full-fledged proselyte; a man steeped in the Jewish Scriptures even when he could not understand them.

Small wonder then that the next major event in this book is the conversion of the man who could become the apostle to the Gentiles (July 21).
Aaron Orendorff,
The book of Acts relentlessly circles one driving truth: the gospel must be spread and it must be spread (literally) through word-of-mouth. Much is made in the early chapters (and much is made even here in chapter 8) of the miraculous works that accompanied this gospel preaching, but preaching (as the verses above illustrate) is what ultimately reveals and forwards the gospel. The gospel is not proclaimed by acts, but by words: conversational words, interpretive words, public words and private words. But regardless of the adjective, the noun (i.e., the vehicle) remains static: the gospel is spread through words.

Rewards of the Truth

Acts 7:51-53
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
One of the points that Stephen makes as he retells the story emerges slowly at first, then faster and faster, and then explosively. That point is the repeated sin of the people. When Stephen begins the story, at first there is no mention of Israel’s evil. Then the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers is briefly mentioned (7:9). Corporate wickedness re-surfaces in Moses’ day (7:25-27, 35). Now the pace quickens. The people refused to obey Moses “and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (7:39). The golden calf episode is brought up, and likened to idolatry in the time of Amos (7:42-43). We skip ahead to David and Solomon, and the insistence that God cannot be domesticated by a building. Finally there is the explosive condemnation not only of past generations of Israelites who rejected God and his revelation, but also of all their contemporary Spirit-resisting descendants (7:51-53) (July 20).
Aaron Orendorff,
One thing is very clear from both the story Stephen tells as well as the way his own story ends: being God’s servant is dangerous, unpopular work. Not only does telling the truth often get a person in trouble, sometimes it gets you killed.

How very different are my own person expectations. What I expect the truth to produces (as long as it’s presented with charisma and irenic warmth), is respect and popularity. I expect to be congratulated for the truth and (for the most part at least) loved and rewarded for it. Yet this is not the patter established in Scripture. Nor is it the pattern established by Jesus. To bear witness to the truth mean being despised, and this often by the very people who would identify themselves as God’s own.

Ananias and Sappira

Acts 4:34—5:5
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
The account of Ananias and Sappira . . . is disturbing on several grounds. . . . Four observations focus the issue:

First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. . . .

Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sappira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. . . . It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit—as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. . . .

Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. . . .

Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay (July 18).

Praying Like the Church

Acts 4:24-30
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said,

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
These earliest of our brothers and sisters in Christ ask for three things (4:29-30): (a) that the Lord would consider the threats of their opponents; (b) that they themselves might be enabled to speak God’s word with boldness; and (c) that God would perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of Jesus (which may mean, in their expectation, “through the apostles”; cf. 2:4; 3:6ff; 5:12) (July 17).
Aaron Orendorff,
How might the apostles’ prayer be a model for us today?

First, it illustrates the primacy of corporate prayer. The church “lifted their voices together to God and said . . .” (24).

Second, the prayer begins by focusing on God’s sovereignty over: (1) creation, (2) politics, (3) history, (4) redemption and even (5) evil itself.

Third, the church asks the Lord to “look upon their threats.” This is a constant refrain in the Psalms, where again and again various authors beseech God to take notice and give ear to their desperate situation. The implication is that if God sees, he cannot help but involve himself in the cause of his people.

Fourth, the church asks for boldness, continued boldness to be exact. They ask, in other words, for courage (implying that they are fearful), for strength (implying that they are weak) and for perseverance (implying that they are in danger of giving up).

Fifth, the church asks that alongside their personal boldness (enabled by God’s regard for their condition), God himself would “stretch out his hand” to work powerfully through their ministry.

The Gospel Is a Story

Acts 3:12-20
And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
There is a string of characteristics that unite this sermon with the sermon in Acts 2 and some others in the book of Acts. These features include: the God of our fathers has sent his servant Jesus; you killed him—disowning the Holy and Righteous One, the author of life—but God raised him from the dead; we are witnesses of these things; by the death and resurrection of Jesus God fulfilled the promises he made through the prophets; repent therefore, and turn to God (July 16).
Aaron Orendorff,
The gospel is not, as its so often presented, a set of abstract, spiritual principles. The gospel is not: repent and believe “that your sins may be blotted out.” The gospel is a story, a story about something that happened, an event in history around which history turns. The gospel, as Peter outlines it here, is the story of how God—the historical God of an historical people (i.e., Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)—has acted through the death and resurrection his servant Jesus—the Holy and Righteous One, and Author of life—to reconcile and redeem lost people to himself.

The immediate implications of this gospel (i.e., the responses) are faith in the name of Jesus and repentance from sin, but faith and repentance are not (properly speaking) “the gospel” itself.

This is important to remember because it isn’t faith that justifies, it’s faith in Jesus. Nor is it repentance from sin that saves, but repentance from sin toward God. The more we center ourselves on the story—on the actual events that took place in space and time—the more the implications of those events can work their way into our lives. First things first, however: the gospel proper, then the implications.

More Spectacular

Acts 2:41-47
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
Acts 2 is sometimes called the birthday of the church. This can be misleading. There is a sense in which the old covenant community can rightly be designated church (7:38—“assembly” in NIV). Nevertheless there is a new departure that begins on this day, a departure bound up with the universal gift of the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of Scripture (2:17-18) and in consequence of Jesus’ exaltation “to the right hand of God” (2:33). The critical event that has brought this incalculable blessing about is the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ; this event was itself foreseen by earlier Scripture (July 15).
Aaron Orendorff,
One of the surprising (and often overlooked) results of Pentecost is the Spirit’s immediate and very practical effect on the physical and financial sphere of the church’s life. Much has been said of the Spirit’s “miraculous” works—especially as it relates to tongues and the “many wonders and signs” done by the apostles (v. 43). Yet what is more spectacular: that “each one was hearing them speak in his own language” or that “all who believed were together and had all things in common”? Certainly the first is flashier, more attractive and, in a sense, easier to manage; yet the latter, as vv. 46 and 47 reveal, is what led first to authentic worship and second to evangelistic outreach.

Replacing David’s Enemies

Acts 1:16-22
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

(Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and ‘Let another take his office.’

“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
In the context of Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 [the verses Peter quotes], David is seeking vindication against enemies—once close friends—who had betrayed him. Peter’s use of these verse belongs to one of two primary patterns. Either: (a) Peter is indulging in indefensible proof-texting. . . . Or: (b) Peter is already presupposing a fairly sophisticated David-typology. If this sense of betrayal and plea for vindicating justice play such an important role in the experience of great King David, how much more in David’s greater Son? . . . During the previous forty days Jesus had often spoken with his disciples (1:3), explaining in some detail “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Certainly the David-typology crops up in the Gospels on the lips of Jesus. Why should we not accept that he taught it to his disciples? (July 14)

but did not ask counsel from the LORD

Joshua 9:3-6 & 14
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.”

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
[T]he failure depicted in 9:14 has haunted many believers, and not only the ancient Israelites: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.” . . . The fact that their decision was based on their estimate of how far these Gibeonites had comes makes it obvious that they were aware of the danger of treaties with the Canaanites. The failure must therefore not be taken as a mere breach of devotions that day, a hastiness that forgot a magic step. The problem is deeper: there is an unseemly negligence that betrays an overconfidence that does not thing it needs God in this case. Many a Christian leader has made disastrous mistakes when he or she has not taken time to seek God’s perspective, probing Scripture and asking him for the wisdom he has promised to give (James 1:5) (July 7).

Being Known

Psalm 139:1-6
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
[Psalm 139] paints an exalted picture of God, yet does so in stunningly personal ways, as befits a psalm. . . .

God sees and know everything (139:1-6). The psalmist might have made that point as I just did—in the abstract. Instead, true to his form, he addresses God, acknowledging that this God’s knowledge is not passive and is not merely comprehensive: it is active and personal. This God knows the psalmist so thoroughly that he knows every movement his body makes, and every habit of his life, but also every thought he entertains and every word he speaks—even before they are formulated (July 6).

Judgment and the Community

Joshua 7:10-13
The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”’”
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
Perhaps the most frightening cases [of sin and judgment] are those where countless sins are committed by many, many people, and God does absolutely nothing about it. For the worst judgment occurs when God turns his back on people, and resolutely lets sin take its course. Far better to be pulled up sharply before things get out of hand. . . .

The point [in Joshua 7] is that God had given explicit and repeated instructions. They had been violated. The covenant between God and the Israelites was essentially communal, and so God is determined to teach the entire community to exercise among it own members the discipline that the covenant mandates (Jul y 5).

Road-Food and Home-Food

Joshua 5:10-12
While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
The manna stops. From now on the people will draw their nourishment from “the produce of Canaan.” This . . . was a dramatic signal that the days of wandering were over, and the fulfillment of the promise for a new land was beginning to unfold before their eyes. The change must have been both frightening and exiting, especially to an entire generation that had never known life without the security of manna (July 3).
Aaron Orendorff,
Joshua 5 is about transition: leaving behind the old and taking hold of the new. This process, as Carson points out, is both “frightening and exciting.” Frightening because, up to this point, the people of Israel—an “entire generation”—had received, day after day, manna from heaven to meet their every nutritional need. The fruit of the land of Canaan must have tasted amazing by comparison, but the stability of the manna would have been a hard thing to let go of.

Joshua’s point seems to be this: there’s road-food and there’s home-food and when you finally make it home one of the first things to go is the food you ate on the way. This comparison makes me think of dorm-food on a college campus (the same slop day after day) verses a meal prepared at home. Sure, you can count on dorm food (it’s always gonna be there), and it’s certainly easier to just slide your student ID card than it is to prepare an entire meal; but that’s all part of the transition between college and career: “frightening and exciting.”

Forgiveness and Fear

Psalm 130:1-4
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
D. A. Carson, For the Love of God (Vol. 1)
[T]he connection between forgiveness and fear is striking: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (130:4). . . . [T]he “fear of the Lord” is portrayed as not only the outcome of forgiveness, but one of its goals. It confirms that “fear of the Lord” has lees to do with slavish, servile terror (which surely would be decreased by forgiveness, not increased) that with holy reverence. Even so, this reverence has a component of honest fear. When sinners begin to see the magnitude of their sin, and experience the joy of forgiveness, at their best they glimpse what might have been the case had they not been forgiven. Forgiveness engenders relief; ironically, it also engenders sober reflection that settles into reverence and godly fear, for sin can never be taken lightly again, and forgiveness never lightly received (July 2).
Aaron Orendorff,
Fear is a very trick thing. Nothing can both debilitate and drive us quite like fear. “Fear,” one author writes, “is an evil, corroding thread; the fabric of our lives is shot through with it.” More important, however, than the bare reality of fear is the question of its source: What do you fear? Often our nightmares reveal more about us than our dreams. We fear for essentially two reasons: either we’re afraid we might lose something we need or we’re afraid we might not get something we want.

Here, however, the Psalmist’s “fear” is motivated not because he’s lost something or because something is being withheld. Rather, his fear arises out of what he’s gained. Even more surprising is the fact that what he’s gained (we assume) ought to alleviate his fear and not to inspire it: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

The lesson seems to be this: the gospel, while reliving our consciences and confirming us in love, never moves us beyond the reach of fear. But gospel-fear is an altogether different sort of fear than we have ever experienced before. The fear in this case is good, healthy fear. Fear of what is great, massive, amazing, gracious, merciful. Fear, as Carson says, of what might have been but for the grace of God. Fear that drives us with wonderful and abandon away from other fears—petty, banal fears, fears centered on people, places and things—and towards the expansive and freeing “fear of the Lord.”

“. . . to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone (Vol. 2)
The “age to come” has already broken in to the “present age.” But, as Paul makes so clear, not until death itself is destroyed, and the whole world comes under the rule of Jesus, will God’s purpose be fully accomplished. How are we to conceive of this?

To answer, we come back to the Lord’s Prayer once more, set my Matthew at the heart of Jesus great Sermon (6.9-13), and forming a fitting way for us to take out leave of this great gospel. Bread, forgiveness and deliverance are, of course, always going to be needed as long as the present world continues. But there will come a time when those needs are swallowed up in the complete life of the new age: when God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, because heaven and earth have been joined together in the new creation; when God’s kingdom, established by Jesus in his death and resurrection, has finally conquered all its enemies by the power of the divine love; and when, in line with the ancient hopes of Israel, and now with the central intention of Jesus himself, the name of God is honored, hallowed, exalted and celebrated throughout the whole creation. Every time we say the words “Our father . . .” we are pleading for that day to be soon, and pledging ourselves to work to bring it closer (210).