Friday, July 18, 2008

The Bible, Christ, His Hunger, and Mine

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3
During the Christmas vacation of my senior year in college (almost 4 years ago!), I read my first John Piper book: A Hunger For God. Almost four years later, I've read twenty of them. Little did I know at that time the impact that this man by the grace of God would have on my life, becoming to me a spiritual father from a distance. There was a period of time when I would go spend whole days at Borders or Barnes & Noble: just me, Piper, and God. At least a handful of those twenty books were read in their entirety at one of these bookstores.

There was one chapter in A Hunger For God that took my breath away and still to me is probably one of the greatest chapters of any book I have ever read apart from the Bible. It is the second chapter, entitled "Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone." In it, Piper unfolds the portion of Scripture where Jesus, after His baptism, is driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. And He does so with a particular emphasis on how Jesus' temptation in the wilderness relates to the Israelites journey through the wilderness.

I think it would be safe to say that this chapter encapsulates why John Piper -- as a writer, a preacher, a man who loves God -- has, humanly speaking, had such an impact on me. The way John digs into the Bible in order to understand why God writes what He writes and not using the Bible to say what John wants to say has awakened in me a hunger to know the mind of God that has inspired all of the Scriptures. The ways John relates the Old Testament to the New Testament (yes, in that order) has set me on a crusade to read my Bible with eyes to see how it is all about one thing, or rather one Person--namely, Jesus Christ. Which leads to this reason why John has had such an impact on me. The way John exalts Jesus Christ as supreme in all the Scriptures and in everything that exists has ignited my heart to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all in things for the joy of all peoples through that all-glorious Christ. The entire Bible, not just the New Testament, is about the supremacy of Christ. All these things, John so compellingly displays in this chapter.

I had never hungered for the Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant, all-sufficient Word of God before reading (or hearing) John unfold the Scriptures. I had never seen Jesus Christ as preeminent in all the Scriptures until seeing John exalt Him in portions of Scripture such as Deuteronomy where I didn't think He was. And I had never seen the glory of this crucified and risen Christ, let alone savor and delight in Him as the supreme Treasure of my life until John taught me that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.
There are too many similarities between what is happening to Jesus here in the wilderness and what happened to the people of Israel to think it is a mere coincidence. God is teaching us something here. The Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness. What does this mean?

It means that Old Testament shadows are being replaced with New Testament reality. It means that something greater than Moses and the wilderness and the Law and Joshua and the Promised Land is at stake here. It means that the time of fulfillment is at hand. The promise to Moses is coming true. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him" (Deuteronomy 18:15). It means that God is now, with the incarnation of his Son, preparing to deliver his people -- the new Israel -- from the Egyptian bondage of sin into the Promised Land of forgiveness and righteousness and eternal life. To do this he has sent a new Moses, or in this case, a new Joshua (Jesus reenacts both roles, and the name "Jesus" is identical to "Joshua" in New Testament Greek). This new Joshua stands as the head and representative of the whole new people that Jesus will gather from Jews and Gentiles. On their behalf Jesus will now be led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He will stay forty days to represent forty years. He will be tested as Israel was tested. And he will hunger as Israel hungered. And if he triumphs, he and all his people go safely into the Promised Land of forgiveness and eternal life (A Hunger For God, John Piper, p.56-57).
And we know that where Israel failed miserably, Jesus succeeded triumphantly. Read the entire chapter here to learn from Piper how He did so.

Heavenly Father, there is no man, apart from Your Son, that I owe a greater debt to than John Piper. And of course, You are all in all, the One I am ever going deeper into debt to. Thank You for brining him into my life when You did. Thank You for opening my mind to understand and my heart to burn with the truth from Your Word that he teaches. Thank You that the first book I read by him accomplished its purpose by leaving me with an insatiable hunger for You. And above all, thank You for sending Your Son to hunger and thirst and ultimately die so that my hunger and thirst for You would even be possible. Yet that hunger and thirst is still not what it ought to be. But I thank You that You are the One who sustains it and I pray that You would let it increase with each day that passes. And may that paradoxically happen by my continually feeding on the words from Your mouth, all of which reveal to me the incomparable beauty of Your Son. In His precious name, Amen.

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