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Looking Back to go Forward


Flickr photo by Steve Day

Some of us like to read a book backward—the end first, before the beginning. Others are on the look out for spoiler alerts and enjoy the experience of not knowing how the story is going to turn out in the end.

The Gospel writer Matthew had learned to read the Scriptures of Israel both forward and backward. He was member of a generation on whom “the end (fulfillment) of the ages had come” (1Cor 10:11; Heb 1:2; 9:26). With Mary and the other disciples he had lived through the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion and the life-changing surprise of resurrection and coming of the Spirit.

Together they had learned that Jesus did far more than fulfill specific predictions about a coming Messiah (Matt 2:3-6). Matthew could now see that events of Jesus life— like Joseph and Mary’s flight into Egypt (2:15) and Herod’s killing of Bethlehem’s sons (2:17) were reminiscent of past events that would find fullness of meaning in the unfolding rescue of humanity.

(We noted in earlier posts that author Tim Keller urges us read the Bible forward and backward so as to see our need for Jesus as “the true and better” Adam, Abel, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Israel, Moses, Passover, Temple, Sacrifice, Joshua, … etc.)

Now, all of this reading backwards is for us—to go forward. Even though we are living 2000 years after those on whom “the end of the ages came” every new day remains our challenge to trust the God who turned out to be so much better, (i.e. so much more merciful), than anyone prior to (or after) Jesus could have imagined…







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31 Responses to “Looking Back to go Forward”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    I am reminded this morning as I read Mart’s post that without the Scriptures we have nothing to read backward and no way of knowing what lay ahead.

    Before the Torah all mankind had was folklore and stories handed down from ages past about God and our place in the world.

    It to me is fascinating to see the many ancient artifacts that etched in stone tells a story of creation and even of the flood and many stories of a promised child to come and cleanse the world.

    The details of trying to intellectually figure it all out is the stuff of mythology.

    God created Israel to both reintroduce Himself to the world at large and through whom He would come to the world as that promised child.

    Whereas God speaks to all of us in our hearts in instinctively knowing right from wrong, His written Word provides us the details in the “Back Story” in order to prepare us for the rest of the story and our place in it.

    The marriage of His Spirit, His Word with us gives us all we need in order to see clearly, discern properly and move forward empowered and enabled to have the faith we need as we go on.


  2. lovely says:

    Amen Steve as well the Word..is God .John 1.And only in this present age He has revealed Himself to mankind through His word & given men the privilege to know Him.The word is not only full of treasures but also tells us What s going to happen next.& what God is going to do next…& only His children who has the Holy Spirit could unlock these mystery of God…Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all

  3. remarutho says:

    Good Morning BTA Friends —

    We do go back to find the story that was unfolding at the creation of the world continues to unfold. The faith that we learn about in the story strengthens our faith for living day to day here and now. We take our place in the narrative as we bear witness to our Savior Jesus by our words and by our actions.

    The end of exile always brings renewal of the Lord’s covenant of love. Seems to me I have experienced exile and return many times in my life — following Jesus out of the old slavery and oppression and re-membering the story in my own spirit, mind and body — bearing witness to God’s power bringing a good outcome from the most desperate of circumstances.

    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…


  4. joycemb says:

    I was so blessed listening to Discover the Word today as Mr. Bailey explains the cultural context of Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus in Luke. As you say Mart that Jesus is more than they could imagine, so with us.

  5. jeff1 says:

    Words I find can be misconstrued as I am forever taking the wrong meaning from Pooh.

    Actions cannot and that is why I believe God intended Jesus’s death and Resurrection for all mankind but man being territorial cannot see it.

    When I go to God with pre-conceived beliefs I am telling God what He should be doing rather then what is best for mankind.

    God is forever correcting me and also teaches me much from unbelievers as well as from the younger generation.

    When I open my heart to God He shows me truths about Him, myself and others that I will never get from the bible.

    It is my opinion that I am just beginning to understand God at 61 years and that I am a slow learner but I also realize that unlike man God does not give up on slow learners!

    I for many years was looking at others sins, and when I looked at my own thought I was doing OK, considering I was comparing myself to terrorists and others who where very far removed from the teachings of the Gospel.

    I did not take into consideration that if I wanted to be a witness for Christ then I would have to examine my own heart and its motives.

    I was fortunate in that I belonged to a Church that focused on Christ, and His teachings, so the more I examined my heart and listened to the teachings of Christ, the more I realized that it was I whom Jesus had died for as much as any sinner.

    It was not until this realization did I think about how hypocritical I must have sounded to others with my double standards, for I who hated double standards in others, yet, could not see them in myself.

    When I go to Church now it is with a different attitude for I now go knowing it is I who needs saving as much as the next man.

    I often laugh to myself, at my own pride/ignorance,(a bit of both) for how many years I stood at the alter rails not taking the message personally for I had convinced myself I was superior to those sinners.

    ‘Old habits die hard’ and it takes me to constantly examine my mind and heart and bring it into submission or the old me keeps raising its ugly head.

    My father, on the others hand, ‘got it’, for he was way ahead of his years, but being the Godly man he was, did not criticize nor condemn me, but offered advice with diplomacy and caringly until I too understood that ‘no man is an island.

    The most Godly men you will meet you will recognise them by their actions for they speak so much louder than words!

    While Jesus’s words comforted and lifted many people spirits, in the end it was His actions that saved mankind!


    O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
    Consider all they worlds Thy hands have made;
    I see the stars, I here the rolling thunder,
    Thy power throughout the universe displayed

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God,to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How geat Thou art!

    When through the woods,and forest glades I wander,
    And here the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
    When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
    And seek the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

    And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
    Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
    That on a Cross my burdens gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art,
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

    When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
    And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart,
    Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
    And then proclaim: “My God how great Thou art”

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

  6. Mart DeHaan says:

    As we come to the end and beginning of another year, I’m grateful for those of you who have weathered the ups and downs of our reflections together and the differences that tend to pull us apart— for a taste of the dawning honesty and grace that makes us good for one another.

    For those who know something of Ed’s Story, that I’ve referred to over the years, today is the day of Ed Dobson’s memorial service. His long struggle with a form of ALS quietly ended this week.

  7. SFDBWV says:

    In scanning the internet news the past couple days there were a couple items that caught my attention in passing.

    One being a blurry picture of some kind of creature with a throng of people around it and walking atop it. The title of the subject said “Giant anaconda found after “earth quak” in Nepal. Yes I said “earth quak” not earthquake.

    The second was the story of a country singer who along with a friend went missing while duck hunting during a major winter storm in Oklahoma.

    Curiosity got the best of me and I clicked on the anaconda story. It was a video of a throng of people gawking at what was obviously a whale not a snake by anyone’s imagination. Instead of its being in the Himalayan Mountains as Nepal is it was some tropical environment.
    The story of the country singer missing is tragic as these young men knew the danger they were placing themselves in yet went headlong into unnecessary danger and paid the price.

    The snake story shows how easy it is to make up a story and how eager some are to hear it, but along the story of the drownings I found more interesting the comments that followed the story, there were several hundred.

    You can guess there were the expected rants of animal rights people and right to hunt people as well, but the one that caught my eye was after someone said they were praying for the young men’s families.

    A fellow ask what good was praying to a mythological being and that the writer should try reading a book that isn’t 2,000 years old.

    There are lots of lies and just as many people eager to tell or broadcast them, and there are plenty of people who are adrift in a world of confusion, with right and wrong being blurred together with misinformation sounding more palatable to them.

    The living Word of God is the only true foundation from which we can survive in a world filled with too much information controlled by those who will lie in order to try and control your thinking.

    Read forwards or backwards the Bible has stood the test of time, but be careful for even if some of the content is “tweeked” in order to “sound better” it may change the entire meaning of the text.

    Read the Bible with the Holy Spirit as your guide and if someone tells you this or that is said within its pages, test it by what is actually said and why.

    Yes this is long, but some stories need to be.

    39 degrees wet and foggy.


  8. SFDBWV says:

    Yes Mart I also read of Ed Dobson’s passing and am grateful for you to have shared his story with us, here and on Day of Discovery.
    I feel sad for his family because no matter how we try and put on a courageous front, death is never really welcome and that person always missed.


  9. jeff1 says:

    In many ways it will be a relief to the family for it is difficult to see someone you love changing into someone you hardly recognise, and it is then you realize,that it is better for them to be called home, to their eternal home, for even though you miss them you have your memories of better times beforehand.

    I went to a class recently on how one should approach the bereaved and the main thing is to listen to the person rather than to offer them advice or platitudes which we often try to do.

    We where told each person must grieve in their own time and in their own way, and there is no right or wrong way. However, it is not healthy for the bereaved to hang on to personal belongings or dwelling too much on the death of the person a long time after their death and in cases like this a person may require counselling.

    I do know there are people who do not get over the death of a loved one and it is terribly sad when this happens.

    I know of a woman who lost both her husband and son in a bomb and my friend who meets her for coffee says she has never gotten over it. You can still see the pain in her face and I find it disturbing and I am glad that it is not me who has talks with her for I feel so at a loss for what to say.

    Sometimes words do not suffice.

  10. remarutho says:

    Good Morning All —

    Yes, reflecting on Ed Dobson’s life, death and resurrection, I celebrate his witness and service in this life — and his joy and release in God’s presence. Prayers for those who love and honor him today.

    Agreeing with you over here, Steve. Those whose faith has been shipwrecked by a need to waltz to the current tune concerning the truth of the Bible need our prayers. Any report of prayer in the media is a beautiful green island of hope in the midst of a sea of despair. All we can do in faith is continue to share the story of God’s love of His creation — and to pray.

    The narrative of Joseph and Mary fleeing Bethlehem (illustrated above), on the basis of a supernatural message delivered by the angel, is a fine example of how our spirits are nourished and encouraged by God’s provision in times of threat and danger. This is the reality of God’s presence in the world through our faith in Him.

    Joy at New Year,

  11. remarutho says:

    26F Clear and crisp here with thick frost. Maru

  12. poohpity says:

    It is 37F clear with humidity at 59%. One of the coldest winters I have experienced here in the Valley of the Sun. I would guess that most of the winter visitors have left warmer climates this year expecting it to be warm here wearing shorts and T-shirts but rather they have their jackets, long pants, sweatshirts and sweaters on.

    Mart, more than just those who live in Grand Rapids will be mourning the loss of Ed. He touched my life with his laying it all out there with his battle with ALS that was won Saturday. I know that his family will be experiencing the heartfelt condolences from all over the world that know of his story. Tell them thank you for sharing him with all of us. I can only imagine him dancing and singing now with our Lord in His kingdom.

    Having experienced the reading backwards–to go forward is something I am so very grateful for. Getting to know God through His Word/word, learning of His promises, what He thinks about us, learning of His limitless mercy and boundless love through that book that was written so many years ago yet so applicable to everyday life for us today. God never changes so His words are good for all time and the human condition also has not changed much either, people are still people which shows how immense His grace truly is. Praising God with all my heart for His rescue and restoration as we go forward into another year.

    “May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people” That is the very last verse in the very last book of the bible. Praying as I do every year that more will join in reading through the bible this year to experience God talking to you through it’s pages.

    “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Eph 1:17

    “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” Col 1:10

    “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

  13. street says:

    Looking Back to go Forward

    you know this might sound pretty funny, but we do it more often than not. thinking of going to eygpt, without Jesus?
    is not the purpose of going to eygpt to take Jesus with us or to follow Him there. going forward without Jesus is just as bad as leaving Him. He is old enough we are told to follow Him now, it’s easier to follow when you are focused on Him instead of something else.

    it is fun to see the backstory unfold and sometimes difficult. yet we are all made from the sum of all we have been through. i thank Him for His tender mercy and grace. His love and faithfulness is unmatched.

    thinking of jacob I loved and esau I hated.

  14. foreverblessed says:

    To all of you: Happy New Year!

    May we all follow Jesus, more and more times of each day.
    May we put our own lifes on the altar and may He lead us.

    Then we will be like the Temple of Ezechiel 47, where the water flows from onder the altar, and may many around us be blessed.

  15. SFDBWV says:

    Was and am a little hesitant to write anything this morning as I didn’t know whether Mart had a New Year’s posting and it is always a little unsettling to write then post and see a new subject up.

    Thank you Foreverblessed as it certainly was the New Year there in the Netherlands before getting to us here in the US. My best wishes to you and yours as well on this coming year.

    We are not partiers nor is there any special event we participate in. We went to bed at 9 and got up at 4:10 to very light snow and 27 degrees.

    To all today We wish you all a very Happy New Year and it is our hope that you are specially blessed in every moment, minuet, hour, day, week, and month all the yearlong and may we all see Jesus return.


  16. foreverblessed says:

    Yes, Steve, I was thinking of you all last night, when at 12 we went out to see the fireworks…. and there appeared in the sky a big moon, just half. The Bright side of the moon was looking down on earth, like he was saying: what are you all doing, with all that fireworks.
    Even if Mart changed the subject, we can still wish each other a good new year!

  17. joycemb says:

    Happy New Year to all this fine day. Since staying up late is not my thing on New Year’s Eve my friend and I went to a favorite restaurant and “celebrated” the new year with bacon, lettuce and tomatoe sandwiches and praise for all the good things God has done for us this past year.

    When we focus on all the blessings we can only look forward with joy and anticipation to another year,– if God allows– of living in grace.

    Blessings abundant with grace to enjoy them to all,

  18. refump says:

    Happy New Year to all of you from the tundra of the US called the “Mini-Apple”! Encouraged for the new year by the verses Pooh posted, especially Eph. 1:17. My prayer for the new year is that God would fill us all with a DEEP desire to KNOW him more.

  19. poohpity says:

    Happy New year everyone! I hope everyone gets to experience something new this year, that it be a step out of the boat year.

    We get a chance every morning to experience a fresh start to experience God’s grace and mercy. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)

  20. foreverblessed says:

    Thanks Pooh.
    I was also very encouraged by God calling of Jan 1
    Talking about backwards and forwards….

    I stand between the years. The Light of My Presence is flung across the year to come – the radiance of the Sun of Righteousness. Backward, over the past year, is My Shadow thrown, hiding trouble and sorry and disappointment.

    Dwell not on the past – only on the present. Only use the past as the trees use My Sunlight to absorb it, to make from it in after days the warming fire-rays. So store only the blessings from Me, the Light of the World. Encourage yourselves by the thought of these.

    Bury every fear of the future, of poverty for those dear to you, of suffering, of loss. Bury all thought of unkindness and bitterness, all your dislikes, your resentments, your sense of failure, your disappointment in others and in yourselves, your gloom, your despondency, and let us leave them all, buried, and go forward to a new and risen life.

    Remember that you must not see as the world sees. I hold the year in My Hands – in trust for you. But I shall guide you one day at a time.

    Leave the rest with Me. You must not anticipate the gift by fears or thoughts of the days ahead.

    And for each day I shall supply the wisdom and the strength.

    I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk
    in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12″

  21. SFDBWV says:

    There is an old adage that goes something like this, “people who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat their mistakes in the future.”

    A recent news story getting attention is the reemergence of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kompf”. Some fear the book has the power to ignite extremist thinking all over again, while others see it as a means of discovering how not to go forward into the future.

    Islamic extremists have been credited with burning Bibles as well as Christian’s in their own attempt at creating a holocaust of their own.

    Odd that in our own faith we learn that Adam and Eve were chastised for disobeying God and eating of the forbidden fruit, yet without that knowledge of good and evil neither can be recognized nor discerned.

    What I read in the Gospels is that it was the Holy Spirit who was given credit for Peter being able to say to Jesus that he believed Him to be the Son of God. Not Peter’s understanding of Scripture.

    Though once the Holy Spirit awakened in Peter the knowledge of who Jesus is all the ability of seeing Jesus in the Scripture became clear and obvious.

    Receiving the Holy Spirit goes hand and foot with the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and it is by and through the Holy Spirit that we are able to see and understand, not our own intellect, but still the giving nature of God that enables us.

    To some read forward or backward without the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ, the Bible will remain just a book.

    25 degrees this morning.


  22. poohpity says:

    When I first started this relationship with God I did not know scripture either, I did not even have the desire to know it but after listening to the preacher’s teach I wanted to know more about this God who loved me so much and that was also the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It was a desire just similar to that when I meet anyone I like to learn about them and grow to know them. I got the forward and was so curious about the backward. It has not been disappointing either.

    If I understand it right all the Hebrews were brought up learning about God and going to the Synagogue to listen to teachers. They had traditions passed down from generation to generation. Peter walked with the Word I am sure he learned directly from the source and saw all that Jesus had done.

    Learning about God takes a lifetime since there is so much to experience. In almost every Epistle and all throughout the OT it speaks of growing in knowledge and understanding of our God and what better use of time can there be than to sit with Him everyday and listen to what He has to say to us, one way is reading through His word which is a foundation to determine if the other people we listen to are actually relaying God’s truths and not their own.

    Some people along with not reading the bible do not even go to church so how are they fed or are able to discern whether what they are learning is from the Lord or from somewhere else. Any really good teacher will tell those who listen to them to compare what they say to what is in scripture. A lot of people have their own agenda’s in mind not the Lord’s.

  23. poohpity says:

    I hope I never find myself trying to deter others from reading the Bible. That is God’s message to us and it has lasted over thousands of years why not encourage others to read it, along with learning everything they can about the God they worship. That will only help in this journey of life to know truth.

  24. poohpity says:

    By the way Steve the Islamic extremists are also killing Muslims.

  25. poohpity says:

    When Jesus taught He taught from the OT and opened the eyes and ears of those who wanted to learn. He taught backwards to go forward. We are just privileged today to have the record of His time on earth and as well as how the early church was established and what they learned from their relationship with Him.

  26. SFDBWV says:

    Pooh *you* didn’t start “this” relationship with God. It was He who called to you first.
    It is His Spirit that stirred your curiosity and it is always His Spirit that recognizes Himself both in Scripture and in a person’s heart.
    I do hope things warm up for you there in Arizona, though I can also imagine it may be a welcome relief from the heat you folks usually deal with.


  27. remarutho says:

    Good Morning BTA Friends —

    Mart, you wrote concerning the reason we read the Bible forward and backward:

    “(We noted in earlier posts that author Tim Keller urges us read the Bible forward and backward so as to see our need for Jesus as “the true and better” Adam, Abel, Job, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Israel, Moses, Passover, Temple, Sacrifice, Joshua, … etc.)”

    Going forward requires a new perspective, a revised strategy for feeling, thinking and acting, it seems to me. When we re-member the transformation of those Bible figures (from Adam — onward through Scripture to John of Patmos) in the coming of Jesus — and the transformation of those religious icons (Passover, Temple, Sacrifice) — then we are open to the working of the Holy Spirit in all things.

    This is moving forward, not stagnating in place, or worse, returning to the former things — same old, same old. This is the continuation of Exodus, I believe. Joseph, Mary and Jesus made an Exodus that they were called to make quickly — preserving their life — because they were listening for God’s Word to them. The present and future are shaped by the mighty acts of God through the ages.

    Blessings all day,

  28. poohpity says:

    Steve, I think you may have misunderstood when trying to describe my walk with the Lord it was me who made the choice to follow. He called and I answered. I was in no way taking any credit for anything not the desire to read His word or to learn from Him that desire was placed in my heart from Him, I just made the choice to do it. I have never even claimed it to be any other way. So yes I did make the choice to start this relationship with God I could have turned another way, I could have made the choice not to read the bible or go to church or pray. God does not seem force Himself on anyone.

    I am not complaining about the cold weather just saying it is colder than normal and oh yes it is a welcome relief from the summer heat. I get to wear my coat that I bought for my trip to Alaska not saying that this cold is in anyway compared to the cold of Alaska either and I went in the summer. :-)

  29. poohpity says:

    The adversary is the one who distracts us from spending time with God or listening to God’s gentle whispers by diverting our attention from the things of God. When one sees the bible and has this urge inside then walks past it to do something else that is certainly a prompting from the evil one. Satan wants nothing more than to cause us rather than running to or forward to running away from God and His word.

  30. street says:

    mart said,
    Matthew had learned to read the Scriptures of Israel both forward and backward.

    Jesus said,“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

    when i was thinking this verse i did not think of it in it’s entirety and correctly, leaving room for manipulation.

    the part that intrigued me and caught my attention was, “it is written”

    wonder how long before the new software replaces the corrupt software is finished? i do know study and practice is involved with lots of grace.

  31. jeff1 says:

    Nothing is given to man on earth-struggle is built into the nature of life, and conflict is possible-the hero is the man who let’s no obstacle prevent him from pursuing the values he has chosen.

    Looking back I have not always made choices that glorify God, but I was taught the values that do, so in future, I, with God’s help, must desire to do better, so that my actions speak louder than words, and unbelievers then see, that my God is not an angry God looking to see them in hell, but a compassionate one whose son died for all mankind regardless of our weaknesses.

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