May 31, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXI: Divine Inspiration

And now...a theological pit stop on Numbers 12:3. What is certain here is that most people agree this is not Mosaic authorship. It is obviously referring to Moses as second party. What is also certain is that all Scripture is, “breathed out (NASB: inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) so its inspiration is never in question.

Many will question the validity of the entire Bible because of things like this but we know the end of Deuteronomy does the same thing and it is not question either. The entire Old Testament was canonized by strict measures Jesus and Paul being and Apostle assured us of its authority. So…many liberal theologians see verses like this as proof that the Pentateuch of portions of it may have not been written by Moses or were written long after the fact. I believe there is a better explanation for a verse like this that, at first glance, looks as if it is either a mistake/oversight or a solecism which is nonstandard usage or grammatical construction.

Understanding the truth that Scripture is inspired and authoritative and that the remainder of Numbers 12 probably was written by Moses at the same time verse 3 was…we have to assume that the Holy Spirit wrote verse 3. To clarify, when Moses was writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit he was acting passively allowing God to work through him. These would account for the reference to Moses as the second party in the statement (Spense, Exell 1985).

This idea is reinforced by the previous verse which actually questions who the LORD is actually speaking through. “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" The whole point of verse 3 is to not only countermand the previous statements by Miriam and Aaron, within the context of the Scripture it is showing that God does indeed speak through Moses. So the Bible establishes for posterity the Moses is indeed God’s mediator at the time and shows Miriam is not by afflicting her with leprosy for a week.

Spence, H.D.M., and Joseph Exell. "Leviticus-Numbers." The Pulpit Commentary. New Ed ed. Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. Unk. Print.

May 28, 2010

Examining The Scripture XX: The Spirit

We see in Numbers: Chapter 11 that Moses is beginning to feel overwhelmed by his duty as leader and mediator between God and His people. He was leading what was essentially a whining and petulant lot of people. Even God was angered by their antics and “consumed the outskirts of the camp with fire” at Taberah.

Moses pleads with God to either put him to death or help him. The Lord told Moses to bring Him 70 elders that are known as “leaders” at the Tent of Meeting. There God would take some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70. This is a striking parallel to the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. In preparation for this Moses gathers the allotted 70 and had them stand around the tent just as believers assembled together at Pentecost. Then in verse 25 the LORD takes of the Spirit and places it on/in the 70 gathered together and they prophesied, just as in Acts (Williams, Westbrook 324).

The only outstanding differences being that numbers being a solitary event whereas Acts was many believers repeatedly functioning in many supernatural activities Williams, Westbrook 325). This appears to be a shadow of the events that would unfold in the New Testament.

"So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp." ~Numbers 11:24-29

So...did Moses wish that the Lord's spirit come on all His people. Does this come true after Christ’s Resurrection? Yes and no. We need to determine exactly what Moses was meaning or intending when he said “prophets”. The narrative shows Moses hoped for a community a lot different than the one formed at Sinai, hoped for a community not let by a person but guided by the Spirit (Sailhamer 386). When Moses says “prophets” (Strong’s: H5030 nabiy’: generally a prophet but can mean inspired speaker), he is making a blanket reference to the spiritual gifts people have when they are aided by the Helper.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper – John 14:16.

The words “...another Helper” in Greek is [allos paraclete] meaning: "another Helper of the the same kind". Jesus was sending someone to help that was exactly like Himself, The Holy Spirit. Once this is understood we can then move on to 1 Corinthians 12 which directly references the gifts bestowed on the believer by the Holy Spirit which include prophecy in 1 Corinthians 12:10. If we read further though we find out through Paul’s rhetorical questioning in 12: 28-29 that not everyone is a prophet but people can, speak in tongues, heal, discern, etc. Of course 1 Corinthians 12 in general implies and has the tone that all believers have some type of gift that aids them somehow in some way. Combine this with the fact that Moses was probably making a general statement about the power of the Spirit/inspiration and subsequent spiritual gifts (plural), not just prophets…yes, I believe Moses wish came true. Moses being a true “servant of the servants” which foreshadowed Jesus, he hoped that all men would become partakers of God’s grace (Keil, Delitzsch). He did not want glory for himself, he wanted glory and recognition for the amazing work that God works in the believer. Moses understood that he was only a vessel for God to work through. He understood it so well that he was that much more useful for God because Moses had willingly divested himself of himself to allow God more room to work.

F., C., and Franz Delitzsch Keil. Commentary on the Pentateuch Volume 3 (Numbers - Deuteronomy). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1971. Print.

Sailhamer, Dr. John H. "Chapter 2: Exodus." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 386. Print.

Williams, William C, Westbrook, April. "Chapter 8: Through the Vast and Dreadful Desert." They Spoke from God: A Survey of the Old Testament. Springfield: Logion Press/Gospel Pub. House, 2003. 324-325. Print.

Examining The Scripture XIX: Holy Days

Brief Synopsis:
Not only do the offerings or Leviticus: Chapters 1-7 test the reading endurance of the more spiritual Christian, so too do the Feasts and Celebrations of Leviticus 23 which is what this post will elaborate on. They are hard to read and absorb without intense focus but we need to understand them to understand the Lord's "appointed times". Times that the Israelites were to proclaim as sacred assemblies. In some shape or form they are fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. I have again outlined the feasts as I had done with the offerings earlier in Leviticus. I will name the Holy day, when it was and what it was for. Please note that these celebrations are near planting and harvest times as the Israelites were primarily an agrarian society dependant on crops and the land. Hence the dire effects to the population during famines and droughts.

The Sabbath:

a. Every seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest. The Israelites were forbidden to work.

b. Not a feast but a holy day none the less.

The Passover

a. Celebration of God’s miraculous intervention on behalf of the Israelites in Egypt by destruction of the firstborn in households that did not have blood on the door sill.

b. Spring-First month (Nisan), on the 14th day of the month at twilight, is the Lord's Passover.

c. The Last Supper was a Passover meal.

Feast of Unleavened Bread

a. Bread made in haste just prior to the Exodus. Celebrates the Lord's deliverance.

b. Spring-First month (Nisan), on the 15th-21st day of the month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord

c. Seven days they ate unleavened bread.

The Feast of First Fruits (Barley)

a. Spring-First month (Nisan), on the 16th day of the month. Celebration of the first fruits of the harvest and of harvests to come. It is usually done as a wave offering. I have done my own personal study on this and found that Jesus Christ was the first fruits of the Resurrection.

b. Hebrews were to bring the first sheaves of the barley harvest and wave them before the Lord. At the beginning of the day representative leaders of the people would cut certain barley sheaves that had been set aside specifically for this purpose and bring them to the priest. The priest would then present them to the Lord by waving them back and forth. The purpose of this was to consecrate the harvest to the Lord. The first fruits were representative of the entire harvest. This act reminded Hebrews that the land and all its harvest rightfully belonged to God. The people are just stewards of the land.
Jesus fulfilled this feast when He became the first fruits resurrected from the dead. His beginning marked the beginning of the harvest of souls who have been set apart for God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Booker 48).

The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost

a. Celebration of the wheat harvest

b. Late Spring-Third month on 6th day (Sivan)

c. Seven weeks after Passover-First wheat harvest

The Feast of Trumpets (Day of Shouting)

a. Autumn-Seventh month on the 1st day

b. A solemn assembly where trumpet called shofar or ram’s horn is blown to prepare for Day of Atonement.

The Day of Atonement

a. Autumn-Seventh month on the 10st day

b. The day that the High Priest sacrificed the scapegoat to impart all of the sins of the people, then sprinkled its blood on the Mercy seat in the holiest place in the Temple.

The Feast of Booths/Tabernacles

a. Autumn-Seventh month on the 15st day

b. Living in booths as a reminder of forefather’s nomadic life wandering in the wilderness.

It is critical to understand that all of these feasts are feasts that celebrate Jesus Christ in some shape or form. As with everything else in the Bible we see all arrows from the Old and New Testaments pointing to the centrality of Jesus and His amazing work on the cross. In our day and age as we move farther and farther away from the age of the patriarchs and the time of Jesus we begin to lose touch with the purposes and the meanings of what the Bible contains. I look for Christ in everything in the Bible (and my life). Sometimes the story revolves around man or his fallen nature. Where it doesn’t apply to man it is usually somehow either pointing forward or backwards in time to “The Man!” the Son of God.

Booker, Richard. Jesus in the Feasts of Israel: Restoring the Spiritual Realities of the Feasts to the Church. South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1987. Print.

Hill, Andrew E., and Dr. John H. Walton. "Leviticus." A Survey of the Old Testament (Second Edition). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000. 110. Print.

Examining The Scripture XVIII: Scapegoat

Once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei) a Sabbath was proclaimed and atonement was made for the sins of the whole nation (of Israel). It is otherwise known as the Day of Atonement (modern Jews celebrate this as Yom Kippur). The main part of the ceremony was when the High Priest would take two goats for the community. One goat was marked by lot as belonging to the Lord and the other was a “scapegoat”. The goat belonging to the Lord was offered as a sin offering for the community and its blood was taken and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat (Ark of the Covenant). Its purpose was to to make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleanness of the people if Israel and because of their transgressions (Sailhamer 341).

After the sacrifice of the Lord’s goat the second live goat was presented. The High Priest would lay hands on one of two goats that was still alive and confessed all the sins of the nation (v.21). This “scapegoat” would then be allowed to wander away from the camp into the desert wilderness bearing with it the sins and “iniquities” of the Israelites (Sailhamer 341-342).

These goats foreshadowed the coming of the sacrifices the Lord Jesus Christ would need to make as propitiation for the sins of humanity as a whole.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted" ~ Isaiah 53:4

Comparatively, the sacrifices of the goats achieved atonement for Israel’s sin. They were a small and encapsulated form or what Jesus would do in His sacrifice for all of humanity, for all of their sins, for all time. The Sin Offering goat and scapegoat were not guilty of the sins committed by the Israelites just Jesus was innocent of the sins commit by all of humanity but because they (Jesus and the goats) had no sin, only they were acceptable as propitiation for God.

Often times sacrificial animals need to be “without blemish” to show symbolically that they were pure or without sin (like Christ). The blood or the life of the innocent living being was the atonement. Christ shedding His blood and dying on the cross bearing the sins of the world as a perfect man that never sinned acted as the blood sacrifice and scapegoat simultaneously in one act and it the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament Day of Atonement (McGee 400).

Jesus Christ, a final once-and-for-all sacrifice that was acceptable propitiation now and forever and acceptable in the eyes of God. Jesus Christ’s death was approbation and fulfillment of the ceremonial law. No further offerings would be necessary to please God after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Amen! Hence the tearing of the veil upon Jesus’ death. All believers would now have access the the Father when ever they needed to through Christ. Because of Jesus we had a perfect High Priest that ascended to the right hand of the father to act as our mediator with Him (Hebrews 4).

McGee, J. Vernon. "Exodus." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 400. Print.

Sailhamer, Dr. John H.. "Chapter 3: Leviticus." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 341-342. Print.

Examining The Scripture XVII: Holy Offerings & Sacrificial Instructions

The Laws for Offerings in Leviticus: Chapters 1-7

Brief Synopsis: The post is on the Law of the Offering(s), what it/they were for along with special instructions on how to perform the sacrificial rite itself. This is for all those that have trouble getting through these seven chapters without lapsing into narcolepsy.

The Burnt Offering: It was the basic offering to the Lord that expressed devotion and dedication to the Lord (Wiersbe 256)

1. The offering was brought by anyone to the tabernacle and would make atonement for he who offered it.
2. The priest was to burn all of it on the altar (1:9). When we surrender to God, we submit and surrender completely to Him. Anything less is denying Him what is rightly His anyway (Wiersbe 256).

The Grain/Meal Offering: It was an offering of flour presented either fresh, baked, fried or cooked (Sailhamer 324). Grain represented fruit of our labor and as such was a way for the Israelites to dedicate to God what He had allowed them to produce. Also represents the daily bread and The Bread of Life: Jesus (Wiersbe 257).

1. Portion was burned on alter, the rest went to the priest.
2. No leaven
3. The priest was to burn all of it on the altar. When we surrender to God, we submit and surrender completely to Him. Anything less is denying Him what is rightly His anyway.

The Peace Offering: Was an expression of thankfulness that the person offering was at peace with God or a right relationship and subject to God’s blessings if God saw fit to bestow them.

1. Only the fat portions and blood are burned, the rest eaten by priests and offerer. Because of this it is considered a form of fellowship.

The Sin Offering: Was to atone for unintentional violation of God’s commandments, false witness, oath violations, uncleanness, etc.

1. The higher the status of the sinner the greater the sacrifice required. The greater the privelage given by God the greater the consequences.
2. Fat burned on alter, remainder burned outside camp

The Guilt/Trespass Offering: Was for the restitution of wrong along with the atonement to God for the wrong itself (Wiersbe 327)

1. The sin was an offense to God first and foremost
2. The sin was against one’s neighbor

Sailhamer, Dr. John H.. "Chapter 3: Leviticus." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 324-329. Print.

Wiersbe, Warren W.. "The Sacrifices and The Savior." The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Genesis-Deuteronomy (The Pentateuch) (Bible Exposition Commentary). Acambaro: Victor, 2001. 256-260. Print

Examining The Scripture XVI: The Sinai Covenant

The Suzerian-Vassal Covenant at Sinai. A King (God) with sovereign power granting certain rights and special treatment for the Hebrews (the Vassal or subordinate) only if the Hebrews/vassal submit their allegiance/support/service to the King who is God Almighty. The conditions and details of the covenant are dictated by the King also.

Covenants are contracts between individuals that are given in order to define a relationship. The covenants of the Bible between man and God are completely unique to Christianity. Nowhere in the religions of the world does one find the gods relating to man covenantally. In Scripture, the personal relationship between God and man is based upon and mediated through means of covenants. The purpose of the covenants is to reveal God’s earthly agreements, spiritual promises, earthly redemption, and only hope for mankind. God wants to bind Himself to His people to keep His promises so that He can demonstrate in history His character (1).

Suzerain-vassal treaties were made between superior powers, called suzerains, and inferior peoples, called vassals. The treaties are well-attested in Hittite documents from the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C., but existed in Aramaean and Neo-Assyrian texts until the seventh century B.C. A suzerain-vassal treaty typically consists of six sections. Section one is a preamble, which names the suzerain who is formulating the treaty. Section two includes a historical prologue which lists the benevolent acts of the suzerain on behalf of the vassal. A set of stipulations, the obligations to which the vassals bind themselves, makes up section three. Section four details instructions for depositing the treaty in a safe place and for reading the treaty at designated intervals. In section five, witnesses are called to confirm the treaty. And section six outlines curses and blessings upon the vassals for obedience or disobedience to the treaty.

Exodus 20:1-2: "Yahweh" is the Suzerain delivers Preamble to Moses
Vassal-Lord: Moses who represents the people under Suzerain.
Names & Titles: "I am the Lord, your God."
Historical Prologue: "Who brought you out of Egypt..."
Exodus 20:3-17: Stipulations, blessings and curses.
Stipulations: The 10 Commandments;
Blessings and Curses: Exodus 20:5-6,20:7,20:12
Moses also makes provisions for depositing the treaty in the Ark of the Covenant and reading it at stipulated intervals in Deuteronomy 31:9-13.

**Also repeated to some extent in Deuteronomy**

The Suzerain-Vassal Covenant/Treaty is a conditional covenant. This type of covenant bound a subordinate vassal to a superior vassal. The nature of a biblical covenant is of two types: conditional and unconditional. A conditional covenant is of the nature that God makes a promise to man conditioned by “if you will” whereby He then promises to bring about the covenantal promises. It was binding only upon the one who swore it. The purpose of the covenant was to emphasize the goodness and kindness of the lord to his vassal with a view to cause the vassal to gladly accept his responsibilities and obligations. The covenants with Israel are disannulled because of her disobedience.

God agrees to to make Israel His treasured possession among all people. They shall be to Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (just like today; 1 Peter 2:5,9). They needed only to obey God’s voice and keep His covenant which at the point of Moses was the dispensation of the Law and this extended to the cross where Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law (McGee 263). Little did they know that agreeing to the Law was much easier than keeping it. As a matter of fact only One ever did and His name was Jesus.

Once they agreed to the covenant conditions and stipulations God informed them that He would come in a thick cloud that the people might hear when God spoke to Moses so that they would believe him forever. The people were to be consecrated for two days (today and tomorrow) including cleaning their garments and be ready by the third day for God’s arrival off of Mt Sinai in the “sight of all the people”. God is requiring that they sanctify themselves here. Just as we do today in our path to glorification in Christ. The idea of coming down of of Sinai after consecration indicated a physical and spiritual separation and distance from Him. God is not to be trifled with. He is a Holy God and we cannot just accidently stumble into his presence nor should we. They are warned if they touch the edge of the mountain, they die (a la Nadab & Abihu).

When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain. The Lord then descended in smoke and fire. With this, God fulfills his side of the covenant as outlined in subsequent verses of Exodus. I can't imagine the power these people faced when the Lord descended off the mountain. Awesome!

(1) "The Implications of the Biblical Covenants-Eternal Ministries, Inc.." Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2010.

Examining The Scripture XV: Exodus 14 Narrative vs. Exodus 15 Song of Moses

Exodus 14: Is mainly told as a first-party narrative account of the story of the Red Sea as told by Moses. It is an actual interpretive account set forth by Moses as the probable eyewitness and author. It shows through literal eyewitness accounts the amazing power of God over the most powerful empire on the earth at the time of this event. It documents know geographical landmarks and features such as the Red Sea, Pi-hahiroth, Migdol, Baal-zephon, etc. That would be like saying God intervened to stop the USA from doing something today in an obvious manner and mentioning Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading, Pennsylvania. It would be mind-blowing to say the least.

Exodus 15: Is the "Song of Moses" which was a poetic hymn of praise or worship for God for all of His mighty deeds and acts on behalf of the Moses and the Hebrew slaves. It is about the same exact account recorded by Moses in Chapter 14 but from a God praising view. Exodus 15:1-21 as a song/poem is the most ancient we know of. It is a holy song, to the honour of God, to exalt his name, and celebrate his praise, and his only, not in the least to magnify any man. Holiness to the Lord is in every part of it (Matthew Henry). It is the first song sung in Scripture (also the last Revelation 15, The Song of the Lamb), sung by a people who had been set free, redeemed miraculously. The Lord is portrayed as a mighty warrior. You can tell the events of Chapter 14 have had an enormous impact on Moses. The same Moses that has already had direct conversations with God, has now been viscerally impacted by what he has seen and experience. You really get a sense that this act of reverence and worship by Moses is divinely inspired because there is a mention of the fact that the Lord “will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.” Moses appears to be prophetic here because he is referring to the future and Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem on what is today the Temple mount (Sailhamer 269-272).

A poetic/song description of events also allows for a more colorful and metaphorical explanation of events which is especially helpful when trying to parley spiritual concepts to subsequent generations of Israelites. Because it is song or poetry it is especially effective at an emotional level. They are are called mentifacts and sociofacts, items of value within a culture that people would want to pass on to their children in an oral culture like the Israelites were at this time. A nomadic tribal culture that used song and poetry to pass on their heritage to the next generation without writing.

Sailhamer, Dr. John H.. "Chapter 2: Exodus." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 269-272. Print.

May 26, 2010

I Am Not Trying to Split the Atom

I have now gotten it coming and going. I was told some of my posts are to technical. Lately I have been old my posts are too simplistic. You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. My most current series of inductive in-depth personal study pieces "Examining The Scripture" are not turning over new stones or attempts to split the atom. It isn't like I am writing some new profound subcategory of theology or doctrine. If I was I wouldn't be surprised to see many people calling me out on it. As Solomon said:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." ~Ecclesiastes 1:9

I am not recreating the wheel I am trying to decipher the workings of the wheel and explain some of the neat stuff I find when I begin to pull it apart. I "shake the tree" in as sound a hermeneutical and exegetical manner as possible to see what comes out. I view things often from a 30,000 ft. perspective/context and then I zoom in to analyize all the nuances in the text(s) itself. I don't claim to find something that isn't already there I am only seeing if there is more depth to areas that I am studying. I have often found that Hebrew and Greek transliteration/translations aren't always linear and we loose some of the "color" bringing the original ancient texts across languages and across millenia.

Occasionally, because I approach the text from and odd angle I find something interesting. God laid out this wonderful book and it his chock full of stuff that warrants mentioning. I am only utilizing it and reading it with an eccentric and quirky personality to view it with a slightly tilted head. Often times I read stuff and write about it only to cock my head to the right in befuddlement at the truth I uncovered (kind of like my dog tilting its head when I make a high-pitch noise). I then pass these observations on to you.

May 25, 2010

Examining The Scripture XIV: Ten Plagues and The Destroyer

After the first seven plagues we see that the main effect on Pharaoh was that they hardened his heart towards Moses and by proxy, the Lord. This is exactly as the Lord had stated. On the eighth and ninth we see a change in wordage but it is generally understood that God is working behind the scenes the whole time hardening Pharaoh’s will. As we reach the later plagues it is not Pharaoh hardening his own heart, the Bible specifically states that God is helping him out exactly as the Lord said would happen. I’m guessing this is an example of God giving people over to their sin as mentioned in the expositional unit in Romans

“...since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” ~Romans 1:28 (paraphrase)

Anger builds on itself like a fire burning you over and over until the area being burned eventually becomes desensitized to pain or like habitual sin being committed. The sinner continues the sin until it appears completely normal and commonplace to them, all the while it is killing them faster and faster. God allows this to happen so that He could lay his “hand” on Egypt and bring His people out by a great “act of judgment”. This is so...not only would the Hebrews know that He was the Lord but the Egyptians also. The Egyptians are also subjected to the plagues with equal intensity that Pharaoh was. Towards the end of the plagues you see that the common Egyptian citizens relate to the plight of the Hebrews.

The Egyptians in Pharaohs entourage/court used sorcery/illusion to counteract the effect of God’s miracles. This is true in the case of the serpents, the water turned to blood, frogs. This begins to change with the plague of gnats. The sorcerers cannot emulate this miracle and they indirectly warn Pharaoh that this is “the hand of God”. You can sense a gradual "war of attrition" taking place between Pharaoh and Moses/God that Pharaoh is losing slowly but surely. You can sense as the plagues unfold, ever so slowly Pharaoh is being worn down and his will to resist fluctuates and I believe this is why the Lord steps in in the eighth and ninth plagues and helps Pharaoh’s heart-hardening along. He vacillates between releasing them and holding them back as if he is competing with some inner demon. Either that or he is purposely tormenting Moses and the Hebrews which is rather sadistic. Every time he has a chance to end the torment he opts to harden his heart and stubbornly hold them back. Towards the end he appears to plead with Moses to mediate with God to relieve him of the plagues but it is as if they are token gestures to buy time and relief.

The thing that surprised me is it appears there were indeed certain plagues that affected the Hebrews also because there is no statement of them being passed over such as the hailstones and infestation of locust, it looks like they (hail and bugs) struck everywhere destroying anything in their path including areas around Israelites. In other cases there are instances where it is explicitly stated that the plagues did not affect them such as the darkness, livestock death. It is kind of like the way mercy & grace is applied in certain measures in some people’s lives and not in others by God. Though we are all deserving of punishment in some form and measure, God meters it out as He sees fit. It’s as if God was saying, “Yeah, I’m punishing the Egyptian pagans now but if you don’t keep your ducks in a row and learn vicariously, you’re next!”

We then come to the tenth plague [obligatory pause] and the Destroyer.

"For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you." Exodus 12:23

"At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock." ~Exodus 12:29

The word translated as “The Destroyer” in Exodus 12:23 is the Hebrew word [Ha mashchiyth]. Ha (represented by the Hebrew letter Heh) is the definite article. mashchiyth (Strong's H4889) is derived from the verb shachath (Strong's H7843), which means “to decay, spoil, ruin, or destroy.” When the Ha prefixes a verb it signifies, “one who does something”. He decays/causes decay, he [is the] waster, he spoils, he ruins, he destroys. Utterly. Completely. If you're on the wrong side of this one (without blood), you're doomed there is no escape. It is a judgment of God. The Blood.

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. ~ Exodus 12:12-13

...the death of the firstborn and the climax of God’s hand working to the in benefit of the Hebrews in terms of plagues. The reason the tenth was most effective in releasing the slaves is because of what is said by the Lord Himself...

”Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely.” ~Exodus 11:1

It was because God said it would be so. Towards the end God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart for him. God was either making or allowing these things to happen either through selfish human motivations or by direct intervention. If God says something is going to happen, it’s going to happen. God will not be denied by man! He that creates life can take it away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Additionally, the plagues had now taken a direct attack on human life where the other plagues could’ve been attributed to nature like a man getting bonked on the head with a 10 inch hailstone, the tenth plague could not it was obviously selective, very deliberate and deadly in its outcome. There was intelligence behind this occurrence and the Egyptians knew it and feared for their lives. Lastly, we see the most eloquent example or foreshadowing of the Lamb Jesus Christ in the Old Testament here (McGee 235)

McGee, J. Vernon. "Exodus." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 235. Print.

May 24, 2010

Examining The Scripture XIII: No Worries, Mate!

Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and by proxy (for the Lord) they tell Pharaoh to let His people go to feast to Him (the Lord) in the wilderness. Pharaoh claims no knowledge of the Lord and refuses. This is not a great way to begin a mass exodus out of slavery. Because their (Moses & Aaron’s) visit apparently took people away from their work, not only does Pharaoh refuse release of the Hebrews he actually increases their burden. He forces them to make bricks for building without giving them straw to do so and demanding that they still meet their daily quota of bricks. This requires that they scavenge far and wide for the required straw to make the bricks. The foremen are subsequently beaten for not meeting the quota of brick. This sends up a lament from the Hebrews to Pharaoh asking why they are being treated this way. Pharaoh seems as if he mocks them at this point by mimicking their lament, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” He then tells them they are idle (lazy) and insists the quota remain the same.

The Hebrew slaves depart from Pharaoh and eventually turn their anger and frustration on Moses and Aaron claiming the Lord should judge Moses and Aaron for bringing this torment on them. Moses then does the same about-face to the Lord and posing the same line of petulant questioning, challenging God’s character by asking, “why have you done evil to this people?” and “why me?” completely failing to understand God’s purposes. There is doubt and a lack of faith on Moses behalf just as there is on the Hebrews.

God then asserts himself by re-establishing who He is and what He will do to Pharaoh. He reminds Moses of the covenant with Abraham and ends with a promise of deliverance from Egypt. The Lord commands Moses to to tell the people to reassure them that He will deliver them to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He also says (and this is one of my favorites) that God will “take you to be my people and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. This is a shadow of the believers like us also: Under the burden of the world and sin and to be delivered by the Lord. Moses spoke the words but the people didn’t listen because of their horrible yoke of slavery. The Lord then commands Moses to demand the release of His people from Pharaoh. Moses again flounders on this command because he claims he has uncircumcised lips which I believe is a reference to his known speech impediment.

Below is a short grocery list style of God promises (McGee 220):
• He’ll bring them out of Egyptian bondage
• He’ll get them out from under the burden of Egyptians
• He’ll redeem them with an outstretched arm
• He’ll take them to Himself as a people
• He’ll be their God
• He’ll bring them into the “promised” land
• He’ll give to them a heritage.

As it turns out, God had everything under control. We need only trust and believe in the Lord.

"...Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:23-24

McGee, J. Vernon. "Exodus." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 220. Print.

Examining The Scripture XII: Getting the Call

Moses departs Egypt at about 40 years old. He then spent another 40 years in the desert with the Midianites being divinely tempered and annealed by God for use in his ministry and the coming pressures of leadership. Moses gets his official call to come up to the Majors from God to begin his ministry in dramatic fashion...

Moses was married at this point and was tending Jethro’s flock leading them to the wilderness at Horeb or The Mountain of God. The Angel of the Lord appeared to him (a theophany; pre-incarnate Christ) in the burning bush. Moses was astounded that a bush was burning and was not being consumed. There is a parallel here in that the bush was akin to Moses himself but God was the empowering fire (shekinah). Alone, it was just a bush with no special attributes but with God’s presence it was miraculous and dumbfounding (Wiersbe 183). God had Moses attention at this point so He calls out to Moses audibly and Moses replies. God tells him to remove his sandals (reverence/respect) on holy ground and then proceeds to identify Himself as “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The warning about holiness of God’s presence is littered throughout the Old Testament up to the point in time when the Temple veil is torn after Christ’s death. The reason why is because we are to take God’s presence with deadly earnest and have a “fear and awe” for Him as is exemplified in the case of Uzzah touching the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7). God is never to be taken lightly. Ever.

God subsequently informs Moses that he is aware of the afflictions and sufferings of His/My people in Egypt and that He intended to deliver them to a land flowing with milk and honey (abundance) and names the area of the Canaanites, Hittites and all the other [insert ____ite here]. God then informs Moses that he is the vessel He intendeds to do it with. (i.e.: I have a plan, and guess who is going to help Me?”)

Moses then freaks out and makes excuse after excuse to get out of fulfilling what God has called him to do. God brushes these concerns aside and assures Moses things will be fine. Moses asks God what is name is and what he should call Him when referring to Him in conversation with the Israelites/Egyptians. God told Moses to refer to Him as the “God of your fathers” or “I AM WHO I AM”. The great “I AM” statement that will later be used by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John to claim His deity in the form of the “I AM” (ego eimi) statements. God then goes on to reiterate the promise that He will bring them “up” out of Egypt into the land of the Canaanites… God assured Moses they would listen. He goes further to explain that he and the elders of Israel will go to Egypt only to be rejected by the king Pharaoh until Pharaoh is compelled by God Himself to let them go. Not only would God compel Pharaoh to release them they would not go empty-handed.

Wiersbe, Warren W.. "Wanted: A Deliverer." The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Genesis-Deuteronomy (The Pentateuch) (Bible Exposition Commentary). Acambaro: Victor, 2001. 183. Print.

May 23, 2010

Book Review: The Cross of Christ-John Stott

As I have mentioned in the past, as a seminary student, I read prolifically and memorize most of what I read. It is the nature of my calling and part of the spiritual gifts God has been so gracious bestowing on me. If a book doesn't appear to be worth retaining in memory as I read it, often times I will just stop reading and drop the book off at the local used book store. If I complete the book and deem it worth a second read, potentially usable as reference or borrowable I will pack it away. Very rarely will I put it back on the shelf with new books on with my Bibles and commentaries to use either as a reference or for self-edification.

John Stott achieves something with this book that brings the Cross of Christ to the modern day reader in real time. The pain, betrayal, the centrality of Jesus, the torture, the suffering, the love, the sacrifice and clearly, the salvation and victory over evil.

It is broken into four parts. The first three are the indicative. The information that needs to be assimilated, digested, pulled apart into its constituent parts so that all the spiritual and mental nutrients can be extracted from it. He builds his case thoroughly and effectively over the first three portions:

Part One: Approaching the Cross
The Centrality of the Cross
Why did Christ Die?
Looking below the surface

Part Two: The Heart of the Cross
The Problem of Forgiveness
Satisfaction for Sin
The Self-substitution of God

Part Three: The Achievement of the Cross
The Salvation of Sinners
The Revelation of God
The Conquest of Evil

The last part is the imperative or how and what we are to do with the information we glean from the first three parts. After having built the case of the first 3/4 of the book he then expounds on how its applied and used in our lives. How are we to live now that we are Christians. How we are to apply the information we have learned to our discipleship and in our evangelism. We are called to sacrifice what we selfishly want and empty ourselves to allow God to work in us. To slip on His yoke and abandon the world's.

Part Four: Living under the Cross
The Community of Celebration
Self-understanding and Self-giving
Loving our Enemies
Suffering and Glory

Bottom-line is this: If you are not convicted by your sin to some extent after reading this book, you need to check yourself for a pulse. If you have one you had better examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. This book is real. Very real. It is also very biblical and very visceral. You cannot walk away having read this book and not be affected by it at some level. Very few books crack my top 10 this one is in the top 5.

Addendum: Since it was a concern to a reader online I will state that this book does not mention or become affected by Stott's view on Annihilationism. I am aware of his recent stance that Hell may not exist as punishment and this recent view is clearly apostasy. I wish to lead no one astray. If I thought this book would do so I would've never have posted this review. Sadly, Mr Stott has either "turned to the right or to the left" since penning this book because this book is dead-on and frankly I find it excellent. Regardless, Jesus Christ was explicitly clear on the topic of Hell and eternal punishment/seperation from God. Hell exists, it is real and you do not want to be there, eternally seperated from Him. 'Nuff said. It is a shame John Stott diverged from sound doctrine since writing this book as .

Rating: 100 of 100

Examining The Scripture XI: Lawn Ornaments

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. ~Genesis 35:1-4

God command Jacob to go to Bethel build and alter and to live there and he obeyed. He was given a directive/mandate from God and he did what he was told in short order. With this Jacob starts to help mediate between God and the people of his family/clan in a spiritual manner. He takes on the roll of spiritual leader of his household and the spinelessness and conniving of his youth begins to dissipate. He tells his family to put away their foreign gods (idols) and they obey. What we begin to see is a turn away from the things of the world and a turn towards God by both Jacob and the people in Jacobs family. As it turns out all the family needed was a firm leader, God, through Jacob.

Strangely, this is not much different today. Many people including professing Christians serve things of the world (sports, work, family) and then turn to God on Sundays in acts of worship and praise. We pursue things of the world and earthly pursuits until God intervenes with His call to us to join him. We have God very clearly stating in Exodus 20 that man shall have no other gods before Him. It is interesting to note that Jacob (like us) did not have faith to move out on his own, it isn't until God directly intervenes that he is prepared to go (McGee 142).

So where did they get them? The idols that is.

Jacob had married the daughters of Laban, Rachel and Leah (Zilpah) was her servant. Rachel stole Laban’s household gods in Genesis 31:19.

"He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father's household gods. And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee." ~Genesis 31:18-20

This tells me that there was worship of false gods in the portion of the family that fled Laban or someone that had left with the entourage that fled Laban. All things considered, the Israelites (Semitic Tribes) were monotheists worshiping a single God surrounded by cultures who were either die-hard polytheists(people that worshipped multiple gods), pantheists (worshipped things of the creation) or they were flat out paganism's. This becomes an issue with Moses at Sinai with the golden calf also.

This whole incident can also be a lesson in hidden sin. We all have it. It is just a matter of whether we admit its there. We either purposely hide it our we are just not aware of it or do not recognize it for what it is. God sees all sin the same, sin is sin. This is why we should pray that the Lord helps us with the stubborn sin our lives that we are willing to hide and lie about so we can keep it.

Sin also comes in all shapes and sizes just like idols. Unfortunately, the sin isn't always as obvious as and obnoxious as an idol. We should also pray that the Lord expose to us the ones we cannot see or do not know are there. As I have said before, it is the holes below the water line that we cannot see or the ones that are hidden from view that sink the boat.

As for idols...we don't need to make them in physical form and people generally don't cognizantly deify inanimate objects nowadays (except Reiki, etc). The question is do people do it without realizing it? Blantant idolatry is easy to spot, stealthy sin is not. I believe instead...our mind does a much more effective job of creating idols that we don't even realize are idols, we don't need the lawn ornaments anymore. It isn't even worth the effort to make them in material form, you know, the ones that look like they've been made from cement(like lawn ornaments). The problem is that most don't realize they adore and worship idols of the mind. Anything that exalts itself before God or comes before God in your life physically OR mentally may very well have become your idol. It is written that even lust, evil desires & covetousness are idolotry.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5

...and for those that are really lazy and can't even make their own false god our industrialized society will accomodate you by making them for you en masse. They are all equally worthless. You can't pray to the one's you create in your head, the ones you buy and you can't pray to lawn ornaments and expect an answer. If they do answer isn't God anyway. You better run.

Question: What is the difference between a Garden Gnome and Buddha Statue?
Answer: Nothing.

No, it wasn't a joke.

Mcgee, J. Vernon. "Genesis." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson

Examining The Scripture X: Isn't It Ironic?

Exodus 2 come to life...

Isn't it ironic that: In the story of the defenseless infant Moses' who, like infant Jesus in the New Testament...weren't really defenseless. Who could stand against them when it was God on their side?

Isn't it ironic that: In the story of the "Big, Bad" Pharaoh who, like "Big, Bad" Herod in the New Testament...were indeed defenseless against God and (pardon the pun) didn't have a prayer in Hades. Please note that I am not talking about the motivation behind these two leaders. Their motivations clearly had nefarious origins and were satanic attempts to kill the Messiah or stop God's chosen. Because Satan is not omniscient or omnipotent he did not know when and where the Messiah would show up exactly. He did have a good idea of the lineage and attacked it furiously through Israelite history...and he nearly succeeded a few times. But God Almighty is omnipotent and sovereign and He has control over everything in His creation. Nothing happens in his creation (including the Devil) without Him being aware of it.

We can see quite a few ironic similarities too profound to ignore other than these in this chapter and I will elaborate on them now.

Isn't it ironic the Levite woman Jochebed (Moses' mother) hid him three months and eventually had to put Moses in the water and give him up to God totally. Moses would inevitably give up his life of prestige and power in Egypt to go back to his people the Hebrews. He would then, because of his love for God eventually even separate himself a little from the Hebrews to be the mediator between God and the Hebrews.

Moses seems as though he is always being set apart from the things of the world at any given time to fulfill specific purposes that all lead to a closer relationship with the Almighty. Isn't it ironic that this runs parallel to the idea of the believer today who purposely sets himself aside like a clay jar or vessel for holding the unsurpassable treasure inside (2 Corinthians 4:7) because we are not of this world anyway (John 17:16).

Isn't it ironic that under a sentence of death, baby Moses is cast into the Nile for protection. Then he was drawn out of the reed-filled water which is a shadow of how Israel would later be rescued from the sea (Williams, McQueen 232). If we look forward we can even see the shadows of the baptism of the believer where man will be submerged to symbolically kill the old self and acknowledge a new creation in Christ which is pretty much what the story of the Exodus foreshadows. The believer is in and of the world, the exit of the believer from the old life into the new which is a relationship with the Lord here on earth and then eternally in heaven is by killing the old self and putting on the new man.

Isn't it ironic that Pharaoh demanded the lives of all the newborn males and this is in direct parallel to the death of the firstborn males in the Passover that were taken/killer by the destroyer. The exact power that stayed Pharaoh’s hand from killing Moses is the exact power that took the firstborn including Pharaoh’s. The ultimate irony is after the Passover all firstborn were to be consecrate to God. Whatever was the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, was to be God’s. God took to Himself the one’s Pharaoh wanted dead.

Lastly, isn't it ironic that, along the story lines of the Passover and Moses’ birth...a “bunch of Hyssop” was used to smear the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts. Hyssop was a wild plant and the instrument to “transfer” the blood (life) to the door to protect and spare the lives of the obedient during the Passover. Bulrushes which are another form of wild plant that grew in the water, was woven together into a basket as a means to “transfer” Moses down the Nile to spare his life.

Is it it ironic? Yes, it is. Is it an accident? Never. It is situational irony either orchestrated by or allowed by God for humanity's benefit, an irony with a purpose. Cool.

Williams, William C.; McQueen, Larry. "Chapter 2: In The Beginning." They Spoke from God: A Survey of the Old Testament. Springfield: Logion Press/Gospel Pub. House, 2003. 232. Print.

May 21, 2010

Examining The Scripture IX: You're Not As Good As You Think

If there is one thing I am horribly convicted of and nearly certain is this: Many people including myself have not or do not fully understand holiness and/or the impact of its true purpose in our salvation. Perhaps this statement is better phrased this way: We as humans do not realize how far from God we really are and how wicked and sinful we really are. How often do we believe or claim to be righteous and in a right relationship with God when truth couldn’t be farther from us? We claim closeness with God yet we do not abide in Him or we wholly reject His commands.

“They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” ~Numbers 16:3

Even after we have our shortcomings shown to us in a way that we couldn’t possibly deny them we continue to grovel and whisper in a sinister manner under our breath, "Nah, not me, that guy is too legalistic" or "He's too confrontational and dogmatic" (Num 16:41). To truly understand the depth of human sinfulness it is paramount that people understand the ceremonial system, how it extensive it was and the ideas behind the Law and sacrifices in the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy).

Sadly, there are many people that have read the iterations of Law in the Bible and they either walk away scratching their heads never to read them again or they say, “Ugh, its just a bunch of names and rules”. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and if this is the impression people walk away with, they’ve read these books improperly and with the wrong heart. We need to understand the Pentateuch and the laws and rules it contains to know and understand Jesus Christ and to understand what He saved us from, what He atoned for. It helps us understand why we need to and should strive to be like Christ, to strive to be near Him in a relationship. To fully understand why we need to understand books like Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers where rules for the Israelites are laid out plain as day and understand why they were instituted. They in turn will convict us and help us figure out how far we are from the desired ideal of Jesus Christ. Once we have the correct relationship and understanding with Christ we can then have a clearer perspective of our position in relation to holiness and by association, to God. Once this happens we will never approach God the way we have in the past. It will no longer be acceptable to have a cavalier attitude towards our sin.

We lose the full devastating impact of sin and mankind’s horrid condition if we ignore or trivialize the Old Testament’s strict levels of quality control to improve man's holiness. All people should understand what Jesus fulfilled when He approbated the ceremonial law on the cross and at the Resurrection. Some underestimate the need for such high levels of holiness. To do this we underestimate the need for a right relationship with God. We need the holiness to have the relationship with God the way that he expects it because we have to play by His rules. There is no other way regardless of what our pluralistic society has insisted upon. Pluralistic society is wrong. It is on God’s terms or no terms. We either meet His demands or we will be separated from Him. If we don’t figure this out by our dying day the separation is permanent and the outer darkness is absolute. It is where God’s wrath resides.

We are to have a love/loving relationship with God. One of the ways we show our love relationship is by obedience to His word, His commands and by default Him. To disobey the word, His command is to disobey God. The relationship will obviously be an unequal relationship because God is infinitely greater and capable of perfect love but He desires this relationship none the less. He wrote the entire Bible because He wants this relationship. The obedience He wants is not the cold, dehumanized and distant response like a soldier obeying military commands at a military outpost but rather as a result of a close, honest and reverent love for God. A God that always has our best interests in mind. He wants a relationship that is the product of an honest assessment of ourselves and a realization that we are just not capable of doing or creating anything of any lasting value for Him or without Him. In the end if we show a love like this towards God and towards other human beings it will show our faithfulness to God.

To help us keep all this in perspective I need to mention one more thing. As an indicator of man's inability to grasp God and the need for us to rely on God and the work of the Spirit in our lives we should look at Joshua 24. Joshua exhorts the Israelites to "serve the Lord"...

"...therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether h the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ~Joshua 24:14-15

The people then answer Joshua ending in verse 18 "we will serve the Lord"

Joshua's reply?

"You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God..." ~Joshua 24:19

Why does he say this? Think for a minute. These people had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years in the PRESENCE OF GOD and they still couldn't serve Him properly because He is that holy and we are that sinful.

May 20, 2010

Examining The Scripture VIII: The Midwives Tale

If you begin reading the second book of the Bible/Pentateuch, Exodus 1 and you leave behind the "Wandering Aramean" you firmly enter the "gift if the Nile", Ancient Egypt. We quickly learn the decendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are no longer favored by those in control of Egypt. The Hebrews had been very fruitful and multiplied as God had commanded them and the Egyptians began to be wary that, in the event of war, the Hebrew’s numbers in the joining the ranks of the Egyptian's enemies would be too much to overcome. So immediately in the first chapter of Exodus we see the subjugation of the Israelites. The paranoid king in Egypt enslaved the Hebrews and oppressed them horribly. Inevitably they began to fear a slave revolt also. An ethical situation arose. Pharaoh had passed an edict that required that Shiprah and Puah kill any son/male born to a woman on the birth stool/giving birth as opposed to a daughter which was allowed to live.The midwives having a fear of God disobeyed the Pharaoh and allowed male children to live. Although they appeared to be Egyptian they did not obey Pharaoh. According to Wiersbe, this is the first instance in scripture of a “civil disobedience” or refusal to obey an obviously evil law because of a higher moral law or good (Wiersbe 181).

The midwives are confronted by Pharaoh and asked why they allowed the male Hebrew newborns to live. The midwives essentially passed blame to the pregnant Hebrew woman stating they were “vigorous and give birth before the midwife gets to them” or forced their labor along. We do not know for sure from the text that this wasn’t the truth. I’ve heard knowledgeable people say they did lie and it is dubious at best to day they didn’t but the text doesn’t appear to tell us for sure. It only tells us that God gave the midwives their own families as a blessing and I have a hard time believing God would reward lying. The only clue is the words “said unto Pharaoh” in Hebrew the word for said is ‘amar (Strong’s H559: ‘amar [Qal]: this can mean to say in one's heart or to swear/make oath in this context). In modern English this could mean they swore/made oath to Pharaoh, possibly even in truth. A fear for their lives could’ve caused this too.

Normal human reasoning says they might’ve fibbed to save their lives but we are talking about the Bible and God acting directly in the creation. In these situations, all bets are off. When we enter into God’s reality (even in a Bible reading) we often times need to suspend disbelief in things that seem too far-fetched because we end up limiting an infinite God. If we do not suspend belief, what otherwise may have been fact appears to be myth or fiction. This instance with the midwives very well could’ve been God’s providence and sovereignty at work allowing these women one possibility of an honest exit out of this moral dilemma. I’ve learned not to limit God’s ability to get things done even when it appears the avenue of escape is too narrow to get through (aka Red Sea). Of course Pharaoh was a fool and kept trying to kill the newborn males and God equally continued to thwart and frustrate him. God is an amazing God.

Wiersbe, Warren W.. "Dark Night Of The Soul." The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Genesis-Deuteronomy (The Pentateuch) (Bible Exposition Commentary). Acambaro: Victor, 2001. 181. Print.

Examining The Scripture VII: I Will Bless Those That Bless You

In Genesis 12:1-3 we see what is called the Abrahamic Covenant and the promises God made to Abram who eventually is renamed Abraham. God promised Abram that He would make him into a great nation, that He would bless him, that his name would be great, that Abram himself would be a blessing or more specifically the people of the earth would be blessed through Abram/Abraham (Isaac, Jacob, Judah…to Jesus). Conversely, those who cursed Abram or his lineage would be reciprocally cursed. The blessing leads to Jesus Christ which means the main blessing is redemption, salvation from sin, eternal life and all the benefits of being co-heir with Jesus the Messiah(praise God!) and all the rewards that come with accepting what Jesus did on the cross. To anyone that accepts.

There is a connection to Genesis in that Genesis 3:15: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." was the “Protoevangelium” or first announcement of the Gospel. Some descendant of Eve in humanity would crush the head (symbol of power in the Old Testament times) of the serpent/Satan. The Abrahamic Covenant narrows that to the lineage of Abraham.

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. ~Genesis 15:6

We then jump ahead to Genesis 15:6 to a core theological verse in the Bible. It was by faith in the fact that God existed and that He would fulfill what He promised that Abram would be saved. He believed God. This faith was credited to him as righteousness. We are not saved by making promises to God (works) we are saved by believing the promise of God (Wiersbe 81). Righteousness in the theological Christian sense is living a Godly life conformed to God’s commands and it is the righteous who will enjoy God’s favor. This ends up leading into New Testament theology. All have sinned and need God’s righteousness “imputed” to us or “put against our accounts”. For the descendants of Abraham were saved the same way that we are saved today, believing in God’s promise of the Messiah to come (Jesus). In the Old Testament it was the coming of or the promise of Messiah. In the New Testament in is the faith in Christ and His completed work at Calvary. Abram’s belief is critical here. Without it there is no covenant because belief is Abram’s side of the agreement/covenant to uphold. By faith Abraham was justified (Romans 4:16-18).

Wiersbe, Warren W.. "Dark Night Of The Soul." The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Genesis-Deuteronomy (The Pentateuch) (Bible Exposition Commentary). Acambaro: Victor, 2001. 81. Print.

Examining The Scripture VI: Dream On

Dreams were incredibly important to those in the Old Testament because it was often one of the mediums that God communicated through to reveal truths to man or reveal His mighty plans. Joseph is no exception in Genesis 37. Joseph first dreamt that he and his brothers bound sheaves of wheat and Joseph’s stood upright and his brother’s gathered around and bowed down to his. His second involved the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing to him. These dreams clear had a profound affect on Joseph's brothers but not in a positive way. His brothers were clearly jealous of him because they knew that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite (hence the robe of many colors) and quite frankly they were incensed. Reiterating the dreams to his brothers just added salt to the existing wound. The idea was totally perpostuous to the brothers. As we will learn from further reading they wanted to kill him with only Judah and Reuben dissenting in any form.

As for the effect it had on Joseph’s parents, they were not so quick to judge as harshly. It is clear Jacob held Joseph in high regard and saw something in him. Because of this Jacob kept his dreams a bit more seriously and kept the stories of Joseph’s dreams in mind because it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities that they would come true or have deeper meaning in Jacob’s way of thinking.

As we jump forward in Joseph's life we see him called upon for his ability to understand and interpret dreams that would forever effect the future of his family and subsequently the nation or Israel. Pharaoh was on the banks of the Nile River and saw 7 cows that were plump and came out of the Nile and fed on the reed grass. Seven additional cows came up after the first seven and were thin and ugly and ate the first seven plump cows. Even after the thin cows ate the fat ones they stayed thin. Pharaoh also saw seven ears of corn growing on one stalk. Seven ears withered and blighted sprouted after the first seven. Again, the first seven were eaten by the thin withered ears, just as the cows

Joseph explains to all that the seven good cows are seven years and seven good ears are seven years and the dreams though separate, are one and the same. The seven ugly cows that came up after them are seven years also, seven empty ears blighted are also seven years of famine. There were to be seven years of plenty throughout Egypt’s sphere of influence followed by seven years of famine in which the years of plenty would be forgotton.

These appeared to be prophetic predictions to man but as Joseph explains to Pharaoh, God was revealing to Pharaoh what He was about to do. Because God sees all points in time the same, to God these were not foretelling or prophecy, they were fact. God had a plan.

At the end of Joseph's story we have learned a powerful and profound theological lesson about God. No matter what God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient and Joseph realizes this. It is God who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10; Revelation 1:8, 22:13). What may look like a disaster to man is all part of God’s divine plan for all of us and Himself. We often assume that we are being punished for something we did wrong. Often we are correct in this assumption. Sometimes we are not. Sometimes God pushes us through trials that are more about enduring that enjoying. These trials and tests build perseverance and perseverance through trial and tribulations is/are to build our character. These sufferings make us humble and better able to do the will of God. It is through our suffering that God exalts us just as He did his Son in the Kenosis in Philippians 2. Regardless of what happens, good, bad, or ugly, God is in charge, has always been in charge and always will be in charge. He is sovereign over all in His creation (and outside of it).

Another item worth mentioning is the fact that Joseph’s brothers again fell down before him to honor him but this time Joseph rejected this act of reverence because I believe he understood that this is the proper act of reverence and worship that should only be reserved for God Almighty and states as much by asking the rhetorical question, “am I in the place of God”. Joseph understood his place in all of this. He knew he wasn’t really in control even though he had earthly power and was second only to Pharaoh. It was only through Gods “doings”, His mercy, and His grace that things turned our good for everyone and this applies to us all. Joseph knew that he was a servant to the servants of God and that mindset make s true Godly leader in God’s kingdom.

Examining The Scripture V: Which Way Did They Go?

And now...a quick geocultural pitstop. After the flood and after Noah’s drunken incident, the sons of Noah departed and went in different directions. They obeyed God and his command to Noah and his descendants

“And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.” Genesis 9:7

The sons of Japheth had to have spread west because coastlands of the nations were separated everyone according to language, family and nation. Coastlands would indicate towards modern day Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Sea areas around Asia Minor/modern day Turkey.

The sons of Ham went east initially towards Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar from that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen (Mesopotamia) which is modern day Iraq near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Later generations (Canaanite clan) appear to have ended up, well, just about everywhere: Sidon (N. Israel), Gerar, Gaza (S. Israel), and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah (S. Dead Sea area), Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. According to the MacMillan Bible Atlas ultimately the descendants of Ham ended up in the sphere of influence around Egypt (Aharoni 15).

The sons of Shem went to the area of Mesha and Sephar, the hill country of the east or Mesopotamia and Arabia. It is obvious that these descendants were not complete separated. There are clear areas of overlap between Shem and ham in the Arabian and Mesopotamian areas. Ironically all of the divisions of these nations intersect at the region of the Holy Land (Aharoni 15).

Aharoni, Yohanan. "The Families Of The Nations In Their Lands." The Macmillan Bible Atlas. Revised ed. Indianapolis: Macmillan USA, 1977. 15. Print.

May 19, 2010

God Does Heart Surgery

This post is sort of a continuation of my "Examining the Scripture #3: Why Has Your Countenance Fallen?" When I say continuation I mean in terms of God being concerned about the condition of our hearts because it reflects on our ability to pursue holiness or be holy.

What is really important to God? Ritual transactions that are only for outward appearances or the heart condition? Why did He make the Laws? The ordinances and the statutes? Why did he want people to obey them. Why did He punish them and why does he still divinely punish those that disobey? Why does man create laws? Man does it for the same reason God did. To stop and undesired action.

What is more interesting about God's law in the Pentateuch/Torah is that they deal very little with commercial issues and the more secular issues like explicit rules for business, individual cases of infraction or incidences by individuals. Instead the Pentateuch deals with all kinds of religious laws, ethical and moral at their "heart". And therein lies the crux of the issue. The heart. Making a human stop undesired actions by passing a law and physically enforcing it through imprisonment or in the case of the Old Testament, physical or corporal punishment, well, that's the easier part. Correcting the heart condition is a much harder propostion. If it was easy we would not have prisons, repeat offenders and chronic sin running rampant in the world. Its about rehabilitation. Its about renewal. We are told we are to become new creations.

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26

When you hear that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He is more than just a Good Shephard of our lives and actions, what He really is is the Good Shepherd of our hearts and minds because it is here that the impetus of actions lie. Without actions we are essentialy dead. Our life is made up of actions. Some good and righteous in the eyes of God after our salvation in Christ and some are bad and sinful before AND after our salvation. The trick is to lower the ratios of good to bad. Make good more and make bad less. God understands that this takes time becasue after all, we are human and quite fallen (and often times really dumb). The change is often times very gradual and so miniscule in its movement towards the positive side that it is inperceptable to a human eye. But we're not doing this based on human eyes are we? We are not being judged by human standards. Our standards. This is why the Bible tells us to gauge our actions and movements on the Bible and God's word. We vasilate, God and his word does not. When we rely on "us" and our perceptions of what we think is right or wrong it can lead to frurstration and backsliding because from our vantage point it looks like we are spinning our wheels.

The Laws and Israelites in the Old Testament at the time of the Pentateuch show a set of laws necessary for the Israelites a the time of the Pentateuch. The Laws were layed down and stayed the same never changing because God knew what they Israelites would need long before they would and God inevitablely added to them as the Israelites were capable and able to handle them. Once laid down they did not change, they were only added to. Why? Becuase the Israelites relationship with God matured. Jsut as we give stricter and stricter rules with more and more complexity to our children as they grow older and mature in their relationship with us (I could go off on a tangent about how God layed out the authority structure for the family for this exact reason...but that's a different post for another time).

Enter ===> Sanctification

Sanctification comes from the verb sanctify. Sanctify originates from the Greek word [hagiazo: to be "separate" or to be "set apart]. In the Bible, sanctification generally relates to a sovereign act of God whereby He "sets apart" a person, place, or thing in order that His purposes may be accomplished. In the book of Exodus, God sanctifies a place of worship.

"And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory," says Exodus 29:43

Even a day can be sanctified as seen in Genesis 2:3 where the seventh day is "set apart" as a holy day of rest. "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made."

Similarly, when a person is sanctified he or she is being set apart by God for a specific divine purpose. What God is setting us apart for is to make us holy or more holy. God was initially using the Law to try and sanctify His fallen creation. Did he know that no man other than Christ would be able to fulfill and obey the Law? Of course He did...but man didn't. God need to show man through example over and over and over and over and over (ad nauseum) in the Old Testament that it is nothing that man does but the work of God that saves man. A man dead to sin cannot make choices. Deadmen are deaf and blind. How can they respond to a beckoning or call if they cannot see or hear and are dead in their sin? Enter===>Jesus Christ to do this and save us from our sin.

What were the rules and laws for that were laid down that Jesus Christ eventually fulfilled? To make us more holy and allow a relationship with God that had been destroyed or at least warped and twisted in the Fall in Genesis 3. So that we could approach God any time we wanted with Jesus as an intermediary on our behalf acting as the High Priest just as the High Priests had done in the Old Testament. We no longer had to wait until the Day of Atonement once a year to approach God. So now you understand how and why Christ needs to play into the overall plan.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." ~Romans 8:28-30

Not only did we need Him to fulfill the Law because no one else could, we also needed Him to justify us in God's eyes and then move us forward in holiness. Saving us or justifying us in the eyes of God only gets us back to ground zero. We then need to sanctify ourselves with Christ/Holy Spirit assistance to move us off of the baseline at ground zero and move us forward because the evidences that you are saved is that you continue to move forward in Christ.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:4-7

Synopsis: God wants a heart change. Obedience is a manifestation of that heart change. Obedience to laws laid down by God help make us more holy and acceptable to God. This acceptance allows us to approach Him. Since we couldn't fulfill the laws fully, Christ did it for us, and died for our sins or disobedience's that we couldn't fulfill on our own. When we accept what Jesus has done for us we are justified and expunged of past sins. We can have a close relationship with God becasue we are holy. Why is this of paramount importance? Where do you think you'll be spending eternity marveling and worshipping God's limitlessness and greatness?

May 18, 2010

Examining The Scripture IV: Somewhere Over the Bow Of Me

"And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its u life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.” ~Genesis 9:1-7

God established His covenant with Noah and with Noah’s descendants after him and “every living creature that is with you” forever (Strong’s H5769: o-lawm'-to the vanishing point). It is an eternal covenant as are all of God’s covenants because He is eternal, unchanging, omniscient and perfectly righteous and holy. God still allows dominion over the animals because the dread of humans by animals remains “on every beast of the earth”. God is allowing protection from animals. In verse 6 there is a statement of reprisal for shedding man’s blood. God is protecting Noah and his descendants from human enemies. There is also a statement that God will not again destroy the earth by “flood” or water.

"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” ~Genesis 9:11-17

The sign of God’s covenant would be a bow (rainbow) in the clouds. More specifically it says (Strongs H853:’eth and H7198: qesheth) “bow of Me/me”. God makes this covenant with emphasis (because it gets repeated three different ways in verses 13, 14 & 16). I have learned when God repeats things or emphasizes them (i.e.: verily verily), we as readers need to take special note. John Sailhamer seems to think it is emphasized because of the similarity to the covenant at Sinai and the appearance of the glory of God in “the clouds”(Sailhamer 128). On mans side God obligates Noah and descendants to obey their end of the bargain which is to “not eat flesh with its life” or to eat the blood of the animal but they were now allowed to eat meat (flesh) as they had eaten the green plants. God was also demanding the lifeblood of animals AND man for Himself. Man’s lifeblood and the value of man in general is emphasized because man is made in the image of God.

As with all of God's covenants they are eternal. When God makes a deal with man He keeps it. It is man whom is untrustworthy and defaults on covenants.

Sailhamer, Dr. John H.. "Chapter 1: Genesis." Pentateuch as Narrative, The. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995. 128. Print.

Examining The Scripture III: Why Has Your Countenance Fallen?

God warns Cain with a rhetorical question. What lesson do we learn about sin from God’s question and Cain's response?

"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?

The symbolic language is “why has your countenance fallen” which means Cain’s anger was getting a hold on him and if he didn’t gain control over it it would consume him (Rad 105). It is like the old saying, “Where the mind leads the body follows”. It is along the same lines as the analogy that Jesus used when referring to murder and a person’s anger in the Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5:21-22) and that anyone who is angry at his brother is subject to judgment just like a murder. Why? Attitude determines action. Sin can affect the thought process adversely. As a man thinketh; so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

Sin is ever present and waiting for us to act on it. If we do what is right or what God has commanded we will be fine but if we turn away from God and what he has put forth for the well-being of man in disobedience, sin will gain the upper hand. It is also clear that God expects us subdue it which also means that he not only holds us responsible for our actions, He actually expects us to actively suppress sinful desires. Passively resisting sin would still be considered sin in this instance.

Inevitably we learn an enormous amount also from Cain's response to God's later question.

" Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said,“I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” Genesis 4:9

J. Vernon McGee seems to think it is all about heart intent, as do I, even though the text is not entirely clear (McGee 29). The reason God rejected Cains offering more than likely was related to the condition of his heart at the time of the offering. Abel offered the firstborn and their fat portions, the first and the best. Cain on the other hand offered "in the course of time" which means he "got around to it" and offered "fruit of the ground". Additionally, Jude 11 states, "They have gone the way of Cain". The way of Cain would indicate intent. For any human being to go in any "way" would require conscious thought, attitude or motivation to do so. We now in hindsight that Cain's "way" was wrong and evil. Again was see that attitude of the heart determines action of the man (Matthew 5:21-22). Although the offering was suitable for Cain, it was not suitable for God. Although we should not get so wound up it so much as to why God rejected rather we should observe Cain's reaction and the outcome.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Genesis 4:3-5

This is no different than the heart condition behind believers as noted by Jesus Christ.

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me..." Matthew 15:8

God didn't want smoking carcasses or sacrifices in general as much as He wanted a "heart change". We need to sacrifice ourselves as "living sacrifices" as noted in Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:1-2

As for Cain's response, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes, as a matter of fact, we are. We are to love God with all our hearts...and our neighbors who could very well be our brother. Addtionally we are not to take anothers life without cause or frivolously.

"And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” ~Luke 10:27

"...From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." Genesis 9:5-6

“You shall not murder.' ~Exodus 20:13

Whatever is in your heart eventually comes to the surface. If you can remove it from your heart, it will never see the light of day.

Mcgee, J. Vernon. "Genesis." Thru the Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1983. 29. Print.

Rad, Gerhard Von. "The Biblical Primeval History." Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library). Revised ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1972. 105. Print.
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