Acts 4:1-4, The First, But Not the Last.

1] Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2] being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  3] And they laid hands on them, and put them into custody until the next day, for it was already evening.  4] However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

The chapter continues from chapter 3 and gives a second result of the Peter’s sermon beside the conversion of about five thousand men:  he and the disciples get arrested.  The chapter may be divided into three sections:  their detention, vs. 1-4, their defense, vs. 5-20, and their dismissal, vs. 21-23.
The title of the post refers to the arrest described in our verses.  It was the first arrest in the history of the church, but it certainly was not the last.

1. The Captors, the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees, v. 1.
The priests were responsible for procedures for the offerings and sacrifices brought into the Temple.  The captain of the temple was what we might call “the head of security.”  The Sadducees were the liberal wing of Israel’s leadership and, as Matthew 22:23 and Acts 23:8 tell us, say there is not resurrection – and no angel or spirit.  The Pharisees were the conservatives and believed in both the resurrection and angels.  Paul turned that difference to his advantage in one of his trials, Acts 23:6.  There was a third party, “the Herodians,” who, to one degree or another, allied themselves with Rome.  Perhaps they thought, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

2. The Controversy, v. 2.
There were two things which bothered these officials:
a. they taught the people.
This may seem strange to us, but we shouldn’t overlook it.  The attitude of these leaders, along with the Pharisees, was one of disdain and contempt for the “little people,” John 7:45-49, as well as any idea that any but themselves should “teach the people.”  They were the spiritual leaders of the nation.  The common people might listen to this interloper into the spiritual affairs of the nation, but they themselves were far above such things.  It’s interesting that while we do read of Pharisees who came to the Lord, Paul being the notable example, there is no record of any Sadducee doing so.
Sadly, that attitude is still around.  In my own experience, I’ve heard a seminary graduate lament that “you can’t really teach much at the ‘Sunday School’ level,” and another brother, looking forward to teaching in a “Bible Institute,” rejoiced that now he would really have to study for “those” people because the folks in the church he was pastoring didn’t require much study or preparation(!)  And, yes, I really did hear these men make those statements.
I recognize the need for advance training for some, to counter the unbelief and skepticism of so-called “higher education” in our day, although the early church did alright without it, and do not necessarily say that we should do away with seminaries and such.  I do deny that “the church” is in any way inferior to the seminary.  The local church was intended to be the center of evangelism, and  instruction, to raise up faithful men, who will be able to teach others also, 2 TImothy 2:2; Matthew 28:18-20.  There is no provision in Scripture for the numerous “para-church” organizations which have sprung up.  In fact, I believe that disregard of this Biblical principle has led to the deplorable and apostate condition of much of “Christianity” today.
b.  they preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
For the Sadducees, at least, this was the disciples’ main offense.  Not only were Peter and John teaching people these men thought to be incapable of learning, they were preaching heresy!  It seems from the phrasing that they weren’t just proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, but through Him the resurrection of everyone, as Paul later taught 1 Corinthians 15.
The Resurrection of our Lord was the message of the early church, Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 17:18, 32; 24:15, 21.  As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:17, 19, If Christ is not risen from the dead, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.  If there is no resurrection, the sin question has not been answered.  Scripture has firmly established that there is an “after” as far as death is concerned, that it is not the end of our existence, and that much of what happens in this life will not bear fruit until then:  Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later.  Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden, 1 Timothy 5:24-25.
Death might come as an interruption to this life, but really, it is only an intermission, as it were, between two acts:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  

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The Book of Deuteronomy: Once In The Land.

In our first post, we were only able to get about to chapter 11.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish the book in this post.

In the last post, we saw that Moses, forbidden to enter the land himself because of his temper, Deuteronomy 3:23-27, no doubt not helped by the people he led, began some final instructions to them.  First, he reviewed the journey they had been on so far, with its battles and blessings.  More battles than blessings, though, perhaps.  Remember, the people had no spiritual discernment or understanding of the things of God, cf. Deuteronomy 29:4, and no appetite for them.  This is why it was easy for them to fall back into grievous sin, and so difficult for them to obey Moses, and ultimately God.  Then he began to instruct them as to how they were to live once they finally possessed the land, chs. 12-26.
As we saw, he began by warning them to pay attention to the things of God.  They were to have no other god beside Him, nor to associate with the false gods of the land.
Remember, the Mosaic Covenant, which includes the Ten Commandments, but has much more, was given to the nation of Israel, a specific people in a particular historical context, and as such was suited to their nation and their history.  True, it is never right to murder, say, whether Jew or Gentile; that is part of the “moral law,” God’s requirements for and expectations of His human creatures.  But in the Mosaic Law, this was placed in a certain setting.
Nor can we, as often done, separate the Law into separate parts:  the “moral law,” the “civil law,” and the “ceremonial law,” with only the “moral law” being applicable to Christians, the “civil law” being only applicable to the daily life and organization of Israel, and the “ceremonial law,” the rituals and rites of Israel’s worship, having been done away with at the Crucifixion.  These three sections are tightly woven together, and you cannot separate one strand from the other without destroying the whole thing.  More than once, Moses told the people, “For every commandment which I command you this day you must be careful to observe…,”  Deuteronomy 8:1; “You shall walk in all the ways the LORD your God commanded you…, Deuteronomy 5:33.  I heard a Reformed pastor, like many folks, once say that we ought to keep the Sabbath, “but if you have to work at Burger King on Sunday, we understand.”  The Law didn’t.  I’m not even going to get into the confusion brought in by calling Sunday “the Sabbath.”
The Ten Commandments may well be considered a summary of the Moral Law, but Sinai was not the first, the last, nor the only time God spoke.  Even before Moses, there was a lot of revelation, though we only get glimpses of it.  For example, in Genesis 26:5, God testified of Abraham, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”  Abraham lived a long time before Moses.  If there was no revelation before Moses, then what are the “statutes,” etc., to which God refers.
And after Moses, there was abundant revelation, right up to and including the New Testament.  To focus the Christian life on 17 verses out of Exodus, it seems to me, is to ignore or at least to minimize that revelation.  And, remember, those 17 verses were addressed to people brought…out of Egypt, out of the house of  bondage.
The New Testament repeats nine of the Ten Commandments, only the fourth is omitted.  Though there is much more that could be said about this, that is because our “rest” is not found in a day of the week, but in the person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beginning in chapter 12, our study is loosely grouped into the following categories:

1. Principles of worship, 12:1-14-29.
Israel was in no way to worship or think of their God as the Canaanites did.  There was to be a central place of worship and prescribed times for that place to be visited.  This would unite them as a people and help keep them from being tempted by pagan practices.
They weren’t to follow pagan practices in mourning their dead.  In our sanitized society, few of us have seen a dead person.  Not so in ancient Israel.  They had no mortuaries, but buried their own dead.
Even their diet was regulated.  Most of the things forbidden came from animals which were scavengers, but it wasn’t only a matter of “health,” but of holiness, hence the reference to “clean” and “unclean” throughout these instructions.  The phrase boiling a kid in his mother’s milk refers to pagan fertility practices.
Even “tithing” was part of worship.  It was the recognition that God gives us everything and we are returning only a part to Him.  Cf. Deuteronomy 8:18.

2. Principles in money matters, ch. 15.
Perhaps the idea of tithing led into this, but God had some things to teach Israel about handling their money.  There are some things we could learn.  For example, debt was NOT to be a way of life.  Certainly, there were no 30-year mortgages.  Debts were to be released, cancelled, every seven years.  The poor were to be taken care of, not as a “government program” of taxing the “rich,” but of local folks and families taking care of their own.  There was no “welfare system” in Israel.  If a poor Israelite had no way of paying his debts, he could “sell” himself, but only for seven years.  There were no “bankruptcies” in Israel.  

3. Principle “Feasts,” ch. 16:1-17.
These three feasts or festivals were designed to unite the nation.  It was during these festivals that much of our Lord’s teaching happened.

4. Principles of Justice, chs. 16:18-26:15.
Though there was no “judicial system” as we understand it, every town was to have qualified men set aside to administer law.  They were to be strictly impartial and altogether just.
Prohibition against idolatry and false gods are scattered throughout the Mosaic laws.  “Religion” was not to be confined to a “service” or two, but was to be part and parcel of every day’s activities.  This is to say nothing of the terrible degradation of pagan practices or the errors introduced by them.
Something else, no criminal was ever to be released due to a “technicality.”  If there was ever a discussion about 
degrees of bloodguiltiness at the local level, the case could be appealed to the priests at the Tabernacle or, later, the Temple.  If necessary, the priest could consult with the Urim and Thummin, which were always used to discover the Lord’s will in a particular situation, cf. Ezra 2:62, 63.  By the way, there are only a few references to these two items in Scripture and they were always used like this, and never to “translate” a portion of Scripture, as a certain cult claims.
As far as “government” was concerned, there was no level from the greatest to the highest that wasn’t to be “governed” by the Word of God, whether prophet, priest or king, or only one of “the people.

a. There are instructions for each of these.
1. King, 17:14-20.
He was to be one of them, their brother.  He was not to accumulate horses.  Horses were the “tanks” of their day.  This was to prevent military excess.  He was forbidden to accumulate wives.  Since political alliances were often cemented by marriage between two countries or kingdoms, this was designed to prevent political excess or an introduction of paganism.  He was not to accumulate silver and gold.  This was to prevent economic excess.  Heavy taxation was the main reason the kingdom split into two in the days of Rehoboam.  He was to write his own copy of the Law and was to read it all the days of his life.  This was to prevent personal moral excess.
Solomon is a great example of what happens when one failed in these areas, as he did in all of them.
2. Priests and Levites, 18:1-8.
Priests and Levites were to be “full-time.”  Nothing was to hinder them in this, so provision was made for them from the offerings of the people.  The principle was that those who serve the altar should live of the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13.  Paul applies this principle to the New Testament, Even so has the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 9:14, though he himself refused to partake of this right, vs. 15-23.  Certainly, this right is not to be abused, with preachers expecting to “live well,” or, on the other hand, by those who think they should pay the pastor as little as possible.  Bible study, prayer and preparation take a lot of time if done properly and if at all possible pastors should be given that time
3. The people, 18:9-14.
When they got into the land, the people were not to be influenced by the culture of the land, nor to learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  I realize I’m just an old fogey, but I wonder what the Lord thinks of the Hollywood-style “worship services” of modern churchianity.
4. Prophets, 18:15-22.
In vs. 15-19, the Lord promised a Prophet like Moses.  In Acts 3:22, 23, this prophecy is said to be about the Lord Jesus.  His is the ultimate voice, through the Scriptures, that is to be heard in the church.  Too often, we quote this man or that man as an “authority,” and I understand what that means, but too often, we don’t pay proper attention to the final authority – the Word of God.  Cf. Acts 17:11.
In vs. 20-22, God warns against false prophets, those who spoke without God calling them, or who prophesy in the name of other gods, those who prophesy…a false vision,…and the deceit of their own heart, Jeremiah 14:13-15.  Such men made those who heard them “worthless,” Jeremiah 23:16, 17.  They were to be killed, Deuteronomy 13:5.  In the New Testament, we have no such command, but we do have 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  See also Galatians 1:6-10.

b. cities of refuge, 19:1-13.
Though we’ve dealt with these cities before, there’s still much that could be said.
The Law’s idea of “justice” is interesting.  There were no “jails” provided for under the Mosaic system.  True, there are a couple of much later references to “prison,” but these seem to have been places in private dwellings, and certainly were not the sprawling institutions housing hundreds or thousands of felons we have today.
The “debt” of the wrongdoer was not to “society,” but to his victim.  “Rehabilitation” did not consist of housing the felon at taxpayer expense, but in requiring him to make restitution, often at double, fourfold or fivefold the amount he had stolen or destroyed.  If he injured someone, he was required to make that person “whole” himself, Exodus 21:18-20.  It wasn’t up to some hospital to write off the expense.

c. property lines, 19:14.
This is only one verse, but it is important.  At the leading of God, men of old had set markers which determined property lines, Numbers 26:52-56, so it was forbidden to move one of these markers, Deuteronomy 19:14.  Indeed, a “curse” was pronounced against those who did so, Deuteronomy 27:17.  The “right to private property” is not some radical new “right-wing” idea, but comes from God Himself.

d. witnesses, 19:15-21.
“Justice” requires the knowing of all facts about a particular case.  Diligent inquiry was to be made, v. 18, and more than one witness was required.  This principle is repeated several times in Scripture.  A false witness was to be punished according to what he tried to do to the person he accused, and there was to be no pity, v. 21.  Such a practice today would go a long way toward cutting down the number of fraudulent and frivolous law-suits clogging the courts today.

e. warfare, ch. 20
Israel was given a specific tract of land of her own and was not to go beyond those boundaries.  She was never to attempt to be a “world-wide” power like Assyria, Babylon or Rome.  Still, war was a reality and several things are said about it in this chapter.
1. She was not to be afraid of “superior” numbers in her enemies.  She was always to remember what God had done to Egypt, when she herself had no power at all.  A common saying in our time is, “God plus one is a majority.”  The truth is, God by Himself is a majority.  God didn’t need even one soldier to defeat Israel’s enemies, cf. 2 Kings 19:35.  He doesn’t “need” us; we need Him!
2. Israel was never to be a militaristic people.  Still, Israel had enemies, but bven in times of warfare, there were certain exclusions and prohibitions.  If a house had not been “dedicated,” that is, set apart in a solemn manner, it’s owner was exempt.  Everything is Israel, even a humble dwelling, was to be a reminder of God.  If a person hadn’t yet enjoyed the product of his vineyard, he was exempt.  If he was engaged, he was exempt.  If he was afraid, he was exempt, cf. Judges 7:1-3.
If there was war, an offer of peace was to be made to an enemy city, vs. 10-14.  If it agreed, then it became tributary to Israel.  If it refused, but was determined to make war with Israel, it sealed its own fate.
There was a distinction between cities which were far off and the cities in the land.  Cities in the land were not to be spared in any way, lest their idolatry and immorality became a source of sin against the LORD your God, v. 18.
The exemption against using fruit trees in a siege seems strange, but God has more sense than we do.  These trees provided food.  In their thirst for victory, when the adrenaline gets high, men tend to get carried away.

f. unsolved murder, 21:1-9.
Every attempt was to be made to solve a murder.  If this wasn’t possible, then the elders of the nearest city were to offer a sacrifice to atone for the shedding of innocent blood.  Life was precious in Israel and the people were to be very afraid of the guilt of innocent blood, Deuteronomy 19:10.  Indeed, it was innocent blood which was one of the reasons for the final dissolution of the nation, 2 Kings 21:16; 24:4.

g. female war prisoners, 21:10-14.
Some are offended at these verses, but surely these provisions were better than the usual treatment of such women, who were and are subjected to all sorts of terrible atrocities and then thrown aside or murdered.

h. inheritance rights, 21:15-17.
Since the “firstborn” had special claim on the inheritance from his father, care was taken that that claim was not infringed if he were the son of an unloved wife if there were sons of a loved wife.

i. rebellious sons, 21:18-21.
Parental authority was insisted on, because it’s in the home that we first learn about such a thing.  It’s a terrible thing when this is not taught or is frowned upon, as it is in this society, because then children grow up with the idea that they are all-important.  We see the results of this philosophy in the chaos among young people in our culture.

j. miscellaneous laws, 21:22-22:12.
These covered a variety of situations and, even though they’re not written as we would, there’s still food for thought.  Included are such things as the burial of an executed criminal’s body, 21:22, 23.  He had paid his debt and his remains were not to have abuse heaped on them.  Lost property was to be restored to its rightful owner or kept aside if the owner couldn’t be found, 22:1-4.  There was no “finders keepers, losers weepers” in Israel.  Property rights were respected.  The distinction between male and female was not to be blurred, 22:5.  Even a bird’s nest with a mother was considered, 22:6, 7.  The eggs could be taken, but she was to be let go.  She would provide more eggs.  Safety on the flat roof of a house, which served as the “patio,” was considered, v. 8.  Note the reference to bloodguiltiness.  Genetic integrity was to be maintained, though it’s not described like this, v. 9 .  God made everything to reproduce according to its kind, Genesis 1, and His order is not to be tampered with.  Things like the difference in the gaits of an ox and a donkey and the differences between wool and linen were to be taken into account, vs. 10, 11.  Note the application which could be made, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  Tassels on the hem of a garment were a constant reminder of Israel’s covenant relationship with God, v. 12, cf. Numbers 15:37-41.  You see, everything in the life of an Israelite was to remind him of his God, and even though these things might seem like excessive regulation to us, they all served to remind the devout Jew of the source of all his blessings and even of his life itself.

l. sexual purity, 22:13-30.
Israel was to be a pure people.  This may be seen from the numerous prohibitions against the moral excesses of the surrounding nations.  This section deals with two particular cases which I don’t think are mentioned elsewhere.
The first deals with protection of a woman’s reputation from a husband who hated her, vs. 13-21.  Virginity may be scoffed at in our society, but it was a precious thing in Israel.  A charge brought falsely against a woman was a serious thing, and was taken seriously.  We may not understand all that’s said in these verses, but the modern notion that “it’s just sex” would never have been accepted in that culture.
The second section deals with punishment for immorality, vs. 22-30, and is self-explanatory.

m. exclusions from the camp, 23:1-8.
Some of these restrictions come from Israel’s history.  The exclusion of the “emasculated” perhaps refers to those who had been punished for adultery or sodomy.  Such practices were known in the Middle Assyrian Empire between the 10th-14th Century BC.  The Assyrians were known for their extreme cruelty.  By this exclusion, such practices were forbidden to Israel.  The restriction against illegitimacy was based on the fact that inclusion in the nation was based on lineage/paternity.  It also emphasized the importance of “family” and was a protection against immoral behavior.

n. cleanliness of the camp during warfare, 23:9-14.
Strange as these things might seem, it was not just a matter of “health,” but of “holiness,” because the LORD walked among His people, v. 14.  Our grandparents’ saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” might be closer to the truth than we realized.

o. more miscellaneous laws, 23:15-25.
1. An escaped slave was not to be returned to his master, but was to be allowed to remain free, vs.15, 16.  Some today are offended at the idea of slavery at all, but, as I write these words, it’s still very common in parts of our world.  It always has been.  That doesn’t make it “right,” of course, but in the various verses dealing with slavery in the Law, the plight of the slave is made a little better.
In our own country, in spite of those still agitating about it, we fought a great civil war in which half a million young men, on both sides, were killed.  There have been no slaves for generations, yet some still make a good living fomenting strife about it.
2. Perverted religious practices of any kind, common in pagan religions, were strictly forbidden, vs. 17, 18.  Even money associated with such things was not to be used to pay vows to the LORD.
3. Interest was not to be charged in loans to fellow Israelites, your brother, though it could be charged to others, vs. 19, 20.
4. “Vows” to the LORD were not to be taken lightly, but were to be honored, vs. 21-23.  Promises made in time of trouble are to be kept when the trouble was over.
5. Eating from another’s crops, vs. 24, 25.  An example of this is found in Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1.  Perhaps this was more a provision for the poor 
than it was for ordinary citizens, though they were also permitted to do this.

p. A specific case of divorce and remarriage, 24:1-4.
This isn’t about marriage and divorce in general, but deals with a specific case where a man or woman was divorced, had remarried and then divorced that second spouse.  They could then not remarry the first spouse.  Though the NT gives further instructions on the subject of marriage and divorce, it still isn’t to be the “revolving door” many have made it in our time.

q. more miscellaneous laws, 24:5-26:15.
1. the newly married, 24:5.
What a strange idea….  The new husband was exempt from most other obligations, not so he could take it easy or go fishing, but rather he was to be free at home one year and bring happiness to his wife, whom he had taken, emphasis added.  We men are pretty good at expecting her to be “subject” to us, and that’s a whole other post and does not mean what it’s often said to mean! but we’re not so good at our responsibility toward her.  It is very high, Ephesians 5:25.
2. collateral, v. 6.
The lower or upper millstone refers to the grinding of grain to make flour.  It was a necessity.  The idea was that nothing could be used as collateral and taken from the debtor which was necessary for him to be able to repay the debt.
3. kidnapping, v. 7.
A death-penalty sin and not to be tolerated.  As we’ve said, there were no jails in Israel.
4. Leprosy, vs. 8, 9.
This term covered a number of skin diseases including leprosy, or Hansen’s disease as we know it.  Israel didn’t have the technology to tell them all apart, so quarantine was the only safe alternative.  It was also a type or figure for sin, and much has been said and could said about that aspect.  The incident with Miriam is found in Numbers 12.
5. Collateral, vs. 10-13.
The lender was not to ride rough-shod over the borrower, but was to treat him with a certain dignity and restraint.
6. Equitable treatment of employees, vs. 14, 15.
Though our system is different, the paying of employees was to be timely.  There’s a great deal that could be said about this as well, on both sides of the picture, cf. Ephesians 6:5-9.
7. Judicial equity, v. 16.
Israel was not to be like some nations, in which the whole family was put to death for the crime of one of them.
8. Consideration for the needy, vs. 17-22.
They were not to be treated like a political football, as some do in our time, nor were they to be taken advantage of.  Their needs were to be considered, though, as Scripture points out several places, some effort might be required on their part, too.
9. Punishment of the guilty, 25:1-3.
The Jews would give thirty-nine stripes to avoid breaking this law, cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24.
10. Treatment of work animals, v. 4.
Even animals were to be “paid” for their labor.  Paul refers to this verse in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11.
11. Marriage to a widow by a surviving brother of her husband, vs. 5-10.
This was to insure the perpetuation of his name and the preservation of his line within the tribe.  Cf. Numbers 36:1-11, especially v. 3.  This portion of Deuteronomy is the “law” referred to by the Pharisees in Matthew 22:23-33.
12. Immodesty, vs. 11, 12.
Such actions were not permitted, even for a “good cause.”
13. Accurate weights and measures, vs.13-16.  Cf. Micah 6:10, where a “short measure” is called an abomination.  This doesn’t refer to “length,” but to a quantity of something – a piece of cloth, an amount of an item – that was less than it was said to be.
God is a God of truth, even in “business”.
14. “Remember…Amalek,” vs. 17-19.
This refers strictly to an incident in Israel’s history, Exodus 17:8-14, and is not to be used by us in any way.  If anything, our Lord taught us differently, Matthew 5:43-48.  It does remind us that those who oppose God’s people ultimately oppose God Himself, and that He will take care of it in His own time.
15. Offering of “firstfruits,” 26:1-11.
This was to be a reminder to the Jew of Israel’s history before and up to her  deliverance from Egypt and of the blessings of Promised Land, vs. 1-10.  It was also to be a time of rejoicing.  The Christian has no promise of material blessing, but how much more we have in Christ that is cause of rejoicing and gratitude!  Cf. Ephesians 1:3-14.  
16. “The Year of Tithing,” vs. 12-15.
Malachi 3:10 is not the only verse in the OT about tithing, but it’s about the only one I’ve ever heard preached on, usually with the idea that we’re to tithe to the church.  Our Lord taught about tithing because He lived under a Law that required it, but the apostle Paul, who taught with our Lord’s authority, only mentioned tithing once, and that was not in a favorable light.  In the OT, tithing was an individual and local obligation to take care of the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled.  Granted, Israel got into a lot of trouble when she failed in this regard, but “tithing” as such has nothing to do with the Christian.  I recognize my view is not in agreement with a lot of what is taught, but our obligation is higher, and isn’t just about “giving to the church.”  2 Corinthians 9 has something to say about this, even though it’s about a specific gift that was being made ready for the poor saints in Jerusalem.  It has some useful principles for us in our “giving”.

Having reflected on Israel’s history between their leaving Egypt and their arriving at the border of the Promised Land, and reviewing something of what was expected of them when they finally entered it, Moses gives some final instructions –

C. Regarding the “Memorial” and the “Mountains,” chs. 27, 28.

1. The “Memorial,” 27:1-10.
This was simply an unspecified number of large stones, which were to be place on Mount Ebal after the people crossed over the Jordan.  They were then to be whitewashed and all the words of this law were to be plainly written on them.
2. The “Mountains,” 27:11-28:68.
The memorial stones, which apparently served as an altar, were to be erected on Mount Ebal.  Then all Israel, divided by tribes, were to stand, half in front of Mt. Ebal and half in front of Mt. Gerizim, where they were to listen to the Law being read in a loud voice, and to say, “Amen,” after each provision in it.
Ebal and Gerizim are the mountains forming the sides of the valley in which lay the city of Shechem in what much later became Samaria.  They both rise about 800 feet from the valley floor and are so close together that the people could easily have heard the loud voice, v. 27, in which the curses were to be recited.  Experiments have proved this.  Joshua 9:30-35 records the actual event these verses command.

We now arrive at the second part of the book, in which Moses gives some promises to the people.  (I do apologize for what must be the confusing layout of these two posts.  This word processing program apparently doesn’t support the kind of outline I use, though I just may not have figured it out.  My granddaughter, then 11, showed me how to underline words.  Perhaps I should ask her 🙂  ).

2. The Promise Given Through Moses, chs. 29, 30.

A. A Distinct Covenant, 29:1.
Verse 1 introduces a break in the action, if you will, so that chapter 29 isn’t just a continuation of ch. 28.  Note well the last phrase in v. 1, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb, emphasis added.  (“Horeb” and “Sinai” seem to be used interchangeably.)  Of that covenant, we read in Deuteronomy 5:2, where Moses is  reviewing the events at Sinai, “The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, those who are alive, emphases added.  There must be some reason for Moses to make these distinctions, besides the obvious one that those who were hearing him now were as responsible to obey God as the fathers had been.  If there is only “one covenant with many administrations,” as Covenant Theology teaches, wouldn’t the distinctions Moses makes be unnnecessary?

B. Inability, 29:2-5.
Not only in Egypt, but throughout their wanderings and in the defeats of Sihon and Og, Israel had seen, over and over again, God’s dealings on behalf of them.  In spite of this, there was no real “understanding” of what was going on.  Verse 4 says, “Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.” Moses goes on to say that for 40 years, they had worn the same pair of sandals and the same garments and these items had lasted – for 40 years!  In spite of all that, to use an old phrase, Israel was a dumb as a fence post in understanding her responsibility before God.  Granted, there were some among them who did “know the Lord,” but for the most part, there was no understanding of what was going on and no real appetite for the things of God.  This explains the reason why they so easily and so  quickly fell into the sins of those around them, and the sins they knew in Egypt.
Moses uses their past experiences as a motive for his exhortation to them to obey the Word of God, not just as some boring routine, but in order “that you may prosper in all you do.”

C. Purpose, 29:10-28.
1. to prevent departure, vs. 10-18.  Israel had seen the abominable practices of the nations they passed by, as well as what they had experiences in the idolatry and paganism of Egypt.  Israel was not to do those things, and was not to depart from the true God, a statement repeated over and over again in the Old Testament.
2. to prevent deception, vs. 19-29.  No one was to be so foolish as to believe they could get away with departing from the commands of God.  Cf. Ephesians 5:1-7, especially v. 6.

D. Intimation, 29:29.
This verse intimates that there was more to what Moses said than is recorded here.  There are some secret things in addition to those things which are revealed.  Many of these “secret things” are possibly revealed in the rest of the Old Testament and in the New, but even there there are some things which are sealed up, Revelation 10:4.  This is why the study of prophecy is so difficult.  It’s like trying to visualize a place you’ve never been from the partial descriptions of people who’ve been there.

E. Pessimism, 29:22-30:10.
Throughout the giving of the Law, there is never any indication that Israel will ever live up to her responsibilities.  Moses always approaches his subject from the viewpoint that Israel will disobey, not obey.  Cf. Deuteronomy 31:27, “For I know your rebellion and your stiff neck.  If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD, how much more after my death?”  Experience gave him no reason for optimism.
This disobedience will lead to –
1. dispersion, 29:22-29.  Note especially the references to the land, vs. 23, 24, 27, 28, and cast…into another land, v. 28.  The land itself would be cursed, as well as its inhabitants.  Cf. Ezekiel 6:1-7.  But, in the midst of all this gloom, there is a ray of hope.
2. deliverance, 30:1-10.  It is generally held that the “return” from captivity of v. 3, as well as any other mention of a “return,” is the return from Babylonian captivity spoken of by Ezra, Nehemiah and others.  However, notice v. 6 in Deuteronomy 30:  “And the LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”  I don’t think, even with a casual reading of Ezra and Nehemiah, that this can be said to have happened at the return from Babylon.  Therefore, there must be a second captivity and recovery of Israel, cf. Isaiah 11, especially v. 11.

F. Final appeal, 31:11-20.
This is the last of many appeals Moses made to the people.  Again and again, he had tried to impress on them the seriousness of what they had seen and heard.  It mattered whether or not they would pay attention:  “See, I have set before you life and good, death and evil,” v. 15.  Then he goes on to describe the results of whichever choice they make.
I think application could be made to us.  Too many people seem to have the idea that what happens in church stays in church.  That what they hear on Sunday has no bearing on what they do on Monday.  This is especially true in much of the social unrest of our day:  It’s ok if you believe, just don’t try to put it into practice or expect us to. But it’s true in every area of our lives.  Sunday has a great deal to say to Monday.

3. Passing the Torch, 31:1-13.

Moses was getting old.  He was 120.  Further, he was prohibited from entering the land.  For these reasons a new leader was needed.

A. Raising a new leader, 31:1-8.
Joshua, who had been Moses’ assistant for many years, was to be the new leader, v. 3.  Numbers 27:18-23 tells us he had already been chosen as Moses’ replacement.

B. Reading the Law Established, 31:9-13.
In these verses, periodic reading of the Law to assembled Israel was commanded.  People had no copies themselves, so this was a way for them to hear and learn the Word.  It was also to remind them that it didn’t matter whom Israel had for their human leader; it was the LORD Himself Who led them.  There is a lesson for us here as well.  It’s not the personality or the ability of the pastor that is important; it’s the Word of God faithfully taught.  God is pleased to use men to accomplish His will, but it’s a great mistake to make much about the man and forget the God Who uses him.

4. The Last Days of Moses, 31:14-34:12.

A. Prediction, 31:14-29.
Moses and Joshua were to present themselves at the Tabernacle, where the LORD told  Moses that he must die, and after his death, the people would depart from the living God and suffer greatly because of it.  He was also to write a “song,” as a witness against the apostasy of the people, v 19.

B. Prophetic Song, 31:30-32:47.
This song may yet have some part of the ultimate restoration of Israel.  It is a sad and depressing dirge about the intransigence of Israel in their desertion of the true God, who gave them birth, v. 18, and their following of false gods in spite of the blessing He had poured out on them.  They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them, v. 28.  Such is the lamentation of God about them  In spite of their foolishness and wickedness, the song ends,
Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;

he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and  people, v. 43.

C. Promise to Moses, 32:48-52.
God told him to climb a mountain, from where he would be able to see into the Promised Land though he couldn’t enter.  After that, he would die and go to that land for which this world has no comparison.

D. Moses’ Final Blessing, ch. 33.
In these verses, Moses forecasts something of what will happen to 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel, Simeon being excluded from the list, and Ephraim and Manasseh being listed together as Joseph.  No reason is given for the exclusion of Simeon.

E.  Moses’ Death, Successor and Epitaph, ch. 34.

Moses climbed Mt. Nebo and was shown the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, v. 1.  God tells him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob….”  The many references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Scripture form an interesting study, which we can’t get into here.  It is something to note its occurrence here, though.  Moses was forbidden to enter the land because of a sin; Israel would suffer greatly because of her sin.  But these sins do not invalidate the oath – the promise and purpose of God.  This is part of the thrust of Hebrews.  Even though it may not seem like it, God’s purpose and promise are right on schedule.  This is a great comfort.  The certainty of what God proposes isn’t dependent on frail, fickle men and women.  This gives us no excuse to be less than faithful, but our failings don’t “mess up” God.

V. 6 refers to the LORD’s burial of Moses.  His is the only such burial recorded in Scripture, even though no one knows where that site is.  Probably this was done to prevent Israel from venerating it.  Jude 1:9 records that there was some controversy about the burial.  Quite possibly, the devil wanted the body in order to make it an idol for Israel, to get their eyes off the Lord.

Vs. 10-12 give Moses’ epitaph – there was only one like him, whom the LORD knew face to face and who performed such miracles in Egypt and brought about such deliverance of the people.

We are blessed in that we know of One who was greater than Moses, who didn’t just talk face to face with the LORD, but who was the LORD.  Christmas is just around the corner, as shown by the Christmas ads already on TV and in the papers.  In all the hoopla and celebration, in all the family gatherings, don’t forget that that little manger testifies to the fact that we are so sinful and lost that we can do nothing to rescue ourselves.  God Himself must intervene if we are to be saved.

I’m thankful He did.

 

The Book of Deuteronomy: On The Threshold.

(Once again, we’re taking a little side-trip from our study in Acts, although it may turn out not to be so “little”.)

This may seem a rather strange title for the book, but we have to remember two things in this regard.  Moses himself was on the threshold of eternity, cf. Deuteronomy 32:48-50,  and Israel, 40 years after leaving Egypt, was finally on the threshold of entering the Promised Land.  Deuteronomy includes Moses’ instruction to her about this.

The name of the book – “Deuteronomy – comes from the Latin and means, “second law”.  This doesn’t mean that it’s merely a repetition of what was given 40 years earlier at Sinai.  Most of the generation which was at Sinai was dead; most of the people who were here on the border of Canaan had been born in the wilderness.  While indeed giving the Law to a new generation, it was also a time of application of Moses’ 40 years’ experience in leading a rebellious, ungrateful people through a barren, uninhabited wilderness.  It is his counsel to them, showing them how various facets of life are to be handled.  He has much to say to us, as well, even though we don’t live “under the Law”.

Here is an outline of the book:

  1. The Preaching of Moses, 1:1-28:68.
    A. Reflections on the Wanderings,1:1-3:29.
    1. Departure from Horeb, 1:1-18.
    2. Disaster at Kadesh, 1:19-46.
    3. Desert Wanderings, 2:1-3:11.
    4. Division of the Eastern Conquest, 3:12-22.
    5. Denial of Moses’ Request, 3:23-29.
    B. Review of the Word, 4:1-26:19.
    1. Serious Warnings, 4:1-40.
    2. Setting Up Cities of Refuge, 4:41-43.
    3. Substance of the Law, 4:44-8:20.
    4. Stubbornness of the People, 9:1-11:32.
    5. “Statutes and Judgments,” 12:1-26:15.
    6. Special Responsibilities and Relationship, 26:16-19.
    C. Regarding the “Memorial” and the “Mountains”, 27:1–28:68.
  2. The Promise Given Through Moses, chs. 29, 30.
  3. Passing The Torch, 31:1-13.
    A. Raising A New Leader, 31:1-8
    B. Reading of the Law Before the People Established, 31:9-13.  Leaders come and go; God’s word abides forever.
  4. The Passing of Moses, 31:14-34:12.

1.  The Preaching of Moses, 1:1-31:13.

Reflections on the Wandering, 1:1-3:29.

“Wandering” is usually the term applied to this time in Israel’s history, and specifically of the time between their rebellion at Kadesh and their long-delayed entrance into the Land.  It isn’t a bad word, but remember that even then they were under the control and direction of God, Numbers 9:15-23.  Though their rebellion delayed their entrance into the land, it did not derail God’s purpose for them.
1. Departure from Horeb, 1:1-18.
Israel had camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for nearly two years, Exodus 19:1; Numbers 1:1.  During this time, they had been entrusted with the oracles of God, Romans 3:2, which would eventually consist of the adoption, the glory, the covenants [note the plural], the giving of the Law, the service of God, and the promises, Romans 9:4.  They weren’t given everything at Sinai.
2. Disaster at Kadesh, 1:19-46.
Though it might have seemed a good idea to send spies into the land to see what was there, it wasn’t necessary.  With a pillar of cloud or of fire, God had led them through “a great and terrible wilderness,” Numbers 9:20-23.  If they hadn’t send the spies, they wouldn’t have learned about the incredible obstacles facing them: the gigantic people, the fortified cities, perhaps some sickness infecting the people of the land, Numbers 13:28, 32.  Even though they saw the land was incredibly fertile – it took two men to carry one cluster of grapes, Numbers 13:23! –  they refused to go forward.  They even went so far as to accuse God of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them, Numbers 14:3; Deuteronomy 1:27!  Because of this rebellion, they would spend 38 more years trudging through the wilderness, instead of enjoying “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
But they weren’t done with their foolhardiness!  Even though God told them to turn back into the wilderness, they decided that, after all, they would go up and fight, v. 41.  They were soundly defeated, and even though they returned and wept before the LORD, He paid no attention to them.  Sometimes, there is no “second chance,” as Moses himself found out because he struck the rock the second time and was forbidden to enter the land on account of it, Deuteronomy 3:23-27; Exodus 17:5, 6; Numbers 20:7-12
Eventually, though, Israel’s time of wandering was over, and they were ready to enter the land.  The rest of Moses’ review is taken up with some of the things they experienced, the battles that were fought, a decision by some of the tribes that they wanted their land on the east side of the Jordan, and not in the actual Promised Land itself.  They had a very great multitude of livestock and the east side was a place for livestock, Numbers 32:1-5.  God gave it to them, but they were often the first ones attacked later on.  Like Eve and Lot before them, they found out that what looks so good sometimes isn’t, Genesis 3:6; 13:10.  The saying, “Be careful what you wish for” might be applicable here.
3. Desert Wanderings, 2:1-3:29.
Driven back into the wilderness because of their rebellion at Kadesh, as Moses put it later, they circled Mt. Seir for many days, 2:1.  What ordinarily was an 11-day journey took 38 years, Deuteronomy 1:2!  Granted, during this time, they conquered the lands on the east side of the Jordan and the families of the tribes who wanted it were settled there, but there was still a lot of wasted time.

Review of the Word, 4:1-26:19.

1. Declarations and Warnings, 4:1-40.
These and other verses seem as if God didn’t want Israel to “have a good time.”  This is certainly how the world views such things.  As a co-worker once told me, “God forbids all the things we want to do!”  It’s thought that Christians have to “give up” too much, and settle for a dreary and dull life of “religion”.  As far as Israel was concerned, Moses refutes this in v. 1:  these things were in order that Israel may live and go in and possess the land which the LORD…is giving you, a land described a little later in the book as filled with large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses filled with good things which you did not fill, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant…, 6:10, 11.
While the New Testament Christian doesn’t have promise of similar material blessing, Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8 that godliness…has promise for the life that now is and of that which is to come.  The true Christian has eternal life, and the things of this world, some of which may be necessary for sustaining physical life, like food and shelter, can never satisfy the innate recognition that this world does not know and cannot provide a “good life” that will last forever.
Besides, Moses’ reference to Baal Peor, v. 3, shows that a “good time” as far as the world is concerned is often filled with gross immorality, against which the Lord has pronounced severe judgment, as shown by what happened to the men who sinned there, Numbers 25:1-9.
Further, Israel was reminded that it was God with whom they had to do.  They were to have no other gods, or worship Him by pagan methods.  They had been blessed like no other nation in the world; they were to live like it.
2. Setting up the Cities of Refuge, 4:41-43.
According to Numbers 35:9-34, these cities, three each on either side of the Jordan, were to be set up as places of safety for those who accidentally killed another Israelite, without premeditation or intent.  One of the very few Scriptures unbelievers and skeptics seem to want to live by is the one which says, “Do not kill.”  Using this verse, they rail against the death penalty for even the most heinous crimes.  However, they fail to notice that there are more than 40 such sins in the Old Testament.   But. as we see in Numbers 35, there is a distinguishing between accidental death and murder.  The murderer was not to be spared; the innocent were protected, though even the accidental taking of life had consequences.
3. Substance of the Law, 4:44-8:20.
In these verses, Moses repeats the Ten Commandments and assures them that their days would be prolonged and blessed if they were obedient.  However, if they disobeyed, cursing, that is, punishment, would be their lot.  There were things they were to do, not only personally, but with regard to their children, their culture and society, and the inhabitants of the land.  With regard to this latter, folks get so worked-up over the “poor Canaanites,” but these were not innocent, childlike people, but wicked and depraved beyond words.  Leviticus 18 gives us a sampling of what they did.  Israel was not to be like that.  And our culture may not like it, but God has given clear and definite instructions about such things.
4. Stubbornness of the people, 9:1-11:32.
This portion includes the incident of the golden calf.  How quickly the people fell into gross sin!  Even though God continued to bless them, those who were guilty of sin perished.  This is a good example of “grace,” but that doesn’t mean that we can live as we like.  We are to live as God likes.

I had hoped to have just one post on the book, but there is just so much material.  Even this post just skims the surface.

Acts 3:19-26, Covenant Redemption

[19] “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20] and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21] whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  22] For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren.  Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23] And it shall be that every soul who will not hear the Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’  24] Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25] You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’  26] To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” 

As Peter begins to come to the end of his explanation to the people, he gives four reasons why they should repent and be converted. The first one, which we looked at in our last post, is the return of Christ, about which Peter will have some more to say.  The other three reasons form the basis for this post.

1. Certain Retribution, vs. 22, 23.

Peter builds on his statement in v. 21 concerning the revelation of God through the mouth of His holy prophets by quoting Deuteronomy 18:15-19. showing that from the very beginning of Israel as a nation, God had foretold the coming of One with authority.  Indeed, from the very beginning of human history, God had foretold of such a One.  When our first parents sinned in the Garden, God told the instrument of their sin, that is, the serpent,

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:15.

Though later prophesies expand on this idea, this verse contains the whole of prophetic revelation about the Coming One:  enmity and conflict.

Jacob’s descendants, having been more or less forced to move to Egypt, at first found themselves respected and honored.  This did not last and they eventually found themselves persecuted and enslaved.  At the appointed time, God raised up Moses to deliver the people.  At Sinai, where Israel was transformed from a motley rabble into an organized nation, the people were terrified at the manifestation of God, and wanted someone as a go-between.  Moses was the one God chose, through whom He gave the Law, the Mosaic Covenant.  At the giving of that Law, God said, “What they have spoken is good.   I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.  And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him,” Deuteronomy 18:18, 19.

The clear implication is that Jesus Christ is this Prophet and to reject Him is to bring down certain judgment, v. 23.

2. Covenant Promises, v. 24.

“All the prophets, from Samuel….have also foretold these days.”

“These days”….

Do “these days” refer to what is known as “the church age,” and is Peter telling his audience that all the OT promises are “fulfilled in the church” and, as a consequence, there is no further or future blessing for Israel?

If you’ve ready very many of my posts, you know that I don’t believe that to be true.

In the first place, vs. 25, 26 indicate that these unsaved Jews did indeed have an interest in the OT covenants.  Granted, repentance was required of them, but even in the OT, relationship with God hinged on a satisfactory answer to the sin question, as seen in all the offerings and in the Tabernacle and later the Temple.  Relationship to God, as we understand that term, in any time in human history since the Fall, has never been and never will be apart from redemption from sin.

Second, Peter preached just a few weeks or so after the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Early believers had no inkling of such a long period of time until the Second Coming as we ourselves have seen, nor of a body called “the church,” in which people would come to God through the Lord Jesus and not through the offerings and ceremonies of the Old Testament.  This is the whole thrust of the book of Hebrews, explaining to believing Jews the place, the purpose and, yes, the putting aside, of their beloved Mosaic heritage, or perhaps rather, the flowering and fulfillment of what that heritage foreshadowed.

The early disciples were vitally interested in the “time” element.  Cf. the disciple’s question and our Lord’s response in Acts 1:6, 7, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” and He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father has put in His own authority.”  According to Peter, the time element was also of surpassing interest to the OT prophets, 1 Peter 1:10, 11.  This was partly because of such seemingly contradictory things as the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.  But when did it follow?

Further, OT prophecy is filled with “time” references:  the 400 year servitude in Egypt, the 70 year captivity, Daniel’s 70 weeks, as well as Daniel  12:5-12 and Hosea 3:4, 5.

At this time, all Peter knew for certain was that Jesus had been crucified, raised again, ascended into heaven, and that He was coming again.  Perhaps the early church, as seen in its communal attitude, believed that that Return would be very soon.

Therefore, we believe that “these days” refers not the church age, but rather to Peter’s own time and the early believers’ anticipation of and preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus.  Only as Paul came onto the scene and it became evident that the nation of Israel in general would continue to reject Jesus as their Messiah, was further revelation given to the churches and it became apparent that more time might elapse before the Second Coming than was first thought, although that Coming is always viewed as “imminent” in the New Testament.

The final reason Peter gave for them to repent was their –

3. Covenant relationship, v. 25.

“You are the sons…of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’.”  Peter also mentioned “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” in v. 13.  In this way, he reminded them that they were the beneficiaries and successors of the promises made “to the fathers” through “the prophets.”  At the same time, he cautions them that these blessings do not simply automatically flow from parent or ancestor, but that the ultimate intent of God’s dealings with them, and with us, is that people might be turned from their iniquities.  This can only be done on a personal, individual basis: every one of you.

Acts 3:19-21: Times of Refreshing

19] “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20] and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21] whom heaven must received until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (NKJV)

Peter has finished the second part of his message, in which he declared the underlying truth of the Crucifixion, namely, that it wasn’t just the result of frustrated rage or ignorance, but rather that it was in perfect accord with and accomplished the will of God, a will revealed in all the prophets, v. 18.

Now Peter begins to press home these truths to the lives and hearts of his hearers.  Here is a free translation of vs. 19-21:

“Repent, therefore, all of you, and return (to God) so that this sin may be wiped away, so that refreshing times may come from the presence of the Lord, and (so that) He may send to you the One having before been prepared, Christ Jesus, whom heaven must receive until times of restoration, of which (times) God formerly spoke by (the) mouths of His holy prophets.”

Because this is such an important section and has more than obvious bearing on the subject of NT prophecy, this post will be more of a word-study than usual.

1. The Command, v. 19a.

Repent.  What is “repentance”?  “Repent” is the translation of “metanoeo”, which means “to undergo a change in frame of mind or feeling.”  This is not just “being sorry for your sin,” as some have put it.  Nor is it simply a change of opinion about something.  “Metanoeo” is a compound of two words:

“meta” – with, on the same side as
“noeo” – to perceive with, observe attentively, comprehend.  The noun form is used to refer to “the mind”.

True repentance, therefore, is to take the same view of something, in this case, sin, as God does.  Many people are “sorry” for their sin only because they are suffering the consequences of that sin, or are afraid of those consequences.  This might also be likened to the “remorse” convicted criminals are supposed to “show” for their crimes, though many of them would go right back or do go right back to those crimes or others if given the chance.  They, criminals and sinners alike, do not see it, however, as God sees it, as something utterly hateful and wicked, and deserving of judgment.  As one of the Puritans used to say, “Anything better than hell is more than I deserve.”  Most folks in our day expect quite firmly to go to “a better place” when they die.  Thus they are lost, for, as our Lord said to some folks in His day who thought they were better than some others, “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3, 5.

Return.  Although “conversion” is implied in this word, there’s more to it than that.  The word in the original is in the active voice, and we do not “convert” ourselves.  The word is “epistrepsate,” which means, “to turn back, round, to bring back, convert.”  It is made up of two words:

“epi” – which generally means, “upon”.
“strepho” – to twist, turn, change (as of substance, Revelation 11:6).

Peter, thus, is urging upon his hearers a “turning toward,” or “back,” in short, a “return” to God, from whom they have turned away by crucifying His Son.  Inward change, that is, “conversion,” is implied in this “return”.

Thus we see the two aspects of repentance.

  1. There is indeed an inward change of character and nature.  The person who once lived in defiance of or disregard for God now becomes submissive and obedient to the divine will as revealed in Scripture.
    Implicit in this inward change, but separate from repentance, is the element of saving faith, through which the person is enabled to trust in and rest on the shed blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ as the only ground or reason for the forgiveness of his sins and of his acceptance before God.
  2. There is an outward change in attitude and conduct, so that the person no longer pursues sinful or worldly things, but is concerned with living for God.

“To God” was supplied in the translation as the One to whom they were to “return,” because vs, 13 and 18 show God to have been actively involved in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord.

2. The Consequences, vs. 19b-21.

Cleansing, “So that this sin may be wiped away,” or blotted out,” v. 19b.

The phrase “this sin” is generally translated “your sins.”  And while it is correct that true repentance and faith bring the forgiveness of sin, that is, “salvation,”  Peter is here speaking of the particular sin of crucifying the Messiah.  Yet, in the marvelous grace of God, even this sin may be forgiven through the repentance and faith to which Peter exhorts his hearers.  How true is Romans 5:20,  where sin abounded, grace abounded much more !

“may be,” v. 19, does not express doubt or uncertainty, but translates words which state, not the mere possibility of forgiveness, but of its absolute certainty.  Biblical salvation is not “I hope,” but “I have”!
At the same time, the tense of the verb is such that Peter asserts that this blessing will not be theirs apart from repentance.  There is only one way of salvation!  Contrary to perhaps the majority view today, it does matter what you believe!

“wiped away,” v. 19, translates “exaleiphtheenai:”  to obliterate, wipe away.  This, in turn, is a compound of:

“ex” – out of, from.
“aleipho” – to anoint (with oil or ointment).

It is a stronger word than the word translated “remission” and occurs only five times in the NT:  Acts 3:19, Colossians 2:14, Revelation 3:5, 7:17, 21:4, translated in some form of “wiped” or “blotted,” as in “out” or “away.”

The Christian is not “just forgiven.”  His sin is blotted out, wiped away, gone forever, never again to be charged against us, Romans 8:33.

Coming, vs. 19b-21.

  1. refreshing.  There are several viewpoints as what “times of refreshing” means.  Some think it refers to the sense of relief from the guilt of sin that a converted person feels, or to those times of spiritual enjoyment or refreshment which they feel from time to time.  We believe that Peter is referring to the actual 2nd Coming of our Lord and that if Israel had indeed “repented” at that time that our Lord would have returned.  Since they did not, however, all such discussion is moot.
  2. restoration, v. 21, from “anakatastaseos:”  to restore, a restitution or restoration (of a thing to a former state or condition).  SInce Peter develops this thought in a particular direction in the rest of his remarks in this chapter, we will only say here that the Scriptures seem clearly to teach a “golden age” which cannot simply be dismissed as referring to eternity or to some “spiritual” something or other.

Matthew 19: 28 supplies an analogy.  In v. 28, our Lord promised the twelve, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  (It is impossible for me to see how this is “fulfilled” in any way in “the church.”)
The word we’re interested in is “regeneration.’  It’s the translation of “palingenesia:”   “palin” – “again,” and “genesis” – birth.”  It’s the word our Lord used with Nicodemus when He told him he needed to be “born again”.  According to His statement in Matthew, there will be a “regeneration” of society and of the earth itself during the Millennial reign of Christ, which will indeed continue into and culminate in eternity, but will be entered into before then.  Cf. Isaiah 65:17-25,

17] “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remember or come to mind.
18] But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
19] I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.

20] “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21] They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyard and eat their fruit.
22] They shall not build and another inhabit:
They shall not plant and another eat:
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23] They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble:
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.

24] “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer”
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
25] The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,”
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the LORD.

Just typing these verses out makes my heart almost burst with longing.

Believers are said to be “a new creation,” 2 Corinthians 5:17, yet we still carry within ourselves evidence of the old creation.  Only death will finally end that old creation.  The Millennial reign of Christ will include the “old creation” of this world as we know it.  How else will Satan be able to quickly gather together the nations which are in the four corners of the earth in one final act of rebellion, Revelation 20:7?  2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 20:11 describe the “death” of this planet.  Revelation 21 describes the “new creation” of a new heavens and earth.

Acts 3:17-18, Foretold and Fulfilled.

17]  “yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18] But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 

In our last post, we saw that Peter refused to take credit for the healing of the lame man, but rather turned the attention of his audience to what was important, namely, that they had rejected and crucified their Messiah, probably because He didn’t “measure up” to the expectations of the rulers and the people.  They though He would come in regal splendor, destroy the Romans and all other of Israel’s enemies, and set up the Davidic kingdom promised in the Old Testament.

They didn’t understand that there was a greater enemy to be destroyed and a greater need to be fulfilled.  They didn’t understand that they, themselves, needed to be redeemed.  True, they had been “redeemed” from Egyptian slavery and made into a nation and were known as God’s people, but that didn’t do anything about their sin problem.  Even though the Old Testament foretold that Messiah would give Himself as a Sacrifice for sin, that He would “suffer,” they really hadn’t focused on the idea.  As Peter put it, they were “ignorant” of God’s purpose.

This should give us something to think about.  Especially with the rulers, here were men who were well-versed in the Old Testament, probably beyond what any of us could hope to achieve.  These men, no doubt, knew the “letter” of the law, and yet had never spelled out its message.  So when the promised Messiah came, they put Him on a Roman cross.

However, and contrary to those who believe that God is done with Israel, it was through the very means of their rejection of Messiah and His death that Israel will eventually be redeemed and restored, Romans 11:26, Jeremiah 31:1.  Their sins had to be paid for, just like yours and mine.

At the same time, let us apply this personally.  Do WE know the Word, or do we just know ABOUT it?  A very small percentage of professing Christians have ever read the Bible through, yet that Word is the only place we can learn about God, about ourselves and about this world, both now and in the future.  Does the Word bear fruit in our lives?  Does it bring us in repentance and faith to the feet of Jesus?  I’m not talking about “being saved” over and over, but rather with dealing with the fact of our inborn sinfulness, as mourned over by Paul in Romans 7.

Yet it wasn’t Peter’s intent in Acts 3 to have the people focus on themselves, or just to beat themselves up.  His intent was to bring them to that One who had foretold the death of Christ, and then had fulfilled His Word.  As we said earlier, no power on earth or elsewhere could have put Christ on the Cross if He had not been willing to go there, and no power on earth or elsewhere could have kept Him from it once He decided to go.

It’s sometimes difficult for us to see the hand of God in the things of life among the many other “hands” with which we have to do.  Unbelievers and skeptics scoff at or deny that He exists at all.  Others seem to have the idea that He stands anxiously on the sidelines of our lives until we decide to send Him into the game.  But in this most evil of all events – the crucifixion of God incarnate, God was at work to fulfill His eternal purpose, Ephesians 3:11.  As Daniel, standing before the most powerful king of his time, said, He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”  Daniel 4:35.

He is faithful to His promise.

Acts 3:11-18, “His Name”

11] Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed.  12] So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?  Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness, we had made this man walk?  13] The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our Fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  14] But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15] and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.  16] And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know.  Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

17] “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.  18] But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

Our last post looked at the healing of the man born unable to walk, and the amazement of the crowd which witnessed the healing.  Today we look at Peter’s refusal to “take credit” for it and some of the other things which happened.

In the first place, Peter did indeed refuse to “take credit” for it.  He said, “Why do you marvel at this?  Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” v. 12, emphasis added.  Instead, he turned the attention of the crowd away from himself and John and even from the miracle and the healing back to what he had preached at Pentecost.  “They,” that is, the nation as represented by the rulers and leaders, and perhaps some of Peter’s present crowd had been there at the Crucifixion as well – “they” had delivered up and denied the One who ultimately had healed the man.  Added to their guilt was the fact the Pilate was determined to let Him go, but the crowd that was there insisted with a great uproar, cf. John 19:12-16.  The fact that Pilate himself was weak took nothing away from the guilt of the crowd, v. 13.

They denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, v. 14.  This denial is mentioned twice.  To make it worse, they denied their own Messiah in the presence of a Gentile ruler.  Not only that, but they preferred a murderer.

This denial was further intensified by Who He was whom they denied:  “the Holy One and the Just” or “righteous,” a clear reference to Deity.  This One was the “Giver” of life, as opposed to Barabbas, who was a “taker” of life.

“They” may have denied the Lord Jesus, but God glorified His Servant Jesus, and raised Him from the dead, vs. 13, 14.  Some people might be bothered by our Lord being called a servant, but that’s how Isaiah 53:11 portrays Him, My righteous Servant.

He Himself once said,  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28.

Further, “God…raised Him from the dead.”  As the NT emphasizes, the Resurrection is the distinguishing mark of Christianity.  It is the reason for the hope we have, 1 Corinthians 15.

In v. 16, Peter said that it was “His name, through faith in His name, that has made this man strong.”  Through the crucifixion, the “name” of Jesus has acquired “infamy.”  Yet it was this very name, or rather the Person whose name it is, that provided the power to heal this man.  This DOES NOT mean simply “saying” the name of Jesus, as some sort of magic talisman or abracadabra.  It is not a ritual or an exorcism.  It is a recognition of and submission to that Name to which Scripture tells us every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Philippians 2:9-11.

Men today may argue over “the Lordship of Jesus” or what they deride as “Lordship salvation,” as if they can receive salvation from our Lord, but reject the Lord Himself.  The time is coming when that will not be possible.