Why Would You Do That to Your Wife?

There are any number of things that this question might rightly asked about:  violence of any kind against a wife, cheating on her, etc., etc.  However, they aren’t the subject of this post about “puzzling or ‘problem’ passages.”  This question is about two Bible verses recently mentioned by an atheist as reasons why we should reject Christianity.

I will admit that these verses are very hard to understand, especially in the loose and promiscuous times in which we live.  However, as I’ve thought about them, I’ve decided they might have something to say to our degenerate society, even though I may be lighting a fire.

These verses are found in Deuteronomy 25:11, 12:

If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her. 

What in the world is that all about?  …cutting off her hand??

The question that heads this post was asked by an atheist who was using this and other verses as reasons why we shouldn’t follow Christianity.  The action in these verses wasn’t to be done by the husband, lest some take that as an excuse.

I don’t normally do this when writing a post, but I checked some commentaries and study Bibles about what others might have said.  MacArthur pointed out that this is the only case of mutilation in the Bible.  It certainly gives no excuse for the wholesale mutilations we hear about from ISIS.  Some thought it might have something to do with harming the reproductive process.  Some commented that it follows the section on Levirate Marriage.  This was an arrangement in which a brother was to marry his brother’s widow if there had been no children.  This was in order to insure that the dead brother’s line would continue in the first child that would be born of this second union.  The Pharisees challenged Jesus with this practice in Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-39.

Because it follows the section on Levirate Marriage, some thought that perhaps these verses were intended to prevent women from thinking they have a disproportionate amount of freedom.  I really don’t see that at all.  The Geneva Bible (1599) taught that it was to reinforce the idea of “shamefastness” in women.  This word means that the “shame” of doing something would hold women “fast” against doing it.  Kind of like “stand fast” against evil.  Some have suggested that that’s actually the word that should be used in 1 Timothy 2:9 (KJV), In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness [shamefastness] and sobriety,… Newer translations translate it as “godly fear” or “propriety.”

“Modest apparel”.  At the risk of “chasing rabbits,” let me say that women have nothing to be ashamed of.  God made them as they are.  At the same time, I wish they would read the words at the beginning of this paragraph.  And follow them, in church and everywhere.  Short skirts, tight clothing, cleavage.  I think you know what I mean.    And  we men aren’t exactly champions of coverup, either, especially this time of year.

Even at the beginning, after the Fall, God clothed Adam and Eve with coats [tunics] of skin.  I doubt very much “showed.”  And they were married!  No longer did they have the liberty to run around naked.

Feminism has convinced women that they have the right to be as vile as men think they have the right to be.  The point is that God set some boundaries around intimacy.  There are many, many things said about who and who may not be intimate with each other.

And Paul has something to say about this, as well.  In the chapter on marital rights and responsibilities he wrote, [before or outside marriage]it is good for a man not to touch a woman, 1 Corinthians 7:20.   He followed this up in v. 4, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

What this basically means is that there is only one person in the whole world who has the right to satisfy a person sexually, or to be intimate.  For the man, it is his wife[female]; for the wife, it is her husband[male].  Not any other person, period.

That may not be popular with our society, but I think it’s part of the message of our verses.  Even for such a good reason as defending or protecting her husband, a woman could not stray over the line of propriety.

“Who’s Minding the Store?”

There’s a story told of an old merchant who was nearing the end of his days.  Family were all gathered around his bed to be with him at the last.  Finally, he struggled to raise himself on one elbow and asked, “Who’s minding the store?”

Probably not the best story ever told, but as we look at the chaos surrounding us in this world on all sides, we might be tempted to ask the question, “Who’s minding the store?”

In other words, where’s God in all this?

There are, of course, those who say there is no God – so there’s nothing to worry about there.  It seems to me, however, that if there really is no God, then there’s everything to worry about.  If there’s nothing more to this life than this life, then “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  Paul had something to say about this in 1 Corinthians 15:32.

Then there are those who say that God wants to be involved in things, but we won’t let Him.  Really?  Please!  As well might a grain of sand on the beach tell the ocean that it won’t let the ocean get it wet as for us to think we have to “let” God do something.  I understand our responsibility to do the things needed in order to get something done.  For example, a farmer who wants a harvest without plowing and planting will have an empty barn.  At the same time, hear the words of Mordecai to his niece Esther when she was hesitant to go before the king to plead for her people:  “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance WILL arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14, emphasis added.

Mordecai was confident that what regardless of what Esther might do, God would deliver His people, but perhaps she was in the King’s palace in order to be the instrument God used to do that.

Scripture says that God works all things according to the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.  In other words, there’s nothing in “the store” that He’s not minding.  This means God is sovereign in the affairs of this world.

The idea of God’s sovereignty raises lots of questions and objections.  A brother recently posted that he believed that the sovereignty of God was the greatest hoax Satan ever put over on the church (!)  So sad.

Yes, there are questions and difficulties, but God is certainly able to work within the context of His own creation to bring about what He wants.

Besides, if God isn’t “in control” in every single situation, how can we be certain that He’s in control of “this” particular situation, whatever “this” may be?

“Yes, but I don’t understand….”

No, we don’t.

My wife and I have a grandson who’s about six weeks old.  He probably “understands” very little of what his Mom and Dad are doing to take care of him.  He has no knowledge of what Dad does when he goes to work.  He has NO IDEA what his mother went through at his birth.

That’s probably about what we’re like in relation to God.

In effect, Mom and Dad are saying, “Trust us,” when they take care of him.

That’s what God says:

“Trust Me.”

 

A Soldier’s Prayer

(found in the notebook of a dead U.S. Soldier – France, 1918.)

OUR FATHER

to whom all praise, all honor should be given, for Thou art the great God

WHO ART IN HEAVEN

Thou, by Thy wisdom, rulest the world’s whole fame, forever, therefore

HALLOWED BE THY NAME 

let, nevermore, delays divide us from Thy glorious grace, but let

THY KINGDOM COME 

let Thy commandments opposed be by none, but Thy good pleasure and

THY WILL BE DONE 

and let our promptness to obey ever be the very same

ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN 

then for our souls, O Lord, we also pray Thou wouldest be pleased to

GIVE US THIS DAY 

the food of life, wherewith our souls are fed, sufficient raiment also, and

OUR DAILY BREAD 

with every needful thing, do Thou relieve us, and in Thy mercy and pity

FORGIVE US 

all our misdeeds, for Him Whom Thou didst please to make our offerings for

OUR TRESPASSES 

and forasmuch, O Lord, as we believe that Thou will pardon us

AS WE FORGIVE 

let that love teach, wherewith Thou dost acquaint us to pardon all

THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US 

though Thou sometimes find’st we have forgot this love to Thee, yet help

AND LEAD US NOT 

through souls and bodies wont to desperation, nor let earth’s gain drive us

INTO TEMPTATION 

let not the soul of any true believer fall in the time of trial

BUT DELIVER 

yea, save from the malice of the devil and in both life and death keep

US FROM EVIL 

thus pray we, Lord, of Thee from Whom this may be had

FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM 

this world is Thy work, its wondrous story to Thee belongs

THE POWER AND THE GLORY 

and all Thy wondrous works have never ended, but will remain

FOREVER AND EVER 

thus we poor creatures would confess again, and thus, would cry eternally

“AMEN”

Yearbooks, Memories and Such.

One of our grandsons was over at the house recently and we got to talking about chess.  This led to the attic and a search for a beautiful granite chess set one of our daughters brought from Mexico several years ago.  In the course of rummaging around up there, I came across a box with a bunch of yearbooks:  mine from college, one of my wife’s from high school and some of my mom’s from high school and college.

I got to looking at my mom’s yearbooks and was struck by the fact that almost every page was filled with autographs, well-wishes and mysterious sayings, which I’m sure made perfect sense to her and her friends.  My own yearbooks? – pretty vacant in comparison.

One of her college friends prophesied that Mom would become a famous biology professor at Harvard (her nickname was “Bugs”) and that she would marry a President of the United States.  Well, she did teach nurses, but she married a truck driver.  A good thing for me, otherwise someone else would be writing this.  My youngest son was born in a hospital where she worked as a nurse, and while my wife and I were there, this lady probably in her 60s (she seemed old to us at the time!) came and asked if I were related to ? – and she named Mom.  I was.  This lady had been one of her students in the hospital, and she told me what a wonderful teacher and woman Mom was.

It’s hard to believe that the yearbook with the prophecies is 80 years old.  It’s from 1933.  I doubt if Mom ever thought about her 73-year old son one day looking at this book.  There’s probably only one or two of all those girls still alive – they’d be around 100 now.  She herself would have turned 100 last year.  But she’s been gone for more than 40 years.

The books served as an interesting snapshot of an earlier, much different, time.  The fashions and hairdos looked funny.  But then, ours would probably look funny to them as well.  Probably embarrassing.  The interesting thing about her high school yearbooks was that two of them mentioned this club of boys whose goal was to advance Christian values in the school.  One of the books mentioned the Bible studies they held.

This is certainly in stark contrast to the internet article two days ago about a high school student who was suspended for saying, “bless you,” when one of her classmates sneezed.  Seems this expression was on a list of several “religious” words forbidden by the teacher.

TImes have certainly changed.

But they do that.  Children grow up.  Fashions come and go.  Some may come back, others may become a laughingstock in the future. Today’s treasure may become tomorrow’s trash.  The only thing that doesn’t change, I guess, is that things change.

If our focus is on this world, it’ll change.  That may be good; it may be bad.  I have some ration books from WWII.  Very precious at one time, but just an historical curiosity now.  I have a work history which goes back to 1961.  I can tell you every job I’ve held in that time and how much I made.  Interesting (perhaps only to me!), but pretty useless now.  I remember the first job I had making a buck an hour!  I was rich!

One of our children will have been with her employer 20 years next January (my! – where has the time gone! 🙂 ).  Some of our grandsons are thinking about college and what they want to do in life.  I kid my daughter that in just a few years, she can look forward to be a grandma!  I don’t think she’s ready for that 🙂 .  I think it would be great to be a great-grandpa. 🙂

The point of all this rambling?  There’s really only one thing in this life that never changes.  (And yes, I know you can think of exceptions to that generalization.  But you’ll see what I mean.)  In praising God, the Psalmist said, Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But you are the same, and Your years will have no end, Psalm 102:25-27.  The writer to Hebrews quotes these verses in Hebrews 1:10-12.  Then he wrote, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, 13:8.

I really don’t know how to end this.  Just, I guess, an encouragement not to put all our eggs into one basket.  Better – we should put them into His basket and let Him take care of them.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Revelation has always been a puzzle to its readers.  Though I may do a series of posts on it some day, it’s not my intent here to enter into a discussion of the meaning of the book, or of how to interpret it.

The book is often divided into three parts, based on our Lord’s instruction to John in 1:19, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are, and those that are to take place after this” (ESV).

Using the same three divisions, but keeping in mind that the book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” not just from Him, but about Him, I divide the book like this:

1.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Reader, ch. 1
2.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Churches, chs. 2, 3.
3.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the World, chs. 4 – 22.

I was struck one day by the significance, if you will, of the first chapter.  Though I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this for some time, it was brought to a head, so to speak, by an exchange I recently had with a fellow-blogger about “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  Her point was that Jesus was indeed gentle and mild.  And she’s right.

He was gentle to the downtrodden, the outcast, the tax-collectors and publicans, folks on the bottom rung of the ladder – or not even near it.  He stopped a funeral procession in its tracks and turned unbearable grief into unspeakable joy.  He could hold His own and then some with the scholars of His day, but spoke so that the common people heard Him gladly, Mark 12:37 (NKJV).  He fed thousands of people with a boy’s lunch, and saved the day at a wedding.  He prayed for the men who drove the spikes into His hands and feet.

We never read that He laughed.  We do read that He wept.  At the same time, we mustn’t think that He was a sourpuss.  We read in John 15:11 that He was concerned that His joy might abide in His disciples.

So the Lord was like sunshine on a warm Summer day.

Oh, but He could also be lightning and thunder!  Hear His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves, Matthew 23:15.  He called them fools and blind, v. 17.  He berated them for loading people with heavy burdens of rigid legalism, but never giving them anything to help them carry those burdens, v. 4. He called them serpents, brood of vipers! and asked them how they thought they could escape the condemnation of hell? v.33.

This didn’t serve to make Him popular with these religious leaders!  As a result of His rebuking them on another occasion, Luke 11:53 records, the scribes and Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently…. There was no such thing for Him as “dialogue” with the enemies of truth.

Our culture pretty much ignores this side of our Lord.  He had no time for those who actively opposed His ministry and preaching.  And Scripture says that when He comes again, He will do so in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.  When was the last time you heard a sermon on that text?

The people to whom John wrote his book needed to know they served a Christ Who was greater than what they were going to go through.  They needed to know that what they were suffering, and were going to suffer, wasn’t just some “accident of history.”  They needed to know that when Satan did his worst, he was still a defeated foe and that his would not be the final word.

We need this today, as well.  We live in terrible times.  I was going to write “unprecedented times,” but that’s not true.  The rivers of Christian blood shed down through the years bear eloquent testimony to that fact.  Other times have been much worse than these times, but I think we’re getting there.

There may yet come a time when Christians – indeed, in parts of the world the news tells us that it’s already here – when Christians are led like sheep to the slaughter, Psalm 44:22; Romans 8:36.

We’re going to need to be settled as more than just a nice thing to believe, or good verses to memorize, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38-39.

When we’re kneeling, waiting for the sword to sever our head from our body….

Acceptance

(This post was originally published April 24, 2013 under the title, “Accepted”.  Thought it might be time for a “summer rerun.”  I changed the title in order to distinguish the two posts though they are the same, except for some minor corrections.)

One of the “traumas” of later teen years is the ordeal of trying to get into college.  Applications are sent in and their answer is anxiously waited for.

Aspiring authors send their manuscripts in to publishers and anxiously await their answer.

The answer can be found in one word – the same word.

Even professing Christians sometimes or often struggle to find this same answer.

That answer, that word, is “accepted.”

Prospective college students are elated finally to receive that answer to their application.

Authors rejoice to get that answer about their manuscripts from a publisher.

Strangely, Christians are reluctant to receive that answer from God.

I wonder why this is.  Perhaps it’s because they don’t understand the basis of “acceptance.”

Let me tell you a story which may help.

When our firstborn son was still an infant, I was someplace where there was a crying baby (not him!)  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son – and it was alright.

Too many professing Christians have been taught or believe that in order to be accepted by God, you have to do this or that, or don’t do this or that.    There’s a whole litany of things people think they have to do or not in order to win acceptance and the favor of God.

But there’s another word which comes into play here.

Grace.

A lot of people talk about grace, but have never really thought about it.

Grace isn’t something we deserve.  We can’t earn it.  We can’t merit it.  It’s not some kind of reward for what we do.  We can’t buy it.  And we can’t obligate God to give it to us.  It’s not a result of anything we do, or can do.

It is grace.

As I looked at that crying baby, my “acceptance” of him had nothing to do with him.  It was because of my own son.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) says that God has made us accepted in the Beloved. He looks at our sorry selves, but He sees His Son – and it’s alright.  Not because of us, perish the thought, but because of Him.

Books could be written about this, and have been.  Very simply put, Jesus lived a perfect life – the only One Who ever did.   He died a death that paid for sins, though He had none of His own.  The only One Who ever did that, too.

That perfect life, that punitive death.

It is on the basis of these that God accepts those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Not the Church.  Not the sacraments.  Not through works.  Not the liturgy.  Not baptism.  Not the Catechism.  Not communion.  Not confirmation.

Through Christ.  Faith in Him, Who He was and what He did.

If you want acceptance with God, quit looking to or at yourself.  You’ll find nothing there but reasons for rejection.

The Psalmist rejoiced in the truth of acceptance, if not in those words:  Psalm 103:10, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

The reason for that is because He did deal with Christ according to them.

Our acceptance before God rests in the perfect life and complete payment for sins by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole section of Ephesians 1:3-14 deals with the Lord Jesus and the blessings, by grace, we have in Him.

How do we know this “acceptance” is ours?  Paul tells us in vs. 12, 13 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted….

Oh, if you’re having trouble with this, look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trust Him.

Because

We are

accepted

in the Beloved.

“No Longer A Canaanite in the House of the Lord.”

Our last post finished with our title statement from Zechariah 14:21.

Why this strange statement, seemingly out of harmony with the rest of the chapter?

The Canaanites were the original occupants of the land.  Israel displaced them.

There’s a lot of angst over “the poor Canaanites.”  However, Moses and Joshua didn’t just arbitrarily decide to invade Canaan on the spur of the moment.  Almost from the beginning of Biblical history, the land of Canaan has been singled out for special attention, long before there was an Israel.

In Genesis 9:18 and 10:6, Canaan is listed as the son of Ham, one of Noah’s children.  Ham is brought to our attention in Genesis 9:20-27 as a result of some indiscretion against Noah.  We’re not told what that indiscretion was, only that it happened.  Nor are we told why Noah “cursed” Canaan instead of Ham.

Genesis 10:6 lists the children of Canaan and the territory in which they settled.  This is the only “nation” so described.

Genesis 15 is the famous chapter in which God promises Abraham a son and foretells something of the future of his descendants.  Our post, “Look Now Toward Heaven,” gives more detail about this event.  For now, we’re interested in the last part of v. 16, where, after telling Abraham of the sojourn in Egypt and that Israel will come out with great riches, God tells him that this will happen in the “fourth generation…, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 

“The iniquity of the Amorites,” who stand as representatives of the Canaanites.

The Canaanites were not an innocent and childlike people.  Archaeology has confirmed that.  Scripture describes some of their depravity.  Leviticus 18 gives a long list of the degenerate acts committed by the Canaanites which were not to be committed by Israel.  God warns Israel in v. 18, “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.  For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity on it.”   In v. 29, He warns of punishment for anyone who engages in these acts.  Israel paid very little attention to this, and did indeed suffer much as the nations before them had suffered.

In addition to this, the Canaanites were idolaters, to the extent of burning their own children as sacrifices to their false gods.  They engaged in witchcraft and spiritism.  Israel really was no better fundamentally than these other nations and her dissolution by Nebuchadnezzar was because of all these very sins, cf. 2 Kings 21:1-16. But nobody worries about “the poor Israelites.”  See also Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 12:29-32.

The Canaanites were to be destroyed as a punishment for their sins.  Many find this difficult to accept.  We’ve so diluted the idea of “the love of God,” that we have totally dismissed the idea of His holiness and justice.  It is true that the Christian has no such command or right.  But the Canaanites were also to be destroyed as a protection for Israel and to prevent her from being tempted to follow their degenerate ways.  The Old Testament bears sad testimony to how badly Israel failed at this.

The only reason Israel and the Jewish people have not completely disappeared from the pages of history like so many other nations and peoples is because God isn’t finished with her.  Our last post dealt with that.  Israel’s continued existence is inexplicable apart from that thought.

So then, how did Canaanites get into the house of the Lord?

Joshua 9 gives us the story.  Realizing they were doomed, the Gibeonites sent men who pretended to be from a country a long way away and who wanted to make a treaty with Israel.  Taking the men’s statements at face value and not consulting the LORD, cf. Numbers 27:21, Joshua made a treaty with them.  It wasn’t until three days later that Israel discovered she had been fooled.  There were those who wanted to destroy the Gibeonites, anyway.  Joshua prevented this from happening, saying that the treaty must be honored, even though falsely obtained.  King Saul got Israel into trouble many years later for violating this same treaty, 2 Samuel 21:1.

Let this be a lesson to us.  We often get into trouble because we “take things at face value,” and don’t “inquire of the LORD” about what to do in a specific situation.

As a result of their deception, the Gibeonites were sentenced to a lifetime of serving the Tabernacle.  They would be woodcutters and water carriers for the house of…God, Joshua 9:23, 27.

They got into the house of God, even unintentionally because they were idolaters, by deception.  That’s not how we’re to enter God’s presence.

Our Lord addresses a somewhat similar situation in Matthew 7:22, “Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” 

These are solemn words.  We live in a time when there are professing Christians who are all about the casting out of demons and the performing of signs and miracles.  This isn’t to say that they’re not sincere in what they believe and do.  The men in Matthew 7 were sincere, and were no doubt dumbfounded when the Lord rejected their works as “lawlessness.”

The Lord also predicted a time when “every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,”  Matthew 15:13.  In a time of “tolerance,” this isn’t a message that people want to hear.  But it’s important.  Eternity is just around the corner for all of us, young or old, and what seems so great in this life might turn out to be not so great in the light of “forever.”

The message for us is that not everything in “church” is of God.  Where there are sons of the kingdom, there are also sons of the wicked one, Matthew 13:37-39.  Even the Lord had His “Judas.”  Paul went so far as to say, in effect, that if you want to find the Devil, look for him behind the pulpit, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15.  After all, what is more important than what one believes about eternity?  The Devil doesn’t care how “right” or how “orthodox” we are about anything else if he can get us to be wrong about eternity.

According to Matthew, four separate times our Lord predicted that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,”  Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30.  “Weeping” because people have done what their preacher or priest or rabbi or imam or guru or whoever has told them to do, but they’ll find out when it’s too late that it’s not what God told them to do.

Everything we read or hear, including this blog, is to be measured according to the rule of Scripture, cf. Acts 17:11.  It doesn’t matter if everybody in the entire world says, “A”, if God’s Word says, “B”.  There is no greater responsibility than our hearing or ministering the Word of God.

Oh!  to be students of the Word.  To find it of more importance than anything else in the world.  Way back in the early days of history, Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food,” Job 23:12(ESV).  When we step on the scale, more than likely we see that we’ve had plenty of food.  If we could weigh them, I wonder if our souls would say the same thing?

What’s Ahead for Israel?

The fighting in Gaza has captured a great deal of coverage in the world’s media.  I have no idea how the current fighting will be resolved, but I am interested in the fact that the “truces” are being “timed” – so many hours or days.  I don’t want to make any rash statements, but perhaps – perhaps – this is the beginning of what will culminate in a 7-year treaty between Israel and her enemies.

Daniel 9:27 speaks of an individual who will “confirm a covenant” with Israel for seven years.  The word “confirm” may mean the confirmation of an already existing treaty, or it may mean the making of a new one.  It’s uncertain.  But there is coming a definite treaty.  How do we know it’s Israel?  Because this whole message from Gabriel to Daniel is about “your people and your holy city,” that is, Israel and Jerusalem.  How do we know that “a week” refers to 7 years?  Because the first 69 weeks refer to years and to historical events (historical to us, that is.  They were still future to Daniel).  It makes no sense whatever to say that the first 69 weeks are actual years, but the last week is just some indeterminate period of time.  Finally, who is this individual?  Nobody knows.

Anyway, however the current situation in Israel plays out, it isn’t the final act of her history.  Zechariah 14 gives us details on that.

Zechariah 14:1, 2 refer to a terrible battle in which Jerusalem will be captured and looted and the women subjected to terrible atrocities.  Many of the inhabitants will be taken captive.

It seems to me that this will cover an extensive period of time, perhaps three and a half years, or the last half of the seven years.  It will be a terrible time.  The talking heads on TV will have a great deal to say about the fact that “the Jewish problem” has finally been solved.  Learned discussions will take place on how much better off the world is now that Israel has been defeated.  I’m sure there will be parades and wild celebration, if not world wide, then certainly in Arab countries.  The thorn in their side will finally have been pulled!  Of course, this is all speculation, but I’m sure these future events in the Middle East will generate as much coverage as the current ones are making.

However, whatever happens, this will not be the end of the story.  Vs. 3 and 4 tell of the sudden return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, where He will fight against those nations.  Now it could be that very little time elapses between the seeming final destruction of Jerusalem and Israel and the return of the Lord, though we have treated it otherwise.  It certainly is possible, though the preceding verses do seem to allow for a lapse of time.  Regardless, the Lord will return to Israel and that will be the end of the conflict.  Verses 12-15 describe the plague which will befall those fighting against Israel.  Some have thought this refers to the destruction of an atomic explosion.  Since God doesn’t tell us, we can’t know, just that it will happen.  Further, there will be great panic among these forces, so that they will begin to fight each other.

Accompanying the Lord’s return will be great geological changes.  We would call them catastrophes.  There will be an enormous earthquake, resulting in a very large valley, v. 4.  In addition, a very large portion of the land will be turned into a plain, v. 10.  This will make room for the things described in Ezekiel 40-48.  One of the arguments against a “literal” understanding of those chapters has been the fact that there’s not enough room in Israel for them.  The changes associated with the return of our Lord will take care of that.

Another such change will be living waters flowing from Jerusalem, half toward to Mediterranean and half toward the eastern sea, (the Red Sea?).  Ezekiel 47:1-6 adds to the description of these waters.

The geological changes from the earthquake will undoubtedly affect more than just Israel, though the immediate effects of it extend only to Azal, wherever that is.  The rift itself, which is seen in the Jordan valley, extends 3000 miles into Africa.  Whenever that goes, kind of like the San Andreas fault in California, there will undoubtedly be widespread effects.

But there will also be heavenly effects, which seem to continue beyond just the immediate return of the Lord, v. 6, 7.  We really have no idea what this will be, having nothing in our experience to compare with it.  Perhaps a similar thing happened in Joshua 10:12, 13.

There will be one thing with which we are familiar: there will still be summer and winter, v. 8.

Zechariah 16-21 describe what will happen when the LORD shall be King over all the earth, v. 9.  Mostly it describes worship, which will be mandatory, and refusal will be punished.  The Reformation Study Bible says that these verses refer to “the final state,” or eternity.  If that’s so, then why is there a need for “punishment” and “plague”?  There won’t be any rebellion in eternity.  Heaven will be filled with those who love and serve the Lord and Hell will be filled with those who don’t and won’t.

I know that there’s a lot of discussion about “the kingdom,” and what it is.  Many believe that it’s just the rule of the Lord Jesus in the hearts of His people.  While there is that part of it, Scripture says that “the Lord will King over all the earth,” v. 9.  This is more than the providential rule with which He governs this present world, or the “rule” over His people, which is imperfectly carried out,  at best.  “Imperfect,” not because of Him, but because of us.  When the Lord rules as Scripture says He must and will, there will be no doubt about it.

I just can’t understand why anyone would think it would be such a terrible thing for the Lord actually to “rule” from Jerusalem, or anywhere else on this planet.  Doesn’t the Scripture say that a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom, Psalm 45:5?  Isn’t it a great insult to Him to imply that His rule on this planet would be anything but “righteous”?

Zechariah isn’t the only one who mention the reign of our Lord.  Revelation 19:11-16 also describes His return.  V. 15 says, Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. 

Of course, part of the difficulty in interpreting Revelation is it’s use of symbols.  It’s obvious that there won’t really be a sword sticking out our Lord’s mouth, but, at the same time, the gist of the prophecy is plain.  He will come in victory and swift judgment against His enemies.  The interesting part is where “He Himself will rule them [the nations, not His people, not the Church, – the nations] with a rod of iron.”  The word translated “rule” is interesting.  It means “to shepherd,” and is also used in John 10 of our Lord’s care of His people.

He will “shepherd” the nations.  Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us something of that “shepherding.”  This is a far cry from the Reformed view that the Lord will come back, there will be the final judgment, and then He will usher in eternity.

There is one final statement in Zechariah 14:21, the last statement in the book:  In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. 

What in the world is that all about?

I’m afraid the answer will have to wait until our next post.

The Sabbath and The Sacrifice

This is the final post in our series on “The Sabbath.”  In the preceding posts, we’ve traced the Sabbath from it’s beginning in God’s creation rest, through it’s inclusion in the Mosaic Covenant God made with Israel to remind them continually of their rescue from Egyptian slavery and their singular privilege as God’s people, through their dismal record of disobedience to it, ending with the Lord Jesus’ absolute honoring of it.  This, however, as we saw in the 12 incidents that the Gospels record, wasn’t in accord with what the religious leaders taught, but according to His own deity and authority.  Since the Lord ministered for more than three years, these 12 occurrences are just a drop in the bucket compared to what must have happened dozens of time, indeed, probably every Sabbath.

There are those who stop right there and say, “All right.  Since the Lord kept the Sabbath, we have to keep it as well.”  However, Scripture doesn’t end with the Crucifixion or even the Resurrection.  Luke refers to all that Jesus began to do and teach, Acts 1:1.  Though absent physically from His people, He is still active through the Spirit in His people.  However, this activity is in agreement with the Word of God as it was revealed to and through the first two generations of the church.  There is no new revelation, nor has there been since the giving of the last book of the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

So what does the rest of the New Testament have to say about the Sabbath?  You might be surprised.

There are 109 references to the Sabbath, by name, in the Old Testament.  There are 50 references in the Gospels.  That’s 159 references total.

In the rest of the New Testament, starting with the Book of Acts, there are –

10….

Ten.

Nine of those are in Acts.

Acts 1:12 tells of the disciples returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where the Lord Jesus had just left them, returning to heaven, but giving them  their last instructions before doing so.  The “Sabbath day’s journey” was the distance the Rabbis had decided was the distance someone could travel on the Sabbath without breaking it. Perhaps based on their interpretation of Exodus 16:29 and Numbers 35:5, this was said to be 2000 cubits, or 3000 feet, about 3/5 of a mile.

The four references in Acts 13:14, 27, 42, 44 refer to about two weeks of Paul’s ministry in Antioch of Pisidia.  In v. 14, he and his party visited the Synagogue on the Sabbath and were given the opportunity to “exhort” the people, v. 15.  Vs. 16-41 give us Paul’s remarks to the people there, a wonderful summary of Israel’s history, finishing with David and God’s promise of a Savior coming from his line, vs. 23.  Then there’s the application to the Lord Jesus as the fulfillment of that promise, through His crucifying as fulfillment of prophecies read every Sabbath in synagogues, but not understood by those reading or hearing them.  Also promised, Jesus rose from the dead, as witnessed by his disciples, v. 31.  Paul closed with a warning to heed what he was saying.

As a result of his teaching, v. 42, the Gentiles begged to hear more the next Sabbath.  A lot of people followed Paul and Barnabas after the service, and they encouraged these people to continue in the grace of God, v. 43.  The next week, nearly the whole city turned out to hear Paul.  This aroused the enmity of the Jews, and they chased Paul out of the city.

Acts 15:21 is part of the account of the Jerusalem Council given in Acts 15, which convened as a result of opposition to Paul’s teaching by those who insisted that Gentile converts had to be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, without which you cannot be saved, v. 1, and to command them to keep the law of Moses, v. 5.

Peter answered these assertions by pointing out that Gentiles had been saved through his ministry without the necessity of becoming or acting like Jews.  This referred to the salvation of Cornelius, his family and friends, Acts 10.  By the way, Acts 10 also has something to say to those who insist that one can’t be saved without baptism.

Note carefully the decision of the council in Acts 15:24-29.  First, they had never sent out anyone insisting that keeping the Law was necessary for salvation.  What the Holy Spirit and they did want for Gentile converts were that they abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, vs. 28, 29. Not a single reference to keeping the Sabbath for these Gentile believers.

Acts 16:13 tells of Paul’s meeting in Philippi with Lydia and other women.

Acts 17:2 tells us of the three Sabbath Paul spent in a synagogue in Thessalonica, reasoning from the Scriptures, and seeking to persuade them that this Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ, that is, the Messiah.  Notice that Paul reasoned FROM the Scriptures.  There a lot of people who try to reason TO the Scriptures, that is, they think that if you can present enough “evidence,” people will receive Christ.  However, the Pharisees had all the “evidence” in the world about the Lord Jesus, but, with very few exceptions, all of them rejected Him.  The same is true of the Sadducees and Herodians, though there is no record of any of these ever being saved.

Acts 18:4 tells us of a man named Aquila, who reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

With the exception of Acts 16:13, these accounts all concern Jews and their required observance of the Sabbath.  But even in Philippi, I think we see Jewish influence because these women gathered together on the Sabbath.  Evidently there was no synagogue, which by Jewish law required ten men to start.

Peter and Paul and the others went to synagogue because they were Jews, yes, but also that they might witness through the prophets the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no evidence anywhere in Scripture that Gentiles were or are required to observe the Sabbath.  Many Gentiles did go to the synagogue because it was through the Jewish nation that one came to God.  However, as soon as opposition arose, the Gentiles and those Jews who believed Paul and the others separated themselves.

We mentioned the Holy Spirit.  Since we believe that the New Testament writings were inspired in their giving by the Holy Spirit, what does He have to say in the rest of the New Testament about the the Sabbath?

In the twenty-two remaining books of the NT, Romans – Revelation, containing about 3,146 verses, there is –

1 verse –

one-

which mentions the Sabbath.  That verse is,

Colossians 2:16, So let no man judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths. 

Not a ringing endorsement of Sabbath-keeping.  Instead of being concerned that these believers weren’t observing the Sabbath, he worries that they were.  This verse is the conclusion of a section in which Paul tells us that Christ supercedes Moses, that it is through His death on the Cross that we’ve been made alive spiritually, not through keeping the rituals and requirements of Moses.  The writer of Hebrews makes the same point.

Hebrews was apparently written to Jews who were being tempted, perhaps by persecution and hardship, to return to their old way of doing things, that is, to the Temple worship and sacrifices.  Hebrews is a book of warning against doing that.  The theme of the book may be summarized by Colossians 1:18, that in all things He might have the preeminence.  In the first three chapters, the writer compares and contrasts the Lord Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, with angels and to Moses and Aaron.  In view of this superiority, the writer warns against “drifting away,” that is, not holding fast to His words, because He is God, but being influenced by the things they were experiencing.  Faithfulness in following the Lord Jesus is the evidence we are truly His, not legalism or formal ritualism.

Then, in 3:7-16, the writer turns to a familiar OT story, the failure of Israel to enter the land and the consequent 38 years wandering in the wilderness.  Because of their rebellion, God said, “They shall not enter My rest.”  See also 4:3.

It might be objected that the writer never refers to the Sabbath as such.  That’s true.  But Israel never achieved the “rest” the Sabbath foreshadowed.  They never achieved the completion, the “success,” if you will, of God’s creation rest.  In the wilderness, in the land, out of the land, returning to the land, being defeated as a nation in AD 70, spending centuries scattered among the nations, being recognized again as a nation in 1948, fighting with her enemies now in 2014 – Israel has never achieved that state of peace and perfection typified in the perfection and completion of creation.  They have never entered that rest.  Indeed, dark, dark days are ahead for her, Zechariah 14:1, 2.

Furthermore, as part of the Mosaic Law, the Sabbath was a only a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, Hebrews 10:1.  Though it was called “a rest,” it was always only temporary;  Israel always had to go “back to work.” They could never “cease” because they were never done.  Though they offered sacrifices for centuries, they never achieved the righteousness which would have allowed them to “be done”.  Redemption was never achieved.

In contrast, the writer speaks of the ONE sacrifice of the Lord Jesus by which sin was purged, 1:3.  No other sacrifice is needed. Sin has been paid for, redemption has been accomplished.  In contrast to Israel, the writer says that we who have believed do enter that rest, 4:3.   There is a rest for the people of God, 4:9.  Hebrews 4:8-10 tells us that our “rest” isn’t found in a day of the week, but in a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 16:9 tells us that Jesus rose early on the first day of the week.  John 20:19, that same first day of the week, Jesus appeared to the eleven as they huddled in fear in a closed room with a locked door.  Acts 20:7 tells us that the disciples came together to break bread, that is, to observe the Lord’s Supper, not just to “fellowship.”  In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul refers to the first day of the week as the time to prepare for a certain offering which was to be taken up.  The disciples met together on Sunday because that is the day the Lord Jesus arose, not because of some church edict.

Beyond these few references, there is no emphasis on a particular day of the week.  I believe that, if necessary, believers could decide to meet together on a Thursday morning at 3 AM and still please God with their worship.  It’s not a DAY, but a DEATH that brings us to God.

Those who worship on the Sabbath in effect say that redemption has still to be accomplished, sin has still to be paid for, God’s justice has still to be satisfied.  But redemption has been accomplished, sin has been paid for, God’s justice has been satisfied.

There is much more that could be said on all the subject we’ve written about in this series.  We hope that what we have written at least gives you something to think about.

He is not here,” said the angel on that first day of the week, “He is risen!”

That’s why we meet on Sunday.

The Sabbath has been realized.

 

 

The Savior and the Sabbath.

And as His custom was, [Jesus] went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read, Luke 4:16 (NKJV).

“His custom”.

One of the websites I visited while researching this series based its whole evidence for the continued priority of the seventh-day Sabbath on the custom of Jesus to which Luke refers.  The implication of this site is that since Jesus kept the Sabbath, so must we.

There was nothing else to be expected of our Lord.  Galatians 4:4 reminds us that Jesus was born under the law, and as such was required to keep the Sabbath.  Our last posts have seen that.  But there was more to what our Lord did than just go to synagogue on Saturday.  By the way, the Jewish Sabbath was, and is, from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon, not all day Saturday.

There are 50 references to the Sabbath in the Gospels.  Their emphasis isn’t just on Jesus’ attendance in the synagogue on the Sabbath, but His attitude toward it and what He did during it.  These 50 references tell of 12 separate incidents in the life and ministry of the Lord, although 6 of the references refer either to what happened immediately after His death or after His resurrection.  Further, several of the incidents are recorded by more than one Gospel.  Some of the parallel accounts don’t specifically mention the Sabbath.  We usually haven’t included them in this post.

His attitude and His actions were what got the Lord Jesus in trouble with the religious leaders of the day, that and His claims about who He was.  As we briefly look at these 12 incidents in the life of our Lord, in the order the first reference appears in the Gospels, we see this quite clearly.

1.  Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-27; Luke 6:1-3:  Picking grain to eat.

This is the record of Jesus and His disciples traveling through some fields of grain one Sabbath day.  The disciples got hungry, picked some of the heads of wheat and ate them, cf. Deuteronomy 23:25.  This upset the Pharisees, who labelled this as “harvesting,” that is, “work,” on the Sabbath. They claimed that what the disciples were doing wasn’t “lawful.”

By the example of David eating the showbread in the Tabernacle is a time of great need and by quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” the Lord showed that sometimes “mercy” takes precedence over rigid legalism like the Pharisees practiced.

Then He made a couple of astonishing statements: “Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the Temple….  For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath,”  Matthew 12:6, 8.  In other words, the Lord Jesus was claiming authority even over the Sabbath and didn’t need the “approval” of the religious authorities for what He did.   I’m sure this didn’t go over well with the Pharisees.

2.  Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11:  healing the man with a disabled hand.

This event seems to follow immediately after the first one, though Luke shows it differently.  The Gospels often don’t follow what we would understand as chronology, but are concerned with connection.  This was true of the literature of the ancient world.  It is a mistake to expect ancient writings to follow modern ideas.  Regardless, Jesus was in a synagogue where there was a disabled man.  Continuing the argument about “legality,” the Pharisees asked Jesus if it were “lawful to heal on the Sabbath”  …that they might accuse Him.  The Pharisees never actually looked at what the Lord did, only that He violated what they thought was right and proper.

The Lord showed their hypocrisy in that they would rescue one of their animals from danger on the Sabbath; by implication, shouldn’t He rescue this man from his disability?  To answer their question – “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Instead of bringing them to repentance, this episode just deepened their rebellion. They resolved to figure out how to destroy Him.

3.  Matthew 24:20:  pray not to have to flee on the Sabbath.

Though Mark and Luke also record this discourse, Matthew is the only one who mentions the Sabbath.  Jesus told His disciples to pray that they wouldn’t have to escape from Jerusalem on the Sabbath because the Sabbath was of primary importance to the Jews, and it would be unusually difficult to escape from the coming judgment on that day.

4.  Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1,9:  Christ rises on the first day of the week.

These are accounts of the women’s discovery of the empty tomb and the resurrection of the Lord.  Both accounts mention that this happened the first day of the week, and Mark 16:9 specifically says that He arose early on the first day of the week.  One could say that His body was indeed “resting” on the Sabbath.  Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.  John 20:10 also mentions the first day of the week, though there is no mention of the Sabbath.

5.  Mark 1:21; Luke 4:31:  the Lord declares and demonstrates His authority.

This account of the early ministry of the Lord shows the difference between His teaching and that of the rabbis and scribes, an example of which we see in Matthew 5-7, with the same result, Matthew 7:28.  It also shows His authority over the spirit world, as He casts out a demon.  Both of these incidents, following each other closely, asserted and emphasized the authority, the uniqueness, of the Lord Jesus.

6.  Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16:  the Lord rejected in His hometown.

This seems to be the first Sabbath episode in our Lord’s “official” ministry in His hometown, though He’d ministered elsewhere, Luke 4:23.   Luke gives more detail as to what happened.  Growing up, He’d been in regular attendance with His parents and family, but this time was different.  Perhaps He’d done the reading before, but this time He applied it to Himself.  Pay attention in Luke 4:18, 19 where He stopped reading from Isaiah 61:1, 2.  His teaching didn’t set well with those who knew Him, or thought they did, and they wound up trying to kill Him, Luke 4:28-30.

7.  Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54, 56; John 19:31:  Jesus buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.

People assume that “the Sabbath” mentioned was the ordinary weekly Sabbath, so this means that Christ was crucified on Friday.  It’s not our purpose to get into the discussion about where that’s true or not.  However, the Sabbath to which the Gospels refer was the Passover, which, as we’ve seen, could happen any day of the week.  John refers to that Sabbath as a high day, John 19:31,something which he probably wouldn’t have done if it were just another Saturday.  And, as we’ve seen, Matthew 28:1 in the original language refers to “Sabbaths,” plural, as being over.

However, the real point of Mark, Luke and John was to verify that Jesus actually died, and not just fainted or faked it, as some falsely teach.  Remember, Pilate was amazed that Jesus could have died so soon, victims of crucifixion often lingering for several days.  So he asked a centurion, who was well-acquainted with death, if Jesus had indeed died.  This centurion would have forfeited his own life, if he had lied about it, and knew when one was dead, no doubt having seen many dead bodies, in contrast to modern skeptics who may have never seen one dead body, let alone a crucifixion!

What one sees on TV programs as dead people don’t look like dead people.  I had a fellow worker die on the job and he looked entirely different than what’s on TV.  Besides, if you watch closely, those who “die” on TV catch themselves as they hit the floor or ground.

Jesus was dead.

8.  Luke 13:10-16:  healing of the woman with a spirit of infirmity. 

We see again the contrast between the Pharisees and the Lord.  The Pharisees complained that there were six other days to come and be healed, so don’t interrupt the service to do so.  Our Lord again pointed out the hypocrisy as these complainers would have themselves untied their own animals to take them to water; why shouldn’t this daughter of Abraham be similarly untied and freed from her burden?

9.  Luke 14:1-5:  healing of the man with dropsy.

Though this happened in a house, it was still the Sabbath. Luke says, they watched Him closely because there was someone present who had an ailment.  Our Lord asked them, as He had others, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  They wouldn’t answer, so the Lord healed the man.  Then he asked another question:  which of them having a child or an animal fall into a pit on the Sabbath wouldn’t rescue him, thus exposing their hypocrisy once again.

10.  John 5:  healing a man at the pool of Bethesda.

The healing itself isn’t the issue, at least to start with, but the fact that the man was carrying his bed on the Sabbath, v. 9.  Notice a couple of things just in passing:  the man had no “faith to be healed,” but began to point out difficulties when the Lord asked him if he wanted to be healed, v. 7.  The Lord healed him, anyway. Further, there was a “great multitude” of folks waiting to be healed, but the Lord singled out this one man and healed him, when He saw HIM (emphasis added).

What really frosted the Pharisees, though, was the fact that Jesus claimed equality with God, vs. 16-18.  There are many who say that Jesus never claimed to be God, but those who heard Him  knew that was exactly what He was claiming on more than one occasion.  It’s part of why they crucified Him, Matthew 27:43.  See also John 8:58:  The Jews understood full well what Jesus meant when He said, …before Abraham was, I AM.”

11.   John 7:  Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Though you really need to read the whole chapter, we’re looking at vs. 21-23.  Here the discussion once again centers around the fact that the priests themselves “violated” the Sabbath sometimes in circumcising an infant on the eighth day.  What Jesus did was no different and no more a violation of the Sabbath than what they did.

12.  John 9:  healing of the man born blind.

Again, the whole chapter bears on this, and probably through 10:21, but 9:14-16 tells us it was on the Sabbath, which, as always, was what really upset the Pharisees, 9:16.

 

Thus, briefly, we’ve looked at the 12 incidents of confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees which happened because of His actions on and attitude toward the Sabbath.  As we mentioned above, Jesus was born under the Law, and so was required with every other Jew to observe it.  What got Him into trouble was the fact that He wouldn’t do it like He was supposed to.

What does the rest of the New Testament tell us about Sabbath-keeping?  That’s our next post.