Hebrews 2:1, God Has Magnified His Word….

The reference behind this post’s title is Psalm 138:2, where the Psalmist said, “I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (NKJV)

We are inundated with sermons and cards and fb posts which emphasize God’s love, but we don’t hear nearly as much about God’s truth.  Yet here the Psalmist joins them together:  God’s love and God’s Word.  And he makes an astonishing statement, that God holds His Word in greater honor even than His own name.

That’s something to think about.  We live in a time when God’s name isn’t very highly thought of.  We’ve even abbreviated things because of the limitations of texting and such.  You ever see the letters “OMG”?  We think little of God’s name, and I’m afraid we think little of His Word, as well.  We shouldn’t.

God has a great deal to say about His Word, those who proclaim it, and those who hear it.  In this post, we’ll only look at a sampling of what He says.  All quotes are from the NKJV.

Deuteronomy 18:9-22:

9]When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  10]There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11]or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  12]For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.  13]You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.  14] For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.  15]The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear, 16]according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’  17]And the LORD said to me:  ‘What they have spoken is good.  18]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.  19]And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.  20]But the prophet who presumes to speak in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’  21]And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD had not spoken?’ – 22]when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

Deuteronomy 12:32-13:5:

32]“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.  1]If there arises a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2]and the sign or wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ – which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’  3] you shall not listen to the words of  that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  4]You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.  5]But that prophet or dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”

I’ve quoted such lengthy portions because we don’t usually take the time to look up references.  And it’s important to see or hear what God says, not just what a preacher or teacher, even me, says that He says.

In these portions, there are several things.

1. There are true spokesmen for God, 18:18.  It’s true that the main reference is to the Lord Jesus, John 1:45, but there are men who are called by God into the ministry.

2. We’re not to use “worldly” methods of worship or to seek guidance, 18:9-14.  God declares all such things to be “an abomination.”

3. There are men who speak in God’s name who do so falsely, 18:20.

4. How do we know which is which, v. 21?  God gives us two tests by which all teaching is to be measured.

a. The prophecy doesn’t happen, as given, v. 22.  We’ve mentioned this in other posts, so won’t dwell on it here, just to say that there’s no room for a “partial” fulfillment “literally,” and the rest fulfilled “spiritually.”  There may be a partial fulfillment in that the thing prophesied may have more than one “stage,” if you will, but it all has to come to pass eventually.

An example of this is the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, 10:  9]“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.  10]I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off.  He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  

In Matthew 21:1-11, we read of the “Triumphal Entry” of our Lord into Jerusalem.  The preparation for that entry, vs.1-6, sets the stage for the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which is quoted in v. 5.  But that’s only half of what Zechariah prophesied.

According to Deuteronomy 18:22, the other half, v. 10, also has to come to pass.  As our Lord actually sat on a donkey and entered Jerusalem, so also must He actually have dominion…from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.  Zechariah 14 describes this time further.  I think it’s safe to say that this hasn’t happened yet.  Our time and society certainly shows no evidence of it.  Not even “spiritually.”

But there’s another possibility:

b.  Suppose the prophecy or sign or wonder does happen.  Remember, when Moses confronted Pharaoh about releasing Israel from bondage, that Pharaoh’s men were able to duplicate the signs Moses did, at least for a while.  Some believe that they faked it, but I think that they actually were able to do those things.  Further, our Lord foretold of a time when men will show signs and wonders which, if it were possible, would deceive even the truly elect, Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22.

What was Israel to do if that happened?  What are we to do?  Deuteronomy 13:1-5 tells us that any such thing must be in accord with the revealed Word of God.  It cannot be accepted as true if there is anything which goes against that Word.  While it’s true that Scripture wasn’t yet complete in the OT, in our time the Bible is a completed, objective standard by which everything is to be judged, not something to be received subjectively, that is, you have your belief and I have mine.  Nor is there further or private “revelation,” as some claim.  To the law and to the testimony!  If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.

You might also consider Jeremiah 2:8; 6:10, 6-19; ch. 23 to see how well or not Israel obeyed these instructions.

And one more,

2 Chronicles 18:10, 18,  22-23.

10]Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the Lord; ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.'”…18]Then Micaiah said…  22]“Therefore look!  The LORD had put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”  23]Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?”

This is a story of a confrontation between a false prophet and a prophet of God.  The thing is, the false prophet was fully convinced that he spoke for God and was greatly insulted at the idea that he didn’t.

It is true that “prophesying” doesn’t always have to do with foretelling the future.  Sometimes it just refers to “preaching,” with no element of prediction at all.

Many today, like Zedekiah of old, talk of “the spirit from the Lord”.  Now, we have no right or authority to kill false prophets, like Israel did.  Nevertheless, John warned us, 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, 1 John 4:1.

Lord willing, we will have one more post on this, because…

God has magnified His Word.

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Hebrews 2:2-4: God Spoke! Listen Up!

In our last post, we began to look at Hebrews 2:1-4, though we focused on v. 1.  We said that Christianity is not what man or society says it is, it’s what God says it is.  It’s not about politics, though our Christianity should inform our politics.  God is not a Republican.  Or a Democrat.  He is not responsible to them; they are responsible to Him, though few seem to know that.  Nor is it what some smooth-talking preacher on TV says it is.  It has nothing to do with health or wealth or wonderful relationships; these may or may not be our lot, but they’re not the focus.  And it most certainly is not about the preacher!   Christianity is about sin and redemption, again not as defined by man, but by God.

Since Christianity is supposed to be motivated and guided by the Word of God and not the latest opinion polls or social views, we said that there were three things we are warned to do with regard to that Word:  heed it, hear it and hold onto it.  We need to heed it, that is, do what it says.  We need to hear it, that is, to let it take firm root in our hearts and lives.  We need to hold onto it, not drift away from it or let it “leak” out of our hearts and minds as we focus on making a living or a difference or whatever.

In the last post, we said there were two things in this portion of Scripture.  We looked at the first one last time.  We want to look at the second one today.

2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:3-4.

 a.  The Son, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, v. 3.

“…began to be spoken by the Lord.”  Some people take us back to Moses and the Old Testament and tell us that the church is simply the continuation, in a spiritual sense, of the nation of Israel.  And so they try to fit the New Testament believer into an Old Testament mold.

God indeed spoke to and through Moses and to Israel, but the Lord Jesus spoke a further word.  Moses was to and did lead the nation of Israel, but, while Himself speaking to Israel, the Lord had a wider audience in mind.  In John 10:16, He said, “…other sheep I have which are not of this fold [that is, of Israel], them also I must bring….” 

The folks mentioned in the first paragraph tell us that God is done with the nation of Israel, and that “the church” has taken over her blessings and promises.  Of course, the curses and judgments are still Israel’s, though I don’t know that I’ve ever read or heard a Reformed teacher actually say that.  But it stands to reason, doesn’t it?  If we inherit her blessings, why not her curses?  After all, we took her place.  Or so we’re told.

Then there are some who tell us that the church is “Plan B.”  That when Israel rejected and crucified her Messiah, God, in effect, said, “Oops,” and put another plan into place.

I think both viewpoints are wrong.

The church isn’t the replacement for a failed Israel.  The church isn’t some alternative to Israel because she rejected her Messiah.  The church is not some Plan B, but, if you will, Part B in the great work of the redemption of sinful men and women.  Though intimated in the Old Testament, the church was a “mystery” to that time.  In other words, she wasn’t revealed to or in the Old Testament.  Hers is a New Testament teaching.

As an example of this “intimation,” see Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10 and Luke 20:17.  In Matthew, our Lord asked a bunch of unbelieving priests and scribes, “Have you never read in the Scriptures [that is, the Old Testament], ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”  The “Scripture” He quoted is from Psalm 118:22, 23.  Mark and Luke also record this conversation.  It isn’t until the writing of Paul, in Ephesians 2:20, that we learn that this “chief cornerstone” is the Lord Jesus and that He is the chief cornerstone of the church, from which every other stone in the building takes its place.  In that verse, and writing to the Ephesian believers, he said that they had been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [not Moses and the prophets – that is, not the OT], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The Psalmist foretold the rejection of the Messiah.  So did other Scriptures, like Isaiah 53:5-11.  The rejection did not catch God by surprise.  Indeed, it was because of that rejection that the way has been laid for the ultimate restoration of Israel to her Messiah.  Israel has been set aside, yes, but only for the time being, Micah 5:3.  Her rejection is neither final nor permanent.

“At the first,” Jesus began to speak.  Luke carries this thought forward in Acts 1:1, where he refers to all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. His ministry was only the beginning….

b.  and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, that is, the original Apostles and other disciples, who had seen and experienced the ministry and teaching of the Lord. Our Lord intended that the work should go forward. That is why He gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.  That is why He called Saul on the Damascus Road.  That is why we have the New Testament.  And from that time to this, believers have carried on the work, often through rivers of their own blood.  What’s happening in the world today with the persecution of Christians is nothing new.

But the early believers weren’t out there on their own….

c. God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will. 

Our Lord Himself promised this before He left the disciples.  In Acts 1:4-8, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who would enable them for the task Jesus had appointed to them, namely their evangelizing where they were and eventually spreading everywhere else.

There’s a lot of discussion about this event in the lives of the disciples.  While I don’t feel this is the place to join that discussion in depth, let me just say this:  the emphasis in Acts 1 is not on the Spirit’s presence, but on His power, and God’s purpose in giving it.  That purpose is that the disciples were to witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He was and what He did.

Our Lord had an earlier word about this, as well.  While teaching His disciples about the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said in John 16:14, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine, and declare it to you.”   In the original language, the order is a little different:  “Me He will glorify….” (emphasis added).

The ministry of the Spirit isn’t about His gifts and who has what.  It isn’t about physical “healing.”  God may be pleased to do that, but I know saints who have been afflicted all their lives.  And that isn’t because they “don’t have enough faith.”  It takes a great deal more grace and faith to serve God through pain and suffering than it does when all is going well….  Doesn’t it?   It’s isn’t about glorifying some preacher or teacher; there are no “personalities” in the service of the Lord.  It isn’t about emphasizing the Spirit, as some ministries do.  It’s about focusing on the Lord Jesus.  There is salvation in Him alone, and no other.

Judge No Wine Before It’s Time

So much truth in this short post.

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
August 6, 1996

There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed…

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Hebrews 2:1-4, …Listen Up!

[1]Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we drift away.  [2]For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, [3]how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, [4]God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (NKJV)

In chapter 1, the writer began by asserting that God has spoken, first by prophets and then by His own Son.  This post begins by linking 1:1 with 2:1, “God has spoken,…listen up!”

In this country, we live in a time of unprecedented rebellion against Christianity.  The unbeliever says that Christianity is foolish, not worthy of serious pursuit, and is a waste of time or worse.  It is for losers, for the ignorant and uninformed.  Indeed, it is even being labeled as “hate,”  and as such is to be rejected.  Even our President, in connection with the recent sociological flurry, has said that people need to “adjust their religious views” to take into account, and to agree with, the tremendous changes that have taken place recently, thanks to the Supreme Court.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, even Christians are guilty of some of this.  Leaving aside those who more or less might agree with the above paragraph,  a great many believe that Christianity is simply to belong to a certain denomination, or maybe to disregard any “denomination” at all.  It is to be baptized, either as an adult or an infant, or to take communion.  It is to speak with tongues or to have some other type of “spiritual experience.”  It is, as one lady said, “a warm feeling in my heart.”  It is a particular dogma or set of beliefs.  It is to walk an aisle and/or pray a prayer.  It is to do our best – live by the Ten Commandments, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Golden Rule.

In answer to all these, some of which do have their place, we say that Christianity is what God says it is, not man.  It is not, and never has been, about what society thinks. Indeed, it is more likely to contradict what society says.  God say that Christianity is life, found in a Person, the Lord Jesus, and revealed in particular in the New Testament.

As we come to our text, we see two thoughts.  In this post, we’ll look at the first one.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.
2.  A Three-fold Witness to the Word, 2:2-4.

1.  A Three-fold Warning Concerning the Word, 2:1.

a.  We are to heed the Word, to give more earnest heed to it.

This means to pay attention.  Perhaps James can help us here when he says that we are to be doers of the Word, James 1:22.  The Word isn’t given to us simply as information or so that we can argue about its interpretation.  While it does tell us things we need to know, it also tells us things we need to do.  And, in Hebrews, this “attention” is to be “abundant.”  One of the words translated “more earnest” means “superabundant.”  Not casual.  Not fleeting.  Not if we have the time.  Abundant.  Lots of it.  I believe there is coming a time in this country, and soon, when the Bible will be illegal.  It already is as far as government and education are concerned, but I believe this will be a complete prohibition and Bibles will be confiscated and destroyed – and likely, those who hold to it with them.  So we need to pay attention to it while we can.

Our Lord had something to say about this.  In Matthew 13, He spoke of a man going out to sow seed in his field, and of the growth which came from it.  He then likened that to those who hear the Word.  There were four results of the sowing – and there are four results of the hearing of the Word.  We’ll not go into it a lot, but only one of the four brought forth abundant fruit.  In one case, the devil came right away and took the word away.  I think most of the time he just draws our attention to something else.  I wonder if a preacher standing in the door as the people leave and tell him what a wonderful sermon it was – I wonder if he were to ask them what it was about, how many of them could tell him.  In another case, there was an initial reception, but some form of persecution took it away.  You know, persecution doesn’t have to mean death, it can simply mean derision.  This world has never thought a lot of the Word, even less so now, but there have always been those who have been opposed to those who believe and live the Bible. Or it could simply be that the old life is too strong.  The desires of our human nature are very strong and, if we’re not careful, can become our masters.  The third case failed because the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches entangle the Word like weeds and choke its influence out.  Oh, there’s so much we could say about that one!

b.  We are to hear the Word, the things which we have heard. 

But make no mistake.  We are to hear the Word.  While the previous paragraph was against just hearing it, we do need to hear it.  We are to be students of it.  My wife worked with a gentleman who had been a church member all his life, and he was amazed that she had read the Bible through several times.  But he is not alone.

c.  We are to hold on to the Word, lest we drift away. 

There are two meanings to the word translated, “drift’:

1.  to drift.  “To go with the flow,” as it were.  One day, the pastor of the church in Florida where I was on staff, took us and his family to the beach.  I got onto an air mattress in the water and just floated there, enjoying the beautiful day.  After a few minutes, I looked up and, wow, I had drifted a long way away from where I started.  It’s a good thing the tide wasn’t going out, or I might still be out there!

The point is, if we don’t pay attention, if we just “float,” we are likely to wind up a long ways away from where we started.  We don’t mean to do it, we just do it.  The church has done that.  Things the world scorned in my youth are now accepted and promoted in the church.

2.  to leak.  This refers to a leaky vessel.  Aren’t we often like that?  How little of the Word we retain!

God has spoken…listen up!