The Covenant in the Ark

In the last post, we looked at a couple of covenants given prior to the book of Exodus and “the ark of the covenant” it mentions.  In this post, we want to look at the covenant itself.

The children of Israel have finally been redeemed from their slavery in Egypt.  On their way to the Promised Land, God leads them by way of Mount Sinai, where He has some things to tell them.  On the mountain, He says to Moses,
“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:  ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel,” Exodus 19:3-6, emphasis added.

Having said that, God gives Moses further instruction, what we know as the Ten Commandments, although there is a great deal more than just 19 verses in Exodus 20.  These instructions are what we know as the Mosaic Covenant, although God calls it, “My covenant,” so we don’t forget where it came from.  Moses didn’t dream it up on his own.

There are some things we need to remember about this covenant, especially the first part of it:  the Ten Commandments or “the Law”.

1. It’s an expression of the moral law in a specific historic and cultural context.

What do I mean – “moral law”?  First, the moral law itself is the expression of the nature, character and purpose of God.  It’s what He expects of His creatures because that’s what He is:  holy, righteous and just.  The moral law means, for example, that it’s wrong to murder, lie or steal, regardless of who we are or where we live.  It’s what Paul refers to in Romans 2:14, for when Gentiles, who do not have the law [of Moses], by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.  This does NOT mean that Gentiles decide for themselves right or wrong, but simply that they, and we, have such a concept as “right and wrong,” regardless of whether that concept agrees with the Word of God.  The truth is, though, we don’t live up to that standard any more than Israel lived up to Moses.

Second, the “specific historic and cultural context” has to do with nation of Israel just after they had been rescued from Egyptian slavery.  Some of the law’s requirements seems strange to us.  Some of our laws would seem strange to them, although there really is no comparison between what came from God and what sometimes comes from fallible and sinful legislators.

2. It was given only to the children of Israel.  Some groups insist that we are obligated to keep these laws as well, but God told Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” Exodus 20:1.  Later, as we read above, He called her His “special treasure”.
Concerning the unique nature of Israel’s covenant relationship with God and their responsibility because of it, Moses said,
“Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statures, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’
“For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?  And what great nation is there that has such statues and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day”
 Deuteronomy 4:6-8?
This is the “specific historical…context” of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. While the law expected a great deal from the Israelites, it had nothing to help them to fulfill those expectations.  At the end of his life, Moses himself put it like this:

“You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land- the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.  Yet [-pay attention to this!-] the LORD had not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day,” Deuteronomy 29:2-4.

In spite of all they witnessed, in spite of the fact that their clothes and their shoes had lasted for the forty years of their wilderness trek, v. 5, it was all in one ear and out the other.

Concerning any ability to “keep the law,” someone has put it like this –
“Work” and “run”,
The Law commands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
But sweeter sounds the Gospel brings-
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

The Law gives no feet to walk in its ways or hands to do what it says.  It was an external code to Israel and it still is to those who try to live by it today.  It does nothing for our fallen internal character and nature, except show us that they are fallen.  It can do nothing to change them or to save us from them.

4. Because of this inability, and in spite of what many think, the Law is NOT a means or way of salvation.  It is true that the LORD told Israel, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD, Leviticus 18:5, emphasis added.  Yet, there is not a single verse in the Old Testament that gives any indication that God expected that they would obey.  In fact, just after God had given the Law to Moses and the people had said, “we will hear and do it,” God made this comment to Moses, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!  Deuteronomy 4:27b, 29.

Sometimes it’s argued, how can God expect us to do something we can’t?  Others put it this way: since God requires it, we can do it- as if He were responsible to us and not we to Him.  He can expect us to obey simply because He is God.  He is our Creator; every breath we take comes from His hand, cf. Daniel 5:23.  In the book of Leviticus, time after time God enjoins obedience to some precept simply by saying, “I am the Lord.”  No other reason.  He is the Lord!  We’re to obey simply because He tells us to!
We don’t believe that in our culture anymore.   Even in church, we don’t really receive or worship Him as God.    We picture Him as on the outside looking in.   We preach that He wants to bless us, but we have to be “willing;” we have to take that first step toward Him before He can take a step toward us.   Ultimately, we have made Him in our own image.
This very noon, on the news –  our area is experiencing freezing drizzle, with ice on the roads and forming on tree branches.  Thousands of people, some not all that far away, are without power.  The news focused on a church just a couple of miles away.  Included in the coverage showing the darkened interior was a picture of Jesus, blond and blue-eyed!

*sigh*

Away with such nonsense, indeed, such blasphemy.

“There is a God in heaven, Daniel 2:28, whether we like it or not, a God who
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.

5. If the Law can’t save anybody, then why did God give it to Israel?

Paul himself asked the question, What purpose then does the law serve? Galatians 3:19.  He answered in that same verse, It was added because of transgressions.

I think God gave the law in order that we might see that we need to be saved from sin and from ourselves.  We need to know what sin is.  There is an objective standard by which every act, thought and word is to be measured.  It’s not up to us to decide.  Paul put it like this:  I would not have known sin except through the law, Romans 7:7.  A verse or so later he confessed, I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, v. 9.  What does this mean?  Until the Lord met him on the Damascus road, Paul was quite content with his life; in fact, I believe he was rather proud of it.  After all, as he wrote in Philippians 3:4-6,

If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless, emphasis added.

But then the Lord Jesus met him!

Hear his testimony after the Lord converted Him:  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, Philippians 3:7, 8.

When he left for Damascus on that fateful morning, he had no idea that he would be an altogether different man before he got there.  No wonder the believers in Judea were amazed and said, Is not this he who destroyed those who called on this name..., Acts 1:21?   He had intended to kill them, Acts 22:4, and here he was, wanting to join them!
_______________

This, then, is the covenant kept in the Ark of the Covenant.  Lord willing, we’ll return to the Ark itself later in these studies.

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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.

Hebrews 6:19-7:28, A Tale of Two Priests.

[6:19]This hope we have as an anchor of the souls, both sure and steadfast, and which enter the Presence beyond the veil, [20]where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
[7:1]For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, [2]to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” [3]without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
[4]Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.  [5]And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; [6]but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.  [7]Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.  [8]Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.  [9]Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, [10]for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
[11]Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  [12]For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.  [13]For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
[14]For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.  [15]And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest [16]who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.  [17]For He testifies:  “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
[18]For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, [19]for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.  [20]And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath [21](for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:  “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek'”), [22]by so much better Jesus has become surety of a better covenant.
[23]Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.  [24]But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.  [25]Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
[26]For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;  [27]who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  [28]For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (NKJV)

Just to remind ourselves of the purpose of Hebrews, the writer sought to explain, exhort and encourage.  His believing Jewish audience had indeed professed Christ, but for whatever reason were being tempted to return to the beloved and familiar OT ritual and sacrifices.  He writes to them not to do that, not to risk their eternal souls with such a grievous mistake and sin, 10:32-39.  He explained to them that the person and work of the Lord Jesus were the fulfillment of all those sacrifices and ceremonies, which were only a shadow of what was coming, 10:1.  He encouraged them that, though they were suffering persecution and would suffer more, 10:32, 33; 11:12-14, they weren’t following some pipe dream, mere doctrines of men, or “cunningly-devised fables,” as Peter put it, 2 Peter 1:16.  They were following the One who was the Creator of the universe, the One who will ultimately complete and consummate that for which the universe was created.

Again, a key word is “better.”  The immediate context, from 3:1, deals with the priesthood of Christ.  It is “better” than the Levitical priesthood of Moses and Aaron for several reasons the writer lists through 10:18.

The priesthood of Christ was briefly introduced in 2:17, Christ and Moses were compared and contrasted, and then in the section ending in 6:20, the writer applied the preeminence of Christ to the lives of his readers, before again returning to the priesthood of Christ.

Beginning in 7:1, he continues his teaching:

1.  The type of the priesthood of Melchizedek,7:1-10.
2.  The temporary nature of the Aaronic priesthood, 7:11-28.

1. Type of the priesthood of Melchizedek, 7:1-10.

The Historical Incident, vs. 1-3.  Genesis 14:18-20 is the only place Melchizedek actually appears, and nothing is known of him except what is mentioned there and in Hebrews 7:13.  There are those who believe, from Hebrews 7:3, that Melchizedek was, or is, actually Christ (remains a priest continually).  However, there are some difficulties with that view and for the following reasons, we believe that Melchizedek was an ordinary man, highly blessed though he may have been.

1.  Both Genesis and Hebrews call him “king of Salem.”  While it is true that “Salem” is a form of “shalom,” (“peace”), and Jesus is “the Prince of Peace,” we believe this is simply a reference to Jerusalem.

2.  Note vs. 3, which says that Melchizedek was made like the Son of God (emphasis added).  It doesn’t say that he was the Son of God.  In Christ, there arises another priest, after the likeness of Melchizedek, v. 15 (emphasis added).  Melchizedek was merely a type, a foreshadowing, of the coming Son of God.

3.  What about v. 3, which describes Melchizedek as being without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end or life?  Doesn’t this prove Melchizedek to have been Christ?  I don’t think it does.  After all, as a man, Christ had a father (though virgin-born, Joseph was His “legal” father), and mother, a genealogy (two of them, in fact: both Joseph’s and Mary’s), birth and death.  He had all those things which Melchizedek is said not to have had.

4.  Note again in v. 3, “made like”.  For the purpose of Scripture in treating Melchizedek as a type of Christ, none of these things is mentioned.  7:6 implies that he did, in fact, have a genealogy, distinct from that of Aaron.

The Practical Application, vs. 4-10.  So, we might say, what is the purpose of these references to Melchizedek?  Simply this, as a “priest of the Most High God” (was Aaron ever called this?), Melchizedek was not dependent on Aaron or his priesthood for his own priesthood.  Neither was he dependent on the Mosaic Law.  He lived more than 400 years before Moses and Aaron.

Remember what the author taught in the last part of ch. 6.  He spoke of our two-fold “hope” of inheriting God’s promise:  the oath of God Himself with regard to that promise, and the priestly ministry of Christ, which rises out of that promise.  As Melchizedek was independent of the Mosaic Covenant and the Aaronic priesthood, likewise the promise of God and the priesthood of Christ are independent of them.

The writer develops that thought in vs. 4-10.  Usually used in connection with trying to enforce tithing on Christians, this portion actually has nothing to do with either the practice or the applicability of tithing.  It simply points out that the Levitical priesthood (so named after “Levi,” a son of Aaron) descended from Abraham, and so could be said to be “in him” in Genesis 14.  Under the Law, the Levitical priesthood received tithes; this was their means of livelihood as well as the upkeep of the Tabernacle.  “In Abraham” they paid tithes, hence, the writer argues, Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood.  Typically shown, therefore, Christ is superior to Aaron.

2.  The Temporary Nature of the Aaronic Priesthood, 7:11-28.

As seen by it’s “imperfection,” vs. 11-15.

1.  as regards it’s “effectiveness,” vs. 11, 18-19.  The very fact that the Law was unable to produce “perfection” demonstrates the need for something that could produce it, cf. Romans 8:3, 4.  The word translated “perfection” doesn’t refer to “sinlessness,” but “completion”.  The Law and the priesthood could not “complete” redemption, therefore the Law only served until the introduction of its replacement, cf. Galatians 3:19.

2.  as regards its “exclusiveness,” vs. 12-15.  There were strict instructions regarding who could be a priest, even in the Aaronic line.  A priest had to be a Levite, but our Lord was of the tribe of Judah, v. 14.  The change from Aaron to Christ also intimates a change of the Law, vs. 12-14.  In this way the temporary nature both of the Mosaic Law and of the Aaronic priesthood was shown.

As seen by its inferiority, vs. 16-28.

1.  in contrast to the commencement of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 16-22.  In all the Law, there is no promise to any particular priest of a lasting priesthood.  Indeed, in the very beginning, God made provision for the passing of the priesthood from father to son, Exodus 29:29.  No oath was ever given to any priest.

2.  in contrast to the continuity of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 23-25.  This goes along with the previous thought.  Only the Lord Jesus has a guarantee of personal perpetuity.

3.  in contrast to the completeness of Christ’s priesthood, vs. 26-27.  Christ was able to do what no Levitical priest could ever do, v. 25.  Though this thought will be developed by the writer further on, here he just points out the unique nature of Christ’s one sacrifice in contrast to the monotonous frequency of OT sacrifices.

4.  in contrast to the character of Christ’s priesthood, v. 28.  Cf. 5:2, 3.  There is no such thing as “infirmity” in the Lord Jesus.  Cf. 7:26.

The Sabbath and the Prophets

In this fourth post, we continue our look at what the Old Testament says about “the Sabbath”.  We saw it’s origin in the “rest” that God took when He was finished with creation.  This rest, as we noted, wasn’t because He was tired or at an impasse, but because He was finished; there was nothing more to be done or that needed to be done.  Creation was complete and successful.

Then we saw that the Sabbath was incorporated into the Mosaic Covenant, the covenant which God made with Israel at Mount Sinai by which they became a nation.  Emphasis was placed on the Sabbath as being a sign to Israel of their redemption from Egyptian slavery and of their unique relationship with God.

In our last post, we looked at how well Israel obeyed God in the keeping of the Law, especially their observance of the Sabbath.  We found that even after the 70-year Captivity and their return to the land under Nehemiah and Ezra, Israel didn’t do a very good job of it.

In this post, we want to look at what God had to say about all this.  He spoke mainly through Isaiah, before the Captivity, and Ezekiel, during the Captivity, though there are some other references as well.

  • Isaiah 1:13, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me.  The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.”

Not only were men like Nehemiah and Ezra angered by the people’s unfaithfulness, God was angered as well.  Isaiah began his prophecy with a long list of Israel’s sins and what would happen to her as a result.  True, there are wonderful prophecies of renewal and restoration, but Israel will still suffer because of what she has done.  Even those things which they did in supposed obedience to God were rejected by Him.  Quoting from a different portion of Isaiah, the Lord Jesus put it like this, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” Matthew 15:8, 9.

This is a solemn warning to us, as well.  In our service, in our worship, do we do it “from the heart,” or is it just “routine”? Do we come into the presence of God forgiven and cleansed because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, or do we come with our hands, as it were, dripping with the blood of our own “futile sacrifices”?

  • Isaiah 56:2, 4, 6, “…who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.  …  to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me…  …  “Everyone who keeps from defiling My Sabbaths, and holds fast My covenant…”  

Even “eunuchs,” who for whatever reason were unable to father children, and so would seem to be kept from blessing, and the “son of the foreigner,” who had no inherent right to blessing, even these men, if they held fast to “the covenant,” as exemplified by the Sabbath, would be blessed.  As we mentioned above, though, the NT has further teaching on “keeping the Sabbath.”

Notice here, too, that it wasn’t to be just a matter of “keeping the Sabbath”.  One was to “keep his hand from doing any evil,” to “choose what pleases Me,” to “hold fast My covenant.”  One day of the week, whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, doesn’t mean anything if the other six days of the week don’t mean anything.  Serving and worshiping God is a seven-days-of-the-week thing, not just one day of the week.  And “worship” isn’t about having the right kind of music during one part of a “service,” it’s about having the right kind of heart.

  • Isaiah 58:13, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day….”  

Isaiah 58 is a chapter which, like others, lists God’s complaints against Israel.  You really ought to read the whole chapter.  Apparently, Israel couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them as they thought He should, vs. 1-3.  After all, they were doing a good job – in their own minds – of serving Him.  They fasted.  They wanted to know “the ordinances of justice.”  They sought Him every day, and “delighted” to know His ways.  They “afflicted their souls.”  And they asked God why He “took no notice.”

However, God pointed out to them that even in their fasting, they “found pleasure” and “exploited those who worked for them”.  V. 13 is just one of several in which God gave them the remedy for their problems.  Keeping the Sabbath as more than just another day of the week was only part of it.

  • Isaiah 66:22, 23, “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “so shall your descendants and your name remain.  And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD.

We included v. 22 to give a little context to v. 23.  Actually, you should read the whole chapter.  In the first part, God again lists the sins of Israel and the judgments on those sins.  From v. 7-10, God indicates a sudden and unexpected change in the nation, which He describes more fully in vs. 11-21.  V. 15 may be further described by Zechariah 14:3, 4 and the rest of Zechariah 14 ties in with Isaiah 66:23.

There is so much more here that we don’t really have space to develop beyond a couple of comments.  “The new heavens and the new earth” may lead some to conclude that this is talking about eternity.  The phrase also occurs in Revelation 21:1.  However, Isaiah 65:17 mentions the phrase first, and the rest of Isaiah 65 describes it.  For now, we focus on v. 20, No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days. In his book, “What Is The Gospel,” Greg Gilbert comments on this, “Never again will any of God’s people suffer death, and never again will tears burn our eyes at a graveside.  Never again will an infant live but a few days and then die.  Never again will we mourn, or hurt, or weep.”  (Greg Gilbert, “What Is The Gospel?”  Wheaton, Illinois:  Crossway, 2010.  121 pp.)

What he says is true, and the Christian looks forward with great longing for that time.  However, I’ve always wondered why Gilbert didn’t finish v. 20:  For the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. 

Either there’s a contradiction in Scripture, which I deny, or there are two different renewals of creation.  Isaiah and Zechariah refer to what is known as “The Millennium,” a period of time ending this earth’s history in which the Lord Jesus will rule over this planet from Jerusalem.  Reformed scholars throw up their hands in horror or ridicule at this idea, but if words have any meaning at all, more is required of what the Old Testament says about a worldwide time of righteousness, peace and prosperity than some sort of “spiritual kingdom” in the church.  While we agree that the Lord Jesus “rules” in the hearts of His people, that idea is found in the OT as well:  God ruling in the hearts of His people.

  •  Jeremiah 17:19-27.

In this portion, God, speaking through Jeremiah, warns the people to observe and honor the Sabbath, promising them great blessing if they do, and great calamity if they don’t.

  • Lamentations 2:6, The LORD has caused the appointed feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion.

The 5 lamentations in this book all come from Jeremiah’s broken heart at the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of his people.  The verse we quoted simply reminded the people that what happened to them wasn’t just some “accident of history;” it was God’s judgment on their sins.

The KJV has another occurrence of “Sabbath” in Lamentations 1:7, but that’s a different word in the Hebrew, and the NKJV translates it as “downfall.”

  • Ezekiel 20:12-24.

In this portion, God mentions the Sabbath six times, emphasizing to Israel that even from her very beginning, she had disregarded and profaned the Sabbath, which had been given to her as a special sign of her relationship with God and her redemption from Egyptian slavery.

  • Ezekiel 22:8, 26.

These two verses regard the same thing, the profaning of the Sabbath.  Verse 8 speaks of the princes of Israel, and v. 26 of the priests.  These leaders were responsible to guide Israel in a right way, according to God’s Word, but they were at the forefront of her apostasy.

  • Ezekiel 23:38.

Ezekiel 23 is about two harlot sisters, Jerusalem and Samaria, both capitals of their respective kingdoms.  After the division of Israel into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom, Samaria, had been led away from the true God by Jeroboam, who is ever  afterwards remembered for that act of apostasy.  The Lord’s point in Ezekiel is that Judah, the southern kingdom, had become no better than her “sister” to the north, even though she still supposedly held to the true God.  They both defiled and profaned the sanctuary and the Sabbath.  They both were guilty of terrible idolatry, yet Judah would still come to the Temple and think she was worshiping God.  God would have none of it, and in just a few years that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

  • Ezekiel 44:24; 45:17; 46:1-4, 12.

We’ve listed these verses together, which have 6 references to the Sabbath, because they’re all part of a controversial portion of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 40-48 describes in great detail the building of a Temple, the worship there, descriptions of a city and a land with incredible productivity.

What we might call fundamental or evangelical Christians have difficulty with this portion because of its references to animal sacrifice.  This seems to them to deny the sacrifice of Christ.  Others view these chapters as merely symbolic.  Or, as a church bulletin quoted a Reformed scholar as saying, these chapters were “fulfilled in Jesus,” because of the references to “water” and other things.  In any event, actual things and events are said not to be expected.

These 9 chapters have 270 verses of minute detail, down to the length of a priest’s hair and whom he could or could not marry.  It seems to me that this is a great deal of trouble for a few symbols, or to dismiss it all as “fulfilled in Jesus.”

As far the animal sacrifices, I confess that I don’t fully understand them.  At the same time, without meaning to be irreverent or flippant, since God instructed Ezekiel to “look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you.  Declare to the house of Israel everything you see,” Ezekiel 40:4, I can say that it’s God’s problem.  He told Ezekiel to pay attention to it.  He will take care of it.

The point is, there is coming a time – not yet – when the Sabbath will be restored to its proper place and it will be observed and celebrated as it was supposed to be.  Isaiah 65 and Zechariah 14 refer to this same time.

  •  Hosea 2:11, God says, “I will cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths – all her appointed feasts.”

This in the middle of a lengthy list of consequences for Israel’s sin.

  • Amos 8:4, 5, Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail, saying, “When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain?  And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat?” 

This just shows the attitude that was in the land prior to its destruction:  impatience for the feast days, including the Sabbath, to be over so that they could get back to the important business of making money.

 

The Sabbath and Moses

We began our study last time by looking at the origin of the Sabbath and then began to trace its incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant.  We saw that God “rested” after He finished creation.  He was done.  It was all “very good.”  Then, though “tithing” is mentioned before the giving of the Law, there is no mention of the Sabbath at all, even in the book of Job, which predates Sinai and Moses’ writings.

As for its incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant, we pointed out that the fourth commandment served as a “hinge,” or “bridge,” if you will, between the first three commandments and the rest of them.  The first three dealt with Israel’s relationship with God.  Five through 10 dealt with Israel’s relationship with each other.  The fourth one connected them all.  Israel was to believe certain things about God, but, as a result of that belief, and that relationship with God, was to behave in a certain way.  The fourth commandment is a bridge between “theory,” if you will, and “practice.”

“Faith” which isn’t accompanied by “practice” is no better than “demonic” faith, James 2:19.

We continue our study in the books of Moses.

  • Exodus 23:10-12:  More than just a day of the week.

Exodus 23:10 expands the idea of a weekly Sabbath and rest for the people into a year-long Sabbath every seventh year and rest for the land.  There was to be no sowing or harvesting.  The land was to lie fallow and “rest.”  Whatever grew of itself was for the poor of the land to harvest and for the beasts of the field to eat.  “The poor” were to be taken care of in Israel, but they weren’t to sit at home and expect to be hand-fed.  In this case, they were to go out and gather the food.  Indeed, in every harvest season, the rule was that there was to be no “gleaning,” that is, going back and picking up what was missed the first time.  This was to be left for the poor, Leviticus 19:9, 10, Deuteronomy 24:19-21.  There is an example of this in Ruth 2:1-3.  There was no “welfare-state” mentality in Israel.

There’s something else in these verses.  Many unbelievers and skeptics don’t like the idea that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery, but seems to encourage it.  However, for nearly all of human history, including today in 2014, slavery has been and is a fact of life.  There are people, right now, as I write this, who are slaves.  And probably all of us, when it comes right down to it, are “descendants of slaves,” because every nation at one time or another has been conquered by other people and their citizens forced into subjection.  It is a sad fact of life and history, those for whom it’s become political fodder notwithstanding, who act as if their people were the only people ever to suffer this indignity.  The Bible simply regulates and mitigates slavery.  There’s an example of this in v. 12 in the reference to the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.  Even though they were in servitude, they were still to have time for their families.

Many people don’t like the Old Testament because it seems too stern and unyielding. But there’s a great deal more common sense and understanding of human nature in its pages, for all the things which may seem strange to us, than in any of the “social programs” devised in our day.  In fact, it seems to me that most of these programs, in their attempt to do good, fly in the face of Biblical wisdom and wind up doing evil.

Speaking of “stern and unyielding,” in Exodus 23:13 God says, “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect,….”   Israel got into trouble because they didn’t pay any attention to this command, as we’ll see.

The world says, “Be tolerant.”  God says, “Be circumspect [narrow].”  And if someone should say, “Well, yes, but that’s Old Testament,” there is Ephesians 5:15, See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.   “Walk” is in the context of walking as “children of light,” v. 8, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, v. 11, which are shameful even to mention, v. 12.  The Greek word translated “circumspectly” means, “be exact,” and is a superlative, which means that it is something always to be carried out as closely as possible to a standard, not just sporadically, casually or superficially.  That standard is the Word of God.  Not current social or religious viewpoints.

  • Exodus 31:12-17:  The People of the Sabbath.

In Exodus 31:17, God told Israel, [The Sabbath] “is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.” The Sabbath was never given to “mankind” as such.  Neither, for that matter, was the Mosaic Covenant.  Contrary to a popular school of thought, there was never a “dispensation of the Law.”  There has never been a requirement that Gentiles keep the Sabbath.  It was given to Israel and ONLY to Israel,  It’s not mentioned in Acts 15, especially vs. 15 and 29, which settled, once and for all, what responsibilities Gentiles have toward the Mosaic Covenant, “the Law,” namely, none.  See also Acts 21:17-25.

The Mosaic Covenant was the Moral Law applied to a specific people in a specific historical context.  What is the “Moral Law”?  Simply put, it’s the requirement of a holy, righteous and just God for mankind, to which and for which it is responsible.  That law is indeed universal.  It’s presence is shown in the fact that in every human being there is a sense of “right” and “wrong.”  There might be some disagreement as to what exactly these are, but the idea is still there.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not simply as a health matter, but that they might remember the Lord God Who delivered them out of Egyptian slavery, the same Lord God Who also created the heavens and the earth.

Israel was God’s object lesson for the rest of us to show how miserably we fail in living as we should.  Also, to show us that there’s no way that we can atone for our failings – our sins.  The sacrificial system showed that, but that’s another post.

It was also a death-penalty sin to violate the Sabbath.  This is mentioned twice in 2 verses.  “The Sabbath” was serious business.  I remember a Reformed pastor saying something to the effect that “if you have to work on Sunday, we understand.”  The Law didn’t.

  • Exodus 34:21:  The Preeminence of the Sabbath.

Six days you shall work, but on the seventh you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest (emphasis added).  The two times of the year where an agricultural people would think nothing could be more important:  sowing and harvesting, yet God says, “No, not even then may you work on the seventh day; even then you rest.”

  • Exodus 35:2-3:  The Proclamation of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was the first thing Moses mentioned when he came down from the Mount the second time – after the Golden Calf incident.  There was to be no work on the Sabbath, even to the kindling of a fire.  Once again, the death penalty is mentioned for violation of this commandment.

That’s all the references to the Sabbath in Exodus.

  • Leviticus 16:31, It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls.  

This verse is in a chapter of instructions about the Day of Atonement, the most important day of the year.  It was during the sacrifices offered on that day that the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.  This chapter is the one referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10.  We’ll have a lot to say about all this when we get to Hebrews.

Note that this “Sabbath” was always on the 10th day of the seventh month.  This means that it could fall on any day of the week, not just the “seventh day.”  This is true of any of the “feasts.”  This leads me to Matthew 28:1, where the word translated “sabbath” is actually plural: “sabbaths”. There seems to have been more than one “sabbath” during the week of our Lord’s crucifixion.  But, like many of the things we mention, that’s another post.

  • Leviticus 19:3, 30, Every one of you shall revere his father and his mother, and keep My Sabbaths:  I am the LORD your God. … You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary:  I am the LORD. 

These two verses seem just sort of stuck in there, but they both have important messages:  reverence not only for the Sabbath, but for Mom and Dad, and for the sanctuary itself.  I think this speaks to the continuous lessening of respect for parents, and for the continual increasing of demand for respect for “the State,” whose “interests” are often seen to be more important than those of the parents.  “Honor” and “respect” for parents are two words which have been lost in society.  As for the “sanctuary,” I admit I have some difficulty with the casual attitude and atmosphere in the contemporary church.  While I freely admit that a suit and tie are no guarantee of spirituality, I think that shorts and flip-flops have perhaps gone too far the other way.  As for after the service, our own children were never permitted to use the sanctuary as a playground.  Nor did they ever attend “children’s church,” when that was available.  It is through the preaching of the Word that the Spirit calls believers to the Lord Jesus, and there is no evidence in Scripture that the message was ever “brought down” to children’s levels.  Children are capable of learning far more than we give them credit for.

  • Leviticus 23:3, 8, 11, 15, 16, 24, 25, 32, 38, 39.

This chapter gives us instructions about the Sabbath itself, as well as the various “feasts” which were to be held at specified times during the year.  There are some things of interest, however, in what many look at as just dry ritual.  For example, in v. 11, in one case, the “feast of firstfruits,” there was something to be done on the day after the Sabbath.  The priest was to take a sheaf of wheat from the harvest and “wave” it before the Lord as the “firstfruits” of the harvest.  This was to remind the people where the harvest came from ultimately, and to show, in a way, that there was more where that came from.  None of the harvest was to be eaten until this had been done, v. 14.  The Lord indeed got “the firstfruits” of the harvest.

Without wanting to get too deeply into what might be the symbolism or typology of these feasts, or seeking to find some “spiritual” meaning in what were plainly actual events in Israel, remember that in 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, the Lord is called “the firstfruits” of the resurrection.

In v. 20, there is a second reference to “firstfruits.”  This occurred 50 days after the ceremony with the firstfruits of the harvest.  The New Testament knows this feast as Pentecost.  James 1:18 says that Christians are a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.   In other words, Christians portray the ultimate restoration of all creation.  Cf. Romans 8:19-23.  We did a post on “Firstfruits” which goes into this a little more.

  • Leviticus 24:8, 9.

These verses gives instructions for the weekly replacing of the Showbread in the Tabernacle, as well as what it was to be used for.  This was part of the care of the Tabernacle.

  • Leviticus 25:1-17.

This portion introduces two unique ideas: the sabbatical year andThe Year of Jubilee.  This latter was the year after the seventh cycle of seven years, or the 50th year.  See Deuteronomy 15:1-11, in which debts were to be forgiven every seventh year – the sabbatical year – in the cycle.  Debt wasn’t to be a lifestyle in Israel.  There weren’t any “30-year mortgages,” either.  And I don’t think credit cards would have been permitted.  Just sayin’.

In case there was a question about what the people would eat because there was no sowing or reaping, God said He had that covered, vs. 20-22.  Just as the sixth day produced double manna to take care of the Sabbath, so the sixth year would be bountiful enough to cover not only the seventh year, but also into the eighth year until harvest.

  • Leviticus 26:2.

Here is another mention of the requirement for respect for the Sabbath and for the sanctuary.

  • Leviticus 26:34, 35.

Actually, the entire 26th chapter should be read to get the context of these verses.  The chapter is a series of promises of blessing for obedience and curses for disobedience. It’s instructive that there are twice as many verses promising curses as promising blessing.  Yet the last 17 verses of the chapter promise restoration.  Verses 34 and 35 indicate that the length of time of the curses will depend on Israel’s faithfulness in following the 7th year Sabbath for the land.  Cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21.

These are all the references in Leviticus.  More could be said about any of these references, here or in other books.

There are only three references in Moses left.

  • Number 15:32-36.

This incident actually happened before the giving of the Law at Sinai.  Numbers is a catalog of the wilderness travels of Israel on their way to Sinai.  This incident happened during those travels.

I’ve done a post entitled “Sticks” which examines this incident in detail, so will just make a couple of remarks here.  Even though the Law itself hadn’t yet been given, the precedent of resting on the Sabbath had been given in the instructions about gathering manna.

Since there were no detailed instructions yet, the man was put “under guard” until it could be found out what should be done to him.  When those instructions came, even such a “minor” thing as gathering sticks on the Sabbath was found to be a death-penalty sin.  For more on this, see the post mentioned above.

  • Numbers 28:9-10.

These were just instructions about some offerings which were to be given on every Sabbath day.

  • Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

Deuteronomy isn’t just a repetition of the Law.  It’s the refreshing, if you will, of the collective memory of the people of the next generation after those who actually received the Law.  Deuteronomy is the explanation, the application, of that law to Israel. Perhaps it’s based in part on Moses’ experience of nearly forty years of explaining and applying the Law as situations arose in the camp, Exodus 18:13-15.  The fourth commandment as given here is the summation of that experience.  This doesn’t deny the inspiration of the original text.  God used people as they were, not puppets or robots.

 

“The Sabbath” – Required, Routine or Realized?

There’s a lot of discussion is some circles about the Sabbath, sometimes quite vehement.  But what is the Sabbath really all about?  Is it just about a certain day of the week, or might there something else as well?  Something more?  What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.

First, some introductory thoughts.  This is a very controversial subject.  In other venues, my comments on it have brought out a lot of venom.  I’m sorry about that.  My goal is never to offend someone or to be controversial simply for the sake of controversy.  I learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what you believe the Bible says about a certain subject, someone will disagree with it.  My goal is always to answer the question at the end of the first paragraph:  what does the Scripture say?

Second.  I accept only Scripture (that is, the 66 books commonly accepted as Scripture) as authoritative on all matters of faith and practice.  The writings of human authors may be useful and helpful, but they have no authority in determining what is true or false.    If you follow such a writing, then you probably won’t agree with me. The same is true of confessions of faith and catechisms.  Nevertheless, I hope you will hear me out and be like those of Berea, who searched the Scripture…to find out whether these things are so, Acts 16:11.

Third.  Because this subject is so complex, and controversial, we’re going to have to divide it into several posts.  We will look at the origin of the Sabbath and it’s incorporation into the Mosaic Covenant.  This will cover the books of Moses.  Then we’ll look at Israel’s compliance, or not, with her responsibilities concerning the Sabbath.  This will cover the rest of the Old Testament.  Finally, we’ll cover the New Testament, including Jesus and the Sabbath, as well as the Book of Acts and the other NT books.  I hope you will read all the posts.  I had originally hoped to limit it to just three posts, but that just didn’t seem possible.  We’ll publish them daily, one after the other.

Fourth, I do welcome your comments.  But, please, no venom.

Fifth, “routine” in the title simply means that there are some people who worship on a particular day, Saturday or Sunday, because that’s just how they always done it. They’ve never really given any thought to the subject, but have gone with the flow, so to speak.

Finally, it has been the habit of some to refer to Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath.”  It seems to me that this just confuses the issue.  The Sabbath was given to Israel as a commemoration of her deliverance from Egypt.  Regardless of what application may be made about deliverance from sin, the Sabbath looks back to that event.  On the other hand, Sunday commemorates the resurrection of our Lord. Without that, there would be no deliverance from sin.

Worship on Sunday has been characterized by some as the mark of the beast.  Other scorn the idea of “New Covenant Christianity,” insisting that we must continue to keep the Old Covenant Law.  In order fully to understand this topic, we need to look at what the Bible actually says about the Sabbath, or “the seventh day”.

Note:  Even though we realize it’s largely fallen out of favor, we used the listings for “sabbath” and “sabbaths” found in Strong’s Concordance for the KJV.

Moses and the Sabbath.

  • Creation and the Sabbath.

The very first mention of the “seventh day” is found in the Creation account in Genesis 2:1-3 (NKJV):

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He had rested from all His Work which God had created and made.

We read in these verses that God “rested” on the seventh day.  Meaning no disrespect, did He rest because He was tired?  He just took a day off?  Perhaps He needed to figure out what to do next – He had arrived at an impasse.  Or perhaps He had run out of material with which to build and needed to resupply.  These are all common things that happen in the plans and building of men.  However, we are talking about God.  The failings, limitations, and imperfections of men may never in any way or for any reason or at any time be attributed to Him.  He is God.

It’s clear that God “rested” because He was finished with creation.  Nothing remained to be done.  It was complete.  May we suggest that the Creation Sabbath speaks of an accomplished work – a finished work – a completed work – a successful work, if you will.  “Rest” in this case means a ceasing of work because there is nothing more that needs to be done, not just a temporary relaxing from it.  There were no “bugs” to be fixed, no kinks to be worked out.  It needed no upgrades or “patches”.  It was all very good.  Adam and Eve thought they could improve on it, and look at the mess they made.

It’s interesting that there is no mention of the Sabbath, any Sabbath, for several hundred years after Creation.  Though “tithing” is mentioned twice, the Sabbath is not seen again until Israel has left Egypt and is on her way to the Promised Land.

  • “Complaining” and the Sabbath.

(There are about 17 occasions in Exodus where God, through Moses, talks about the Sabbath.  Because I have been accused of “cherry-picking” references on this subject in other venues, we’re going to look at all of them.  I’m sorry for the length of some of these posts, but it can’t be helped.  The study of God’s Word shouldn’t have “word-count” restrictions, anyway.)

Exodus 16 gives us the next occurrence of the word “Sabbath”.  There were probably a couple million men, women and children moving through a wilderness area.  Since they were on the move, there were no farms or stores, and what they could find in passing was probably pretty sparse.  As was their custom in almost everything, they soon began to complain, this time about being hungry.

God’s solution was to provide for them supernaturally, with what they called “manna” (literally, “what is it?”) in the morning and quails in the evening.  There were some instructions given as to what was to be done about these provisions.  In particular, the manna was to be gathered and eaten every day, with nothing stored up.  Some of the Israelites were negligent about this, and discovered that the left-over manna bred worms and stank, Exodus 16:20.  Though Moses was angry about this lapse, nothing happened to the offenders.

There was one exception to this daily gathering of manna.  On the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much as on the other days, Exodus 16:22.  On the seventh day, Moses said of this extra manna, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none,”  Exodus 16:25, 26.

However, Israel being Israel, some of the people went out on the Sabbath to gather manna, anyway, and found none.  The LORD was angry at this refusal of Israel to obey His Word, but there was still no other judgment.  A pot of manna was to be gathered and kept for future generations to see.  Manna was supplied to the people for forty years, until Israel was in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:1-12.

To me, it seems that this provision for rest on the seventh day speaks of the sufficiency of the provision.  There was to be no gathering because there was no need.  The people were supplied.  We’ll have much more to say about this as we go along.

  • Sinai and the Sabbath.

Exodus 20 gives us the next mention of the Sabbath.   It is here that the Sabbath was included in the Mosaic Covenant as part of the Constitution and by-laws, if you will, of the newly-formed nation of Israel.  Israel wasn’t made a nation in 1948, but hundreds of years before Christ.

The fourth commandment – it isn’t the first one or the only one, as some seem to treat it – the fourth commandment served as a bridge between the the first three commandments about how Israel was to view and respond to their God, and the rest of the commandments, which deal with how they were to view and respond to their society, beginning with their own parents.  The Sabbath Day brought what might have simply deteriorated into “belief” into focus as to how it was to affect everything else every other day of the week, not just that one day.  There were to be no “Saturday Israelites.”

God said to “Remember” the Sabbath because the nation had already been given it, 40 years earlier.

We’ll conclude this portion of the study tomorrow, Lord willing.

The Gospel According to Job

Wait!

What?

Job?

Gospel!?

Job’s about bad stuff!  No way! …

Way!

There does seem to be a negative attitude toward this book.  Possibly that’s because those who are against it have never really read it.  And, I suppose, that might be understandable.  It’s a difficult book to get your mind around.

Just lately, I’ve read comments that the book puts God in a bad light.  Others say that it teaches that God isn’t sovereign, after all.  One blogger recently went so far as to say that he believes that the sovereignty of God is the greatest trick that Satan has ever put over on Christians (!)  Needless to say, I don’t agree with that statement!  Nor, I think, does Scripture.

Now it’s true that Job and his friends didn’t have “the Gospel” as we understand it, but they knew a great deal more about spiritual things than they generally get credit for. That’s due in part to a popular teaching in fundamentalist Christianity that between the Fall of man and the giving of the Law at Sinai, men and women were left to the guidance of their own consciences.  There was no revelation from God.  They were on their own.

That’s not true.

While we for the most part don’t have actual records of what might have transpired, there are enough incidental references to show that there was an abundant revelation from God between the times of Adam and Moses.  To quote just one example among many, in Genesis 26:5, God said of Abraham that he “obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”  What’s He talking about if there was no revelation before the Law?  Abraham lived a long time before Sinai.

Job also lived a long time before Moses and Sinai.  There’s no mention of Israel or Moses or the Ten Commandments.  There’s no priesthood – Job himself offered sacrifices on behalf of his children and later for his friends.  He knew spiritual truth, cf. Job 1:1.  How could he “fear God” if he didn’t know anything about Him?

Even Job’s “friends” knew spiritual truths.

1.  They knew that man is sinful. 

In Job 25:4-6, Bildad said, “How then can man be righteous before God?  Or how can he be pure who is born of woman?  If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm?”

I remember hearing a radio preacher railing against such “worm theology.”  He didn’t like it at all!  After all, man is pretty good – made in God’s image.  There must be some spark of divinity, some trace of goodness, in man that just needs to be fanned a little to become a bright flame and show what man really is.

And I imagine most of us “aren’t so bad;” we can find someone we think is worse than we are.

The problem is those three words, “righteous before God.”

Paul put it like this:  There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God, Romans 3:10, 11.

Habakkuk describes God like this:  He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness, Habakkuk 1:13.  He just couldn’t understand how such a holy God could use the vile Chaldeans to judge Israel for their sin.

In contrast to the holiness of God, Eliphaz described man like this:  “What is man, that he could be pure?  And he who is born of woman, that he could be righteous?  If God puts no trust in His saints, and the heavens are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water!”  Job 15:14-16.

They knew the truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

2.  Job knew man couldn’t “fix” the problem. 

Job said, “Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?  If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand,”  Job 9:2, 3.

There’s no way that we could ever really account for what we’ve done with the lives God has given us.  At our best, we’re still not good in the sight of God.

3.  Job knew they needed a mediator, a “go-between.” 

Job said, “For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together.  Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both,” Job 9:12, 13.  

Job may not have known directly of the Lord Jesus, but he knew the need for Him. Further than that, though –

4.  Job knew he had a Redeemer. 

He said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth,” Job 19:25.

We don’t know how much Job knew of “salvation,” but he said in 13:16, “He [God] also shall be my salvation.”  Every sacrifice spoke of Him and of Christ’s victory over sin, death and Satan, cf. Hebrews 2:14, 15.  He knew enough.

5.  Job knew of the resurrection. 

Continuing the thought in #4, Job said, And after my skin is destroyed, I know that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:26, 27.

“How my heart yearns within me!”

Job could teach us a thing or two, couldn’t he?

6.  Job knew of the coming of Christ.

Again, we don’t know exactly what Job knew, but he knew that his Redeemer would stand at last on the earth, v. 25.  While this may refer to Christ’s first coming, we believe it has more reference to His second coming – which wouldn’t have happened without the first coming.  The first time, Jesus came to be ignored, rejected and murdered, though He did so willingly.  The second time – ah, that will be a different story! Zechariah 14 describes that coming more fully.  There will be no doubt who He is, no escaping Him.

7.  Job expressed extraordinary faith in God. 

In 13:15, he said, “THOUGH HE SLAY ME, yet will I trust Him.” (emphasis added!)  What a contrast to much of today’s thought, where “health and wealth” are expected as ordinary consequences of faith.  I recently heard one of these false prophets say that because Moses lived to be 120 without his natural vigor decreasing and Caleb, though 85, was as ready and able to conquer his enemies as he had been at 45, that that was what the Holy Ghost wanted for you – this speaker’s audience.

Tell that to the dear sister in her mid 70s who has suffered lifelong with lupus and who was recently diagnosed with ALS.  She has become paralyzed and needs around the clock care.  A joy to know, a faithful witness for God – paralyzed and unable to do for herself.  Or tell that to Joni Eareckson Tada, paralyzed from the shoulders down and for 30 + years confined to a wheelchair.

Some dismiss this as a “lack of faith.”

Away with such thoughts!!

It takes a great deal more “faith” to be a Job or a Joni or a Julie (not her name) than it does when the sun shines and all goes as we think it should!

After all, Job had already rebuked his wife when she told him to “curse God and die,” when he said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Job 1:10.

We’re more than ready to “accept the good;” the “adversity” – not so much.

It amazes me that one of the greatest “confessions of faith” in Scripture is found in the Old Testament.  Another such confession is in Habakkuk 3:17, 18.

8.  Job received witness from God. 

A lot of people sneer at Job, saying he accused God falsely.  I wonder how they – or we – would do under similar circumstances.  We’re more likely be like his wife than him, I’m afraid.

When rebuking his three friends, God said to them, “My wrath is aroused against you… for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.  Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job will pray for you.  For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has,” Job 42:7, 8.

God “accepted” him.  What else needs to be said?

9.  Job stands as God’s object lesson.

Job stands as proof that there are those who serve God for Himself, not for what they can get out of Him!  While it’s true that Job received double what he had lost, he didn’t know that going through everything.