Blood and Water

As I was mulling over the title for this post, I was not thinking of 1 John 1, though I did think of it immediately after.  The title comes from the two items in the courtyard of the tabernacle:  the bronze altar and the laver.  It is these I was thinking about with the title.  In our last post, we talked about entering the courtyard, something there’s no evidence that the ordinary Israelite could do.  He had business at the bronze altar if he had a sacrifice, and he could probably see the bronze laver, but he couldn’t approach it.

We want to look more closely at these two items ourselves as we journey inward.

The Bronze Altar

In Leviticus 1, we read part of God’s instruction to Moses about the various sacrifices:

“If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.  Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.  He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting,” Leviticus 1:3-6 NKJV.

By the way and simply because I’ve heard it used like this:  the expression his free will” is not making a doctrinal statement about man’s will; it simply means that the offering was voluntary, as opposed to those offerings which were required.

These verses tell us that the one bringing the sacrifice was not a passive onlooker to what was going on, but he was an active participant.  At the least, he had to put his hand on the head of the animal being sacrificed, and the text reads as though he had to kill it, v. 4.  The text down through v. 8 indicates he might also have had parts in the other proceedings.  We’ll stay with some thoughts about v. 4.

He put his hand on the head of the animal.  Doing so, the man was identifying with the animal as the one atoning for the man’s sin.  The man was saying, in effect, “I deserve to die, but you are taking my place.  You are my substitute.”

He also, it seems, had to kill the animal.  In this, the man was saying, “I’m killing you; my sin is killing you.  You are my sacrifice.”

Substitution.

Sacrifice.

Two essential elements in the OT sacrificial system.

Two essential elements in the death of the Lord Jesus.

I asked a fellow once, “What did Jesus do on the Cross?”

Beside the fact that Jesus died, the fellow didn’t seem to have very much idea.

The simple fact is that Christ died for sin, not His own because He had none, but for the sin of others.  He took their place.  As the animal died instead of the individual Israelite, so the Lord died in place of individual sinners.  He was their Substitute.

The Israelite was guilty of sin.  So are we, and the wages of sin is death, Romans 3:23.  The animal was sacrificed to take his place.  We are guilty of sin and death is our reward, both physically and spiritually, if we die without the Lord Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior.  We will die physically unless the Lord comes back before then.  If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.

And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, already “dead spiritually.”  And apart from the Lord Jesus, we are already guilty before God.  The common idea that we’ll have to wait until the Judgment to find out our “fate” is false; it’s already set – apart from the Lord Jesus:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, John 3:18 emphasis added.

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:36 emphasis added.

Not “the love of God,” as so often and falsely taught today, but the wrath of God.

Only in the Lord Jesus does one have any “claim” on the love of God.  Apart from Him, there is only wrath.

Apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no hope and no future.  There is no “better place.”

He is our Substitute, our Sacrifice.

The second item of furniture in the courtyard was the laver, for the daily and continual cleansing of the priests as they went about their duties.

We, too, though forgiven, also need daily cleansing from the increasing pollution and filth of this world.  As the Israelite was made unclean just by contact with things which were unclean, so we, in contact with this world, are made unclean by its actions and philosophies and need to be cleansed.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

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God’s Altar

“You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide – the altar shall be square – and its height shall be three cubits.  You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it.  And you shall overlay it with bronze.  And you shall make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels and its basins and its forks and its firepans; you shall make all its utensils of bronze. You shall make a grate for it, a network of bronze; and on the network you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners.  You shall put it under the rim of the altar beneath, that the network may be midway up the altar.  And you shall make poles for the altar, poles pf acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze.  The poles shall be put in the rings,and the poles shall be on the two sides of the altar to bear it.  You shall make it hollow with boards; as it was shown you on the mountain so shall they make it, Exodus 27:1-8 (NKJV).

He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood; five cubits was its length and five cubits its width – it was square – and its height was three cubits.  He made its horns on its four corners; the horns were of one piece with it.  And he overlaid it with bronze.  He made all the utensils for the altar: the pans, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the firepans; all its utensils he made of bronze.  And he made a grate of bronze network for the altar, under its rim, midway from the bottom.  He cast four rings for the four corners of the bronze grating, as holders for the poles.  And he made the poles of acacia wood, and overlaid them with bronze.  Then he put the poles into the rings on the sides of the altar, with which to bear it.  He made the altar hollow with boards, Exodus 38:1-7.

My early days as a believer were spent among fundamentalists.  The word has a bad connotation today because of its association with people who blow things up and murder other people, but it originally just meant those who believed the basic truths of Christianity as opposed to the “modernists” who denied them.  The practice at the end of the Sunday service with these folks was to urge people to “come forward to the altar” for salvation or any number of things.  Someone just the other day posted a picture of a group of people praying at such an altar.  It is still used by many groups. 

And there are some “fundamental” truths in Christianity.  If those truths aren’t there, then it’s not really Christianity no matter what it’s called.

The thing is, God has only ever had one altar and it wasn’t at the front of a building.  It was on a hill outside Jerusalem where the Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the world.  It seems to me to say that there is another altar is to disrespect or even to disregard that one.

The current view of “an altar” at the front of an auditorium has only come into prominence over the last 150 years or so as a result of the shift in focus from the Scriptural understanding that God’s regenerating power is necessary before a sinner is even able to believe on the Lord Jesus, to the unScriptural idea now that the sinner can believe on his own, maybe with some help from the Holy Spirit, who “woos” him but can be rejected, and then, as a result of his faith, the sinner is regenerated, or “born again.”

In John 3, the Lord teaches the former viewpoint.

As the Israelite came to the entrance to the tabernacle courtyard, the altar was the first thing he saw, the first thing on the way in.  He couldn’t avoid it.  If he wanted access to God, he had to use it.  He couldn’t just admire its beauty or its architecture.  He had to bring a sacrifice.  Even though we quoted from Exodus at the beginning of this post, Leviticus is the book of instruction for the sacrifices to be made on the bronze altar.  In that book, there are nearly 60 references just to burnt offerings, to say nothing of the other sacrifices.

Some people are offended by what they call “a bloody religion.”  It may be, but the idea of sacrifice wasn’t introduced at Calvary.  It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, where God rejected the fig leaves with which the guilty couple had tried to cover their nakedness and gave them coats of skin for a covering.  Doing this, He taught them the only reason they lived was because an innocent substitute had died. Every single sacrifice after that taught that same truth – substitution and sacrifice – every single one.  Later, after the Flood the first thing Noah did was to build an altar, Genesis 8:20.  Job, who probably lived before the time of Moses, knew about altars and burnt offerings, Job 1:5. Abraham knew that “God would provide Himself a sacrifice,” Genesis 22:8-13, which He did for Abraham in the ram caught by its horns, and then, once and for all, in the death of the Lord Jesus.  The first murder, Cain killing his brother Abel, was ultimately over what was the right kind of sacrifice, Genesis 4:1-8.

The idea of sacrifice was nothing new to Moses here in the wilderness.

This altar served only one purpose:  to meet and satisfy the claims of God against guilty sinners, in this case the Israelites.  The thing is, it couldn’t.  It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins, Hebrews 10:4.  Hebrews 10:3 tells us that the continual offering of these sacrifices served as a reminder, an object lesson.  The sin, though “forgiven,” wasn’t really “taken away;” it was only “covered:” the meaning of “kaphar,” the word translated “atone,” “atonement.”  It awaited the coming of the One who could take away sin.

The altar was made of acacia wood, a wood common to the area.  Likewise, our Lord didn’t come to this earth in His pre-incarnate form as the Word, or as an angel, but, as Hebrews 10:5 tells us, as a human being, in a body specifically designed and prepared for Him.  This brings us to the necessity of the virgin birth, because anyone conceived and born in the usual way would be a sinner, unable to atone for sin.  And He wasn’t born to privilege and rank.  He spent His life among ordinary folks, what some today would call, “the little people.”  He worked for a living.  Even after dying a criminal’s death, He was buried in a borrowed tomb.  But He didn’t stay there.

This one is the “altar” before which we must bow.  There is no “advancing” without it.  There is no salvation, no life, without it.  It’s for this reason that Peter preached on that long-ago day, “nor is there any other, for there is no other name under given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.   What name is that?  The name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” Acts 4:10.  See also vs. 7, 17, 18 and 30.

It mustn’t be assumed that the mere “saying” of the name of Jesus as some sort of “abracadabra” is all that’s meant in these verses.  As Peter and the others were facing the Sanhedrin, Peter accused these leaders of crucifying the Lord Jesus, “whom God raised up,” v. 10.  The Jesus who saves is the Jesus of Scripture, God incarnate in the flesh, who went about doing good, who was crucified, but rose from the dead, and who, one day, will return to this world to claim it as His own

Our Lord died because we couldn’t.

If we want access to God, or heaven, we have to come by way of His sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no other way.

Hebrews 11:13-16, Dying in Faith

[13]These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  [14]For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  [15]And if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  [16]But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.  (NKJV)

“These all died in faith.”

It’s one thing to live by faith, but when life comes to an end, with the things that sometimes attend that end, “faith” may waver a little.  One thing that bolsters faith is the firm and settled conviction that this life isn’t all there is; there is something better just beyond that exit called “death.”  And this conviction doesn’t depend on “out-of-the-body” experiences, or books written by those who say they’ve been to heaven, and it’s “real.”  Perhaps they have been there.  And certainly, heaven is real.  So is hell.  Even so, though, the Apostle Paul said that he had been caught up to the third heaven, but he didn’t have the words to describe what he experienced, 2 Corinthians 12:1-5.  Regardless, the true believer’s hope for the future isn’t found in “experience,” but in God’s promise, cf. Jeremiah 29:11; Revelation 21:1-4, the city which has “foundations,” v. 14.

not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.

Even though Isaac himself was evidence of the power and faithfulness of God, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises about their inheritance of the land. (Now I believe that Israel [and they] will possess that land; the OT is filled with promises about that.  That, however, is a post for another time.) Nevertheless, they

were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

The attitude of faith isn’t one of expectation of great things in this life.  They may come.  They may not.  We mentioned in an earlier post that faith gives us a different perspective about this world, about fundamental differences between God’s children and the world’s children.  One of them is found in Psalm 17:14, where the Psalmist refers to men of the world who have their portion in this life.  Another verse is Luke 16:25, which records something our Lord said of two men and their experiences in the after-life.  One was a child of God and the other one wasn’t.  Some are troubled by the things mentioned in verses 19-31 and try to lighten what they say.  Whether these verses are just a parable or an expression of something real is beyond the scope of this post.  But even parables address things which are real.  There is something our Lord said, however, which, even if it is just a parable, is vitally important.  In v. 25, it is said to the one who was lost, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented.”

To put it another way, this world is as close to heaven as some people will ever get, and for other people, this world is as close to hell as they will get.   To a world that believes that everyone goes to “a better place” at death this idea is troubling.  And there’s no way of knowing simply by the circumstances of their lives whether any particular person is saved or not.  A mansion may house a vile wretch and a cardboard box may shelter a godly person.  In that regard, prosperity or poverty don’t matter.

The point is, lest I wander too far in this direction, that the true Christian, the true believer, understands that this world isn’t all this is to his or her existence and that God’s promises don’t always come true in this life.  They didn’t for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They also understand that these promises will come true eventually.  We’ll see a little more of this as we go through Hebrews 11.

Our problem too often is that we try to measure God’s providence by our own tape measure.  We try to fit Him into the little box of our own understanding.  That’s like trying to teach an ant how to drive.  And the difference between us and that ant is insignificant compared to the distance between us and God.  And just so you don’t misread it, we are the ant.  Sorrowfully, way too many people would put God in that position.

Too often, we define “blessing” as things which we think are “good:” health, prosperity, good “relationships”.  He’ll heal our sicknesses and fix the broken things.  Now, I believe in healing.  My own mother experienced it.  She nearly died after having me and the doctors said that she’d never walk again.  Well, they were wrong.  And I’ve known others who were healed of serious illnesses.  On the other hand, I know a dear sister in the Lord who suffered from Lupus her whole life and was diagnosed with ALS shortly before she died.  It got to the point where she couldn’t talk, but even then, she showed more joy in the Lord than most of us who are a lot healthier than she was.

And sometimes, God is pleased just to use the broken things.  I think of Joni Eareckson Tada.  The tools in His workshop aren’t all new and shiny.  After all, which of us, in one way or another, isn’t “broken”?

The people of whom Hebrews speaks in vs. 13-16 understood a little of the temporary and sometimes difficult nature of this world and life.  (See also vs. 35-38.)  That’s why we read of them that they –

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

If they had simply been concerned about this world,

they would have had opportunity to return.

After all, the promised land was right in the middle to the trade route between north and south.  There were probably caravans often traveling through it.  They could have left at any time.

But they had a different perspective:  they were looking for –

a homeland.  …They desired a better, that is, a heavenly country.

Of Abraham himself, v. 10 says that he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  I’ve read somewhere that Ur was built in a marsh and really didn’t have a firm footing, or foundation.  So Abraham was looking for something “solid,” as we might put it.

We really have a very sparse account of what happened between God and men in those early years.  In fact, it’s believed by many that from the Fall of Adam and Eve until the giving of the Law through Moses that there wasn’t any revelation from God.  Men were simply guided by their own “conscience.”  I think that’s an inadequate view.  There are incidental references which tell us of an abundant revelation.  For example, in Genesis 26:5, God appeared to Isaac and testified of his father that “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My law.”  This tells us that there were “commandments” and “law” long before Moses.  We just have no, or very little, record of them.

Another example is Job, who certainly lived before the events at Sinai, and a long way from Israel.  There’s no mention of the priesthood or the Tabernacle, but the book is filled with references to sin, righteousness and judgment.  Indeed, the book opens with Job offering burnt sacrifices just on the possibility that his sons had sinned and cursed God in their hearts, Job 1:5.  And he did this regularly.  He’s described as one who was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil, v. 1.  How could this be, if there was nothing to tell him about God and what He required?  Or that defined “evil”?

Beyond that, some of the greatest “confessions of faith” come from him.  Job 13:15,  “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”  I’m afraid today that we say, “If He heals me, I will trust Him.”  He had insight into the resurrection, “And after my skin is destroyed, this 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 (emphasis added).  He had alluded to this earlier when he referred to his “change,” 14:14.

Granted, he said some things that he shouldn’t have, but God defended him against his three “friends” (and against those who would scold him today):  the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, 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 shall 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,” 42:7, 8, emphasis added.

Job, too, “died in faith.”

And, unless the Lord comes back first,

It will be said of all God’s people:

These all died in faith.

Hebrews 11:1-7, Living By Faith

[1]Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  [2]For by it, the elders obtained a good testimony.
[3]By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
[4]By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
[5]By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  [6]But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
[7]By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (NKJV)

Hebrews 11 gives a far different view of “life” with reference to God than most seem to realize.  The writer gives us some examples of the faith he mentioned starting in 10:38.  “Faith” has little, if anything, to do with “prosperity,” but with “perspective.”  True faith enables us to looks at things the way God looks at them, which may be quite different, even opposed, to the way the world looks at them.  In the verses before us, we see five instances of “faith.”
1. the elders, v. 2, that is, the Old Testament saints in general, from whom the writer picks some particular examples.

“good testimony”.  Or “good report,” as the KJV has it.  Perhaps we misunderstand these words.  Especially in our day, what is called Christianity goes out of its way to find broad acceptance and understanding, with some going so far as to “dialogue” with Islam and other world religions.  “Inter-faith” is the current buzzword.  This viewpoint is unBiblical.  While we certainly aren’t to try to be divisive, the only way we can find acceptance with an ungodly world in the things of God is to be unfaithful to the things of God.
Perhaps vs. 33-38 throws a little light on this “report:”  the world despised these OT saints.  That is a good report.  Cf. Luke 6:22-26.

2. creation, v. 3.  There is an important principle in this verse as the writer starts where God starts, namely, with the origin of all things.  The world says that all things just happened, with a mindless, meaningless development from nothing into “here we are today.”  Science tells us that everything in the universe began “as a condensed droplet of matter at an extremely high density and temperature.”  (Robert Jastrow, Red Giants and White Dwarfs, p. 51).  Known today as the “big bang theory,” it was first put forth in 1931 by a Father Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer educated as a Jesuit priest.  Allegedly, because of enormous internal pressure, this “drop of matter” rapidly expanded and things developed, over billions of years, into that which we see around us today.  This includes “us”.

There are some things, however, which this elaborate theory never addresses.  Where, for example, did this primordial “drop” come from?  It just suddenly “appeared”?  Further, where did it appear?  As I understand the theory, before the appearance of this drop, there was nothing.  But wouldn’t this include “space” itself?  There was nowhere for this nothing to suddenly begin becoming something.
This, of course, is a simple version of a complex viewpoint.  Basically, though, it gets rid of any idea of “God” and leaves us at the top of the food chain, so to speak.  There is no higher being to whom we are accountable.  There are no absolutes, no sin, and certainly no need for redemption and a Redeemer.

On the other hand, “faith” simply accepts the record of Genesis 1:1, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Thousands of books and millions of words have been written about all this.  The few hundred words of this post won’t settle the issue.

“Faith” says that it’s already been settled.

The word translated “understand” is in the present tense.  There will never be a time in this life where faith isn’t necessary as to the origin of things.  This is not to say that there isn’t “evidence” for the various “-ologies” of science, but an evolutionist  and a creationist will look at the same evidence – the world around us, with its marvelous unity, intricacy and complexity – and arrive at opposing conclusions.

The word translated “worlds” is not “kosmos,” but “aionas”.  “Kosmos” refers to the world from the standpoint of its place in space; “aion” considers it from the standpoint of time.  There are those who say that the words are synonymous here.  I don’t think so.  We’re very limited in our perception and understanding.  This evil world is but a dust-mote in the vast reaches of space, and it’s history the merest twinkle in view of eternity.  Paul wrote of “God’s eternal purpose,” Ephesians 3:11, “the ages to come,” Ephesians 2:7, “all ages,” Ephesians 3:21.  God has dealt with the whole as well as with each part, and each part has its place and purpose in the whole.  Every event is but a single note in the eternal symphony to the glory of God.

Finally, though there is much more we could say about this, we’re told that what we see was made out of things we can’t see.  How did the “ignorant” writers of the Bible know this?  How were they able to reduce the whole spectrum of theoretical physics to this simple sentence?

3. Abel, v. 4.  Note especially the phrase, “more excellent.”  Cain’s offering wasn’t rejected because it was of inferior quality or shoddy workmanship.  No doubt, Cain worked hard with his crops and gave of his very best.  Cain was rejected because he tried to do things his way.  Abel was accepted because he did things God‘s way.

4. Enoch, vs. 5, 6.  Though he’s mentioned a couple of other times in the Old Testament, six verses in Genesis are all that’s told us of this man:  Genesis 5:18, 19, 21-24.  There’s just enough to whet our curiosity.  We’re told only that after he begot Methuselah, he walked with God, v. 22.  What happened to turn him around?  What was it about this birth or this child that changed his life?  We’re not told – only that he pleased God.  No one could ask for a better “testimony”.

5. Noah, v. 7.  Our earlier post on Noah and the Flood goes into more detail on this event.  Here the writer simply refers to Noah’s motivation: “godly fear,” and the result of his labor:  the destruction of the world.   He condemned the world because he believed God and they didn’t.

Jephthah and His Daughter.

Judges 11:29-40 is one of those puzzling episodes in Scripture, with skeptics wondering how Jephthah could do such an awful thing to his daughter, and believers trying to figure the story out, as well.

To start, we want to focus on the daughter.  Like the servant girl of Naaman’s wife, this young lady was a remarkable person.  She met her victorious dad with a dance of welcome.  She was glad to see him.

She may as well have plunged a dagger into her dad’s heart, even though, in her innocent joy, she had no idea what she was doing.  Regardless of what may have happened afterward, it’s clear what Dad thought when he saw her come to meet him….

He was devastated….

But our focus here is on the girl.

1.  She had a submissive spirit, v. 36, So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the LORD has avenged you of your enemies,….”

This doesn’t mean that she was beaten into submission by her father, or that she struggled against the idea.  When she found out what was going on, she simply said, “Do it.”  We don’t know anything about such an attitude in our willful and insolent society, where parents are mocked and scoffed at by their children, and “children’s rights” have pretty much cancelled out parental rights – until the kid does something “society” doesn’t like, and then, watch out!

Granted, we live in a different time than Jephthah and his daughter did, but the subject of the fifth commandment is still valid today:  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth, Ephesians 6:1-3.

The idea of respect for parents has almost disappeared in our time.

But there was something else, and this is the main thing:

2.  She had spiritual perception, v. 36.  She recognized that it wasn’t about what our society would likely call an abusive father, but about a vow that her father had made to the Lord.  We don’t know anything about this in a culture where “a man’s  word” isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and the saying is, “A contract [a vow] is made to be broken.”  When things get tough, people make promises to the Lord all the time, but how often, when things get better, do they follow through?

And it doesn’t matter if Jephthah’s vow was “rash” or “foolish,” as it’s often described.  Perhaps it was.  It was still binding.  Leviticus 30:2 says, If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”  And Deuteronomy 23:21, 23 says, “When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. … That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.”  The key word there is “voluntary,” as Jephthath’s was.  V. 22 says, “But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you.”

Who knows what was going through Jephthah’s mind before and as he was making this vow.  Perhaps he felt pressure because of his background.  Judges 11 tells us that he was unwelcome among his brothers, and they had disowned him.  He’d left home and became the head of a band of raiders, vs. 2, 3.  After a time, the Ammonites threatened war against Israel, and Israel’s leaders turned to him to lead Israel against them, vs. 4-11.  He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but after some haggling with them, he agreed.

Though Jephthah tried to reason with the king of the Ammonites, the king wouldn’t listen, but went ahead with his plan to attack Israel, vs. 12-28.

One thing I find very interesting is found in vs. 28, 29:  then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and…he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD….  Granted, some time passed while he was moving toward the enemy, but he wasn’t just some wild-eyed revolutionary when he made his vow.  As I said, who knows what was going through his mind.  Perhaps just the heat of the moment….

Regardless, he was stuck.

Now the Law did have something to say about the redemption of a sacrifice.  In Leviticus 27:1-8, if the “vow” concerned a person, a certain monetary value was placed on him or her, depending on age.  They weren’t killed, as was an animal.  There were some other provisions in the Law, as well.  However, Leviticus 27:28 says, “Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all he has, whether man or beast…; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.” Whatever happened, the daughter had become “most holy to the LORD.”  Perhaps this is a key to understanding this episode.

There are those who harshly criticize Jephthah, believing that he went ahead and sacrificed his daughter on an altar.  Perhaps he did.  In v. 40, the phrase, “the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament” her, could refer to her death. Another view, the one which I hold with others, is that she, as “most holy to the LORD,” was given over to perpetual virginity.  This is confirmed, possibly, by the fact that she requested 2 months to go with her girlfriends to lament her virginity.  She could never marry or have children.  To our society, this is no big deal, but back then, it was.

To be barren was almost worse than death, because a woman could never fulfill her destiny as a mother.  If this is the case, then “the daughters of Israel” came to lament her remaining single.  Again, to our society, no big deal.  “Virginity” isn’t considered all that important:  “it’s just sex.”  Indeed, such a view as hers can hardly be understood by the rampant feminism  and/or immorality of a “Fifty Shades of Grey” society.

For the father, either way, this meant the end of his family.  His daughter was his only child.  For something of the importance attached to this, see the post I did on the daughters of Zelophehad, or read their story in Numbers 27.  Indeed, even the sordid action of Lot’s daughters was prompted by the desire to keep their father’s line going, Genesis 19:32.

Jephthah is mentioned later in Scripture.  Samuel remembered him as one whom the LORD has sent to deliver Israel, 1 Samuel 12:11.  Hebrews 11:32 mentions him as one of the heroes of the faith.  It’s interesting that every one of the four men mentioned in that verse was very much less than perfect.

Perhaps Psalm 15:1, 4 gives us an answer.  In v. 1, the Psalmist asks a question, Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?  The rest of the Psalm gives the answer.  V. 4 is relevant here:  He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

I don’t really know for certain what happened between Jephthah and his daughter.  Maybe he stands as an object lesson not to be hasty in making promises we later might not want to keep.  Maybe he just stands as a testimony to being faithful to your word, regardless of what it might cost you. In any event, God doesn’t sugarcoat the records of our lives.  He doesn’t photoshop or airbrush the pictures of His people to make them look better than they are. He shows warts and all.

Whether this is a story of “warts” or not is a subject for a lot of discussion. Perhaps only the Judgment will finally clear it all up – along with a lot of other things.  In the meantime…

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.