“…that the Scriptures might be fulfilled…”

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a brother about a course he was taking at a local Christian college.  He mentioned that the professor teaching it believes that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled.

This is a common viewpoint.

In its introduction to Matthew, The Reformation Study Bible  says, “[Matthew’s] citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of ALL the expectations of the Old Testament,” p.1360, (emphasis added).

Elsewhere, we’ve referred to the church bulletin insert which said that Ezekiel 40-48 were “fulfilled in Jesus.”

I’m sorry, but I cannot agree.

Jesus did indeed fulfill many prophecies during His first coming.  Matthew himself lists 19 such prophecies by text and two others with a general reference to “the prophets.”  It seems to me, therefore, that these prophecies clearly demonstrate that prophecy must be fulfilled “literally” [and, yes, I know how some folks view that word!] and not just “spiritually”.

For example, looking at Ezekiel, in our Bibles there are 9 chapters with some 270 verses of extensive and exact detail, even down to a priest’s haircut and whom he may or may not marry.

Keep in mind that Ezekiel was a priest and would not have dared to come up with something like this on his own.  Besides, God instructed him to “look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here that I might show them to you.  Declare to the house of Israel everything you see,” Ezekiel 40:4.

To say that his writings can be lightly dismissed because of the the fact that one or two words which Ezekiel used were also used by the Lord Jesus of Himself seems to me to be going too far.

We grant that there are some difficult things to understand in these chapters.  For example, some are troubled, even offended, by the references to various sacrifices, believing they deny the final sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.  I freely admit that I don’t understand them myself.  However, without meaning in the least to be irreverent or flippant, I expect that, since God told Ezekiel to write them down, He will take care of it.

I have no doubt that, when all is said and done and this world is over and regardless of our views of prophecy, we will all discover that we didn’t have everything “figured out”.

There were many prophets in Israel.  It wasn’t to be taken for granted, though, that they all spoke for God, even if they said or thought that they did.  If Israel were to ask how they could tell which were true prophets and which were false prophets, God gave them two simple tests.  These tests still work.

The first test is found in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, where God gave this instruction to Israel,

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods,’…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet….for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul.  But that prophet or dreamer of dreams shall be put to death….  So shall you put away the evil from among you.” 

Even though New Testament believers do not have the right or the authority to kill false prophets, still the lesson is clear, all messages must be faithful to and judged by the Word of God.

The second test is in Deuteronomy 18:21, 22,

“And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ – when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

In other words, the thing prophesied has to happen!

I don’t believe that Israel would have accepted the idea that a prophecy could be fulfilled “spiritually.”  They were told certain things would happen and they expected those very things to happen.  Now, it’s true that they didn’t always understand everything that would be involved, any more than we do today.  And there might even be a “spiritual” element involved.  Still, there was a definite thing or things expected.

For example –

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:  ‘In those days and at that time, I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgement and righteousness in the earth.  IN THOSE DAYS JUDAH WILL BE SAVED, AND JERUSALEM WILL DWELL SAFELY.  AND THIS IS THE NAME BY WHICH SHE WILL BE CALLED:  THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’  For thus says the LORD:  “David shall never lack of man to sit on the throne of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually,” Jeremiah 33:14-18 (emphasis added)..

God said He would keep His promise to Israel and Judah.  To say that this was fulfilled during the return from Babylon or that it’s fulfilled in “the church” and the Lord Jesus is sitting on David’s throne in heaven is to miss the point of the prophecy.  Jerusalem hasn’t dwelt “safely” since its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and certainly not after the return from Babylon.  Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi testify to that!  She still doesn’t!  Judah isn’t “saved.”  Jerusalem is still called Jerusalem, there being nothing “righteous” about her, since she is in part inhabited by those who call the Cross “a monstrous falsehood.”.

There are many other OT portions we could look at.

Zechariah 14 is one of them.  Read it.  When has the Lord returned, there have been catastrophic geological changes to the planet and a moral and spiritual revolution taken place so that everyone who is left of all the nations…shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles”?  To say that some of this refers to the “eternal state” as the Reformation Study Bible does is to ignore the plagues and punishment Zechariah describes.  How would they even be necessary?

Jeremiah 33 and Zechariah 14 certainly tie in with Ezekiel 40-48.

The Church is unknown in the Old Testament.  It didn’t come about because Israel rejected her Messiah and so God instituted “Plan B.”  The Cross was part of God’s eternal purpose, Ephesians 3:11.  Israel’s rejection of the Lord Jesus was part of it.  It doesn’t say much for our view of God if we believe He had to go to Plan B.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to do that with me, He’d be way beyond “B.”  No, no.  The Church is “Part B,” if you will.  But that probably is another whole post.

To deny even the possibility of a “literal” fulfillment seems to me to cast doubt on the truthfulness of God’s Word.  If He didn’t mean what He said, then why did He say it?Why didn’t He say what He did mean?  And what else in His Word can we not trust?  So, it seems to me that there’s a lot more involved than just fussing over some marginal issue.

The few words of this post won’t lay the discussion to rest, by any means.  I just hope it might give some food for thought.

The Scripture must be fulfilled!

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The Daughters of Zelophehad: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.

“Who?  What?  What in the world!?”

“Who is Zepho- Zelod- whatever it is?”

I wonder how many of you have heard of these six people before?  They actually are important in Old Testament history, or at least the daughters are – and have importance even in the New Testament, as we’ll see shortly.

I decided Friday afternoon, instead of sitting down and watching Netflix for a while before I went to work, that I would read some more in the Bible.  Always so much better than Dr. Phil or Katie, or even what we actually prefer to watch on Netflix.  My reading was in Numbers, so I started where I had left off that morning with ch. 26, but I only got as far as 27:33:  Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and the names of the daughters are Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 

This is part of the second census taken in Israel, a census designed to ensure that those who had rebelled 38 years earlier and refused to enter the land, even after favorable reports from Joshua and Caleb, had all died as a judgment on their rebellion, Numbers 26:63-65.  Their rebellion had caused the rest of Israel to wander in the desert for an extra 38 years.  The girls are mentioned in three other places in the  OT:  Numbers 27:1; 36:11 and Joshua 17:3, always together and always in the same order.  Zelophehad is mentioned one additional time, in 1 Chronicles 7:15, as having no sons, but only daughters.  They aren’t named there.

A second reason for this census is that it forms the basis for the future division of the land.  This was to be done according to the size of each tribe as determined by this census, Numbers 26:52-56.

I’d noticed before that all the girls’ names ended in -ah, and had wondered if it was some form of JAH, the name of God.  This is often the case.  I decided to find out.   I was disappointed.  It wasn’t.

As I looked at the meanings of the girls’ names, I wondered what story there might be behind them.  Names often carry significant meaning in the OT.

I had to wonder, though.  Mahlah means “sickness”.  Who names their daughter, “Sickness”?  Noah means “movement.”  This, by the way, isn’t the same name as the Noah who built the Ark to escape the Flood.  Even though it seems that way in our translations, the Hebrew words, though very similar, are different.  The Noah of Genesis 6, his name means “rest.”  Hoglah is thought to mean “a partridge.”  It’s uncertain.  Milcah means “Queen” or “Counsel.”  And, finally, Tirzah means “delight” or “delightful.”

So, nothing about God.  And I have no idea, if it were even possible, how to weave any kind of “story” from these very different names.

However, it isn’t the names or their meanings that make these young women important.

We’ve mentioned that this second census was in part about the division of the Land of Promise, or the inheritance, the heritage, of each family as it would be passed from generation to generation.  Each of the three other appearances of these girls has something to do with “inheritance.”

In Numbers 27:1-11, the daughters come to Moses and the leaders Israel and tell them that their father, Zelophehad, had not died with those who died in Korah’s rebellion, Numbers 16, but had simply died naturally, leaving no sons behind.  Why, therefore, they ask, should his name disappear from Israel?

This question resulted in the LORD commanding that the inheritance of one who died without sons should pass, first of all, to daughters.  If no daughters, then the LORD commanded other arrangements to be followed.

In Numbers 36, another problem arises with their inheritance.  The leaders of the families of the children of Gilead, one of the daughters’ ancestors, came to Moses and the leaders of Israel and mentioned that if the daughters married outside their tribe (Manasseh), then the inheritance would move from Manasseh to whatever tribe they married into.  The heritage of Manasseh would be diminished.

This wasn’t just a matter of greed.  Inheritance and heritage were considered almost sacred in Israel.  After all, the original land division had been made by lot.  This doesn’t mean that they simply “rolled the dice,” but rather that the boundaries of each part of the land had been determined by the Lord.  Solomon later put it like this, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD, Proverbs 16:33.  This doesn’t give us license to decide things that way – the flip of a coin, etc.  It’s just how the LORD told them to do it.  He hasn’t said that to us.

As one example of the importance Israelites attached to their heritage, consider the following.  Several centuries later, after the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah, a man named Naboth owned a vineyard in Samaria, a vineyard which was located next to the palace of Ahab, a wicked king of Israel, 1 Kings 21.  Ahab wanted this vineyard so he could plant a vegetable garden.  He offered to buy this plot of land or trade Naboth for a better one.  Hear Naboth’s response:  “The LORD forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!” 1 Kings 21:3.

The leaders’ concern was legitimate.

The daughters last appear in Joshua 17:3-5, where they claim that which was given to them by the LORD.

There is something else in this portion.  Apparently the daughters were the only ones among some of the tribes who “got it right.”  As Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land, they had to face opposition even before they got there.  On the east side of Jordan were two kingdoms which came out against them in war:  Sihon, king of Heshbon and Og, king of Bashan.  The LORD enabled Israel to be victorious, carefully note Deuteronomy 2:26-3:11.

The land of these two kingdoms was excellent grazing land.  Some tribal leaders came to Moses and requested this land because they had a lot of livestock.  After some discussion, Moses agreed.  So the tribes of Reuben, Gad and “the half-tribe of Manasseh” received their allotment of land on the east side of the Jordan, though the Promised Land lay west of the river.  This division caused trouble in the not-too-distant future, to say nothing of later on.  See Joshua 22.

“The half-tribe of Manasseh”???

Yes.  We read in Joshua 17:5-6 that ten shares fell to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side of the Jordan, BECAUSE the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons, and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead (emphasis added).  Apparently, for the purpose of the division of the land, the daughters were considered the children of Manasseh.  They were of that tribe.

So, except for the concern of these daughters for their father, Manasseh would have had no land in the Promised Land itself.  This, however, isn’t their only, or even perhaps the more important, contribution to the nation of Israel.

From this point, the daughters disappear from Scripture.  Their influence, however, lives on.

How so?

As we come to the NT, we see something curious.  There are two genealogies given for the Lord Jesus, one in Matthew and one in Luke.  Critics and skeptics have noted the differences between them and exclaimed, “Aha!  You see!  There are contradictions in the Bible!”  These, of course, aren’t the only places they claim that.  The skeptics never stop to consider that there might be a reason or an explanation, especially in the genealogies, for “the differences.”

 What is the reason?

After the summary statement that Jesus was the son [descendant] of David and of Abraham, Matthew follows Abraham’s line through Isaac, Jacob and Joseph down through David and the sons who followed him as kings of Israel and then sons who went into captivity, ending with Jacob, who  begot Joseph the husband of Mary. We’ve dealt with Mary and the birth of our Lord in an earlier post on Matthew’s genealogy.

As we read through the genealogy this time, though, we run into a problem,  We go through all the “begots,” which simply means that A was the father of B, until we get to verse 11, which reads Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

Jeconiah.

Also known as Coniah and Jehoiachin, he was not one of the good kings of Judah.  In fact, he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all his father had done, 2 Kings 24:9.  You can read about his father and the great sin he committed in Jeremiah 36.  Coniah reigned just three months before Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and took him prisoner.

Jeremiah gives us more about him, as well as the problem he brings with him to the genealogy in Matthew.  In Jeremiah 22:24, God says, “As I live,” says the LORD, “though Coniah the son of Jehoaikim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet would I pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand…of Nebuchadnezzar.”  In v. 30, Jeremiah wrote, Thus says the LORD, “Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” 

Here is another verse skeptics misread.  They look at the word “childless” and point to 1 Chronicles 3:17 and even Matthew 1:12, where Coniah does indeed have sons and shake their heads:  “Contradictions, contradictions.”  If they would actually read the text, they would discover that it refers to the throne of David.  Coniah would be “childless” as far as any of his descendants ever sitting on that throne.

None of Coniah’s descendants ever sat on David’s throne.  None of them ever can.  When Nebuchadnezzar deposed Coniah, he put Mattaniah, Coniah’s uncle, on the throne and changed his name to Zedekiah, 2 Kings 24:17.  Coniah went into captivity.  Zedekiah was the last king to sit on David’s throne.  No one has sat there since.

So?

Joseph is a descendant of David through Coniah.

If Joseph’s were the only genealogy we have of Jesus, then Jesus would be prevented from ever sitting on the throne of David because of the curse on Coniah.

Luke, however, gives us a second genealogy, Luke 3, in which he runs David’s line through another of David’s sons:  Nathan, v. 31.  Matthew ran it through Solomon.  Though she’s never mentioned, Luke’s has to be Mary’s genealogy.  Because of the daughters of Zelophedad, Jesus inherits the throne of David through Mary, not through Joseph.  The promise that Gabriel gave to Mary in this regard is interesting.  Telling her that she would bear a Son, he continued, He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,…,”  Luke 1:32, 33a.  He didn’t say a word about the throne to Joseph.

So, you see.  Do right, and you never know how the Lord will use it.  These five daughters were only concerned about their father.  They had no idea at all that, generations later, this concern would directly affect the Messiah.