Friday, December 8, 2017

Exodus 24:12-18 comments: tables of stone and a law, and commandments

24:12 ¶  And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. 13  And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. 14  And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. 15  And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16  And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17  And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18  And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Here is what may be the beginning of the alphabet that we use, the precursor to it. God created the writing that contrasted with the pictograms of hieroglyphics and cuneiform writing that dominated the ancient world. From China, Sumeria, and Egypt to the civilizations of the ancient Americas pictures were used to convey ideas and history, representations of things worshipped. The basic units of writing, the letters, become symbols for ideas rather than pictures representing things to be worshipped as idols. ‘A’, instead of a symbol for a bull or an ox, is Aleph in Hebrew and Alpha in Greek, and ‘A’ for modern purposes. A good study for this is Marc A. Ouaknin’s Mysteries of the Alphabet. This could be part of God drawing a people out of a world of idolatrous pictures to be adored and turning their writing into ideas to be expressed by symbols.

God is going to give the Ten Commandments, the foundational principles of the Hebrew’s relationship with Him and with each other, to Moses. These are negative principles designed to constrain man’s inherited sin nature and channel their journey between the rocks of idolatry against God and evil behavior toward each other.  Within their fullness, which will be revealed, lie the positive statements that will become the essence of Christian faith and practice.

Deuteronomy 6:5  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Leviticus 19:18  Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

They are the essence of Jesus’ positive statements.

Matthew 22:35  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38  This is the first and great commandment. 39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The essence of loving God, from the commandments, is to not worship other gods and the essence of loving one’s neighbor, according to the commandments, is to do him no harm.

Christ revealed the fullness of the Law, for instance, in His story of The Good Samaritan. It is not enough not to harm someone as an expression of love but to do good to them, as well.

Luke 10:29  But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30  And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34  And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37  And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

James laid it out this way.

James 2:14 ¶  What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

With regard to the simile in verse 17 note;

Deuteronomy 4:24  For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Hebrews 12:29  For our God is a consuming fire.

Biblically speaking, seven is a number that can represent completion, the perfecting of a thing, finishing it. The seven days of Creation come to mind, as an example. Forty days is a number that can represent testing and trial. See Elijah’s forty days on Mount Horeb also in 1Kings 19 and Jesus forty days in the wilderness in the Gospels.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hebrews 24:9-11 comments: the Hebrews see the preincarnate Christ

24:9 ¶  Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10  And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

There are certain facts that need to be expressed here to keep confusion from creeping in. First, no one actually sees God the Father, the part of God that is the soul and self-identity of the Godhead.

John 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

1John 4:12  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.


John 4:24  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

And there was a fear that seeing God face to face would kill you.

Genesis 32:30  And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

Judges 6:22  And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. 23  And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

Judges 13:22  And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the physical, visible appearance of God, what theologians call the Godhead. He is not a separate God or a created God but He is the body of God, the image of God. He revealed God to mankind. First, to understand what an image is you will need to see some verses from early on in the Bible;

Genesis 1:26a  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Deuteronomy 4:16  Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

So, now that you know what an image is, as an example, we being made in the image of God, you can understand the following verses better.

John 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 10:30  I and my Father are one. 31  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32  Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33  The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

John 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

2Corinthians 4:4  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Colossians 1:15  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Hebrews 1:3  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

What the Hebrews are seeing here is Christ before His incarnation into human flesh. At this point He appears to them. This is an incredible privilege that these Hebrews were given. That the God of all creation of all the universe would appear to them, they would see Him, and they would eat and drink in His presence.

A study of precious stones in the Bible will come later. But, just imagine the majesty and glory of the scene. A sapphire is blue. Notice the comparison with what Ezekiel will see.

Ezekiel 1:26  And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it…10:1  Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Exodus 24:1-8 comments: book of the covenant

24:1 ¶  And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2  And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. 3  And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. 4  And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6  And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

This passage brings to mind a key difference between the Hebrew religion based on the commandments given to Moses by God for the children of Israel and the religion of the Christian after Christ’s Resurrection.

There are no rituals laid out in the New Testament teachings for the Christian. When something like Baptism is mentioned we aren’t give strict instructions on how it is to be carried out or of a ceremony to be performed. It is simple, straightforward, and direct. There isn’t even an outline of a wedding ceremony. This was the nature of the Hebrew character, the need for a physical event as a vital part of their religious expression, a ritual, a ceremony, etc.

1Corinthians 1:22  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks [Gentiles, non-Jews] seek after wisdom…

There are no sacred spaces in Christianity outside of the human heart where the Spirit of God dwells. There are no God-ordained rituals or ceremonies, or even formula prayers where we conjure God up. Bible-believing Christians don’t ask for God to come down and “walk among the pews” as He is already here, in each of us, if you truly belong to Him.

Luke 17:20 ¶  And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21  Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

John 14:23  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Romans 8:9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Galatians 3:3  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

We seek to be filled with His Spirit, much like a little water in a glass when heated up fills the glass with water vapor.

Ephesians 5:18  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20  Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

God created the Hebrew people for Himself with signs and wonders and required memorials and rituals for them to remember what had been done for them and their place in His scheme of things. These were tokens for proof of His providence and His actions in the world. The Christian has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as his or her deposit, a type of earnest money, on eternal life. We should experience God through His words in His Bible and see His hand in all reality. If we believe the Bible we see God working in our lives and in the lives of others every day. We don’t need a ritual and we don’t need a ceremony to remember what we experience each day of our lives.

Ephesians 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

As David said, in Psalm 19;

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

The evidence of a Hebrew’s position was his obedience to commandments and ritual observances. They justified him legally, in a sense, before God. The evidence of a Christian’s position is what the Holy Spirit produces in him or her that comes out, not faked, forced, or strained.

Galatians 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Just as the Hebrew could comply with the commandments and have no love of God in his heart, though, the Christian can miss the boat, as well. If your love for others consists only of telling them how wicked they are and how they are going to Hell then you are a sorry Christian indeed. If your peace with God consists of only a smug self-righteousness as you dislocate your arm trying to pat yourself on the back you are missing the point entirely. If your longsuffering consists only of an “I suffer fools gladly” expression on your face then you need to repent and turn to God. The Hebrew’s disobedience, if there was not heart commitment to obey, was inevitable and the Christian can very easily descend into a parody, a satire of a Christian if his or her heart is not right as well.

We have the first mention of a book in Genesis 5 and then in Exodus 17. Here, Moses wrote all the words of the Lord and Moses reads the book of the covenant with God as he performs this ritual and the people promise to obey.

A covenant is a pledge, an alliance of friendship and obedience to principles agreed upon, between God and man in this case. Notice that the Hebrews repeatedly affirm that they will obey God.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Exodus 23:20-33 comments: a warning

23:20 ¶  Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21  Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. 22  But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23  For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 24  Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. 25  And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. 26  There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. 27  I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 28  And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. 29  I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. 30  By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. 31  And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. 32  Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33  They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

Here is an important doctrine regarding what an angel is, a spiritual representative, the presence of someone, in this case God. God’s name is in the angel.

Isaiah 63:9  In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Judges 2:1  And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

Verse 24 reinforces God’s disgust with worshipping gods, little g, and idols. They are either figments of man’s imagination or devils.

Deuteronomy 32:17  They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.

Do not think that because you don’t worship Thor or Kali that you are not worshipping a false god. Any time you think, “an education will make me successful,” or, “having that man or woman will make me happy,” or, just constantly wanting something other than what you have you are creating idols, not much differently than ancient people. You are one step away from giving your dependence on education, sex, or material possessions a name, an identity to worship.  Anything we place as more important than obedience to God and faithfulness to Him is an idol. We are to do right, to do our best, and to trust God only for our success and happiness. Education is a good thing, intimacy between a husband and wife is an honorable thing, and we need food and shelter but we must not depend on them rather than God.

For instance, in regard to wealth, Paul warns Christians;

1Timothy 6:6 ¶  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

And Jesus admonished His disciples using the Syriac word for the personification of money.

Luke 16:13  No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

With regard to sex as an idol the ancients had goddesses like Ishtar, the goddess of immigrants and prostitutes, a version of which we have in the harbor of New York City also called the goddess Liberty, popular among the Enlightenment thinkers like James Madison, the so-called Father of the Constitution, along with Providence, a reference to a vague universal power but certainly not the God of the Bible. The Greeks and Romans of Paul’s time had Venus and Aphrodite, goddesses of sex, who were worshipped in temples like those of Acro-corinth in Greece with short-haired priestesses, the reason why the Corinthian Christians demanded that their women have long hair which Paul approved while stating that it was not an issue in other churches. See 1Corinthians 11.

Idolatry is and has been one of the prime sins of man against God throughout history. This has been the cause of the perverted, sexualized religion of the ancient world and the decadence of mankind. Idolatry results in sexual perversion and it is the byproduct and result of idolatry.

Romans 1:19 ¶  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

In that passage we can see why society decays and who is responsible for it’s decay. God gives delusions and permits our more decadent natures to take preeminence.

Whether our idol is the flag or Constitution, which Mormon Joseph Smith convinced patriots was divinely inspired by God, or whether it is money, sex, or education idolatry is one of the prime reasons that American Christianity is so powerless to impact a dying world in any way other than providing humanistic drivel to control a congregation under the guise of fundamentalist, right-wing or liberal, left-wing preaching.

Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

God is promising these physical, literal Hebrews coming into a physical, literal land blessings and prosperity and protection and the written words of God are a vital part of those blessings.

Joshua 1:8  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

While Christians were not promised an earthly country we would do well in life to honor these admonitions and warnings that God has given. Idolatry will destroy your walk with God and make you a caricature of a person of faith to the unsaved, a cartoon, a joke. You cannot uplift an idol in one hand and God in the other without looking stupid, a hypocrite, or just plain evil.

Even though Christians do not have a country on this earth the historical principle laid down in Romans, chapter one, applies to nations as we know them. Let me give you a brief religious history of America to show you how idolatry can be poison. America’s self-worship as idolatry has its roots in the country’s earliest times. The good thing, which was the belief and faith that this new land was to be a nation set apart by God for a divine purpose was a common thread preached throughout. However, a specific millennial belief, that Christ would set up a kingdom on earth without being present Himself to last for literally a thousand years or with the millennium as just representing a long time was the standard, evangelical Christian view until the 20th century. This is called Postmillennialism, with Christ returning at the end of the thousand years. With a few exceptions it was believed that Christ would rule through His church. But there was no doubt that America would be the location where this period would begin. Men like John Cotton, Ephraim Huit, Increase Mather, John Davenport, John Eliot, Samuel Sewall, Cotton Mather, and Joseph Morgan preached an imminent millennium and Eliot, combining the fervor of what was called Fifth Kingdom Monarchyism prevalent in England, was especially hopeful that the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation would descend upon America itself. (9) Sermons were preached before Congress that said that America was the Promised Land and that the events of Revelation would take place here before we converted the world and established Christ’s kingdom for Him. (10)

An actual, historical Kingdom of God was expected, with the millennium, a thousand years of Christ’s reign through His church, coming soon.(11) Jonathan Edwards, the Congregationalist preacher so important to the series of revivals in 1700s America called The First Great Awakening, viewed the millennium not as Christ physically returning to save a ruined world, but a gradual process where righteousness and the control of Godly men became prevalent as Christ ruled through His church.(12)
Millennial ideals were also preached during the time of and after the American Revolution pointing more and more to America’s God-chosen role in the bringing in of Christ’s Kingdom, linked to evolutionary progress. President of Yale College Ezra Stiles said;
It may have been of the Lord that Christianity is to be found in such greater purity in this church exiled into the wilderness of America, and that its purest body should be evidently advancing forward, by an augmented natural increase and spiritual edification, into a singular superiority, with the ultimate subserviency to the glory of God to converting the world.(13)
The nineteenth century was an era in secular and religious thought of a progress that was inevitable.(14) In Protestant evangelical faith, Postmillennialism, that mankind would create a millennial kingdom without Christ’s physical presence, was, “the commonly received doctrine,” of the century.(15) The documents, the speeches, the sermons are available for you to read, mostly free. Don’t take my word for it. During this period this doctrine was the intellectual compromise between the devastation of God’s judgment on the world portrayed in the book of Revelation in the Bible and the evolutionary theory of constant movement upward to better and better times, and a utopia.(16) Liberal religious thought in collusion with the growing atheism of science brought about a weakening of the hopeful, religious viewpoint of a coming golden age created by Christians dependent upon their own righteousness but it was the nightmare of the Civil War and the calamity of World War One that drove the nail into the coffin and, “it became a relic of a lost world.” (17)
But, at the time of the Civil War’s commencement most evangelical Christians in America believed that the United States was God’s Promised Land and white, Anglo-Saxon Americans His chosen people, destined to bring in a ‘golden age’ of peace, prosperity, and righteousness as Christ ruled the earth for either a literal thousand years or for just a long period of time, represented by the word millennium, through His church. Lincoln himself referred to America, not Christ, as the last best hope of earth.(18)

It was not unusual for nations with a state church to view themselves as God’s chosen people. England, Russia, and Germany were notorious for this view. German sermons during World War One even likened the German Army to the Holy Spirit moving in the world and ‘God With Us’ in German was on the belt buckles of soldiers. Glorification and even deification of the state was one prime motivator in the half-century of war.

President Woodrow Wilson’s mentor at Johns Hopkins University, Richard Ely, put the thought of the elite and great planners whose government was God’s agent on earth or His replacement even like this;
Now, it may rationally be maintained that, if there is anything divine on earth, it is the State, the product of the same God-given instincts which led to the establishment of the Church and of the Family. It was once held that kings ruled by right divine, and in any widely accepted belief, though it be afterwards discredited, there is generally found a kernel of truth. In this case it was the divine right of the state.(19)

But worshipping the state as a “Christnation,” as the Redeemer Nation of the world, was America’s undoing. With the leadership making government God’s agent on earth rather than God’s people and with the common Christian expecting that we could create a perfect world without Christ physically present we had this great religious expectation that was blatantly false.

That’s why today so many think that they are electing a pastor or a messiah when they vote for a president and then try to Christianize their candidate if elected to make him look like something he is not. It all boils down to state-worship.

 World War One, the Jazz Age, the automobile, the sexual revolt of the 1920s, the triumph of evolution in science, the growing importance of the Entertainment industry all figured in to God’s judgment on the nation for its idolatry. As an example, where women who wore makeup were derided as ‘painted city women’ before the war, with strong suggestions of immorality, the demands by boys returning home that their women look like French girls has resulted in the fact that Christian women wouldn’t dare leave home without makeup on today. In addition, the lax morals produced by boys and girls being able to go off alone in a car and listening to Ragtime and Jazz watching Hollywood movies glorifying decadence was a chilling reminder that something was very wrong in America. We had the Great Depression, remember? Then, another devastating war and a so-called Cold War for 50 years pounded away at our families and our institutions. Look at today. Do you not doubt we are under God’s judgment? Look at Israel in Kings and Chronicles. Don’t you see America in every page? Ancient Israelites, like Americans, believed that they were special and by virtue of their exceptional place in God’s ordained world they deserved peace and prosperity, both of which were taken away over time for their idolatry.

Fundamentalism came about in the early 1900s because America, under God’s judgment, appeared to be descending into chaos and darkness. The King James-only movement came about in 1964 because fundamentalism had gone crazy with regard to its denial of the Bible we had in front of us. The problem, fundamentalists wrongly assumed, was non-Christians polluting God’s country. The actual problem was Christian idolatry and not venerating God’s word above our ambitions. This is how idolatry, in this case, worship of one’s country as a god on earth, can do horrible damage.

We are held to the same standard as everyone else and we have been found wanting. I refer you to the passage I quoted earlier from Romans, chapter one, again to find out why things are the way they are.
But, it must be said, unlike the Hebrews assuming control over an area of land the promise to Christians is an eternal inheritance. We don’t get a utopia here, a millennium without Christ’s physical presence, but we can get an awful mess.

It is interesting in Verse 28 how God promises to use creatures to drive out the inhabitants of the land He has promised to the Hebrews slowly. God has used many naturally occurring events as weapons. Remember the plagues of Egypt?

Compare what ancient Israel was to be with what America was to be to see a difference dispensationally. Israel was not to permit idolatry in its borders and was to drive out the idol-worshippers lest they pollute the Hebrew religion, which their existence did, as we can see by reading the Bible. America is a pluralistic nation with many different religious traditions or no religion at all. We cannot remove everyone from the land who does not believe exactly what we believe or how we believe, no matter how much you would like to do that. The Hebrews didn’t do that either, but it was their apostasy that garnered them God’s wrath.

I think it is important to realize that every Christian now is a type of the nation of Israel then, as the children of Israel then were a type of every Christian today. Our land is a spiritual land and our Canaanites are our sins. God promises us that He will drive out our sins if we obey Him as He promised the Hebrews He would drive out the wicked, child-sacrificing, bestiality practicing, temple-prostitute patronizing Canaanites if the Hebrews obeyed.

But, having said all that, I would go on to say that if Christians themselves would repent and turn from their sins and obey God in the best way they know how, believing His word, they would not be deceived by lying, gutless, and corrupt politicians and their land would not be given over to the perversion, violence, and decay that is so prevalent. God honors obedience, not obedience as defined by some fundamentalist whack-job preacher or evangelist who just wants to control them but obedience and righteousness as defined by the Bible. The problem with America is not homosexuals, left-wing demagogues, drug-dealers, or liberal judges. The problem with America is the faithlessness of Christians who regard the Bible as a type of Emily Post’s book on etiquette to be observed if convenient and who regard God as more of a concept or idea than a real, living entity who controls every aspect of reality from their living room to the edges of the universe.

(9) David E. Smith, “Millenarian Scholarship in America,” American Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 3 (Autumn, 1965), 539. (accessed 10.28.2015), 539.

(10) Fountain E. Pitts, A Defence of Armageddon or Our Great Country Foretold in the Holy Scriptures In two discourses, Delivered in the Capitol of the United States, at the request of several members of Congress, on the anniversary of Washington's birthday, 1857, (Baltimore: J.W. Bull Publishers, 1859), 90.

(11) Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1968), 29.

(12) Ibid., 30.

(13) Ezra Stiles, “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor,” in The Pulpit of the American Revolution, or, The Political Sermons of the Period of 1776, John Wingate Thornton, ed., (Boston: D. Lothrop & Publishers, 1876), 405, 472.

(14) Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, 52.

(15) Henry Boynton Smith,”History of Opinions Respecting the Millennium,” The American Theological Review (Boston: Charles Scribner & Son, 1859), 642. (accessed 11.14.2015).

(16) James H. Moorhead, “The Erosion of Postmillennialism in American Religious Thought, 1865-1925,” Church History Vol. 53, No. 1 (Mar. 1984), 61. (accessed 11.14.2015).

(17) Ibid., 77.

(18) Jean H. Baker, “Lincoln’s Narrative of American Exceptionalism,” in We Cannot Escape History: Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth, James McPherson, ed., (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 42.

(19) Gary M. Pequet and Clifford M. Thies, “The Shaping of a Future President’s Economic Thought: Richard T. Ely and Woodrow Wilson at “The Hopkins,” The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy 15, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 262, 266.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Exodus 23:10-19 comments: feasts to remember by

23:10 ¶  And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: 11  But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard. 12  Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. 13  And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. 14  Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. 15  Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16  And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. 17  Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD. 18  Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19  The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

The Hebrews were to have a sabbath for the land, not harvesting in the seventh year and permitting the poor and animals eat freely. This also applied to grapes and olives. 

Leviticus 25:1 ¶  And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying, 2  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. 3  Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; 4  But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5  That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. 6  And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, 7  And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.

The sabbath of rest for the seventh day of the week is given: a day of rest also for animals, servants, and foreigners who worked for the Hebrews.

In a world filled with idol worship and devil worship and all under the pretense of worshipping gods, little g, the Hebrews were not to even mention their names.

There were three feasts they were to keep in a year; the feasts of unleavened bread, of harvests, and of ingathering. These three times in the year all males were to appear before God in a place appointed and to keep a feast.

The feast of harvest is also called the feast of weeks.

Exodus 34:22a  And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest…

The feast of ingathering, when everything is brought in, is also called the feast of tabernacles.

Deuteronomy 16:13  Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine:

Deuteronomy 16:16  Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:

There are specific instructions given later for these feasts. It is interesting to note the three feasts, the three times they were to come before the Lord. Three times in the Bible the phrase come up hither, meaning ‘come up here,’ is used in different contexts.

Proverbs 25:7  For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

Revelation 4:1  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

Revelation 11:12  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

Three times in one verse the pre-Flood patriarch, Enoch’s, translation from earth to God’s presence is mentioned.

Hebrews 11:5  By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

It is interesting to imagine that the translation of the church, popularly called ‘the rapture’, a word not found in the Bible, takes place in three steps with Christ and those who were resurrected at His resurrection being first.

Matthew 27:52  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

And then two more times mentioned in Revelation of the pre-Tribulation saints and then of those who come to Christ during the Great Tribulation. However, we have enough to do with the clearer statements in the Bible regarding our relationship with God in His ministry of reconciling man to Himself, things that we are not doing, to spend time arguing about the more obscure doctrines of the Bible.

However, several early church “fathers” like Hermas, Cyprian, Victorinus, and Ephraim the Syrian spoke of the church being removed before God’s wrath is poured out at the end of time.

Christians today who do not believe in the Translation of the church, popularly called ‘the rapture,’ will say that preacher of the early 1800’s, John Nelson Darby, invented the doctrine. He did popularize it in opposition to a world that regarded evolutionary progress as truth and that mankind and Christians in particular were headed toward a ‘golden age’ of righteousness and peace.(6)
But, he obviously did not invent the doctrine, merely gave it his own twist. As John Reeve wrote  two centuries before Darby’s, in the 1600’s, “Then shall the Elect, by the Decree or Voice of Jesus Christ, the Archangel, first appear out of the Graves, and, in the twinkling of an Eye, with all the Elect that are then living, as one Man, with a glorious Shout, shall, with distinct immortal Bodies, like unto their God, ascend to meet the Lord in the Air, and with him and his mighty angels, as swift as Thought, enter into that vast new Heaven and new Earth above the Stars….(7)

My intent here is not to approve of any preacher’s particular doctrines or idiosyncrasies or even personal opinions or heresies but simply to show that the doctrine was not invented by Darby, as some would say. Only the timing of when it would happen, before the Great Tribulation mentioned in Matthew and Revelation, during, or at the end of it were in contention among those that believed in it. Although I have not read his work there is supposedly another pretribulation rapture commentator named Morgan Edwards from the century prior to Darby.

Other references to the idea of the church being physically removed are from such diverse preachers and commentators as Jesuit priest, Francisco Ribera, in 1590, Puritan Cotton Mather in the 1600s, and John Gill in the 1700s.(8)  In the first decade of the 1700s Matthew Henry even uses the phrase, “rapture in the clouds,” in his commentary on 1Thessalonians 4:17 which is so commonly free on the internet I don’t need to give you directions here.

Darby’s view was that what he called “the rapture” must take place before the return of Christ. The Bible seems to say that then there is the thousand year reign of Christ and the general judgment follows.

My point in bringing all of this up is to only say that a doctrine can exist in the Bible and either be misunderstood, not be known by most believers, or that those against it or for it may misrepresent it to justify their own beliefs. The Jews believed that Israel would be restored to its past greatness, not seeing the Cross or the Resurrection of their Messiah. Many Christians of the 1800s, the age of the so-called great revivals, were Postmillennialists and believed they would turn the world over to Christian principles and values without Christ present so, no rapture and Christ’s rule coming after we had perfected the world. We must always remember that our understanding is incomplete until we stand before our Saviour.

Early eighteenth century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, reported, apparently from older Jewish authorities, that it was common for the Gentiles to boil (see Ezekiel 24:5 for seethe as to boil) a kid (goat) in its mother’s milk and sprinkle that over fields to ensure a good harvest in the future. God forbade such magical nonsense. What is important here is that God has set up three feasts for the Hebrews to remember events by, to commemorate what has happened.

(6) J.N. Darby, “The Rapture of the Saints,” in The Heavenly Hope, or, What is the Hope of the Christian? What is the Hope of the Church? (Dublin: Dublin Tract Repository, 1844).

(7) John Reeve, “An Epistle to a Kinsman,” in Joyful News from Heaven (London: Francis Cosinet, 1658), 60.

(8) Mal Couch, ed., Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Exodus 23:1-9 comments: oppression forbidden

23:1 ¶  Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2  Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: 3  Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. 4  If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5  If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him. 6  Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. 7  Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. 8  And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. 9  Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Here begins with a warning not to bear false witness as stated in the list of ten earlier. Another admonition against following wicked and evil people follows. The book of Proverbs gives warnings against following the sinful ways of others. To wrest judgment is to pervert judgment, a corrupt thing to do. Here, in context it is referring to abusing the poor and backing the powerful in a way that perverts judgment.

James 2:6  But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

Verse 3 is difficult because of the archaic use of the word countenance as a verb. It does not necessarily mean, ‘to favor,’ as some commentators insist, stating that you should not support a poor man just because he was poor. In Baret’s 1574 dictionary, referenced earlier, you can find one meaning as to deny, refuse, or forbid. Other dictionaries at the same general time frame, and you can verify this by accessing the early modern English website previously mentioned, also suggest the possibility of the false pretense of justice by putting a good face on it but the reality not being so. So, here it is forbidden to refuse a poor man equitable judgment and put a false, hypocritical honest face on it. This is an archaic meaning of the verb but one that is readily accessible to anyone interested. This meaning fits well in the context of other Biblical admonitions against abusing the poor. It is not the proverbial ‘rocket science.’ Just look for the meaning of a difficult word used rarely in a particular form in the Bible around the time that this Bible was translated. The information is there. Do you really want to know what the Bible says?

Verse 4 mandates kindness, as taking it on yourself to return another’s straying beast back to him. Verse 5 requires you to render assistance to a beast struggling with a load he is having a hard time supporting even if the owner of the beast is someone you know doesn’t like you and you probably don’t like. This calls for compassion for an animal regardless who owns it.

Verse 6 reinforces verse 3 and 7 verse 1. Clearly, the context of these judgments is a fair and equal treatment regardless of someone’s social status and an attitude of mercy and compassion regardless of your difficult relationship with others. Verse 8 denies bribery or oppressing the politically powerless or weak.

These are important principles that are often not followed. It may be helpful to offer examples that are easy to understand. If you do not get along with someone or even have a feud going and their dog escapes from their yard you would return the dog regardless of your feud as an act of righteousness.

 Although we use mechanical ‘beasts’ of burden now in that time if a Hebrew were to see another man’s donkey struggling under a burden he would be compelled to ease the burden of the poor animal. The fact that these are listed under the Law given to Moses for the Hebrews shows us that matters of personal responsibility were coded into the civil regulations. You could be held responsible for not being a good neighbor even to a neighbor you didn’t like.

Bribery was forbidden.

Deuteronomy 16:19  Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

Proverbs 17:23 ¶  A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.

Our government is corrupt today because of lobbyists for even good causes who put money, desirable vacations, and even luxurious homes in front of our lawmakers to pervert judgment.

There is a tie-in here with doing right regardless of another’s social status and following the law regardless of your relationship with another person. There is an absolute standard here that rises above your petty selfishness. There is compassion for the weak that goes beyond your hatred or contempt. The righteous man does right regardless of the enticement to pervert judgment or ignore the suffering of another. From the point of view of God another person’s social status or your relationship with them should not be affected by your doing what is right in obedience to God and not doing what is wrong.