Sunday, December 27, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
At first glance, the Old Testament just seems to be the history and stories of some fascinating people from ancient times. But it is much more than that. It is the detailed record of God’s unfolding plan to send Jesus to walk on earth and live a perfect, sinless life, and then die on a cross for the sins of the world.
The double-take value comes in when you realize that certain people, events, and practices recorded in the Old Testament serve as hints, clues, and pre-illustrations of the life of Jesus. These are sometimes called a “type” of Christ. In the Bible, a “type” is something that points to a future event and spiritual reality, either by similarity or by contrast. If there were just a handful of them, you could pass it off as coincidence. However the truth is that the Old Testament is filled with types that ultimately point to Christ. This is strong testimony as to the divine origin of the Bible, and more than that: to the divine identity Jesus Christ.
The first Old Testament type of Christ is in Genesis 1:26 when we learn of the creation of the first man, Adam. Just a few verses later, we read of the first sin as Adam disobeyed a direct command from God. As a result of his sin, death entered into the human race. Although we are not personally guilty of Adam’s sin, we are still under the consequences of his sin: death.
The New Testament book of Romans makes an interesting statement about Adam when it says that, “Adam was like the One who was coming in the future” (Romans 5:14, NIV). As you read the following verses, notice how the One who was coming brought a blessing, not a curse. Notice also what the similarities and/or differences are between Adam and Jesus.
15But the gift that God was kind enough to give was very different from Adam's sin. That one sin brought death to many others. Yet in an even greater way, Jesus Christ alone brought God's gift of kindness to many people. 16There is a lot of difference between Adam's sin and God's gift. That one sin led to punishment. But God's gift made it possible for us to be acceptable to him, even though we have sinned many times. 17Death ruled like a king because Adam had sinned. But that cannot compare with what Jesus Christ has done. God has been so kind to us, and he has accepted us because of Jesus. And so we will live and rule like kings. 18Everyone was going to be punished because Adam sinned. But because of the good thing that Christ has done, God accepts us and gives us the gift of life. 19Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners. But Jesus obeyed him and will make many people acceptable to God. 20The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful. 21Sin ruled by means of death. But God's kindness now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life. Romans 5:15-21 (NCV)
45The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 47Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48Every human being has an earthly body just like Adam’s, but our heavenly bodies will be just like Christ’s. 49Just as we are now like Adam, the man of the earth, so we will someday be like Christ, the man from heaven. I Corinthians 15:45, 47-49 (NLT)Notice some of the differences between Adam and Jesus. Adam avoided taking responsibility for his sin by blaming his wife. Speaking of Jesus, the Bible says that although “he committed no sin … he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:22, 23, NIV). I n other words, Jesus took personal responsibility for the sins of others. What a contrast.
When the moment of truth came, Adam chose to hide from God rather than be confronted with the truth. However the Bible records that when a mob of soldiers came to arrest Jesus and take him away to be crucified, Jesus stepped forward (John 18:4) and offered himself up for the sins of the world.
Adam and Jesus were alike in some ways, also. Neither Adam nor Jesus had a physical, earthly father. Their Father was God himself. Both Adam and Jesus came into the world without the stain of sin.
Well, not only is Adam a type of Christ, so is Moses and King David, Joseph and Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and many others. You can’t help but to have a double-take as you read through the Old Testament. Time and again Jesus is being represented through people, places, things, and events.
Now here is one final thought. In Genesis, God starts with nothing and makes something great. Out of nothing, God crated the universe and called it “good.” After Adam and Eve rebelled and sin and corruption entered into the world, Genesis 3:15 records the promise of God of one who would destroy the work of the serpent. That One was Jesus Christ. God went to a man named Abram, who was just an ordinary man. And because of God’s work in his life, Abraham’s story is known throughout the world still to this day. Joseph was young and despised by his brothers. He was sold into slavery and forgotten as though dead. However, God did not forget. He had other plans for Joseph and caused him to rise to great heights as the second in command throughout the ancient empire of Egypt. Through Joseph, countless people were spared of death by a famine.
God is in the business of taking nothing and making something great. He has not changed. He is not only able to do the same for you, but he desires to do so. The question for us is this: will we open our lives up to God’s leading and allow him to create in us something great?
Friday, October 23, 2009
American author Iving Kristol said, "Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want."
This is because what we want -- or what we think we want -- is so often not what we really need in order to live a fulfilled, meaningful life. There comes a time when we realize that the trinket we worked so hard to aquire, or even the goal we sacrificed so much to reach, doesn't bring the satisfaction we expected it could. We then find ourselves asking, as so many have, "Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?"
Goals will always have a place in our lives, and accumulating possessions will always be part of the human experience, but we serve ourselves best the sooner we understand that these things will never be enough. We serve ourselves best when we are learn, as Augstine said, "Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee."
Where are you seeking your rest today? In a paycheck? In a relationship? In a status symbol? In a measure of success? These things may not be the enemy -- they're not bad in and of themselves -- but it's important that we understand that they're not the finish line, either. If your heart is restless today, take a moment to re-evaluate what you really want. Strive to say, as David said, "My soul finds rest in God alone."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The prevailing idea from the time of Plato and Aristotle up through 19 century was that the universe was eternal; it had no beginning and it has always been here. This view was challenged by at least two different discoveries of science.
The first challenge came from the discovery of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This is the law of entropy which says that with no outside influence energy will dissipate over time and be used up. Heat up a pot of chili on the stove and then turn off the burner. After a while, the heat energy will be used up and the chili will cool to room temperature.
Time Magazine ran an article a few years ago: “How the Universe Will End.” It basically said that a day will come when all pockets of heat will go cold and all sources of light will burn up and the universe will grind to a halt and be motionless. Lights out, party is over.
You ask, so what does all of this prove in relationship to the eternal nature of the universe? Well, the point is if the universe will one day use up all its energy, that means that it cannot be eternal. Eternal means always has been always will be. If the universe will some day "die" then it's not eternal and therefore has a beginning.
The second scientific discovery that led cosmologists to believe the universe had a beginning started to surface in 1915 when Einstein’s came up with the General Theory of Relativity which basically states that the universe exists in a continual state of expansion or contraction. This theory was proven to be true in 1929 with empirical data by astronomer Edwin Hubble (yeah, the guy they named the telescope in Earth's orbit after).
Hubble discovered that galaxies were moving away from us at a speed that was proportional to their distance from the earth. Since this was true it meant that at some point in the past the entire universe began. As you trace this expansion back in time the universe grows denser and denser until finally the entire known universe is contracted down to a state of infinite density which, essentially, marks the beginning of the universe. Cosmologists call this The Singularity where all matter and energy, physical space and time came into being. This literally represents the origin of the universe from nothing. Hubble’s discovery was that the universe had an absolute beginning at some point in the finite past.
So, science has confirmed that the universe, time, space and matter exploded into existence: BANG!
Prior to 1929, faith and science were opposed on the need for a Creator to have given us our origins. If the universe is eternal then there was no need for a Creator to explain things. But after science proved that the universe had a definite beginning where time, space, and matter came into existence faith and science took one GIANT step toward each other. Science proved that the universe had a beginning and was created out of nothing.
Humm. Kind of reminds me of a verse from the Bible where it says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And God said, 'Let there be....'" (Genesis 1:1-2).
Robert Jastrow, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies once commented,
What is the ultimate solution to the origin of the universe? The answers provided by the astronomers are disconcerting and remarkable. Most remarkable of all is the fact that in science, as in the Bible, the world begins with an act of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.The Big Bang theory, rather than making the notion of a Creator obsolete has served to demonstrate that it’s scientifically and philosophically more intelligent to believe that God created the universe a finite time ago … just as the Bible has always taught.
As it turns out, the big bang has a Banger who is bigger!
Monday, May 25, 2009
It would appear that God knew something about the attitude of Balaam’s heart that we do not. Balaam was clearly told he could not go to curse these people because they had been blessed. Yet, when presented with more tempting offers, Balaam asked again to see if God might reconsider. Perhaps God allowed Balaam to go so that he could show his displeasure for Balaam’s craving. The Bible later says that Balaam (loved the wages of wickedness–2 Peter 2:15).
Under the nomadic conditions of the wilderness journey, with a constant shifting from one site to another, there is no way that sturdy or well constructed graves could have been made as the adult generation passed away. Shallow burials beneath the surface of the sand or gravel would have failed to preserve any of the skeletons for a very long period, even though they might have escaped disturbance by carrion-eating wild animals (which is doubtful). No excavations conducted anywhere in the world have ever exhumed identifiable burials of this type, and in the nature of the case it would be very surprising if they did.
There is no difficulty here, for the final composition of Exodus by Moses undoubtedly occurred toward the end of the forty years' wandering. Even though Joshua may not have acquired the name from Moses until later in the journey from Egypt to Canaan, nevertheless in retrospect it would have been only natural to refer to Joshua by the name he bore at the time Exodus was composed by Moses. It should be added that Yehosua‘ ("Jehovah is salvation") is virtually the same name as Hosea‘ ("salvation"), both being derived from the root yasa‘.
Both statements are true. The Wilderness of Paran extends from the port of Eloth (Eilat) on the Gulf of Aqabah in a north-northeast direction across the the Nahal Paran and Har Ramon to include the site of Kadesh Barnea, which lies on the same latitude as Punon. The spies therefore set out from Kadesh, which is located in the Wilderness of Paran (Numbers 13:26: “in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh").
One scholar, Haley (Alleged Discrepancies, p. 248), makes this observation with regard to this:
“Moses, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, was writing history 'objectively.' Hence he speaks as freely of himself as he would of any other person. It is also to be observed that he records his own faults and sins with the same fidelity and impartiality.”So far as Numbers 12:3 is concerned, it should be observed that Moses' failure to speak in his own defense, even when put under great pressure by Aaron and Miriam to lose his temper, calls for special explanation. That explanation is found in his complete deliverance from pride and his thoroughgoing commitment of himself to the Lord God as his vindicator and protector. Any other leader in his position would surely have faced them with a withering reply, but Moses turned the matter completely over to God. We really need the information contained in v.3 in order to make sense of his amazing meekness in this situation.
The people’s complaining was symptomatic of a much deeper problem: distrust of God. Their verbal barrage assaulted God’s character. Israel refused to take God at his word.
If we read the whole account of Numbers 11 carefully, we can understand why God was so highly displeased with the Hebrew malcontents who were tired of His daily supply of manna and longed for meat and vegetables in their diet (verses 4-9). God gave them what they were asking for, thus bringing them to see how foolish they were to despise the good and sufficient food He had apportioned them in favor of that which they chose for themselves. In other words, in order to teach them a much-needed lesson, God saw fit to give the discontented rabble exactly what they asked for–rather than that which would be best for them. Such a huge number of dead birds would speedily begin to rot in that hot desert, despite the people’s best efforts to convert them into dried meat that could be preserved. There is little wonder that they began to suffer from food poisoning and disease as soon as they began chewing this unaccustomed food. In the end a great many of them died of plague and had to be buried right there in the desolate wilderness, at Qibrot Hatt'avah, “The Graves of Greed."
There is powerful imagery and meaning in the way Israel camped and traveled. The plan God gave was one that kept the tabernacle (a symbol of God’s presence) in the very middle of their lives. When they camped, the tabernacle was in the center of the camp. As a matter of fact, all the doors of the tents were to open toward the tabernacle. When they traveled, the tabernacle was central in their procession. This is a powerful reminder of the need to realize that God should be central in every aspect of our lives. This picture should encourage us to evaluate our lives and make sure God is at the center of all we do.
The passage reads that the curse would cause “her thigh to waste away and her abdomen to swell.” This is figurative language for infertility. It indicates a physical malady or reproductive problem that would prevent a woman from bearing children. During this time the Israelites viewed the inability to have children as a divine punishment for personal sin (see Deuteronomy 7:14), though not necessarily limited to adultery. God’s Word, however, does not make such blanket generalizations. Sarah, for example, bore disgrace for decades, though later she was called “holy” (1 Peter 3:5-6).
This would be for her own protection. This test actually functioned as a protective measure for a woman falsely accused of having an affair. Without it, the furious husband might harm her–even kill her. The law served as a deterrent against private acts of vengeance and retribution, and ensured justice in a potentially explosive situation.
Through strict requirements like these, God impressed upon his people the seriousness of his holiness. The underlying reason for this warning on God’s part may well have been mercy. It was a mercy of God that he had made himself known to anyone; it was the continuing mercy of God that he did not destroy more persons more quickly because of their wickedness; and it was a condescending mercy of God that he presented himself in their midst. The revelation of God’s word brings with it demands, some of which seem harsh and difficult. But God is near. Some seem to be so judgmental; yet God has not destroyed all. Some seem to be so threatening; yet God by his mercy allows some sense of his presence to remain known in the camp. His manifestation is based on his mercy; his strictures allow his mercy to continue to be realized.
Sea cows are dugongs, marine animals abounding on the coral banks of the Red Sea and in other tropical waters. A dugong grows to 11 feet long, with a round head, fish-like tail and flippers for forelimbs. Their appearance is similar to seals. Because the Red Sea borders ancient Egypt, it’s not surprising that Israel used their hides for various purposes.
The “tent of meeting” (Numbers 1:1) is frequently used to designate the pre-Solomonic sanctuary, while elsewhere the entire structure is often called the tabernacle. The phrase, “Tent of Meeting,” probably derives from the belief that this structure served as the meeting place between God and Moses (Leviticus 1:1) and also between God and the people of Israel (Exodus 29:42–43).
The Israelites camped throughout the journey. For example, they camped at Mt. Sinai for at least eighty days while Moses was on the mountain (Deuteronomy 9:9,18). Numbers 33 gives a comprehensive list of the encampments along the way.
The objection that the natural resources of the Sinai desert could never have supported two million people or more for a period of forty years' wandering is absolutely valid. But it completely overlooks what the Pentateuch makes abundantly clear: Israel did not receive its food and drink from the ordinary natural resources of the Sinai terrain. This multitude was said to have been supplied in a miraculous way with manna from the sky and water from the cloven rock, all during the journey through the wilderness. The God who led the Israelites in the pillar of fire and the cloud was the one who supplied them with their nourishment by way of a supernatural intervention on their behalf.
Jacob's family came to Egypt with a total of 70 people (Exodus 1:5). After 430 years of brutal slave labor, that number rose to about 600,000 men (Exodus 12:37), which is remarkable considering the fact that many of the people would have died under cruel and dangerous work conditions. The book of Numbers begins with a national census (1:45-46). This census was conducted after the exodus from Egypt and it totals 603,550 men above the age of 20. Since these figures apply only to adult males, it has been traditionally assumed that the total number of participants including women and children, could have approximated 2.5 million people.
Some believe that the number could have been much higher than that. The estimated 2.5 million people is reached by estimating that the men would have been married and each family having at least 2 children. Among the Jewish people of ancient culture, large families were considered an honor. It is reasonable to believe that families would have totaled many more children than just two. If the number of children per family were just four, then the number of people that left Egypt could have been 3.5 million people.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
One of the most difficult lessons for believers to learn is to wait on God. By nature we're not patient, and our culture offers little encouragement to develop the habit. We want, we need, we think we deserve everything now.
Remember that Sarah waited until she was old for the son she had always dreamed about; Moses waited for 40 years on the backside of the desert for God's call; Joseph languished in prison for 15 years before God vindicated him. Even Paul spent 17 years in preparation before he began the ministry that God called him to on the road to Damascus. But you can be sure that each of these saints would say it was worth the wait. It always is.
There are, no doubt, a number of things that you are waiting for, too: victory, healing, peace, growth, vindication, success. Today I encourage you to remember one thing: God is on his way. Sometimes the night seems to last forever. Sometimes his silence seems permanent. That's because we look at the clock while he looks at the calendar.
Solomon wrote, "God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
We cannot see the whole scope of God's work, but the scope exists. And we may not see the big picture, but there is one. Today might be just another day of waiting for you, but here's how you can make it better: Take your eyes off the clock and turn them toward Jesus. Spend this time waiting in expectation rather than desperation. God is at work in your work in life, making all things beautiful in their time.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
If we’re all “beautiful” in the sight of the Lord, then why is He so selective and prejudicial with regard to the handicapped?
Now, with regard to the question above, we don’t really know why God gave this command. Sometimes God’s instructions reflected cultural views held during that time. Ancient peoples may have believed a woman bled longer after delivering a girl. Or perhaps the passage acknowledges the higher value their culture placed on males. Though such a perspective seems unfair today, Biblical teaching raised the status and rights of women far above any other laws or cultures of the time.
If there are sin and guilt offerings for “unintentional sins,” are there no offerings for “intentional sins”?
The grain offering was presented as a gift, an act of worship rather than restitution for sin. The grain offerings were offerings of fine flour or of unleavened bread, cakes, wafers, or of ears of grain (2:1, 4, 13-14; 5:11) Although the poor could mix grain with an animal sacrifice as a substitute sin offering (Leviticus 5:11), the grain offering itself was probably intended simply to remember God’s favor and, by remembering, to please him (an aroma pleasing to the Lord).
In the phrase “fellowship offering,” the word translated “fellowship” includes the ideas of health, wholeness, welfare, and peace. It is reflected in the common Jewish greeting “Shalom!” This offering apparently symbolizes peace with God because the worshiper joins in the sacred meal (symbolized sharing a meal with the Lord). A fellowship offering could be voluntary as a special offering of thanks to God or could be given as the result of a vow or as a freewill offering (7:12-26). This offering was given by the thousands at special celebrations when many people joined in the sacred meal (1Kings 8:63). If a man was too poor to bring a voluntary fellowship offering, he would probably be given a share in the offerings of others
Some of the pieces of the priestly garments were not only beautiful but also significant. For example, one part of the high priest’s uniform was the breastpiece. On the front of the breastpiece were attached 12 precious stones, each inscribed with the name of a tribe of Israel. This symbolized how the high priest represented all the people before God. The breastpiece also contained pockets that held two stones or plates called the Urim and the Thummim, which were consulted to determine God’s will for the nation.
The fact of the matter was that while polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called “the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8). This practice was tolerated especially in the case of a political leader whose dynasty would fail if he were unable to produce a son by his first wife.
On occasion it seems Moses actually heard an audible voice (Numbers 7:89). Other times he may have experienced a mystical inner sensation or had a mental impression. God communicated with Moses more directly than with the other prophets who received visions or dreams (Numbers 12:6-8). In more than 20 ways and over 150 times, Numbers records that God spoke to Moses.
Some think this radiance was the glory Moses prayed for during his second 40 days (33:18). Others believe that Moses' anger when he first descended the mountain (32:19) canceled out any glory that would have appeared on his face. When Moses descended the second time, he was not angry.
The glory of God is the worthiness of God–the presence of God in the fullness of his attributes in some place or everywhere (Exodus 16:10; 29:43; 33:19-34:8; Isaiah 6:3). Thus, Moses wanted to see the character of God. In a sense, Moses' prayer was answered on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30-32), where he shared a vision, however brief, of the Lord's glory with Elijah and three of Jesus' disciples.
The phrase “face to face” is a metaphor that, along with the phrase “as a man speaks with his friend,” suggests spiritual communion and intimacy. The image should not be taken literally, especially in view of the fact that God said no one, including Moses, could see his face and live. It describes God’s straightforward and deep communication with Moses, not his physical presence (Numbers 12:6-8).
While it is true that only Moses was to “approach the Lord,” there were others who were to accompany Moses to the mountain. In light of verse 24:18, it seems clear that only Moses went up the mountain in accordance with God’s instructions (“and he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights”).
The Hebrew word used in this passage is dal, which can be literally translated as “weak, thin, lean, or needy.” Thus, while this could refer to a slave, what is intended here are the “poor” in general.
First, it would be helpful to consider why God allowed Hebrews to enslave other Hebrews. Though they had all been slaves in Egypt and were now set free, Moses permitted a sort of voluntary slavery to continue. Individuals could sell their services for up to six years to repay debts or make restitution. Hebrew slaves were regarded more as hired hands. The seventh year, their debts were canceled, and they received their freedom.
Second, with regard to why God would make provision for a husband and wife not to leave together when the husband was no longer a slave. This would make more sense to us if we could see through the lens of their culture. Their customs required a man to “purchase” a wife by paying a bride-price to her father. If a slave owner purchased a bride for his servant, however, she technically belonged to the one who paid the price. This policy seems harsh, but it was softened by other provisions (see Exodus 21:8,11,26-27).
Much confusion has arisen from the misleading translation of Exodus 20:13 that occurs in most English versions. The Hebrew original uses a specific word for murder (rasah) in the sixth commandment and should be rendered “You shall not murder” (as opposed to many English versions which read “kill”). This is not a prohibition against capital punishment for capital crimes, since it is not a general term for the taking of life, such as our English word “kill” implies. Exodus 21:12, in the very next chapter, reads: “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.” This amounts to a specific divine command to punish murder with capital punishment, in keeping with Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
Violence and bloodshed are occasionally mentioned in the record of man’s history throughout Scripture, but never with approval. Yet there were specific situations when entire communities (such as Jericho) or entire tribes (such as Amalekites) were to be exterminated by the Israelites in obedience to God’s command. In each case these offenders had gone so far in degeneracy and moral depravity that their continued presence would result in spreading the dreadful cancer of sin among God’s covenant people.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Perhaps the Israelites enjoyed the prosperity and goodness of Egypt. Canaan was more on the frontier, less stable politically and perhaps not as fertile. Since the Israelites lived in Egypt throughout Joseph’s lifetime (three generations), they were probably more familiar with Egypt. Also, they may have had some obligation to Pharaoh. Everyone in Pharaoh’s land would in some way be indebted to him, even though we see no indication of their slavery until the book of Exodus. Though Joseph knew he would die and not see the time when his sons returned to the land, he nevertheless expressed clearly the hope and trust that he had in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” As has been characteristic of the literary technique of the Joseph narratives, Joseph repeated a second time (cf. Genesis 41:32) his statement of trust in God’s promise: “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place."
–The Quest Study Bible and the NIV Bible Commentary
“Divination” is the attempt to obtain secret knowledge, especially of the future, either by inspiration (Acts 16:16) or by the reading and interpreting of certain signs called omens. The divination was accomplished by placing oil drops upon water and observing the resulting patterns. Divining God’s will through dreams, the budding of plants, sheep fleeces and the casting of lots was not condemned in the Old Testament. People believed God was totally in control and spoke through these means. The Mosaic Law does not forbid divination, but it condemns consulting the dead through “mediums.”
The text makes no judgment about this marriage. In the context of Genesis 41, Joseph’s marriage appears positive, underscoring the power and prestige Joseph had gained in Egypt. The marriage was apparently another blessing from God, along with all the other good things happening to him.
Probably not. Pharaoh uses the word “Elohim,” a generic name for God that could also be translated “gods.” Here Pharaoh did not necessarily make a confession of faith, but probably only referred to a god or gods generally, according to his understanding. The word “spirit” in verse 38 is therefore typically not capitalized, since reference to the Holy Spirit would be out of character in statements by pagan rulers.
–NIV Study Bible
God will work through anyone to accomplish his purposes. Earlier there was Abimelech, the Philistine king to whom God spoke in a dream (Genesis 20:3-7). God influenced mighty leaders like the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9), an unnamed Assyrian king (Isaiah 10:5-12) and Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire (Isaiah 45:1), to accomplish his will.
–The Quest Study Bible
Although God may allow people to forget those who have helped them, God never forgets those who belong to him. Perhaps this was a time of spiritual development for Joseph. Although nothing negative is said about Joseph in this account, his heart might not have been ready for the responsibilities God had in store for him.
–The Quest Study Bible
This was a custom of the day intended to perpetuate the line of a deceased brother and provide for the needs of his widow. This was later defined in the Mosaic Law so that the brother could back out of the responsibility, but not without some shame (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).
–The Quest Study Bible
It may seem that God is arbitrary in his punishment. Some men and women have been executed for what seem to be minor offenses; others – perverse criminals – have been allowed to wallow in their wickedness. Why is it that God sometimes appears inconsistent in his discipline?
The Bible reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He wants every person to take responsibility for his or her own wrongdoing and to turn from it (Ezek. 33:11). On the other hand, God in his wisdom chooses to make examples of some people, and that may have been the case with the men in these verses. Their punishment reminds us that even relatively minor offenses separate us from God. Perhaps God allows some of the wicked to live because he wants to give them time to turn from their evil ways, no matter how deeply depraved they may appear to be. He has tolerated the corruption of some for decades or even a lifetime. Some of the most evil people in history have turned from their immoral ways to become great builders of God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul is an example of such a person.
–The Quest Study Bible
There was a ceremony involving such robes in the Ancient Near East that marked the recipient as the father’s primary heir. Joseph, the eleventh son in the family lineage takes the rights of the firstborn. Joseph gets the farm. When he receives this special robe, the situation is packed with emotions because the whole family inheritance is at stake. This was a volatile moment because the older boys would have clearly seen that Joseph had been placed before all of them. This was a recipe for sibling civil war, and that is exactly what happened.
Jacob’s wrestling with an angel epitomizes the whole of Jacob’s life. He had struggled with his brother (chapters 25, 27), his father (chapter 27), and his father-in-law (chapters 29-31), and now he struggles with God (ch. 32). Jacob’s own words express the substance of these narratives about him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Here is a graphic picture of Jacob struggling for the blessing–struggling with God and with a man (32:28).
The unexpected and sudden introduction of this man (v. 24), who wrestles in the dark with Jacob, captures something of the event itself. By the time their contest comes to an end, Jacob is convinced that his opponent is God himself (v. 30). This is not improbable, given that God had previously come to Abraham in human form (18:1-15). The story contains an interesting wordplay in the Hebrew: God wrestles (ye'abeq) with Jacob (ya'aqob) by the Jabbok (yabboq).
Significantly, Jacob emerges victorious in his struggle. His victory, even in his struggle with God, came when the angel “blessed him.” The importance of the name “Peniel” is that it identifies the one with whom Jacob was wrestling as God. Jacob’s remark that he had seen God face to face did not necessarily mean that the “man” he wrestled with was in fact God. Rather, when one saw the “angel of the Lord,” it was appropriate to say that he had seen the face of God.
It seems to be a way of acknowledging the authority and generosity of the one who has provided the blessing. Later God required a tenth from all Israelites (Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:22-28).
Dreams can be messages from God, but they are not always. In this case God repeats the promises made to Jacob’s father and grandfather. The dream corresponds to the already revealed will of God. Likewise, if God chooses to reveal his will to us in a dream, it will correspond to the teaching of Scripture.
Dreams should never replace sound and well thought-out decisions. Scripture and respected members of the church should be consulted carefully. We shouldn’t expect God to tell us in a dream whom to marry or what career track to choose. That isn’t God’s pattern of revealing his will. This dream was given to assure Jacob that God was present with him and that God intended to bless him, keeping the promise made to his ancestors. It also marked the beginning of Jacob’s lifelong relationship with God.
This was a covenant ritual, apparently an ancient custom, though no extra-biblical material mentions it. The intimacy that such a practice would require suggests the high level of trust sought in the oath. This practice is found in other places in the Bible and it is always associated with a solemn oath.
Three factors may have contributed to Lot’s outrageous proposal: (1) Hospitality was considered to be one of the highest measures of a man. To take a stranger in and let him eat your food was to guarantee his safety – even at personal risk. (2) Wives and daughters were typically viewed as property in his culture. (3) Living as he did in a degenerate society, Lot’s values were likely off center. Sin distorts priorities and blurs the line between right and wrong. It was no doubt the combination of these factors that caused Lot to value the safety of his guests more than the well-being of his daughters.
In those days, when people made a covenant, they would take animals and literally cut them in two pieces and set the two pieces next to each other, side by side. Then they would go for a covenant walk. They would pass between the pieces of the animal, and the symbolic meaning of this was, “May this be my fate if I don’t live up to the covenant, if I don’t honor the covenant, if I’m not faithful.” Jeremiah 34:18 says, “Those who have violated my covenant … I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.” When people cut a covenant, blood was shed. It was a way of saying, “I take this very seriously.”
Genesis 2:23-24, as Christ pointed out, teaches monogamy as God’s will for man. Now there is no possibility of a husband’s constituting a unity with one wife if he also has another wife–or several others. This is made very clear by the analogy in Ephesians 5:23. The implication here is that there is but one true church and that it stands in a relationship to the heavenly Bridegroom like that of the wife toward her husband. Christ is not the Head of many different churches; He has but a single mystical body–not several different bodies–and therefore His one and only church is viewed as the antitype of monogamous marriage. Polygamy is absolutely excluded. As we examine the scriptural record, we come to the realization that every case of polygamy or concubinage amounted to a failure to follow God’s original model and plan. The fact of the matter was that while polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called “the hardness of men’s hearts” (Matthew 19:8), it was tolerated–especially in the case of a political leader whose dynasty would fail if he produced no son by his first wife.
Circumcision was usually practiced in the ancient world as a rite of passage into puberty or marriage, though it does not seem to have been practiced among the Canaanites. God, however, gave this peculiar custom new meaning when he required it of Abraham. For Abraham, circumcision was a mark of possession, indicating that he belonged to God. It was also a sign of commitment, symbolizing that the Lord alone would be the one he would trust and serve. Some think it indicated a type of oath: “May I be cut off from my people as my foreskin has been cut off, if I am not faithful to the Lord (Gen. 17:14).
In many ways, God’s relationship with Abraham, as symbolized by circumcision, is similar to that of a marriage covenant. The commitment that God intends a husband and a wife to have for each other illustrates the commitment that God wanted from Abraham. Throughout the Old Testament, God characterizes himself as a husband to his people, and adultery is used as a metaphor for their idolatry and unfaithfulness to him (see, for example, Hosea 2:16; 4:15).
–The Quest Study Bible
First, a comment about the rite of blessing. Our culture affirms equality and even distribution, which make Isaac’s response difficult to understand. But in that culture only one son could inherit the family blessing. In this case only one son could provide the family line through which the Messiah would come.
Why would God bless a deceitful person? Obviously not because the person was deceitful. For a reason known only to God, he chose to bless Jacob and not Esau. Paul points out that since his choice was made before they were even born, it was not based on their merit (Romans 9:10-13) but on God’s sovereign freedom. God’s grace and blessing are always undeserved and unexpected.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
24At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. 25But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. 26So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.)This event happens right before Moses goes to Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. This account of Zipporah circumcising her son, touching Moses' feet with the foreskin, and then calling Moses a "bridegroom of blood" seems very odd. On top of that, we read that God was about to kill Moses and the actions of his quick-thinking wife saved his life. This also seems out of place.
There is a fair amount of consensus among Old Testament scholars that this is a story about the profound importance of circumcision in the covenant. Circumcision was a kind of signature on the part of a person, which meant they wanted to be in a covenant relationship with God. Apparently Moses had not circumcised his son, although he knew he should have. Most likely, he has not been circumcised himself, which means he is deliberately disobeying God. He is holding himself outside of a covenant relationship with the Lord. There is simply no way he can take on God's mission until this is remedied.
So Zipporah, his wife, recognizing what's happening, takes a flint knife--the appropriate instrument--and circumcises their son. Then she touches Moses' feet. The word for feet is often a euphemism in Semitic culture for genitals. She touches him as a kind of temporary, vicarious circumcision of Moses until the time comes when Moses can be properly circumcised.
When Zipporah makes that statement about "you're a bridegroom of blood to me, " it might sound like a negative thing to say, like, "What a lot of bloodshed you and your God are causing me." But this is not what she is saying. It was actually a ritual marriage statement that a Hebrew bride would make when her groom had been circumcised before marriage. It's a positive statement: "You are blood kin to me. We're members of one family. We're a covenant people together." What's really happening here is that Moses has been disobedient to God's covenant calling. God is serious about it, and Zipporah's quick insight and actions save Moses' life!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The phrase "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2 has been interpreted to refer either to angels or to human beings. In such places as Job 1:6 and 2:1 it refers to angels, and perhaps also in Psalm 29:1 (where it is translated "mighty ones"). Some interpreters also appeal to Jude 1:6-7 (as well as to Jewish literature) in referring the phrase here to angels.
Others, however, maintain that intermarriage and cohabitation between angels and human beings, though commonly mentioned in ancient mythologies, are surely excluded by the very nature of the created order (Genesis 1; Mark 12:25). Elsewhere, expressions equivalent to "sons of God often refer to human beings, though in contexts quite different from Genesis 6:2 (see Deuteronomy 14:1; 32:5; Psalm 73:15; Isaiah 43:6; Hosea 1:10; 11:1; Luke 3:38; 1 John 3:1-2, 10). "Sons of God" (Genesis 6:2, 4) possible refers to godly men, and "daughters of men" to sinful women (significantly, they are not called "daughters of God"), probably from the wicked line of Cain. If so, the context suggests that Genesis 6:1-2 describe the intermarriage of the Sethites ("sons of God") of Genesis 5 with the Cainites ("daughters of men") of Genesis 4, indicating a breakdown in the separation of the two people groups.
Another plausible suggestion is that the "sons of God" refers to royal figures (kings who were closely associated with gods in the ancient Near East) who proudly perpetuated and aggravated the corrupt lifestyle of Lamech son of Cain (virtually a royal figure) and established for themselves royal harems.
Adam had “sons and daughters” (verse 5:4), so Cain’s wife was probably a sister (though some think God may have created other human beings besides Adam and Eve). Marriages between close relatives were at first unavoidable if the whole human race came from a single pair. Only later was marriage between siblings prohibited (Leviticus 18:6-18).
First, a comment about the unique creation of woman. Prior to the fall, God himself concluded it was not good for the male to be alone. While the animals and other creatures had been created in pairs, the Lord allowed Adam to come to the self-realization that he needed fellowship, friendship, and intimacy from a creature corresponding to himself. Thus God made him a helper. This does not mean that women are inferior to men or that they are designed merely to be assistants to men. The word helper may more accurately mean a strength or a power, and thus women are comparable to men. Often God himself is designated by the term helper or strength (see, for example, Psalm 33:20). God, therefore, made woman for the man as his equal and his match as a partner in life. She was taken from one of the man’s ribs, probably to show an interdependence. She was dependent on the man; men are dependent upon a woman to give birth to them. Some observe that the earliest language of Mesopotamia, Sumerian, has a word for rib that also means life.
The first question with regard to the consequence of the woman’s choice to sin is, “What do labor pains have to do with sin (Genesis 3:16)?” Perhaps nothing. The conception and birth of children would remain a blessing from God (Genesis 1:28). The emphasis here may be on the sorrow of raising children in a sin-tainted world, rather than on the pain of childbearing itself. However, some believe the consequences of sin ruined creation not only by introducing pain into childbirth but by opening the world to all sorrow, pain and illness.
The second question with regard to Genesis 3:16 is, “What is meant by, ‘Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’?” Some see this as a warning that women will turn (from God) to their husbands, who, in turn, will rule over them. Others see desire as a source of conflict between husbands and wives, just as sin desires to dominate and control (Genesis 4:7). Finally, others argue that the woman’s sexual attraction for the man, and his headship rule over her, will become intimate aspects of her life in which she experiences trouble and anguish rather than unalloyed joy and blessing.
Many attempts have been made to explain the plural forms: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” : e.g., (1) the plural is a reference to the Trinity; (2) the plural is a reference to God and his heavenly court of angels; (3) the plural is an attempt to avoid the idea of an immediate resemblance of humans to God; (4) the plural is an expression of deliberation on God’s part as he sets out to create the human race. The singulars in v. 27 (“in his own image” and “in the image of God”; cf. 5:1) rule out explanation 2, since in the immediate context the creation of man and woman is said to be “in his image,” with no mention of them in the image of the angels. Explanations 3 and 4 are both possible, but neither explanation is specifically supported by the context. Verse 27 states twice that “man” was created in God’s image and a third time that man was created “male and female.” The same pattern is found in Genesis 5:1-2. The singular “man” is created as a plurality, “male and female.” In a similar way the one God (“And God said”) created humankind through an expression of his plurality (“Let us make man in our image”). Following this clue the divine plurality expressed in v. 26 is seen as an anticipation of the human plurality of the man and woman, thus casting the human relationship between man and woman as a reflection of God’s own personal relationship with himself.
People are God’s image bearers on earth. This doesn’t mean the invisible God, who is spirit, has a body from which he made copies. But God designed the whole of a person (body and soul) to reflect what he is like in many ways: intelligence, capacity to rule and live in relationship to him and fellow human beings. Being made in the image of God means every human being has inherent value and worth. God’s image is neither to be murdered (Genesis 9:6) nor cured (James 3:9-10). The Bible later speaks of other aspects of one’s image that originate with God such as righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24) and knowledge (Colossians 3:10). So, God’s image does not refer to anything physical but rather to something spiritual. Most point to the human spirit by which individuals can communicate with God and have a relationship with their Maker. Some expressions of the human spirit may be the conscience, personality and will – aspects also seen in God’s character.
Genesis opens with God creating the universe. But no one was around when this happened. So, who was the mysterious human author of this portion of the Bible? Historically, Jews and Christians alike have held that Moses was the primary author/compiler of the first five books of the Old Testament. These first five books are often called the Pentateuch. The word "Pentateuch" is from two words--penta--like in pentagon. Penta means five, and teuch means scroll. It means the five scrolls, because these are the first five books of the Old Testament. The Jews called it the Torah, and in the New Testament it’s called the Law.
In the New Testament when you read a phrase, “The Law and the Prophets,” it’s referring to these first five books. They’re essentially the work of Moses. Now, he didn’t write every word in the Pentateuch. We know that, for instance, because Deuteronomy records the death of Moses. Obviously he did not write about that.
Numbers 12:3 has this statement, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” There is obviously an editor-type involved at this point because certainly Moses would not write of himself, “I was a very humble man, more humble than anyone.”
So the authorship of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are basically associated with Moses. As you read through these books think of them as essentially one book with five divisions.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness.What was the big deal about one of Noah's sons seeing him naked in Genesis 9:22?
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
"Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers."
26 He also said,
"Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth ;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his slave."
The reason Noah cursed his son Ham was that he had derided and dishonored his father after he found him naked, sleeping off a drunken stupor. Ham should have treated him respectfully, even though his father (who had apparently never tasted liquor before) had made a fool of himself.
It should be noted that it was Noah, and not God, who cursed his son and his grandson. Also, some scholars believe the act of Ham could have been a repudiation of his father’s religion, marked by his joy and satisfaction at finding his “righteous” father naked in a drunken state. Thus, he reveled in his father’s sin! By contrast, Ham’s brothers grieved for their father and did what they could to remove the indignity.
No one can read these early chapters of Genesis and miss the fact that modern cosmology and evolutionary biology make strikingly different claims about how the universe came into being. Here are two considerations to keep in mind as you explore this issue further. First, up until recent times heated scientific debates raged around the question of whether the universe was eternal and infinite (never had a beginning and went on forever) or whether it had a beginning and was finite. Philosophically, those are the only two options. Many scientists were reluctant to acknowledge a beginning to the cosmos because of the theological implications: if there was a start to the universe, no explanation exists for why it started, and what brought it into being. Yet in the last century, the scientific community has come to accept the fact the universe did have a beginning and is not eternal. This of course was never an issue for those who read in the Genesis 1:1 that “In the beginning, God created” space and time. Second, in the field of biology the Intelligent Design movement is pointing out the deficiencies in the prevailing evolutionary explanations for life. Within all life forms are biochemical as well as mechanical features that are “irreducibly complex”–that is to say, they cannot be simplified any further and still function. Therefore because no mechanism exists to explain how they arouse from a more simplified form–but here they are anyway–they must have had this complexity from their inception. The hard facts point to design by intelligence and irreducibly complex systems that no known natural process can account for. Again, for those who read in Genesis that there is a Being who has the power to simply declare things into existence (“Let there be … and it was so”) this scientific discovery comes as no surprise.
The Bible does not discuss the subject of evolution. Rather, its worldview assumes God created the world. The biblical view of creation is not in conflict with science; rather, it is in conflict with any worldview that starts without a creator.
The most important aspect of the continuing discussion is not the process of creation, but the origin of creation. The world is not a product of blind chance and probability; God created it.
The Bible not only tells us that the world was created by God; more important, it tells us who this God is. It reveals God’s personality, his character, and his plan for his creation. It also reveals God’s deepest desire: to relate to and fellowship with the people he created. God took the ultimate step toward fellowship with us through his historic visit to this planet in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. We can know in a very personal way this God who created the universe.
Genesis 2 does not present a creation account at all but presupposes the completion of God’s work of creation as set forth in chapter 1. The first three verses of Genesis 2 simply carry the narrative of chapter 1 to its final and logical conclusion, using the same vocabulary and style as employed in the previous chapter. It sets forth the completion of the whole primal work of creation and the special sanctity conferred on the seventh day as a symbol and memorial of God’s creative work. Verse 4 then sums up the whole sequence that has just been surveyed by saying, “These are the generations of heaven and earth when they were created, in the day that Yahweh God made heaven and earth.” Having finished the overall survey of the subject, the author then develops in detail one important feature that has already been mentioned: the creation of man. As we examine the remainder of Genesis 2, we find that it concerns itself with a description of the ideal setting that God prepared for Adam and Eve to begin their life in, walking in loving fellowship with Him as responsive and obedient children. From the survey of the first fifteen verses of chapter 2, it becomes quite apparent that this was never intended to be a general creation narrative. Genesis 1 is the only creation account to be found in the Hebrew Scripture and it is presupposed as the background of Genesis 2. . . . Quite clearly, then, chapter 2 is built on the foundation of chapter 1 and represents no different tradition than the first chapter or discrepant account of the order of creation.