Tag Archives: Scripture

Torah

Meditations on the Psalms

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2 ESV)

God has declared one Man righteous because only that one Man has not rebelled against Him. That one Man is Jesus Christ. He is not wicked and ungodly, He does not sin because His essential nature is righteousness, and He does not scoff at God with His words and actions. God now tells us what this one godly Man does which sets Him apart from all others.

Jesus Christ, the godly Man, delights and meditates day and night on the law of God. This delight and meditation gives the godly man the tools needed to fight and combat against the guerrilla tactics of the enemies of God. God’s enemies are His enemies.

The Psalmist uses another set of parallel statements to describe the motivation of the blessed man. He unceasingly delights and meditates on the law of God. Delight means longing and pleasure. Meditate means to speak or groan in musing, devising or plotting a circumstance. The blessed man finds pleasure in contemplating and considering the law of God.

Law is the word torah and includes the entire writing of God’s Scripture, especially the Hebrew Scripture. Torah is the teachings of God for Man. Torah is derived from the word yara which means to throw or cast, as in shooting an arrow, a teaching which hits the mark. So, the torah, the law, is the perfect instruction of God given to lead men to righteousness. We learn the truth about God through the writings of God, which makes the contemplation of Scripture of vital importance in intimately knowing Him.

Man’s sin nature precludes any from accomplishing a complete and thorough understanding of Scripture. This does not mean those who are called by God should cease their efforts to delight in and meditate upon Scripture but should redouble their efforts in their struggle against sin. God gives Scripture so we might know Him and His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit.

God, speaking through Moses, commands the people He brought to the Promised Land to love Him. He then tells them how to love Him. People are created by God for relationship with Him. To do anything less than to love God is to live a truncated and ineffective life.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Jesus, the only One who has perfectly fulfilled the eternal intent of God for Man, uses His knowledge of Scripture to counter the wicked intent of the Deceiver to tempt Him to sin. Even the Deceiver knows the Scripture and uses it to further Its deception. But to know God intimately, and the Scripture He has given, is the only means available to counter temptation. Jesus uses truth to counter and defeat the lie.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (see Deuteronomy 8:3)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (see Psalm 91:11-12)

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:16)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:13)

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11 ESV)

Jesus knew the Scripture because He is the Author of all Scripture. God created all. God sustains all by an act of His will. God governs all, determining the scope and direction of His creation without fault. To question His will is an act of rebellion. God gives purpose to all, demanding from His creation as a natural function of its existence, obedience to Him and His will.

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Unity of Marriage

Studies in Genesis 2

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 ESV

These are not Adam’s first words. These are not Adam’s words at all. Adam does not have a father or mother but is the father of the entire population of humans. Eve is the mother of the entire population of humans. These are the words of God, written by the author of Genesis, declaring His purpose and direction for all who follow, who will be born.

There are three parts to this statement, each with eternal consequences. Each statement declares the eternal intent of God showing the relationship all who carry the image of God have with their Creator. Yet, this statement is proceeded by a “therefore.” Everything God has said and done impacts the statements which follow. God has shown methodical purpose in the work of creating the Earth, the plants, fish, birds and animals, and Man. He has intentionally made a garden, the home for those He created. He gave Man, and consequently all humans, the “image of God,” so He might have a relationship with them and they with Him. This was done by eternal design. He purposefully created the man first, and then the woman from a piece of the man. All He does is according to His design and purpose with no trial and error or mistake. With these thoughts let us briefly examine the three parts to this statement.

A “man shall leave his father and his mother.” To leave means to depart from. It can carry the meaning of abandoning but we would be hard pressed to think of God wanting anyone to so completely separate themselves from others as to abandon them. God will not abandon us though He will discipline and even punish us. Parents are to care for their children and, as parents grow older, children are to care for their parents. This is a natural consequence of growing and maturing to responsibly reproduce, build a family with responsible children who will grow and continue the design and purpose of God fill and subdue the earth.

The Authorized Version, the King James Version, uses the word “cleave” to describe what the man does when he leaves his father and mother. The word “cleave” is the phrase “hold fast” and means to stick to, or cling to something. The man is to “hold fast to his wife.” Marriage is the divinely dictated, ordained and approved foundation for the family.

The consequence of leaving and holding fast is that two are now considered one, “they shall become one flesh.” Where the woman was taken out of the man’s flesh, and the woman bears children who are of her flesh, so the father and mother of the children are in God’s sight a unit, one person. This is a spiritual truth represented by a physical reality that points to Christ and the Church, not to the eternal marriage of two physical people. This verse points to the unity of those who have the image of God with God by revealing the necessity of unity of husband and wife.

 

God, The Center

Studies in Genesis 2

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. (Genesis 2:4 ESV)

One of the questions puzzling theologians and lay persons for as long as there has been theologians and lay persons is “why did God give Genesis 1-2:3 in the way He has given?” He has not given a scientific account of creation. There are too many anomalies and not nearly enough precision. Yet, all of the scientific evidence gathered since Man was created in the image of God shows a God who is precise to the atomic level and smaller. God created in such a way, giving Man such a mind, His work is scientifically discoverable and knowable. We want to know.

Nor is Genesis 1-2:3 an historical account. There are too many gaps, not enough detail scattered throughout huge chunks of time. Yet, Man, or at least many men, strive to discover and document history. We cannot know exactly what happened in the past, because we were not there, but we can examine the evidence and draw conclusions of what did happen. Though the future is not knowable knowing history helps make decisions about the future. We want to know.

Some have suggested Moses wrote these words as an answer or rebuttal to Egyptian mythology. But, God does not react to people, nations and cultures. He acts according to His determined personality and will. He does not excuse the misinterpretation of the facts by any individual, conceding and overlooking their idolatrous conclusions. He is God and will not be ignored or overlooked.

Where Genesis 1-2:3 points directly toward God, as does all of creation and Scripture, Genesis 2:4 begins placing Man at the focus of God’s work. Man was created in God’s image for relationship with Him. Man’s purpose is found only in God’s eternal will, exercised first in the temporary space-time universe then carried into eternity. Genesis 2:4 through the rest of Scripture is the description of what God has done and is doing to strengthen Man’s purpose and relationship with Him. Yet, Scripture is a history of Man’s struggle to do and be something other than God’s declared intention.

We want to know exactly what happened in Genesis 1-2:3 not because we are curious but so we can have control. Nowhere in Scripture does God cede His control over creation, all creation, to a creature. Our understanding of God begins, not with ourselves but with Him who created us in His image. Our theology must never be anthropocentric but theopocentric.

Jesus Christ, completely God and completely a Servant born into humanity in the likeness of Man, is the Creator of the universe and the Author of Scripture. Though Moses wrote the first five books of Scripture, Jesus is the Author. We do not need to know Moses’ reason for writing but God’s intent. We must take care to not add to what He has written our own assumptions and desires.

Those compelled to study Scripture, to write and teach Scripture, carry a fear. Fear of God, in the true sense of fearing God. Fear of unrighteousness, that what is learned, written about and taught may lead astray. Fear of self and the tendency to point to self and not Jesus, God who created all and authored Scripture. Such fear does not incapacitate but does slow down and allow God the authority to direct and lead. As we continue studying Genesis my God direct and lead our thoughts and learning always to His Son.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1 ESV)

General and Special Revelation

Studies in Genesis 1

And it was so. (Genesis 1:30 ESV)

God makes Himself known to those seeking to know Him. We must look at the evidence of God’s work in creation. More importantly, we must listen to what He says in Scripture.

God shows Himself in general and in special revelation. Revelation is an act of God where He partially shows Himself to those given the ability to see Him and to know, both intellectually and intimately, truth. However, He has hidden Himself because of sin, covering Himself in mystery. Yet all people, created in His image, are given the tools needed to know God. Sin does not destroy the given image of God but does corrupt the vessel containing the image. Man is corrupted, unwilling and unable to know Him but still having the image of God which drives them toward Him.

General revelation is God showing Himself through nature, history and the individual’s conscience. God’s creation shows His work and the intricacy and intelligence of His mind and heart. History shows the direction of God’s continued involvement in the lives of those He created in His image. Conscience directs the attention of the individual toward Him and His moral law. Yet, sin has corrupted Man’s desire to see God in nature, history and especially in conscience. We hate Him therefore we want to not see Him in anything.

In special revelation God speaks specific truths about Himself none could or would know unless He decides to tell. He reveals Himself and His eternal characteristics we could not otherwise know. He tells us about Himself though Scripture. Yet, there are many statements in Scripture which are not about Him but about creation, history and the individuals created in His image.

Genesis chapter one is special revelation. Had He said nothing we could surmise, from studying creation, God’s existence. God tells us creation operates according to the laws of nature He devised and put in place. Creation works the way He wants it to work. Our place is to study creation to know Him. We do not get to ignore the evidence of general revelation simply because it does not fit our idea of special revelation. Nor do we get to ignore special revelation because it does not seem to fit general revelation.

An illustration, even an imperfect illustration, is in order. An event happened in the mid-20th century known as the Holocaust. There is substantial evidence the Holocaust occurred and those who deny it happened are not viewed as having all their reasoning abilities in place. I lived in Europe in the 1960’s when I was a child, yet old enough to see and remember the evidence of what had happened 20 years earlier. I was not part of it but saw the evidence. I stood on the concrete slabs and peered into the ovens. I saw the pictures and read the words. You could say I was exposed to the general revelation of the Holocaust.

I know a man who, when he was a child, lived in the Lodz ghetto, went in a cattle car with a hundred others to Auschwitz where he and his father were separated and sent to Dachau. They were liberated and he came to the United States. He was there. I have helped him publish six books on the Holocaust. He and thousands of other survivors give first-hand accounts, special revelation, about the Holocaust. Will their first-hand accounts cease to have value or tell the truth after they are dead?

God does not die so His special revelation is of eternal consequence. God tells us about Himself because He only knows Himself. God tells us what happened in Genesis 1 because He only was there. We must carefully and prayerfully study His words and study creation. More important is our desire to know God intimately.

Author and Creator

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [Matthew 5:17-18 ESV]

Jesus is the Word of God. He is not only the Author and Creator of all but the Author of and inspiration for Scripture. We are going to concentrate on two significant conclusions based upon this truth.  First, when Jesus was incarnate He entered into His creation. God transcends creation, eternally outside of the universe. While the laws of the universe are in place, He, the Lawmaker, has authority to suspend those laws. Miracles are the suspension of the physical laws of the universe. But He will only suspend the laws for a moment. Once He has accomplished His will the laws of the universe are moved back into place. Walking on water or calming a storm are examples of miracles. Elisha making an ax head float or Moses parting the waters are OT examples of miracles.

When Jesus turned water into wine He did that which only God could do. He created something out of something else. We would call this a miracle. He suspended the absolute laws of nature for a moment to create.

Anyone who is created cannot suspend the laws of nature but must abide by those laws. People cannot do miracles. Satan cannot do miracles. Satan can do that which is mistaken for a miracle but he is not the author of the law and has no rights over the law.

Secondly, Jesus is the Author of and Inspiration for Scripture. He is the author of the Law and the Prophets. He wrote the law based upon His eternal character. He wrote the Prophets based upon His eternal and transcendent knowledge. Think about this. When the Hebrew Scripture speaks about Jesus it is Jesus speaking about Himself.

All of the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scripture are fulfilled in the life of Christ. Because of His preincarnate omniscience, as God He knows everything, He saw and understood exactly what would happen and why. As God He is omnipotent, in control of all things. He brought together the circumstances needed to accomplish His will. This does not mean those who acted on their wills had not control or responsibility for their actions. God did move them to act in accordance with His will but not in violation of their character.

Jesus knew the pain He would endure upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Speaking to the serpent after the temptation God states I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” [Genesis 3:15 ESV]. Jesus knew what He was going to do from eternity. He told the prophets He would suffer and why. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” [1 Peter 1:10-11 ESV].

Jesus told the two He traveled with on the road to Emmaus that the Christ would suffer.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:25-27 ESV]

He knew what was to happen, even telling His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to die. See Matthew 16:21-28, 17:22-23, 20:17-19 and Luke 9:22-27, 43-45, 18:31-34 for some of His predictions of how and where He would be sacrificed. Peter rebuked Jesus telling Him He would never die in the way He predicted. Jesus rebuked Peter. From then on whenever Jesus predicted His suffering and death His disciples either did not understand or were greatly distressed.

Even Jesus was distressed by what was to take place. Yet, His love for His creation is so great He willingly faced  excruciating pain and separation for those who would become citizens of His kingdom. These are the plans and actions of One who deeply and eternally loves those He created in His image. How great and eternal is His love.

The Hebrew Scripture

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. [Matthew 5:17 ESV]

Why do we think and believe Christ has done away with the Law, making it of no consequence?  God reveals Himself in Scripture. This includes the Hebrew Scripture we call the Old Testament.

When God spoke creation began. He is the only driving force of all creation. John tells us Jesus is the Word and that all was created by Him. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” [John 1:1-3 ESV]. This is a clear statement that Jesus is divine. He is God.

He created Man in His image so all people might have an intimate relationship with Him. When Adam and Eve sinned, rebelling against their Creator, God spoke to them about the consequences. Yet, God determined to provide a Redeemer to crush the head of sin and bring those separated back. Jesus fulfilled this promise through His birth, death, resurrection and ascension.

After the fall God did not simply leave Man to his own devices but revealed what would ultimately happen, beginning with Adam and Eve who were separated from God, then their home. Cain murdered Abel separating him from life while Cain was separated from his family. God began separating people from people. Ultimately, God shows some are separated from Him while others are not.

God also separated people from people to show the human lineage of Jesus, who had the appearance of man but the morphe of a servant and the morphe of God. “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” [Philippians 2:6-7 ESV]. This Jesus, born of a woman, is the same as He who created all, the eternal Word.

Beginning with Moses God gave written revelation of Himself and His expectations. Jesus inspired the authors of the Scripture to write, in their own style and with their own words, exactly what He wanted said. In their words He revealed Himself, that which we could not know any other way.

God gave Moses the ten statements, we call them commandments, before He gave the rest of the Law and before the Histories and Prophets were written. In the Histories, part of the Hebrew Scripture, we see the continual rebellion of the “chosen people” of God while the Prophets continually speak the truth about their rebellion, and the rebellion of the world, demanding all acknowledge sin and obey God. God created man for intimacy and commands man to obedience. God’s words do not give anyone a disciplined means of accomplishing His will but show the complete inability of all to do so in their own strength of will. If no one can do God’s will on their own then someone has to do God’s will for us. This doesn’t keep us from trying to do God’s will in our own strength. Israel’s Jewish leaders codified the Law, breaking it into various parts, and then interpreted the Law through thousands of rules and regulations. Jesus did not come to fulfill the traditions of men but the eternal will of God.

Jesus does not do away with any of the inspired words of God. He is the inspiration for them. What He does, by living as a man with the morphe of a servant, is to fulfill those inspired words. He uses a word which means to fill, as in to level up something which is hollow, to satisfy or execute perfectly, to accomplish. His words imply God revealed to His creation the reality of their need for Him because of their sin. Sin breaks and bends and makes unusable. It destroys any and all ability of the person to live up to the purpose for which they were made. Christ, in living as a man, perfectly lived the purpose for which man was created. He could do nothing less.

Yet, the law does more than simply set the standard against which all are measured. It does more than point out the negative, the inability, the need for. It reveals, in a manner, the character and personality of God. We would not know God had He not shown Himself in the written and living Word. We could have examined the circumstantial evidence and seen the possibility of certain characteristics of God but would have, as is the motivation of sin, corrupted and abused those characteristics making them say that which is not true.

One of the essential characteristics of God is truth. One of the driving forces of those who want to know God intimately is the desire to know truth. Are we driven to know truth? Are we drive to know Christ? They are the same.

Manassah and God’s Mercy

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. [2 Chronicles 33:1-2 ESV]

God worked in the life and reign of Hezekiah, Manassah’s father.  Hezekiah was a wise man at 25 years old because he listened to those counseling him and sought God like king David, doing what was right in God’s eyes. He felt the weight of his responsibility as king, serving God seriously. He led stubborn Israel in the ways of God. Did he not teach his son Manassah to do the same? If he did, Manassah did not learn from his father. Everything his father had done Manassah undid.

Manaassah’s anger toward God is obvious. What else would drive a man toward evil who had been raised to worship the God of Israel? Manassah was wicked.

God’s promises are stated explicitly in Scripture. Scripture are the words of God every king was to write down for themselves, to know and follow. Scripture were the words the people promised God they would follow after He brought them out of Egypt, led them through their wanderings in the desert, then into the Promised Land. He told them to teach His words to their children. He told them to follow His words and He would bless them. He told them if they did not follow His words His wrath toward them would exceed His wrath toward the nations they displaced. “I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses” [2 Chronicles 33:8; cf. 2 Kings 21:8 ESV].

Manassah exceeded the evil of those who lived in the land before Israel. “Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel” [2 Chronicles 33:9; cf. 2 Kings 21:9 ESV]. Manassah led the people into greater evil than any other king of Judah.

God gives to people leaders who will accomplish His decrees. Where His people are stubborn and complaining He will give them leaders to quench their stubbornness and silence their complaining. Moses was such a leader. David was such a leader. But, if the people will not listen and continue to rebel, for stubbornness and complaining are evidence of rebellion, He will give them a leader to teach them their rebellion is sin and convince them to return to Him. Manassah and Ahab were such leaders. Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom never brought the people back to God. In God’s grace, and the harshness of the disciple, Manassah did.

Throughout Scripture are examples of God’s mercy and grace and the personal responsibility those who are His carry before Him. God’s mercy and grace do not absolve anyone from their responsibilities. Grace and mercy freely release the person from the justified sentence of separation from God because of their rebellion when the consequence of the sentence was felt and born by Jesus on the cross. Release from the immediate and temporal cost of rebellion does not happen. What we sow, we will reap. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of one sin. David suffered the consequences of his repeated adulteries though he repented and receive mercy and grace. Manassah sowed sin and rebellion against God and reaped the consequences as determined by the known words and will of God.

Manassah was an evil man. He lead and encouraged Israel to commit idolatry, to worship a lie. He sacrificed his own children in the fire to a detestable idol demon. He consulted those who practiced the occult instead of God’s prophets and priests. He did these things for years. Manassah murdered people. When God spoke to Manassah he ignored Him. When God spoke to His people during Manassah’s reign they ignored Him. Israel followed their leader. “The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention” [2 Chronicles 33:10 ESV]. God told them they would be punished but they did not listen to the warning, repent and turn away from their sin.

Enter God’s rod of punishment, the King of Assyria. “Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon” [2 Chronicles 33:11 ESV]. The word “hooks” means to pierce, as in through the nose. Manassah was bound with bronze shackles and led to Babylon by a chain attached to a hook in his nose. His humiliation was complete.

God knew Manassah would learn from the harsh discipline, repent and turn toward Him, seeking to know Him both intellectually and intimately. Lessons learned from Hezekiah his father were not completely forgotten, rising to the surface in his humiliation and  agony. “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God” [2 Chronicles 33:12-13 ESV].Though his repentance is not found in 2 Kings it is real, a historical fact in Scripture.

God showed mercy to Manassah, one of the most corrupt kings to reign over Judah. His corruption dissolved in the harsh disciplines of God at the hands of an enemy king, the king of Assyria, who was even more corrupt than Manassah. All are used by God to accomplish His decrees. As evidence of God’s mercy, Manassah was returned to Jerusalem as king, and of his repentance he tore down the idols and false alters and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But, the consequences of his leading the people astray, for they continued to worship idols, is also evident. Manassah was released from experiencing the wrath of God and showed his changed character by trying to undo all the effects of his rebellion. He was unable to. God used his evil actions, and his repentance, to teach a stubborn and complaining people about mercy, His active love.

Manassah learned his lesson. Most of the people of Judah refused to learn. God does not change but acts according to His love and justice. His purpose is to bring people back to Himself and will use the right means to accomplish His ends which are always for our benefit. Unless we refuse to learn.