Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook

Providing verse by verse analysis of Scripture and discussions about Christian theology.

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Episodes

6 days ago

Deuteronomy 28:15-46 - The Lord’s Cursings      Having already presented God’s blessings for obedience (Deut 28:1-14), Moses turned to the cursing section of the covenant, saying, “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:15). The responsibility fell upon Israel to abide by the terms of the covenant. They were to abide by “all His commandments and His statutes”, and failure to do so would bring God’s curses. Earl Radmacher states: "A curse is the opposite of a blessing. It wishes or prays for ill or injury on a person or an object. God cursed the serpent and the ground after the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:14, 17). Jeremiah, in despair, cursed the man who brought news of his birth (Jer 20:14, 15). The seriousness of God’s covenant with His people is illustrated by the threat of a curse on any who violate it (Deut 28:60, 61)."[1]      The curses would reverse all God’s blessings and would overtake His people wherever they were. Moses wrote: "Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the country. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in and cursed shall you be when you go out" (Deut 28:16-19).      What follows in Deuteronomy 28:20-68 spelled out God’s curses in specific detail and were intended to produce a healthy fear in the Israelite who might be tempted to turn away from the Lord and His clear directives. Moses informed his people that the curses would pursue them in stages until they were destroyed (Deut 28:20-22, 24, 45, 48, 51, 61). Daniel Block states, “By means of a seemingly endless catalogue of secondary agents of doom, Moses warns that Yahweh will marshal every conceivable agent of destruction against His people.”[2] God is offering a theological understanding of Israel’s circumstances and experiences should they break their covenant with Yahweh and not abide by His directives.      Moses gave an overarching summary statement of all God would do to Israel if they pursued evil and forsook Him. Moses said, “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me” (Deut 28:20). The word send translates the Hebrew verb שָׁלַח shalach which in this passage means to “send out, forth, send on a mission.”[3] The form of the verb is intensive (Piel), which means the curse will be relentless in its pursuit. God’s judgment would come because of Israel’s choice to forsake the Lord and to pursue a life of evil deeds. According to Craigie, “The root cause of the disaster would be forgetfulness; the people would forget God, and in forgetting God they would forget his commandments. Having forgotten the commandments of God, the people would inevitably commit evil deeds and bring upon their own heads disaster. God sends the curse (v. 20a), but man invites it by his deeds (v. 20b).”[4]      At the beginning of the judgments, Moses said, “The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it” (Deut 28:21). The pestilence (דֶּבֶר deber) could be something like bubonic plague, which afflicted both people and animals with fever and delirium. This might explain Moses’ next statement, saying, “The LORD will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish” (Deut 28:22). Blight and mildew refer to attacks on crops, which God brought upon His people during times of judgment (see Amos 4:9; Hag 2:17). Daniel Block states: "In verse 22 Moses becomes more specific, listing seven afflictions with which Yahweh will strike his people. The catalogue of seven afflictions expresses Yahweh’s sovereignty over all agents of death and destruction. The first four entries elaborate on deber in verse 21 and specify diseases at Yahweh’s disposal: wasting disease, fever, inflammation, and scorching heat. The fifth refers to the sword (ḥereb), which functions as shorthand for Israel’s defeat by enemy armies (cf. vv. 25–26), and the last two refer to crop diseases."[5]      The judgments would include a severe drought upon the Land. Moses said, “The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed” (Deut 28:23-24). A bronze sky and iron earth is a picture of impenetrable material which would frustrate the farmer. And the Lord, rather than sending rain that would soften the earth, would only send “powder and dust” upon the land. Eugene Merrill states, “As impervious as these metals are to water and tools, so both the heavens and the earth would be in the day of calamity. The rains would not leak through the skies, nor would the earth be able to be broken up to receive the farmer’s seed. Instead, the heavens would rain down dust, which would only exacerbate an already hopeless situation on the earth.”[6]      Moving to a picture of military defeat, Moses said, “The LORD shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away” (Deut 28:25-26). Israel would always have enemies, but rather than know victory, God would cause them to know only defeat. Israel, going out against their enemy “one way” speaks of a planned attack. Fleeing seven ways meant their efforts would fail, as they would scramble to “flee seven ways” from the battle. Israel’s choice to separate themselves from God meant they forfeited the Lord’s protection against hostile forces. According to Craigie, “Disobedience to the law of God separated the people from him, and in this state of separation they could not expect to experience the presence of God in the midst of their army; without God in the midst of Israel’s army, defeat was inevitable.”[7] Not only would Israel be an example of terror to surrounding kingdoms, but their dead bodies would be food for wild animals. Merrill states, “Israel would, in fact, become a field of corpses, a banquet for winged and four-footed scavengers that would be free to eat their fill (v. 26). The irony of the contrast between Israel’s feeding off the land (vv. 4–5, 8, 11) and being itself a food supply for carnivorous beasts is inescapable.”[8]The wise Israelite understood, “the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge” (Psa 73:28).      Moving from military defeat, Moses then describes various skin diseases that would inflict the nation. Moses said, “The LORD will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed” (Deut 28:27). Concerning the boils, Earl Kalland states, “The ‘boils of Egypt’ are doubtless the boils of the sixth plague, which so discomfited the Egyptian magicians, as well as all other Egyptians, that they could no longer stand before Moses (Ex 9:9–11). This may have been a form of leprosy known in Egypt.”[9] The reference to tumors (עֹפֶל ophel) could mean hemorrhoids, much like what afflicted the Philistines when they took possession of the Ark (1 Sam 5:6). The scab (גָּרָב garab) was something that irritated the skin, perhaps a rash of some sort. Interestingly, such a skin disease would disqualify a priest from service (Lev 21:18-21), as well as an animal from being sacrificed (Lev 22:20-22). The itch (חֶרֶס cheres) referred to some eruptive disease.      All of this would have great psychological and social impact on the Israelites, as Moses continued, saying, “The LORD will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you” (Deut 28:28-29). Their mental, emotional, and social condition would make it impossible to function on a daily basis. They would become like a “blind man” who cannot see his way clearly to do anything, and the result will be that they “will not prosper” in any of their activities. Furthermore, there would be none to help, as those around them would only oppress and rob them, and there would be “none to save” them from their troubles. Eugene Merrill writes: "The inclusion of blindness between two states of emotional or psychological disorder suggests that this loss of vision was not physical but metaphorical (cf. Psa 146:8; Isa 29:18; 35:5; 42:7, 16; 43:8; 56:10). The groping about in midday like a blind man (v. 29a) is a simile qualified in the next line, “You will be unsuccessful in everything you do.” The blindness, then, was the incapacity to think clearly or form intelligent judgments. It would lay the ones under the curse open to all kinds of exploitation including oppression…and robbery (v. 29b). Having broken fellowship with the Lord, they would have no one to deliver them from their insanity and its consequences."[10] Peter Craigie adds: "In broad daylight, the cursed blind man gropes around. He cannot see and does not know how to make himself prosperous, but he can be seen by others; his fumbling ineptitude makes him an easy prey for robbers. Having brought about his sad state through disobedience to the law of God, he is now at the mercy of those who live outside the law, and there is no one to offer help. His fellows are equally cursed, and he has gone too far from God to call for his deliverance."[11]      Having turned away from the Lord, Israel would no longer enjoy His protections, and this meant what was precious to them would be vulnerable to attack and harm. These included attacks on one’s spouse, home, business, children, and safety from one’s enemies. Moses said: "You shall betroth a wife, but another man will violate her; you shall build a house, but you will not live in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but you will not use its fruit. 31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your donkey shall be torn away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you will have none to save you. 32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and yearn for them continually; but there will be nothing you can do. 33 A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually. 34 You shall be driven mad by the sight of what you see." (Deut 28:30-34)      Here is a picture of harm by one’s enemies, frustration by helplessness, and eventual despair of soul and madness of mind by the sight of what they will see. They would have no control over their lives but would be perpetual victims of their enemies who take possession of their wives and mistreat them. The fruit of their ground and livestock would be eaten by another, and their children would be forcibly taken and sold into slavery while they looked on in helplessness, and there would be nothing they could do to stop it. The end result was mental madness by what they saw happening to them. All of this was the result of their walking away from the Lord’s protections.      Revisiting the motif of boils previously mentioned (Deut 28:27), Moses said, “The LORD will strike you on the knees and legs with sore boils, from which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head” (Deut 28:35). This disease would cover the whole body, but emphasis seems to be given to the knees, legs, and soles of one’s feet, which would make normal activities very difficult, thus exacerbating one’s efforts to work.      The judgments also anticipated a time in the future when Israel would have a king over them. Moses said, “The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone. 37 You shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the LORD drives you” (Deut 28:36-37). If Israel turned away from God and refused to serve Him, they would fall victim to slavery in godless nations who served dumb idols of wood and stone. Eugene Merrill states, “Deportation does, however, imply submission, a condition contrary to the exaltation of Israel described in the list of blessings. Rather than being a nation set “high above all the nations” (v. 1), God’s people would lose their children to another nation (v. 32) and would themselves go off into ignominious captivity (v. 36).”[12] Israel’s fallen condition would serve as a horror and proverb to other nations.      Deuteronomy 28:36 describes how God will bring His people and their king into captivity in a foreign land. Because Israel did not have a king until nearly four centuries after Moses gave the law, it is argued by liberal scholars that Deuteronomy is actually a late book, written around the seventh or fifth centuries B.C. These liberal scholars—who operate on antisupernaturalistic presuppositions—reject the Bible as divinely inspired and treat it as a humanistic book and the events described therein as history rather than prophecy (Lat. vaticinium ex eventu = after the event). However, because the Bible is supernaturally inspired by God, these prophetic statements are not a problem, as God had promised Israel would have a king (Gen 17:6, 16; 35:11; Deut 17:14-20).      Returning to the judgments, Moses stated that all their efforts at labor and production would be met with futility. Moses said: "You shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for the locust will consume it. 39 You shall plant and cultivate vineyards, but you will neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm will devour them. 40 You shall have olive trees throughout your territory but you will not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives will drop off. 41 You shall have sons and daughters but they will not be yours, for they will go into captivity. 42 The cricket shall possess all your trees and the produce of your ground." (Deut 28:38-42)      Again, we have a picture of fruitless labor by the Israelite farmer. Frustration would come as locusts and worms would be used by the Lord to destroy their crops. Even their sons and daughters—who often helped with farming—would be taken away into captivity, further exacerbating their ability to farm. Daniel Block states: "The catalogue of futility curses involves the entire range of ancient Palestinian agricultural activity: fields of grain (v. 38), vineyards (v. 39), olive groves (v. 40), and fruit trees (v. 41). The crop failures are caused by little creatures that Yahweh will send to devour and despoil the crops before they can be harvested. “Locusts” (v. 38) are grass-eating insects that fly in vast swarms and devour everything in sight. “Worms” (v. 39) refers to fruit grubs that attack the grapes. The meaning of “swarms of locusts” (v. 42) is uncertain, but it probably refers to a species of beetle that kills vegetation by attacking leaves or stems."[13]      Israel would also experience social and economic decline, as Moses said, “The alien who is among you shall rise above you higher and higher, but you will go down lower and lower. 44 He shall lend to you, but you will not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you will be the tail” (Deut 28:43-44). The alien (גֵּר ger) was the one who originally came to Israel to be elevated and blessed, but his low position would become the new standard, not because he was lifted up, but because Israel was brought down to a lower position. Israel would experience economic slavery by being the borrower rather than the lender.      Moses continued, “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever” (Deut 28:45-46). The curses would pursue (רָדָף radaph – to pursue, chase, persecute) and overtake (נָשַׂג nasag) Israel like a relentless hunter who is tireless in his pursuit to catch and destroy the hunted animal. All of this would happen because Israel refused to walk with the Lord and to keep His commandments. Peter Craigie states, “Disobedience to the word of God would result inevitably in disaster…For a sign and for a wonder—the disasters that would befall the Israelites, if they were disobedient to God, would serve to illustrate the ways of God to other nations, who would be prompted to ask questions when they saw the plight of the Israelites.”[14]   [1] Earl D. Radmacher, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 263. [2] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 652. [3] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 1019. [4] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 342. [5] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, 653. [6] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 359. [7] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 343. [8] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary, 360. [9] Earl S. Kalland, “Deuteronomy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 172. [10] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary, 361. [11] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 345. [12] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary, 362. [13] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, 657. [14] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 347.

6 days ago

Satan’s World System      As we discussed previously, Satan is permitted, for a time, to rule over the majority in this world. Three times Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Other passages of Scripture call Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), informing us “that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (1 Chr 21:1), Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He continues to attack God’s people today (1 Pet 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Furthermore, humanity is living in an “evil age” (Gal 1:4), under “the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18), whose sphere of influence is called “the domain of darkness” (Col 1:13). Though Satan has attacked some people directly, he mainly operates as commander of an unseen realm of demons, through a worldwide system of philosophies and values he’s created, through unbelievers whom he energizes to do his will, and through the sinful inclinations of our fallen nature. These all help advance his agenda in which he attacks God and His people. Paul, when writing to Christians in Ephesus, discusses the reality of these things. Paul said: "And you [Gentile Christians, before salvation; see Eph 2:4-9] were dead [νεκρός nekros – dead, corpse; i.e., separated from God] in your trespasses and sins [i.e., acts of disobedience against God], 2 in which you formerly walked [περιπατέω peripateo – to walk, conduct oneself, behave] according to the course of this world [κόσμος kosmos - world, system], according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan – the commander of an unseen realm], of the spirit that is now working [ἐνεργέω energeo – to work, energize, empower] in the sons of disobedience [i.e., sons characterized by their disobedience to God]. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh [σάρξ sarx – flesh, body, i.e., sin nature], indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind [even their reasoning processes were corrupt], and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Eph 2:1-3)      The Bible recognizes Satan’s world-system and warns us not to love it. John writes and tells the Christian, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). We live in a fallen world, and John’s command is intended to warn us of real danger. First, John opens with the negative particle Μὴ Me, which is followed by the Geek verb ἀγαπάω agapao, which is in the imperative mood—the mood of command. The word ἀγαπάω agapao denotes desire or commitment to something or someone. David L. Allen comments on love: "In its essence love is two things: a desire for something and a commitment to something … Whatever it is you desire and whatever you’re committed to, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love football, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love hunting or fishing, that’s where your time and resources will go. If you love your spouse, you desire to spend time with her and you are committed to her. Love is more than an emotional feeling. Love requires a commitment of time and resources."[1]      John then gives the object we are not to desire or be committed to, namely, the world (τὸν κόσμον). The Greek word κόσμος kosmos is used in Scripture to refer to: 1) the physical planet (Matt 13:35; Acts 17:24), 2) people who live in the world (John 3:16), and 3) the hostile system created and controlled by Satan that he uses to lure people away from God (1 John 2:15-16). It is this third meaning that John has in mind. Hence, the word κόσμος kosmos refers to “that which is hostile to God…lost in sin, wholly at odds with anything divine, ruined and depraved.”[2] Concerning, the word κόσμος kosmos, David L. Allen writes: "Sometimes the word “world” is used to refer to the organized evil system with its principles and its practices, all under the authority of Satan, which includes all teachings, ideas, culture, attitudes, activities, etc., that are opposed to God. A fixation on the material over the spiritual, promotion of self over others, pleasure over principle—these are just a few descriptors of the world system John is talking about. The word “world” here means everything that opposes Christ and his work on earth. Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:11), and Paul called him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). In Luke 16:8 Jesus referred to all unsaved people as “the sons of this world.”[3]      Satan’s world-system consists of those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God and His Word. This operating apart from God is first and foremost a way of thinking that is antithetical to God, a way of thinking motivated by a desire to be free from God and the authority of Scripture, a freedom most will accept, even though it is accompanied by all sorts of inconsistencies and absurdities. Lewis Chafer writes: "The kosmos is a vast order or system that Satan has promoted which conforms to his ideals, aims, and methods. It is civilization now functioning apart from God-a civilization in which none of its promoters really expect God to share; who assign to God no consideration in respect to their projects, nor do they ascribe any causality to Him. This system embraces its godless governments, conflicts, armaments, jealousies; its education, culture, religions of morality, and pride. It is that sphere in which man lives. It is what he sees, what he employs. To the uncounted multitude it is all they ever know so long as they live on this earth. It is properly styled “The Satanic System” which phrase is in many instances a justified interpretation of the so-meaningful word, kosmos."[4]      Many people who live in Satan’s world-system exclude God and Scripture from their daily conversations. This is true in news, politics, academic communities, work and home life. God is nowhere in their thoughts, and therefore, nowhere in their discussions (Psa 10:4; 14:1). These are the agnostics and atheists. But there are others in Satan’s world-system who are very religious, and these are the worst kind of people, because they claim to represent God, when in fact they don’t. In the Bible, there were many religious people who spoke in the name of the Lord (Jer 14:14; 23:16-32; Matt 7:15; Acts 13:6; Rev 2:20), claiming to represent Him, even performing miracles (Deut 13:1-4; Matt 24:24; 2 Th 2:8-9; Rev 13:13). The Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes where this way, and they said of themselves, “we have one Father: God” (John 8:41b). But Jesus saw them for what they really were and said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44a). The religious—like Satan—are blinded by their pride. Humility must come before they will accept God’s gospel of grace, and it does no good to argue with them (2 Tim 2:24-26). These false representatives loved to talk about God, read their Bibles, pray, fast, give of their resources, and spent much of their time in fellowship with other religious persons. Theirs is a works-system of salvation, which feeds their pride; giving them a sense of control over their circumstances and others.[5] These false organizations and their teachers appear as godly and righteous, but Paul described them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13). Though very religious, these are in line with Satan, who operates on corrupt reasoning and is a deceiver. Paul goes on to say, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:14-15).      The contrast between the growing Christian and the worldly person is stark, as their thoughts and words take them in completely different directions. The growing believer thinks about God and His Word all the time, as “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2). The word law translates the Hebrew word תּוֹרָה torah, which means law, direction, or instruction. Navigating the highways of this world can be tricky, and the believer needs the direction or instruction God’s Word provides. It is our divine roadmap for staying on God’s path and getting to the destination He intends.      At the core of Satan’s world-system is a directive for mankind to function apart from God, and when obeyed, people produce all forms of evil, both moral and immoral. We should understand that Satan’s system is a buffet that offers something for everyone who rejects God, whether that person is moral or immoral, religious or irreligious, educated or simple, rich or poor. Satan is careful to make sure there’s even something for the Christian in his world-system, which is why the Bible repeatedly warns the believer not to love the world or the things in the world. We are to be set apart (Col 2:8; Jam 1:27; 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16). Lightner states, “The world is the Christian’s enemy because it represents an anti-God system, a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to the will and plan of God. It is a system headed by the devil and therefore at odds with God (2 Cor 4:4).…It is in this wicked world we must rear our families and earn our livelihoods. We are in it, yet are not to be a part of it.”[6] It is important to understand that we cannot change Satan or his evil program; however, we must be on guard, for it can and will change us if we’re not careful to learn and live God’s Word.      At the moment of salvation, God the Father “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13), and “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:20). This transference is permanent and cannot be undone. Once this happens, we are hated by those who remain in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. For this reason, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19; cf. John 16:33; 1 John 3:13). Love and hate in this context should be understood as accept or reject, which can be mild or severe in expression. When praying to the Father, Jesus said, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14b), and went on to say, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). It is not God’s will that we be immediately removed from this world at the moment of salvation, but left here to serve as His representatives to the lost, that we “may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). We are not to participate in worldly affairs that exclude God, but are to “walk as children of Light” (Eph 5:8), manifesting the fruit of the Light “in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph 5:9-10), and we are told, “do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).      The growing Christian faces real struggles as Satan’s world system seeks to press him into its mold, demanding conformity, and persecuting him when he does not bend to its values. The world-system not only has human support, but is backed by demonic forces that operate in collaboration with Satan. Scripture tells us “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). The battlefront is more than what is seen with the human eye and is driven by unseen spiritual forces. As Christians living in the world, we are to be careful not to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col 2:8). Realizing the battleground is the mind, we are to think biblically in everything, which is our only safeguard against the enemy (2 Cor 10:3-5).      As Christians we face situations every day in which we are pressured to compromise God’s Word. We face difficulties at work, school, home, or other places, in which we are confronted by worldly-minded persons, both saved and unsaved, who demand and pressure us to abandon our biblical values. There is room for personal compromise where Scripture is silent on a matter; however, where Scripture speaks with absolute authority, there we must never compromise! Wiersbe states, “The world, or world-system, puts pressure on each person to try to get him to conform (Rom 12:2). Jesus Christ was not ‘of this world’ and neither are His people (John 8:23; 17:14). But the unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values and attitudes of this world.”[7]      By promoting the gospel and biblical teaching, the church disrupts Satan’s domain of darkness by calling out of it a people for God. By learning God’s Word, Christians can identify worldly conversations and activities and either avoid them or seek to redirect them by interjecting biblical truth, which should never be done in hostility. When sharing God’s Word with others it’s proper to know that not everyone wants to hear God’s truth, and even though we may not agree with them, their personal choices should be respected (Matt 10:14; Acts 13:50-51). We should never try to force the gospel or Bible teaching on anyone, but be willing to share when opportunity presents itself. At times this will bring peace, and other times cause disruption and may even offend. In this interaction, the growing Christian must be careful not to fall into the exclusion trap, in which the worldly person (whether saved or lost) controls the content of every conversation, demanding the Christian only talk about worldly issues, as Scripture threatens his pagan presuppositions. Having the biblical worldview, the Christian should insert himself into daily conversations with others, and in so doing, be a light in a dark place. He should always be respectful, conversational, and never have a fist-in-your-face attitude, as arrogance never helps advance biblical truth (2 Tim 2:24-26). The worldly-minded person may not want to hear what the Christian has to say, but he should never be under the false impression that he has the right to quiet the Christian and thereby exclude him from the conversation.      As we grow spiritually and walk with God, learning and living His Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17), we stand in opposition to Satan’s world-system and sow the seeds of spiritual insurrection in the lives of those who live and walk in his kingdom of darkness. We disrupt Satan’s kingdom when we share the gospel, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). When anyone places their faith in Christ, trusting solely in Him as Savior, they are forgiven all their sins (Eph 1:7), gifted with eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the righteousness of God (Rom 4:1-5; 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9). They are rescued from Satan’s enslaving power, as God rescues them from the “domain of darkness” and transfers them into “the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13). The gospel is the only way a person can be delivered from spiritual slavery; “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Once saved, we seek to influence the thoughts and lives of other Christians through fellowship (Heb 10:23-25), prayer (Jam 5:16), edification (Eph 4:29), encouragement (1 Th 5:11), love (1 Th 4:9; cf. Eph 4:14-15), and words of grace (Col 4:6).   [1] David L. Allen, 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 96–97. [2] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 562. [3] David L. Allen, 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family, 96. [4] Lewis S. Chafer, “Angelology Part 4” Bibliotheca Sacra 99 (1942): 282-283. [5] There are many church denominations today that call themselves “Christian”, but who come with a false gospel in which human works are added as a requirement for salvation (i.e., Catholics, Methodists, Church of Christ, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.). [6] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology, p. 206. [7] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 18.

6 days ago

Satan as the Ruler of this World      Many think of Satan as the counterpart of God; but this is wrong. God is the Creator, whereas Satan is merely a creature. God is infinitely and eternally good, whereas Satan was created good, but then turned away in rebellion, leading others to follow, both angels and people. Satan is not the counterpart of God; rather, he is the counterpart of those angels who maintained their allegiance to God. To understand this is to contrast Satan with good angels where, as a creature, he properly belongs.      The Bible reveals Satan was originally created a holy angel of the class of cherubim; however, because of pride (Ezek 28:11-18), he rebelled against God (Isa 14:12-14), and convinced many angels to follow him (Rev 12:4, 7). The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan which means “adversary, opponent, accuser, opposing party…[or] the one who hinders a purpose”[1] The Greek Σατανᾶς Satanas carries the same meaning and is used “in a very special sense of the enemy of God and all of those who belong to God.”[2] Other names for Satan include the shining one, or Lucifer (Isa 14:12), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Th 3:5), the devil (Matt 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2), the serpent (Rev 12:9), and the great red dragon (Rev 12:3). Further, Satan is a murderer and liar (John 8:44), is compared to a lion that prowls about, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8), and one who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).      Lucifer became Satan at the time of his rebellion when he declared, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  (Isa 14:13-14). J. Dwight Pentecost states, “The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.”[3] Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him, and he leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. Lucifer introduced sin and death to the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). At the time of the fall, Adam handed his kingdom over to Satan, who has been ruling this world since (Luke 4:5-6; Rev 11:15).      Satan is permitted, for a time, to rule over the majority in this world. When Jesus began His public ministry, He faced a series of tests from Satan, one of which was an offer to receive the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross. Satan told Jesus, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). Satan took possession of “this domain and its glory” by God’s permission and man’s sin, presumably, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and follow Satan (Gen 3:1-8). Satan said to Jesus, “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours” (Luke 4:7). Satan’s offer had to be true in order for the temptation to be real. At some time in the future, Satan will share his authority with the Antichrist, because he advances his agenda (Rev 13:1-2). Three times Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Other passages of Scripture call Satan “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), informing us “that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (1 Chr 21:1), Joshua the high priest (Zec 3:1-2), Jesus (Matt 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He continues to attack God’s people today (1 Pet 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Furthermore, humanity is living in an “evil age” (Gal 1:4), under “the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18), whose sphere of influence is called “the domain of darkness” (Col 1:13).      As Christians, we have victory in Christ. At the moment we trusted Christ as Savior, God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). As Christians, we have been gifted with God’s own righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9), and will never face condemnation (Rom 8:1). Furthermore, God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3), and called us to serve as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20), sharing the gospel message with others.      God the Father has promised to give Jesus the kingdoms of this world, saying, “I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Psa 2:8; cf. Isa 2:1-5; Dan 2:44; 7:14). This will occur after the seven-year Tribulation; at which time it will be said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15; cf. 20:1-3). Satan was judged at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Col 2:14-15), and awaits future punishment. His judgment is very near when he is cast out of heaven during the Tribulation (Rev 12:7-12); at which time his wrath is greatest against Israel. After the return of Christ (Rev 19:11-16) and the establishment of His kingdom (Rev 20:1-6), Satan will be confined to the abyss for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-3). Afterwards, he is released for a brief time and will again deceive the nations and lead a rebellion against God (Rev 20:7-8), but will be quickly defeated (Rev 20:9), and cast into the Lake of Fire, where he will remain, with his demons and all unbelievers forever (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10-15).   [1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1317. [2] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 916. [3] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

Wednesday Aug 03, 2022

The Despair of Atheism And the Hope of Christianity      As we grow and develop mentally, we develop a worldview, which is a biased perspective on life. A worldview is a mental framework of beliefs that guide our understanding of what is. It’s the assumptions we employ to help us make sense of the world, ourselves and our experiences. Early in life—when our perception of the world is being shaped—we are influenced by the worldviews of family, friends, and surrounding culture. As we grow older, we are confronted with different and opposing worldviews via religious and educational institutions, literature, movies, music and art. At some point in our development—it’s different for each person—we choose what we believe and why. Our worldview is important because it’s the basis for our values which influence our relationships, money habits, social and political decisions, and everything we say and do. At its core, there are basically two worldviews a person can have. Either one is a theist or an atheist. Choices have consequences, and the worldview we adopt has far reaching ramifications. The biblical worldview offers value, purpose, and hope. The atheistic worldview—when followed to its logical conclusion—leads to a meaningless and purposeless life that eventuates in despair.      The atheist’s worldview denies the existence of God and believes the universe and earth happened by a chance explosion billions of years ago. Rather than intelligent design, he believes in unintelligent chaos, that the earth, with all its complexity of life, is merely the product of accidental evolutionary processes over millions of years. His worldview believes everything is merely the product of matter, motion, time and chance; that we are the accidental collection of molecules; that we are nothing more than evolving bags of protoplasm who happen to be able to think, feel, and act. The conclusion is that we came from nothing significant, that we are nothing significant, and we go to nothing significant. Ultimately, there’s no reason for us to exist, and no given purpose to assign meaning to our lives. We are a zero. Some have thought through the logical implications of their atheism and understand this well. Mark Twain wrote: "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other. Age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities. Those they love are taken from them and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year. At length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place. It comes at last – the only unpoisoned gift ever had for them – and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; where they have left no sign that they have existed – a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever. Then another myriad takes their place and copies all they did and goes along the same profitless road and vanishes as they vanished – to make room for another and another and a million other myriads to follow the same arid path through the same desert and accomplish what the first myriad and all the myriads that came after it accomplished - nothing!"[1] And Bertrand Russell wrote: "Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hope and fears, his loves and beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruin – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy that rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built [bold added for emphasis]."[2]      No God means we live in a purely materialistic universe. Logically, materialism leads to nihilism which teaches that life is meaningless. If there is no God, then each of us are nothing more than the accidental collection of molecules. All our thoughts, desires, passions and actions can be reduced to electrochemical impulses in the brain and body. We are nothing more than a biochemical machine in an accidental universe, and when we die, our biological life is consumed by the material universe from which we came. But this leaves us in a bad place, for we instinctively search for meaning and purpose, to understand the value of our lives and actions. This tension leads to a sense of anxiety, what the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, called angst. Angst and fear are different, for fear has a direct object, whereas angst is that innate and unending sense of anxiety or dread one lives with and cannot shake. The French Existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre understood this worldview and the despair connected with it. Sartre proposed that individual purpose could be obtained by the exercise our wills, as we choose to act, even if the act is absurd. Francis Schaeffer wrote: "[Sartre] held that in the area of reason everything is absurd, but nonetheless a person can authenticate himself by an act of the will; everyone should abandon the pose of spectator and act in a purposeless world. But because, as Sartre saw it, reason is separated from this authenticating, the will can act in any direction. On the basis of his teaching, you could authenticate yourself either by helping a poor old lady along the road at night or by speeding up your auto and running her down. Reason is not involved, and nothing can show you the direction which your will should take."[3]      I would argue that most atheists really don’t want to talk about the logical conclusion of their position, and choose to go about their daily lives ignoring the issue altogether, as it’s too painful to consider. This is why Sartre abandoned reason and advocated that we seek for meaning in the choices we make, even if those choices are irrational. Aldous Huxley proposed using psychedelic drugs with the idea that one might be able to find truth and meaning inside his own head. Schaeffer states, “He held this view up to the time of his death. He made his wife promise to give him LSD when he was ready to die so that he would die in the midst of a trip. All that was left for Aldous Huxley and those who followed him was truth inside a person’s own head.”[4]      But there is another implication to an atheistic worldview, and that’s in the area of morals. If there is no God, then there is no moral Lawgiver outside of mankind, and no moral absolutes by which to declare anything ethically right or wrong. There is only subjective opinion, which fluctuates from person to person and group to group. We’re left to conclude that if there are no moral absolutes, then what is, is right, and the conversation is over. Morality becomes a matter of what the majority wants, or what an elite, or individual, can impose on others. Francis Schaeffer wrote:  "If there is no absolute moral standard, then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong. By absolute we mean that which always applies, that which provides a final or ultimate standard. There must be an absolute if there are to be morals, and there must be an absolute if there are to be real values. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are merely left with conflicting opinions."[5]      Ironically, when the atheist states “there is no truth”, he is making a truth claim. And when he says “there are no absolutes”, he is stating an absolute. Logically, he cannot escape truth and absolutes, without which, reasoning and discussion are impossible. The biblically minded Christian celebrates both truth and absolutes which derive from God Himself, in which He declares some things right and other things wrong (e.g., Ex 20:1-17), and this according to His righteousness (Psa 11:7).      The atheistic view regards mankind as merely a part of the animal kingdom. But if people are just another form of animal—a naked ape as someone once described—then there’s really no reason to get upset if we behave like animals. A pack of wild lions in the Serengeti suffer no pangs of conscience when they gang up on a helpless baby deer and rip it to shreds in order to satisfy their hunger pains. They would certainly not be concerned if they drove a species to extinction; after all, it’s survival of the fittest. Let the strong survive and the weak die off. Evolution could also logically lead to racism, which is implied in Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, which original subtitle mentions the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Ironically, we teach evolution in public schools, telling children they are just another animal species, but then get upset when they act like animals toward each other. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t logically teach atheistic evolution and simultaneously advocate for morality. It’s a non sequitur. If there are no moral absolutes, then one cannot describe as evil the behavior of Nazis who murdered millions of Jews in World War II. Neither can one speak against the murder of tens of millions of people under the materialistic communistic regimes of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, or Pol Pot.      It’s interesting that people cry out for personal and social justice because they’re naturally wired that way. But for the atheist, such inclinations are either a learned behavior based on arbitrary social norms, or a biological quirk that developed from accidental evolutionary processes. Again, we’re left with no moral absolutes and no meaning for life. Naturally, for the thinking person, this leads to despair. For this reason, some seek pleasure in drugs, or alcohol, partying and/or sexual promiscuity in order to deaden the pain of an empty heart. Others might move into irrational areas of mysticism and the occult. The Burning Man events are a good example of this. The few honest atheists such as Twain, Russell and others accept their place of despair and seek to get along in this world as best they can. But they have no lasting hope for humanity. None whatsoever.      But the Christian worldview is different. The biblically minded Christian has an answer in the Bible which gives lasting meaning and hope; and this allows us to use our reasoning abilities as God intended. The Bible presents the reality of God (Gen 1:1; Ex 3:14; Rev 1:8), who has revealed Himself to all people (Psa 19:1-2). The apostle Paul argued this point when he wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). This is called general revelation in which God reveals Himself through nature. God has also revealed Himself to the heart of every person, for “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Rom 1:19). John Calvin referred to this as the sensus divinitatis, which is an innate sense of divinity, an intuitive knowledge that God exists. Calvin wrote, “there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity.”[6] He further states, “All men of sound judgment will therefore hold, that a sense of Deity is indelibly engraved on the human heart.”[7] Part of Calvin’s argument is based on God’s special revelation in Scripture. But part of his observation is also based on human experience. Calvin wrote, “there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, [which] amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart.”[8] The problem is not with God’s clear revelation, but with the human heart which is negative to Him. For those possessed with negative volition have, as their habit, to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). The problem lies in the sinful heart that suppresses that revelation from God in order to pursue one’s sinful passions. The apostle Paul wrote: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." (Rom 1:21-23)      However, God is a perfect gentleman and never forces Himself on anyone. People are free to choose whether to accept Him or not. But if they reject what light God gives of Himself, He is not obligated to give them further light, as they will only continue to reject it. Of those who are negative to God, three times it is written that He “gave them over” to “the lusts of their hearts” (Rom 1:24), and “to degrading passions” (Rom 1:26), and “to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Rom 1:28). Once God permits a person to operate by his sinful passions, he is given a measure of freedom to live as he wants, but not without consequence.      God does not render final judgment upon the rebellious right away. Rather, God extends to them a common grace, which refers to the undeserved kindness or goodness He extends to everyone, regardless of whether they are righteous or unrighteous, good or evil. God’s common grace is seen in His provision of the necessities of life (i.e., sun, rain, air, food, water, clothing, etc.). This grace depends totally on God and not the attitude or actions of others. Jesus said of His Father, that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). Paul affirmed this grace, saying, “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways [in rebellion]; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17). Here, God’s grace is most obvious, in that He provides the necessities of life and even blesses those who are unsaved and hostile toward Him. His love and open-handedness toward the undeserving springs completely out of the bounty of His own goodness. Part of the reason God is gracious and patient is that He “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). However, grace ends when the unbeliever dies, and if he has spent his life rejecting Christ as Savior, then afterward, he will stand before God’s judgment seat, and if his name is “not found written in the book of life”, then he will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15), where he will be for eternity. This final judgment is avoidable, if Jesus is accepted as one’s Savior. The Bible reveals: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)      To the heart that is positive to God and turns to Christ as Savior, He has revealed Himself in special ways in His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-3), and in Scripture (1 Th 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16-17). God’s special revelation gives us insights into realities we could never know on our own, except that God has revealed them to us in His Word in propositional terms. As we read the Bible in a plain manner, we come to realize that God exists as a trinity (or triunity), as God the Father (Gal 1:1; Eph 6:23; Phil 2:11), God the Son (Isa 7:14; 9:6; John 1:1, 8:58; 20:28; Col 2:9; Heb 1:8), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 2:11-12; 2 Cor 13:14). And that all three persons of the trinity are co-equal, co-infinite, and co-eternal, and worthy of all praise and honor and glory. The Bible also reveals that God personally created His universe and earth in six literal days (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:8-11). That He created the first humans, Adam and Eve, in His image, with value and purpose to serve as theocratic administrators over the earth (Gen 1:26-28). We have the ability to reason because we are made in the image of God, who also gave us language as a means of communicating with Him and each other (Gen 2:15-17, 23). God also created a host of spirit beings called angels, but one of them, Lucifer, rebelled against God and convinced other angels to do the same (Isa 14:12-14; Ezek 28:12-17). Fallen angels are called demons and belong to Satan’s ranks (Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7-9), and they influence the world of people in many ways in their thinking, values and behavior (1 Tim 4:1; Rev 16:13-14). Lucifer came to earth and convinced the first humans to rebel against God (Gen 3:1-7), took rulership over the earth (Luke 4:5-7; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2 1 John 5:19), and expanded his kingdom of darkness to include all unbelievers (Matt 13:36-40; John 8:44; Acts 26:18; Col 1:13-14). Adam and Eve’s sin brought about spiritual death (i.e., separation from God) and God cursed the earth as a judgment upon them (Gen 3:14-19). God’s judgment also explains why everything moves toward decay and physical death (i.e., the second law of thermodynamics). But God, because of His great mercy and love toward us, provided a solution to the problem of sin and spiritual death, and this through a Redeemer who would come and bear the penalty for our sins (Gen 3:15; Isa 7:14; 9:6; Matt 1:23; Luke 1:26-35; Gal 4:4; Heb 10:10, 14; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18; Rev 1:5). This Redeemer was Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity who became human (John 1:1, 14), who lived a sinless life (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 John 3:5), willingly died on a cross (John 10:17-18), was judged for all our sin (Heb 10:10, 14), and was buried and raised to life on the third day (1 Cor 15:3-4, 20), never to die again (Rom 6:9). After His redeeming work, Jesus ascended to heaven, where He awaits His return (Acts 1:9-11; cf. John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18). Jesus’ work on the cross opens the way for us to have forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7), and spiritual life (Eph 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3, 23), if we’ll trust in Him as our Savior (John 3:16; 20:31).      When a Philippian jailer asked the apostle Paul, “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), Paul gave the simple answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Act 16:31). Believing in Christ means we turn from trusting in anyone or anything as having any saving value (which is the meaning of repentance) and place our complete confidence in Christ to save, accepting Him and His work on the cross as all that is needed to have eternal life. Salvation comes to us by grace alone (it’s an undeserved gift), through faith alone (adding no works), in Christ alone (as the only One who saves). Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). God also promises us an eternal existence with Him in Heaven (John 14:1-3), who will eventually create a new heavens and earth, which will be marked by perfect righteousness (2 Pet 3:13), and be free from sin and death (Rev 21:1-5). God has already begun this restoration process, and this starts with the restoration of lost sinners to Himself, and progressing toward the complete and perfect restoration of the universe and earth.      If we accept God and His offer of salvation, we have a new relationship with Him, and this means we are part of His royal family. God also gives meaning to our lives and calls us to serve as His representatives in a fallen world. To reject God and His offer is to choose an eternal existence away from Him in the Lake of Fire. This is avoidable, if one turns to Christ as Savior, believing the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised again on the third day (1 Cor 15:3-4). Won’t you trust in Christ as your Savior and begin this new and wonderful life? I pray you do. Other recommended sources referenced in this lesson: Francis Schaeffer: Trilogy: https://smile.amazon.com/Francis-Schaeffer-Trilogy-Three-Essential/dp/0891075615 Francis Schaeffer: How Should Then Live - https://smile.amazon.com/Should-Then-Live-LAbri-Anniversary-ebook/dp/B00IFG0AD8 Francis Schaeffer: How Should Then Live Ten Part Video Series - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpPMMb50QcE&list=PLP0lSOp9RORx7W0REI8SVK2CNIrMjhS_T James Sire: The Universe Next Door - https://www.amazon.com/Universe-Next-Door-Worldview-Catalog-ebook/dp/B084L3SQDY Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Human Emotions - https://www.amazon.com/Existentialism-Human-Emotion-Philosophical-Library/dp/0806509023 The Humanist Manifesto - https://smile.amazon.com/Humanist-Manifesto-2000-Planetary-Humanism/dp/157392783X Steve’s Blog: https://thinkingonscripture.com/ Steve’s Books: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B005FSY6XO Steve’s Audio Lessons: https://thinkingonscripture.com/audio-video/   [1] Mark Twain, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, edited by Michael J. Kiskis (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, WI, 2013), 28. [2] Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship” from Mysticism and Logic (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1917). [3] Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture, 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 167. [4] Ibid., 170. [5] Ibid., 145. [6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), 1.3.1 [7] Ibid., 1.3.3 [8] Ibid., 1.3.1

Sunday Jul 31, 2022

Positive and Negative Volition In this lesson, Dr. Cook continues his study of positive and negative volition as it's revealed in Scripture. Below are examples of negative and positive volition in the Bible.  Examples of negative volition include The antediluvian generation (Gen 6:5-13; 2 Pet 2:5) The city of Sodom (Gen 13:13) The first generation of Israelites after the Exodus (Num 32:10-13; Deut 1:35) Israel during the Judges (Judg 17:6; 21:25) Solomon when he turned away from God and worshipped idols (1 Ki 11:1-10) Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam (1 Ki 12:26-33) Israel under the leadership of Ahab (1 Ki 16:29-33) Judah’s pre-exilic leaders (Jer 25:3) Jesus’ generation who rejected Him (John 3:19; 12:37; cf. Matt 23:37-38) The last generation of the church age (2 Tim 3:1-5) Unbelievers living during the Tribulation (Rev 9:20-21; 16:8-11). The last generation of the millennial kingdom (Rev 20:7-9). Examples of positive volition include Enoch, who walked with God (Gen 5:21-24) Noah, who obeyed the Lord (Gen 6:22) Moses, who led Israel out of Egypt (Ex 3:1—14:31) Joshua, who led Israel into the Promised Land (Josh 1:1-18) The Ninevites who responded positively to Jonah’s preaching (Jon 3:1-10) Elijah, who turned Israel back to the Lord (1 Ki 18:17-40) King Josiah, who delayed God’s judgment against Judah (2 Ki 22:1-20) The apostles (Matt 19:27-28) Saul, who believed in Jesus and spread the gospel (Acts 9:1-20). Conclusion      Every person we meet is either positive or negative to God and His Word. Though we are not neutral and try to persuade people to believe the gospel (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor 15:3-4; Eph 2:8-9), and live righteously (Rom 6:11-14; Tit 2:11-14), each person must choose to accept or reject the offer. Those who believe in Jesus will be forgiven all their sins (Eph 1:7), given eternal life (John 10:28), and will spend forever in heaven (John 14:1-4); and believers who pursue righteousness will be rewarded in eternity (1 Cor 3:10-15). Those who reject the gospel have no other way to be saved and will forever be separated from God in the Lake of Fire (John 3:18; Rev 20:11-15).    

Saturday Jul 30, 2022

Deuteronomy 28:15-68 Dr. Steven R. Cook Introduction      Concerning Deuteronomy chapter 28, Thomas Constable states, “This section of Deuteronomy (chapters 27-28) is one of the most important ones in Scripture because it records the two options open to Israel as she entered the Promised Land. Obedience to the revealed Word of God would result in blessing, but disobedience would result in blasting.”[1] Dwight Pentecost adds, “For understanding and explaining Israel’s history as recorded throughout the Old Testament, there are perhaps no more important chapters than Deuteronomy 28–30.”[2]      Moses, having previously stated God’s wonderful blessings for the obedient-to-the-Word Israelite (Deut 28:1-14), followed with God’s cursings that would come upon the one who was disobedient-to-the-Word (Deut 28:15-68). In Deuteronomy 28:15-68, Moses set forth the curses that God would bring upon Israel if they repeatedly violated His directives as found in the Deuteronomic law code. Moses used the Hebrew verb אָרָר arar six times, which means, “to bind with a curse.”[3] The form of the verb is passive, which meant a curse was received by the nation of Israel if they turned away from God. Victor Hamilton states that אָרָר arar means “to bind, hem in with obstacles, [or] render powerless to resist.”[4] The curses mentioned in Deuteronomy are reflexive of those who violate their covenant relationship with God. That is, they bring the curses on themselves by violating God’s Word.[5] God’s curses are His righteous response to unethical behavior among His people, and they could be avoided by simply walking in obedience with the Lord (Deut 28:15, 20, 45-47, 58-59, 62; 29:25-28; 30:17-18). If the Israelite was aligned with God’s Word in thought, speech, and conduct, it would open the channel for His blessing. However, if the Israelite turned from God’s path, it would open the channel of cursing. Dwight Pentecost states, “These curses were not viewed as punishment for disobedience as much as disciplines to bring a guilty people back to obedience to God.”[6] Jack Deere agrees, saying, “Each individual judgment essentially had one goal: to turn Israel from disobedience.”[7]However, the curses would lead to ultimate destruction if God’s people persisted in their sinful rebellion.      This lengthy section can be viewed in two parts: 1) a statement of curses that reverse all God’s blessing (Deut 28:15-19), and 2) specific descriptions of the curses that God will send on Israel until they are destroyed (Deut 28:20-22, 24, 45, 48, 51, 61). God’s judgment upon His people was self-inflicted because they would not obey Him (Deut 28:20, 45, 47, 62). God executed these curses at various times when His people were disobedient to the covenant (see Judg 2:20-22; Jer 6:19; 11:9-11; 29:15-20; 34:17-20; Dan 9:4-6; Hos 8:1-3).      The transmission of God’s law to subsequent generations was primarily the responsibility of the parents (Deut 6:1-9), and priests (Lev 10:8-11; Ezra 7:10; Mal 2:7). Failure to teach God’s law to subsequent generations of Israelites would create a theological vacuum in their souls which Satan would gladly fill. If God’s people operated by unethical standards, His judgments would fall upon them. God held His people accountable for their ethical behavior, even if/when the majority did not know or abide by His laws, as ignorance did not protect them from His judgments (see 2 Ki 22:1-13). However, His judgments did not happen right away, as God would send ample warnings through His prophets, who occasionally functioned as a prosecuting attorney (רִיב rib),[8] pointing out their violation of the law and the impending consequences if they did not turn back to the Lord (i.e., repent). When God’s prophet functioned as a prosecuting attorney for the Lord, he would present God’s case before the people (Hos 4:1-3; 12:2; Mic 6:1-2). The Hebrew verb רִיב rib, when used by the prophet, denotes “God’s lawsuit…against His own people.”[9] According to Earl Radmacher, “The Hebrew word refers to a formal complaint charging Israel with breaking the covenant.”[10] If Israel persisted in sin, God would execute His judgments in ever increasing severity, until they were eventually destroyed and removed from the land. Historically, we know God destroyed the ten northern tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. because His people had broken covenant with the Lord, and this occurred after repeated warnings through His prophets (2 Ki 17:1-23). The same judgment fell upon the two southern tribes of Judah in 586 B.C. when God raised up the Babylonians to defeat His people and take them into captivity (2 Ki 24:8-16), and this happened after repeated warnings by His prophets (Jer 7:25-26; 25:4-11; 29:18-19). Warren Wiersbe states: "The fact that Israel is God’s chosen people and a special nation explains why He chastens them, for the greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility. “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2). Divine election isn’t an excuse for human rebellion. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48)."[11]     [1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Dt 28:58. [2] J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises throughout History (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995), 105. [3] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 91. [4] Victor P. Hamilton, “168 אָרַר,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 75. [5] We observe in Deuteronomy 27 how the verb אָרָר arar came upon the one who practiced idolatry (Deut 27:15), dishonored parents (Deut 27:16), secretly stole from a neighbor (Deut 27:17), injured the disabled (Deut 27:18), distorted justice due to the alien, orphan, or widow (Deut 27:19), practiced sexual perversion (Deut 27:20-23), secretly struck a neighbor (Deut 27:24), accepted a bribe to kill the innocent (Deut 27:25), or disobeyed any of God’s laws (Deut 27:26). [6] J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, 106. [7] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 312. [8] The Hebrew verb רִיב rib is used some places in Scripture in a non-legal sense of people who fight with each other (Gen 13:7; Ex 17:7; Jer 15:10), as well as a legal sense in which one person takes up a lawsuit or legal case against another (Deut 17:8; 19:17; 21:5). [9] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1226. [10] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 1029. [11] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Equipped, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1999), 170–171.

Saturday Jul 30, 2022

Positive and Negative Volition      Volition is the ability to act within a sphere of freedom and in accordance with one’s desires. There are three categories of volition in existence: God’s volition (Isa 46:8-11; cf. Gen 1:1-31), angelic volition (Psa 103:20), and human volition (Gen 1:26-28). God’s volition is absolute, immutable, and always operates in concert with His divine attributes. And, according to His sovereignty, He created intelligent and moral beings—angels and people—with the ability to obey or resist His directive will. In fact, Lucifer and a third of the angels exercised their volition against God and caused a bifurcation in the angelic realm (Isa 14:12-14; Rev 12:7; cf. Matt 25:41). Two thirds of the angels exercised their volition to stay with God, and these continue as holy angels to do His will (Matt 16:27; 26:53; 1 Tim 5:21; Heb 1:14). As Scripture reveals, Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey God, and this brought sin and death into the creation (Gen 3:1-8; Rom 5:12; 8:20-22), with the result that every person is born with a sinful nature and proclivity to sin (Jer 17:9; Matt 7:11; Rom 7:18-21; Gal 5:16-17; Eph 2:1-3). However, God has dealt with the sin problem through the life, death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:3-4), who paid our sin debt (Col 2:13-14), and liberates us who have trusted in Jesus as Savior (Rom 8:1-4), so that we might not be controlled by sin, but will pursue righteousness (Rom 6:5-13; 1 Pet 2:24).      The tendency of people who operate on negative volition is to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18), and to operate by a worldly wisdom that is not “from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (Jam 3:15). The vast majority of humanity will not choose a relationship with God nor a walk with Him (Matt 7:13-14).      When God’s Word is dethroned from the mind of the believer, other forces will dominate for the worse. God’s desire for the Christian is to develop his/her character so that righteousness, goodness, grace and love flow easily and with continuity of expression. If the character is good then the behavior will be good, for it follows that a person with an honest character will easily and consistently behave in an honest manner, and a person with a loving character will easily and consistently behave in a loving manner. But good character does not automatically occur in the life of the Christian, nor does it happen overnight; rather, it matures over a lifetime as we make many good choices to walk in step with God and let His good Word transform us from the inside out. But we should be aware that it is possible to abuse our liberty and make bad choices with the result that we weaken the will and forfeit our freedoms (the addict knows this to be true). Not only that, but bad choices and abuses of freedom bring harm to others within our periphery; for this reason, Scripture states, “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13).      Unbelievers who love their moral depravity will naturally stand against those who are children of God and who love righteousness. This is why Scripture states, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Those who set their wills against God will not listen to the Christian who comes with His message; however, they will listen to their own. The apostle John tells us about those who walk in darkness, saying, “They are from the world; therefore, they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:5). That is, there are those who operate from presuppositions and values that are cosmocentric, which exclude or pervert serious consideration and discussion about God, refusing to give Him any say over their lives. When confronted with divine revelation, the person who is negative to God either denies His existence (Psa 14:1), or reduces Him to the status of a creature (Rom 1:22-25). And the person who is negative to God can be simultaneously immoral and religious (2 Tim 3:1-5).  

Wednesday Jul 27, 2022

     We live in a divided world. I’m speaking about a division between believers and unbelievers, children of God and children of the devil. Jesus gave this picture when He explained the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:24-30). Afterwards, when Jesus was alone with His disciples, they asked for an explanation of the parable (Matt 13:36), and He said: "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matt 13:37-43).      In this revelation we understand: 1) God the Son has sown good seed in the world, which are believers, 2) Satan has sown weeds, which are unbelievers, 3) both live side by side until Christ returns at the end of the age, 4) at which time Jesus will send forth His angels to separate out all unbelievers, 5) which unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, and 6) believers will enter into the millennial kingdom. We have here a picture of the current state of the world which consists of believers and unbelievers. The current state ends at the return of Christ when He renders judgment upon unbelievers and establishes His earthly kingdom.      For the present time, Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19), and we are all born under “the dominion of Satan” (Act 26:18), into his “domain of darkness” (Col 1:13). Our spiritual state changes at the time we turn to Christ and trust Him as Savior (1 Cor 15:3-4). At the moment of faith in Christ, we became “children of God” (John 1:12), are transferred to the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13), forgiven all our sins (Eph 1:7), given eternal life (John 10:28), the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9), and the power to live holy (Rom 6:11-14). And, it is God’s will that we advance to spiritual maturity (Heb 6:1; Eph 4:11-13; 1 Pet 2:2), and serve as His ambassadors to others (2 Cor 5:20).      Are Christians called to make the world a better place? As Christians, our primary focus is evangelism and discipleship (Mark 16:15; Matt 28:19-20), not the reformation of society. Christians are to be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Eph 2:10; Tit 2:11-14), and in this way, society is better as a result. However, the reality is we live in a fallen world that is currently under Satan’s limited rule, and God sovereignly permits this for a time. True good is connected with God and His Word, and His good is executed by those who walk according to His directives. But there are many who reject God and follow Satan’s world-system, which system is always pressuring the Christian to conform (Rom 12:1-2). A permanent world-fix will not occur until Christ returns and puts down all rebellion, both satanic and human (Rev 19:11-21; 20:1-3). Those who are biblically minded live in this reality. As a result, our hope is never in this world; rather, we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit 2:13). We are looking forward to the time when Christ raptures us from this world to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18). This will be followed by seven years of Tribulation in which God will judge Satan’s world and those who abide by his philosophies and values (see Revelation chapters 6-19). Afterwards, Christ will rule the world for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-7), and shortly after that, God will destroy the current heavens and earth and create a new heavens and earth. This is what Peter is referring to when he says, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Isa 65:17; Rev 21:1). Our present and future hope is in God and what He will accomplish, and not in anything this world has to offer. As Christians, we are “not of the world” (John 17:14; cf. 1 John 4:4-5), though it’s God’s will that we continue to live in it (John 17:15), and to serve “as lights in the world” (Phi 2:15), that others might know the gospel of grace and learn His Word and walk by faith. This understanding is shaped by God’s Word, which determines our worldview.      How are we to see ourselves in this present world? In the dispensation of the church age, we understand people are either in Adam or in Christ (1 Cor 15:21-22). Everyone is originally born in Adam (Rom 5:12), but those who have trusted in Jesus as Savior are now identified with Christ (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Co 5:17; Rom 8:1; Gal 3:28; Eph 1:3). This twofold division will exist until Christ returns. Furthermore, we are never going to fix the devil or the world-system he’s created. Because the majority of people in this world will choose the broad path of destruction that leads away from Christ (Matt 7:13-14), Satan and his purposes will predominate, and Christians will be outsiders. And being children of God, we are told the world will be a hostile place (John 15:19; 1 John 3:13). There will always be haters. Until Christ returns, Satan will control the majority, and these will be hostile to Christians who walk according to God’s truth and love.      How should we respond to the world? The challenge for us as Christians is not to let the bullies of this world intimidate us into silence or inaction. And, of course, we must be careful not to become bitter, fearful, or hateful like those who attack us. Haters will hate. It’s what they do. But the Bible teaches us to love those who hate us (Matt 5:44-45; Rom 12:14, 17-21), and we are to be kind, patient, and gentle (2 Tim 2:24-26; cf. Eph 4:1-2; Col 3:13-14). What we need is courage. Courage that is loving, kind, and faithful to share the gospel of grace and to speak biblical truth. The hope is that those who are positive to God can be rescued from Satan’s domain of darkness. We can also live in the reality that God’s plans will advance. He will win. His future kingdom on earth will come to pass. Christ will return. Jesus will put down all forms of rebellion—both satanic and human—and will rule this world with perfect righteousness and justice. But until then, we must continue to learn and live God’s Word and fight the good fight. We are to live by faith (Heb 10:38; 11:6), share the gospel of grace (1 Cor 15:3-4), disciple others (Matt 28:19-20), be good and do good (Gal 6:9-10; Tit 2:11-14), and look forward to the return of Christ at the rapture (Tit 2:13; cf. John 14:1-3; 1 Th 4:13-18).    

Monday Jul 25, 2022

     According to Scripture, all mankind is fallen, corrupted by sin, and our natural proclivity is to think and act in conformity with Satan’s world-system, which is everywhere and always at odds with God and His plan.      The book of Genesis reveals that God created Adam perfect and assigned him to serve as His theocratic administrator over His creation. This meant Adam was to exercise responsible dominion over the creation (Gen 1:26-30; 2:7-8, 15-17), and Eve was created to help him, to stand with him to do God’s will (Gen 2:18-25). But Satan, possessing a serpent—a subordinate creature that would have posed little threat to Adam and Eve—tempted them to act contrary to God and His commands. Henry Morris says, “Demonic spirits evidently have the ability, under certain conditions, to indwell or ‘possess’ either human bodies or animal bodies (Luke 8:33); and Satan on this occasion chose the serpent as the one most suitable for his purposes.”[1] The serpent here is identified as “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9; cf. Rev 20:2).      Satan was shrewd and intentional in his attack as he approached the woman and questioned her understanding of God’s command, asking, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” (Gen 3:1). And Eve answered, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Gen 3:2-3). According to Allen Ross, “Eve disparaged the privileges, added to the prohibition, and weakened the penalty—all seen by contrasting her words (Gen. 3:3) with God’s original commands (2:16-17).”[2]      When Satan heard Eve misrepresent God’s instructions (Gen 2:16-17), he boldly advanced his argument, saying, “You surely will not die!” (Gen 3:4), calling God a liar, stating, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5). Satan’s argument was that God was withholding divinity from Adam and Eve, and if they were willing to eat the fruit, they could be like God, which was the same mental attitude sin committed by Lucifer at his fall (Isa 14:12-14). Here, Eve was confronted with an antithetical claim to what the Lord had told her, but rather than seek the Lord about the matter, she let Satan convince her to abandon faith in God and operate independently of Him. The influence of Satan brought an epistemological shift in Eve’s thinking, and rather than seeing the tree from the divine perspective as harmful, she saw it as attractive, that is “was good for food…a delight to the eyes…[and] desirable to make one wise” (Gen 3:6a). Being deceived by Satan’s argument, “she took from its fruit and ate” (Gen 3:6b; 1 Tim 2:14). Eve then “gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6c), and Satan’s strategy to advance his kingdom of darkness and take possession of the world and humanity was complete.      Adam and Eve became aware of their failure, as “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen 3:7). Remembering they were to “multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28), According to Morris, Adam and Eve “realized that the very fountainhead of human life had now become corrupted by their disobedience and they became acutely aware of their nakedness. Their children would all be contaminated with the seed of rebellion, so that their feeling of guilt centered especially on their own procreative organs.”[3]      Spiritual death (i.e., separation from God) brought an irrational shift in their theology as well as their behavior as they sought to hide from the Lord (Gen 3:8-9), saying, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Gen 3:10; cf. Jer 23:24).      When confronted about their sin (Gen 3:11), Adam blamed his wife as well as God, saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12), and Eve blamed the creature, saying, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen 3:13). Hiding from God and shifting blame for sin are common characteristics of mankind’s fallenness.      The serpent was judged by God and physically changed to crawl on its belly as a perpetual reminder to mankind about the fall (Gen 3:14). Here, the curse was actually against Satan, who possessed the serpent, as the Lord declared, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen 3:15). Having brought Adam and Eve under his control, it is possible Satan thought he would gain total control over all their children, but the Lord had other plans and made it known to Satan there would be “enmity” between him and the woman, as well as his “seed and her seed; [and] he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” This verse is commonly referred to as the protoevangelium—the first gospel—because God promised there would come a “seed” from the woman’s line who would defeat Satan and disrupt his kingdom.[4]      God pronounced judgment upon Adam, Eve and the creation. Eve’s judgment was that she would have increased “pain in childbirth” and that her husband would “rule over her” (Gen 3:16), and the ground that Adam was to cultivate would be cursed, and “in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17-19).      Though atheists and liberal theologians treat the first eleven chapters of Genesis as myth, the NT writers treat Adam and Eve as historical persons and the fall as literal. Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam (Luke 3:38), and Jesus based His argument on marriage on the first human couple (Matt 19:4-6). Paul also states, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). And Paul wrote, “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim 2:14). Paul argued that through Adam “sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12; cf. 1 Cor 15:21). And all humanity is said either to be in Adam or in Christ, and this determines whether we are spiritually alive or dead, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Adam’s sin brought corruption and decay into the whole universe, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom 8:20-22). We now live in a very flawed world with sinful people and all sorts of problems. Henry Morris comments: "Things are not 'very good' in the world now! In the physical realm, everything tends to run down and wear out. In the living world, each animal is engaged in a perpetual struggle against other animals and against disease, as well as the universal process of aging and death. Culturally, one civilization after another seems to rise for a time, then decline and die. In the spiritual and moral realm, each individual invariably finds it easier to do wrong than right, easier to drift downward than to struggle upward. The world is full of hatred, crime, war, pollution, selfishness, corruption—evil of all kinds. Something has gone wrong with God’s perfect creation."[5] The Effects of the Fall      The historic fall of Adam and Eve fundamentally changed the human race and the world, resulting in disease, decay and death among all living things, and that the tendency of humanity is to behave in a spiritually and morally corrupt manner, suppressing God’s truth and rejecting His solutions to life’s problems. Understanding this helps us make sense of the world in which we live and why people behave the way they do.      Sin is a dominant theme from Genesis chapter three to the end of the Bible, at which time God will do away with sin and its effects, creating a “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1). The word sin is found throughout Scripture, and both the Hebrew and Greek share the same basic meaning. The Hebrew word חָטָא chata means “to miss the target, or to lose the way,”[6] and the Greek ἁμαρτάνω hamartano is defined as “miss the mark, err, or do wrong.”[7] Sin is when we transgress God’s law and depart from His intended path.[8] The apostle John states, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Merrill Unger writes, “The underlying idea of sin is that of law and of a lawgiver. The lawgiver is God. Hence sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God (Rom 3:20; 4:15; 7:7; Jam 4:12, 17).”[9]      Sin impacts all things including family life, nature, economics, society, law, politics, science, education, etc. All sin and evil exist in connection with the willful creatures who manufacture it, and its effects can be short or long-lasting. Even the creation is cursed because of Adam’s sin, as the Lord told him, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17), to which Paul added, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom 8:20-22). Sin negatively impacts everyone and everything, and no one was impacted or hurt more by sin than God. On several occasions we read, “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen 6:6), and though God loved Israel, their ongoing sin “grieved His Holy Spirit” (Isa 63:10). As Christians, we are commanded, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). Sin ultimately cost God His Son, who came into the world and died on a cross in order to atone for it (Mark 10:45; John 3:16; 10:14-18; Rom 8:32; 1 John 4:10), and to set us free from spiritual slavery (Rom 6:6; Gal 5:1; Heb 2:14-15).      The Bible reveals we are sinners in Adam, sinners by nature, and sinners by choice. To be a sinner in Adam means we sinned when he sinned, that his fallen position is our fallen position, and his guilt is our guilt (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-24; Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22). This is commonly referred to as original sin. Since the fall of Adam, every person is born with a sin nature (except Jesus),[10] and it is this nature that internally motivates people to rebel against all legitimate forms of authority, both human and divine. More so, the sin nature is not eradicated from the believer during his time on earth, nor is it ever reformed, as though it can be made to love God. To be a sinner by nature means it’s our innate tendency to sin (Jer 17:9; Matt 7:11; Rom 7:18-21; Eph 2:1-3). To be a sinner by choice means we personally choose to act contrary to God and His revealed will (1 Ki 8:46; Prov 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 53:6; Rom 3:10-12; 1 John 1:10). Cumulatively these reveal that we are totally depraved, which means sin permeates and corrupts every aspect of our being, including our mind, will, sensibilities and flesh. Though we may be moral to the best of our ability and others may applaud us for our good deeds, our best efforts are tainted by sin and have no saving merit before God (Isa 64:6; Rom 4:1-5; 5:6-10; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5).      One of the major areas where sin impacts us is in the mind, which theologians refer to as the noetic effects of sin. This means sin impacts our ability to think rationally, especially about God, who has made Himself known through general revelation (Psa 19:1-2; Rom 1:18-20) and special revelation (1 Cor 14:37; 1 Tim 5:18; 1 Th 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16-17). The majority of people throughout history think evil thoughts and are consumed with themselves and their own agendas rather than God’s will. Of Noah’s generation it is said, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). Later, Solomon declared, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccl 9:3). And Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). And Jesus Himself spoke of the human condition, saying, “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] slanders” (Matt 15:19). One would think that when Jesus came into the world that mankind would rejoice in His light; however, Scripture provides a different picture, telling us, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19; cf. 1:4-5). When talking to religious Pharisees, Jesus declared, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word” (John 8:43). This is true of all unbelievers, for “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor 2:14). Even something as simple as the Gospel message is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18), in whose case “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:3-4). The tendency of fallen people who operate on negative volition is to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18), and to operate by a worldly wisdom that is not “from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (Jam 3:15).      At the moment of salvation, God the Holy Spirit indwells us and gives us a new nature that, for the first time in our lives, has the desire and capacity to obey God; however, the sin nature is not removed, and so we experience ongoing internal conflict between these opposing natures (Gal 5:17; Rom 7:14-23). As Christians, we are directed to “lay aside the old self…and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:22, 24). Since we have been “born again” and given new life (1 Pet 1:3, 23), the sin nature no longer has domineering power over us, and we can choose a life of righteousness (Rom 6:5-13). As we grow spiritually, we will be transformed from the inside out and gradually become more and more righteous as we walk with God. Sinless perfection will not be attained until we leave this world, by death or by Rapture, and are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29), who will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phi 3:21). Until then, we are commanded to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom 13:14). We do this by choosing to live according to the Spirit’s guiding, and starving the monster that is our sin nature. To “make no provision for the flesh” means we stop exposing ourselves to the things of the world that excite the flesh and lead to sinful behavior. The positive action is to grow spiritually with biblical teaching (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18), Christian fellowship (Heb 10:23-25), selfless living (Phil 2:3-4), prayer (1 Th 5:17), worship (Heb 13:15), and doing good (Gal 6:10; Heb 13:16). It is only by spiritual growth and drawing closer to God that we learn to glorify the Lord and live in righteousness.   [1] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1976), 108. [2] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 32. [3] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, 115. [4] Of course, we know this to be Jesus, the Messiah (Luke 1:26-33), and His victory occurred at the cross, where “the ruler of this world has been judged” and defeated (John 16:11; cf. Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Satan and his angels will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10). [5] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, 105. [6] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 305. [7] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 49. [8] In Judges 20:16 the Hebrew word is used of skilled soldiers who do not miss their target, and in Proverbs 19:2 of a man who hurries and misses his way. [9] Merrill F. Unger and E. McChesney, “Sin,” ed. R.K. Harrison, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 1198. [10] According to Scripture, Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), was “without sin” (Heb 4:15), and “in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). His sinless life qualified Him as a perfect sacrifice to go to the cross and die as a substitute for others (Rom 5:6-10; Heb 10:1-14; 1 Pet 3:18).

Sunday Jul 24, 2022

Jeremiah 49:28-39 Steven R. Cook      God, who is “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen 18:25), had called Jeremiah to be His prophet, both to the Gentile nations (Jer 1:5, 10) and Judah (Jer 1:15-18; 2:1-2). Because Judah was in a special covenant relationship with God, Jeremiah was commissioned to speak to them first and to pronounce God’s “judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands” (Jer 1:16). The first part of the book of Jeremiah was written primarily to Judah (Jeremiah chapters 2-45). But after God judged His people, He fixed His canons against the surrounding Gentile nations (Jeremiah chapters 46-52). God, having already judged Egypt (Jer 46:1-26), Philistia (Jer 47:1-7), Moab (Jer 48:1-47), Ammon (Jer 49:1-6), Edom (Jer 49:7-22), and Damascus (Jer 49:23-27), now renders His judgments against Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor (Jer 49:28-33), and Elam (Jer 49:34-39). Judgment Against Kedar, Hazor, and the Men of the East      Jeremiah opens this pericope with a prophecy “Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated. Thus says the LORD, ‘Arise, go up to Kedar and devastate the men of the east’” (Jer 49:28). The Kedarites were a nomadic people descended from Ishmael (Gen 25:13), who later became known for their archery skills (Isa 21:16-17). They were also shepherds (Isa 60:7), lovers of war (Psa 120:5-7), and lived in unprotected villages (Jer 49:31). According to Radmacher, “The phrase men of the East is associated with the Arameans, Midianites, Amalekites, and other nomadic desert tribes (Gen 29:1; Judg 7:12).”[1] Though this passage refers to Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, it’s message is to Nebuchadnezzar, as the Lord instructs him to attack and destroy the men of this region. The word devastate translates the Hebrew verb שָׁדָד shadad, which means “to devastate, despoil, deal violently with.”[2] Keeping God’s sovereignty in primary view, the Babylonians never functioned as an independent power to do as they pleased, but were under God’s sovereign control to serve as His agent of judgment against others. Interestingly, the same verb is used later to described God’s judgments against the Babylonians (Jer 51:48, 53, 55-56).      When God called the Babylonians to come against the Kedarites, we are told, “They will take away their tents and their flocks; they will carry off for themselves their tent curtains, all their goods and their camels, and they will call out to one another, ‘Terror on every side!’” (Jer 49:29). And the advice God gave to the Kedarites was, ‘“Run away, flee! Dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Hazor,’ declares the LORD; ‘For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has formed a plan against you and devised a scheme against you’” (Jer 49:30). Though the men of Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor would run for their lives, they could escape God’s judgment upon them. Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had raised up as His instrument of judgment, was unaware of God’s invisible hand that would guide him to victory.      The Lord guided Nebuchadnezzar, saying, ‘“Arise, go up against a nation which is at ease, which lives securely,’ declares the LORD. ‘It has no gates or bars; they dwell alone. 32 Their camels will become plunder, and their many cattle for booty, and I will scatter to all the winds those who cut the corners of their hair; and I will bring their disaster from every side,’ declares the LORD” (Jer 49:31-32). The picture portrays the Kedarites and their neighbors as overly self-confident, at ease, living securely, not needing gates or bars for protection, and dwelling alone. Nebuchadnezzar would exploit this weakness and take their possessions as plunder.      Most importantly in these verses is the revelation that the Lord Himself is the primary causal agent who brings judgment, saying, “I will scatter to all the winds” and “I will bring their disaster from every side” (Jer 49:32). God controls history according to His sovereign purposes. The end result of God’s judgment would be that “Hazor will become a haunt of jackals, a desolation forever; no one will live there, nor will a son of man reside in it” (Jer 49:33). Judgment Against Elam      Next, we are told about God’s judgment against Elam, as Jeremiah wrote, “That which came as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying: 35 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, I am going to break the bow of Elam, the finest of their might’” (Jer 49:34-35). Elam was located about two hundred miles to the east of Babylon, in what today would be part of Iran. According to Huey, “It was conquered by the Assyrians under Ashurbanipal, ca. 640 B.C., but regained its independence with Assyria’s collapse. It joined forces with Nabopolassar to destroy Nineveh in 612 B.C. The Babylonian Chronicle seems to indicate there was a conflict between Nebuchadnezzar and Elam, 596–594. In 539 the Elamites helped overthrow the Babylonian Empire.”[3]      Just as God had declared judgment against Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor, so He sovereignly declared, “I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four ends of heaven, and will scatter them to all these winds; and there will be no nation to which the outcasts of Elam will not go” (Jer 49:36). Here is another reminder that God is the One who sets up kings and kingdoms and determines their duration of existence (see Dan 2:21; 4:25). And the Lord continued, saying, “So I will shatter Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their lives; and I will bring calamity upon them, even My fierce anger,’ declares the LORD, ‘And I will send out the sword after them until I have consumed them. 38 Then I will set My throne in Elam and destroy out of it king and princes,’ declares the LORD” (Jer 49:37-38). However, the God who promised to destroy Edom, also gave a promise of a future hope by restoring the nation. The Lord declared, ‘“But it will come about in the last days that I will restore the fortunes of Elam,’ Declares the LORD” (Jer 49:39). Here is a message of hope, as the God who chose to bring a nation down, also chose to elevate it again. The truth is all nations are subject to God’s sovereign rule, and their moral or immoral behavior will be met with His blessings or cursings. Present Application      The Bible reveals “God is the King of all the earth…He reigns over the nations; He sits on His holy throne” (Psa 47:7-8). It is God “who changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan 2:21; cf., Dan 4:17, 35). Furthermore, “The LORD is King forever and ever” (Psa 10:16a), for the “LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psa 103:19), and He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11b), and “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psa 135:6). As sovereign God, He judges His world in righteousness.      When individuals, groups, cities, and nations turn away from God, He will judge them according to His righteous character and moral laws. We know from Scripture that “the LORD is righteous, [and] He loves righteousness” (Psa 11:7), and “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Psa 119:137). For God, righteousness is an attribute, an inherent quality, not the adherence to laws beyond Himself (of which there are none). The righteousness of God may be defined as the intrinsic, immutable, moral perfection of God, from which He commands all things, in heaven and earth, and declares as good that which conforms to His righteousness and as evil that which deviates. Righteousness and justice are related words. The former speaks of God’s moral character, whereas the latter speaks of the actions that flow out of His character. Whatever God’s righteousness requires, His justice executes; either to approve or reject, to bless or condemn. God is “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen 18:25), and He “is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Psa 7:11).      Though God judges, He is not One to judge quickly. It is written, “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Psa 86:15), and “the LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness” (Psa 145:8). Peter reveals that God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). In this way, God is quick to warn and slow to judge. But God is not patient forever, and there are multiple accounts of judgment throughout Scripture. God judged the antediluvian world (Gen 6:1-7, 11-13; 7:21-24), the rebels at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9), the wicked citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24-25), the Egyptians (Deut 26:6-8; cf. Gen 15:13-14), the Canaanites (Lev 18:25; Deut 9:5), and the Babylonians (Jer 25:11-12). The book of Obadiah was written against the Edomites (Oba 1:1), and Nahum against the Ninevites (Nah 1:1). When Jesus was on the earth at the time of His first coming, He judged the religious leaders of his day (Matt 23:1-36), and pronounced judgment upon the nation of Israel for having rejected Him as their Messiah (Matt 23:37-39). In the future, God will judge Gentiles based on how they treat persecuted Jewish believers during the Tribulation (Matt 25:31-46). And God will judge all unbelievers at the Great White Throne judgment and will cast them into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:11-15). God has also judged Satan (John 16:11), and will punish him in the future (Matt 25:41; Rev 20:10). On What Basis Does God Judge Israel and Gentile Nations?      As a nation, Israel was and is unique in human history, for it’s the only nation that was created by God as a theocracy. Speaking to Israel, God said, “I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King” (Isa 43:15; cf. Isa 43:1). Israel was a theocracy, and God was their Judge, Lawgiver, and King (Isa 33:22). As such, God gave Israel specific laws to direct their lives (Lev 27:34). The Mosaic Law was the standard by which Israel lived rightly before the Lord and was the basis for blessing or cursing, depending on their obedience or disobedience to His directives (Deut 11:26-28). Reading through Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, First and Second Kings, and all the OT prophets, one can see a consistent pattern of God blessing or cursing His people depending on whether they obeyed or disobeyed His written directives. God was extremely patient with His people when they disobeyed, repeatedly warning them about His coming judgments, but the historical trend was that of rebellion (Jer 25:4-7). Because of rampant idolatry, human sacrifice, and other egregious sins, God eventually destroyed the ten northern tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. (2 Ki 17:7-23), and the two southern tribes of Judah in 586 B.C. (Jer 25:8-11). The fear of the Lord and obedience to Him would have prevented their destruction, but the nation chose otherwise.      The Gentile nations did not possess the Mosaic Law as Israel did; however, a Gentile nation could be blessed or cursed, and this depended on at least two factors. First, God would bless or curse a Gentile nation depending on how it treated Israel. God told Abraham, the progenitor of Israel, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse” (Gen 12:3). According to Allen Ross, “Those who blessed Abram would receive blessing from God; that is, those who supported and endorsed him in his faith would actually find enrichment. Conversely, if anyone treated Abram lightly, he must be cursed.”[4] God’s promise to bless or curse was based on the covenant that started with Abraham and extended to his descendants forever (Gen 17:7).[5] Concerning the curse, Arnold Fruchtenbaum states: "The first word for curse is kalal, which means “to treat lightly,” “to hold in contempt,” or “to curse.” To merely treat Abram and the Jews lightly is to incur the curse of God. The second word for curse used in this phrase (him that curses you will I curse) is aor, from the Hebrew root arah, which means “to impose a barrier,” “to ban.” This is a much stronger word for curse than the first one in the phrase…Therefore, even a light curse against Abram or against the Jews will bring a heavier curse from God."[6]      Second, a Gentile nation could be blessed or cursed depending on whether they pursued godly virtues or wickedness. Scripture reveals, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov 14:34). Biblically, there is a sense in which God’s laws are written on the hearts of all people. Paul wrote, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom 2:14-15).[7] God has placed within each person a moral sense of right and wrong. Everyone knows it’s right to be honest, kind, courteous, patient, helpful to the weak, honoring to parents, faithful to one’s spouse, etc. On the other hand, everyone knows it’s wrong to murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, etc.[8] And how people behave collectively has results upon their city or nation. The Lord told Jeremiah, “At one moment I might speak concerning a nation [גּוֹי goy] or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it” (Jer 18:7-8). This is what happened when Jonah preached God’s message of pending judgment to the Ninevites (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:1-4), and when they believed and repented (Jonah 3:5-9), He relented (Jonah 3:10). There is hope for any nation that has turned away from God, but only if the leadership and people turn to God and pursue righteousness in conformity with His character.      What influence do we, as Christians, have on our country? As God’s people living in the dispensation of the church age, He directs us to learn and live His Word (2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17), live by faith (Heb 10:38; 11:6), advance to spiritual maturity (Eph 4:11-16; 1 Pet 2:2), share the gospel (Mark 16:15; 1 Cor 15:3-4), make disciples (Matt 28:19-20), live holy lives (1 Pet 1:15-16), and do good (Gal 6:10; Tit 2:11-14). In this way, God may use us to help shape our nation in godly ways, which will influence its educational, political, economic, and social views for the better. We are, after all, to be a light to the world (Matt 5:14; Eph 5:8).   [1] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 942. [2] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1419. [3] F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 406. [4] Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 263. [5] To love Israel is not a blanket endorsement of all their beliefs and behaviors. God, who loves Israel and chose them to be His people (Deut 7:6-8), also called them to be holy (Ex 19:5-6; Lev 11:45), and promised blessing or cursing, based on their obedience or disobedience to Him (Deut 28:1-68). Israel can and does fail, often rejecting God’s love for them and walking in the ways of the world (see 2 Ch 36:15-16; Jer 7:25-26; 25:4-7; Ezek 16; Matt 23:1-39; Acts 7:51-53; 1 Th 2:14-16). The national rejection and crucifixion of Jesus (Matt 27:22-23; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28), Israel’s promised Messiah (Deut 18:15; Isa 7:14; 9:6-7;53; 61:1; Matt 1:1, 17; Luke 1:31-33), was their greatest failure. Did Israel act alone in crucifying Jesus, their Messiah? No! God foretold Israel’s Messiah would suffer and die (Psa 22:11-18; Isa 53); and, according to His sovereignty, He used wicked men, both Jews and Gentiles, to accomplish His will (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28). [6] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ariel’s Bible Commentary: The Book of Genesis, 1st ed. (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2008), 242. [7] The human conscience, when working properly, serves as a moral compass. But because of willful and persistent sin, the conscience can become weak (1 Cor 8:7), callous (1 Tim 4:2), defiled (Tit 1:15), or evil (Heb 10:22). Persistent sin can damage the conscience so that it fails to operate properly. [8] The unbeliever can live morally according to the dictates of a healthy conscience, and though not saved, can receive some blessings in this life. Conversely, a Christian can turn away from the faith and pursue wickedness, and this results in divine discipline and the forfeiture of eternal rewards.

Saturday Jul 23, 2022

Introduction      Deuteronomy 28:1-68 presents the blessings and cursings of the bilateral Mosaic Covenant (בְּרִית berith) which God promised to bring upon Israel depending on their obedience or disobedience to His commands. God’s written directives assume the integrity of language in which His meaning was infused in the words and phrases He selected, and that language itself served as a reliable vehicle concerning His expectations. The Israelites were responsible to know what was communicated and would be blessed or cursed based on whether they responded to it positively or negatively. God’s directives meant there were fixed categories of blessing and cursing, which allowed the Israelites to know with certainty what to expect from Him depending on how they treated their relationship with Him. This did not mean the Israelites could manipulate God to do their bidding; rather, it simply meant He was predictable and would do what He promised. A healthy relationship relies on clear and honest communication as well as predictable behavior.      For the sake of emphasis, Moses repeated the conditional aspects of God’s blessings (Deut 28:1-2, 9, 13-14), and cursings (Deut 28:15, 20, 45-47, 58, 62; cf., Deut 29:24-28; 30:17-20). The word blessing translates the Hebrew noun בְּרָכָה berakah, which appears twelve times in Deuteronomy and sixty-seven times in the OT (TWOT). In Deuteronomy 28, the word refers to the tangible goodness that makes life enjoyable and rich, which God promised to His covenant people, Israel, if they would simply obey His commands. Areas of blessing would include: 1) healthy offspring, crops, and livestock (Deut 28:4-5, 8, 11), 2) military success (Deut 28:7), 3) fruitful labor (Deut 28:8, 12a), 4) international recognition and respect (Deut 28:9-10), 5) financial prosperity (Deut 28:12b), and 6) serving as an international leader to other nations (Deut. 28:13). God also promised to bring curses, which would undo all the blessings and bring Israel down, if they disobeyed (Deut 28:15-68). In Deuteronomy 28:16-19, Moses used the Hebrew verb אָרָר arar six times, which means, “to bind with a curse.”[1] The form of the verb is passive, which means a curse is received by the nation of Israel if they turn away from God. These blessings and cursings were predictable, depending on Israel’s knowledge of God’s directives and their adherence or insubordination to them (Deut 11:26-28; 29:29; 30:15-20).      When considering the Mosaic Covenant, it is important to realize God’s blessings and cursings for Israel were tied to their moral behavior (see Lev 26:3-4; Deut 11:13-17; Jer 5:23-25; Amos 4:7; Mal 3:10).[2] When Israel abided by God’s Word, advancing on the moral high ground of His ethical standards, the Lord would bless His people in the everyday affairs of their lives. God’s blessings came directly in the form of rain, crop production, national health, etc. However, His blessings also came indirectly through His people who learned and lived His Word as it spoke to their marriages, families, education, labor, economic decisions, social activities, and welfare for the less fortunate in society. For example, God’s blessings of protection and provision for Ruth and Naomi came through Boaz, who modeled godliness and compassion in his words and actions (Ruth 2:1-23). Boaz’ choice to be a godly man meant he would serve as a conduit of God’s grace to others.      Additionally, God’s blessings should not be thought of as producing equal outcomes to all, as social and economic stratification would continue within Israelite society. It also did not mean everyone would have perfect health, as the general effects of sin in humanity continued. It did mean, however, that even those at the lowest place in society would have their basic needs met; needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. The poor in Israel would be wealthier and better off than those of other nations.[3]      But if God’s people turned from the Lord and His Word and adopted an alternate ethical standard, then they would forfeit His blessings and bring judgment upon themselves (Deut 11:16-17; 2 Ch 6:24-27). However, God’s judgments on Israel did not always happen in an instantaneous manner, as the Lord is patient, longsuffering, and slow to anger (Ex 34:6; Psa 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2). And God often sent warnings to His people (Jer 7:25-26; 25:3-7; 29:18-19), which at times went on for centuries, and discipline came in stages. And even when God’s judgment fell, it sometimes took the form of lesser punishment (Psa 103:10-12; Ezra 9:13). And if His people humbled themselves, He would offer forgiveness and restore their blessings (2 Ch 7:13-14). God is always quick to forgive, and He prefers to bless rather than punish. Any loving parent understands this.      A conundrum appears in the Old Testament as the righteous struggle from day to day while some evil people grow rich and seem to enjoy all the blessings this world can give. Asaph, a godly man, felt this struggle deeply (Psa 73:1-16). However, when considered from the divine perspective, worldly wealth does not always come with God’s blessing, and the life and final days of the evil person will be less than desirable (Psa 73:17-20). The godly desire the Lord more than the things of this world (Psa 73:21-28), and they have joy and peace with whatever He provides. For whatever God gives to His obedient children will include joy and peace that they might appreciate it, “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy” (Eccl 2:25-26a). According to Solomon, “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it” (Prov 10:22), and “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it” (Prov 15:16). The godly are content with the Lord’s daily provisions (Phil 4:11-13; 1 Tim 6:8; Heb 13:5).[4] Deuteronomy 28:1-14 - The Lord’s Blessings      Moses opens the blessing section by saying, “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth” (Deut 28:1). This opening introduces a conditional clause (Deut 28:1), which is repeated several times in this section (cf., Deut 28:2, 9, 13). As Israel’s Judge, Lawgiver, and King (Isa 33:22), the Lord had provided His people with clear directives concerning how they were to live, and if they chose righteousness, blessing would follow (Deut 11:26-28). God’s blessings (בְּרָכָה berakah) pertained to agricultural, national, social, and material prosperity. God promised to set His people “high above all the nations.” According to Eugene Merrill, “What it means to be set high above all the nations is answered in part by the string of blessings that follow in Deuteronomy 3:3-8. Inasmuch as Israel’s economy rested on an agrarian base, most of the blessing is associated with abundance in field and flock, but other aspects of safe and wholesome life are not ignored.”[5]      Moses continued, saying, “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God” (Deut 28:2). The hiphil form of the Hebrew word overtake (נָשַׂג nasag) meant God would cause His blessings to come upon obedient-to-the-Word believers. That is, God’s blessings would chase them wherever they were in order to overtake them. The obedient believer would not be able to escape the Lord’s blessings. This is confirmed by the next clause, which reads, “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country” (Deut 28:3). God’s blessing would hunt them down, and their location was incidental. The word blessed (בָּרָךְ barak) means “to endue with power for success, prosperity, productiveness, longevity, etc.”[6] God wants to bless His people and He does not have to be cajoled or manipulated to do it.      God’s blessings would not only be personal but would also spill over onto one’s children and the production of one’s labor, which included the ground as well as the animals. Moses said, “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock” (Deut 28:4). Here is the concept of blessing by association. The adult Israelite who learned God’s Word and walked with Him would be blessed, and so would all who were in contact with him. Boaz was a good example of God’s blessings overflowing into the lives of others.      God would also provide an abundance of food for His people to eat, as Moses said, “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl” (Deut 28:5). Eugene Merrill states, “Abundant produce would, of course, result in abundant food supplies. Harvest baskets would overflow, and bakers would have more than enough wheat with which to bake their bread (v. 5).”[7] There would be no food insecurity among God’s people.      And God’s blessing would touch His people wherever they were, whether in the home or out in the community. Moses said, “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deut 28:6). To come in and go out is a merism—a figure of speech—that refers to all of one’s life and activities. According to Earl Kalland, “Going out and coming in is a common descriptive phrase of going out to one’s daily tasks and returning home after the day’s work is done, whatever that activity entails.”[8]      Having God’s blessing did not mean Israel would not have enemies. God’s people always have enemies, as we live in a fallen world that is temporarily governed by Satan and those who align with him (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 3:13; 5:19). However, though opposition would arise against God’s people, He would secure their victory, as Moses said, “The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways” (Deut 28:7). When the text says, “they will come against you one way,” it’s speaking of an intelligent coordinated attack against God’s people. However, though the attack represents man’s best military strategies and actions, God will neutralize their efforts and cause them to be defeated. That the enemy “will flee before you seven ways” meant their enemies could not flee the battle fast enough. This promise of military victory could be trusted because God had already displayed His power over the Egyptians when He brought Israel out of captivity. Having defeated the greatest superpower of the day, lesser powers would be of no concern.      The Israelite farmers would be blessed both in their efforts and the production of the land itself. Moses said, “The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Deut 28:8). Eugene Merrill states, “Verse 8 forms a conclusion to this first set of blessings by summarizing the blessings according to the categories of what Israel would have and what Israel would do (the “barns” and “hand” respectively).”[9] Again, God’s promised blessings were tangible in nature.      God’s intention of blessing His people was that they might be an example to the rest of the world of what it means to be set apart to the Lord, to walk with Him in holiness. Moses said, “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways” (Deut 28:9). The word holy (קָדוֹשׁ qadosh) means “commanding respect, awesome, treated with respect.”[10] It denotes being singled out for special use, to be consecrated for a unique purpose. But God’s people were not mere objects one could set apart, but rather, volitional creatures that were called into a special relationship with the Lord. For this reason, we see the conditional clause, “if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.”      If Israel, as God’s people, would learn and live His Word, then “all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will be afraid of you” (Deut 28:10). God was concerned about His image among the Gentiles. Being called by the name of the Lord meant being His representative in the world for others to see. God’s values were to be reflected in the words and actions of His people. If His people would represent Him well, then Gentiles would be afraid of them. The word afraid (יָרֵא yare) most often means “to fear, [or] to be afraid.”[11] However, at times, the word connotes reverence, respect, or awe. This latter meaning might be preferred, as other translations suggest, saying, “they will stand in awe of you” (Deut 28:10 CSB), and “they will respect you” (Deut 28:10 NET). For those possessed with negative volition, they would fear God and His people. However, for those possessed with positive volition, they would be awed by God and His goodness and would respect His people. Earl Kalland states, “By being God’s obedient and holy people (cf. 26:19), the Israelites would enjoy such an intimacy with God that they would become a testimony to all the peoples on earth who would fear or stand in awe of Israel (cf. 2:25; 11:25).”[12]      God’s blessing would be obvious to His people as well as the Gentiles nations around them. Moses said, “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you” (Deut 28:11). To abound (יָתַר yathar) with prosperity meant to “be left over, remain over.”[13] The idea is that God would give His people more than enough prosperity that they would consider themselves blessed, and others would as well.      Part of God’s blessing meant predictable weather patterns in which the Lord would send rain on the land and cause their crops to be productive. Moses said, “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deut 28:12). God created the universe and the world, and He controlled all His creation, including the earth’s climate. God promised He would cause the rain to fall on the soil at optimal times so as to maximize the soil’s production. Peter Craigie states: "One of the roles of God in the promised land would be the provision of fertility; fertility depended primarily on the rains. Without the rains, the crops could not grow, and without the crops and the other produce of the field, neither man nor his domestic animals could survive. Thus in v. 12, there is a very rich expression of the blessing of God, for in providing the rains, God was providing what would be the mainspring of life in Israel’s land."[14]      God’s blessings meant Israel would know economic stability in such a way that they would not have to borrow from others to engage in business ventures. In fact, Israel would be so prosperous, they would serve as bankers to others, in that they would lend to many nations and never have to borrow.      In Deuteronomy 28:13-14, Moses provided a summary statement of all God’s goodness to His people as well as a final conditional clause. Moses said, “The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them” (Deut 28:13-14). If Israel would listen (שָׁמַע shama) to God’s directives and observe them carefully, staying faithful in their walk with Him and not pursuing other gods, then His blessings would overtake them. Earl Kalland notes:      Israel would move upward from her current status to that of the head among the nations, rather than become (or continue to be) the tail (v.13). She would “always be at the top, never at the bottom.” But all this would be determined by the adherence of the people to the stipulations of the covenant-treaty that they had accepted from the Lord. They must “carefully follow them” and “not turn aside … to the right or to the left” (v.14) from any of the commands Moses was rehearsing to them that day.[15]      In closing, the specific body of laws that Israel would need to follow had been provided by Moses in Deuteronomy chapters 5 through 26. There was no guessing about God’s expectations for His people, and His blessings or cursings would follow, depending on whether Israel would obey or disobey the Lord (Deut 11:26-28). To be clear, the Mosaic Law was never intended to be a means of salvation, but a rule for life that could be obeyed by Israel who were in a covenant relationship with Him and who walked humbly with their Lord (see Deut 5:33; 8:6; 10:12-13; 29:29; 30:15-16; 31:11; Psa 1:2-3; 119:9-11).   [1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 91. [2] In the larger picture, God gives common grace to everyone (Matt 5:44-45; Acts 14:16-17), and this in order to win their hearts to Him, as He “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). However, God’s common grace does not last forever, and if people turn away from Him and pursue wickedness (Rom 1:18-23), He will let them go their sinful way (Rom 1:24-32; cf., Psa 81:12-13), and they will eventually perish in their sin. For the rebel-believer, it means being least in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19; cf. 1 Cor 3:15), but for the unbeliever, it means suffering eternally in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:11-15). [3] Blessing is a relative term even in our own societies. According to The World Bank, as of 2018, half the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/10/17/nearly-half-the-world-lives-on-less-than-550-a-day). According to Pew research data in 2015, the poor in the US are much better off than the poor in other countries (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/09/how-americans-compare-with-the-global-middle-class/). [4] Remember that Israelites, in the wilderness, were not content with the God’s provision of manna and complained to the Lord to give them meat (Num 11:4-6). God gave them what they asked for, but they did not enjoy it (Num 11:18-20, 31-34), as “He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them” (Psa 106:15). [5] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 353. [6] John N. Oswalt, “285 בָּרַך,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 132. [7] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, 354. [8] Earl S. Kalland, “Deuteronomy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 167. [9] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, 354. [10] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1066. [11] Ibid., 433. [12] Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 311–312. [13] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 451. [14] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 337. [15] Earl S. Kalland, “Deuteronomy,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 168.

Saturday Jul 23, 2022

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving." (Col 4:2)      God communicates with us through His written Word, and we communicate with Him through our prayers. When we pray, it immediately connects us with God, allowing us to confess our sin, express thankfulness, intercede for others, or request something for ourselves. Prayer is motivated by different causes and takes different forms. The most common words in the Bible translated prayer are תְּפִלָּה tephillah (Job 16:17; Psa 65:2) and προσευχή proseuche (Luke 19:46; Acts 12:5), which simply speak of the act of prayer.[1] According to Unger, “Prayer is the expression of man’s dependence upon God for all things. What habitual reverence is to praise, the habitual sense of dependence is to prayer.”[2] And according to Liefeld, prayer is “communion with God, usually comprising petition, adoration, praise, confession, and thanksgiving. The ultimate object of prayer in both OT and NT is not merely the good of the petitioner but the honor of God’s name.”[3]      There is no inherent power in prayer to change things. Biblically, the power lies in the One who answers the prayer, and He alone reserves the right to change things if He wills. God answers prayer, but He does so according to His sovereign will (Psa 135:6; Dan 4:35; Isa 46:9-10). Sometimes He says yes, sometimes no, and sometimes wait. It is good to remember that a prayer delayed is not necessarily a prayer denied. Sometimes we just need patience.      Some of the different types of prayer found in Scripture include: request for supply (Psa 116:1-2; Phil 4:6; Eph 6:18), thanksgiving (John 11:41; Col 4:2; Phil 4:6), submission (Luke 22:41-42), and intercession (Acts 12:1-5; Eph 6:18-19). The best prayers seek to glorify God above all else (John 14:13).[4] The Old Testament mentions imprecatory prayers, where Israelite believers prayed for God to destroy their enemies (Psa 58:6-8; 69:23-28). Imprecatory prayers were valid under the Mosaic Law where obedient Israelites could expect God to dispense justice on their enemies (Deut 28:7). Imprecatory prayers are not valid for Christians because we are not under the Mosaic Law (Rom 6:14). We are commanded to pray for our enemies that God will bless them (Matt 5:44-45; Luke 6:28, 35; cf. Rom 12:17-21; 1 Th 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9). If God dispenses judgment upon our enemies, He will do so at His discretion and not ours (Rom 12:17-19; 2 Th 1:6).      Prayer should be ongoing. Jesus taught His disciples “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1). As Christians, we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17). This means our prayer life should never end, but should be ongoing, day by day, moment by moment. Life can be stressful, but we are to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). As Christians, we are to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).      Most often prayer is an appeal to God to change a difficult or helpless situation. Sometimes God changes our situations as we request (i.e., concerning employment, health, finances, family matters, etc.), and sometimes He leaves the difficult situation and seeks to change our attitude. When God does not remove a difficult situation as we request, then He intends for us to deal with it by faith (Jam 1:2-4). God uses difficult situations to remove pride (Dan 4:37; 2 Cor 12:7-10), and to develop our Christian character (Rom 5:3-5). It’s almost always the case that we prefer God change our circumstances rather than our attitude; and yet, it seems both biblically and experientially that God prefers to do the opposite. Though the Lord is concerned about our difficult situations, He’s more concerned with developing our Christian character than relieving our discomfort. However God chooses to answer, He has His reasons and they always glorify Him. A challenge for us is to trust that His plan is better than ours, wherever it happens to lead us, or however difficult the journey becomes.      Prayer is for believers, for one can address God as Father only as a member of the family of God (John 1:12; Gal 3:26). The general agreement among theologians is that God does not hear the prayers of unbelievers, for they are not God’s children but belong to Satan. Jesus said of unbelieving Jews, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Logically, we cannot call God our Father if He is not.[5]      Jesus prayed often, both publicly and privately (Matt 11:25-26; 14:23; 19:13; 26:36; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:28; 10:21; 22:41-42; John 11:41-42; 12:27-28; 17:1-26), and His prayer life was so noticeable, that His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-4; cf. Matt 6:9-13). For the Christian, prayer should be directed to God the Father (Matt 6:6; Luke 11:2; Eph 5:20; 1 Pet 1:17),[6]in the name of Jesus (John 14:13; 15:16), and in the Holy Spirit (Eph 6:18; Jude 1:20). Praying in the name of Jesus is not a magic formula that makes our prayers acceptable to God; rather, it means our request is consistent with Jesus’ character and will (1 John 5:14-15). Praying in the Spirit means we pray as the Spirit leads according to Scripture.[7] According to Ryrie, “Though we may address any Person of the Trinity, ordinarily, according to the biblical precedent, we address the Father in the name of Christ as the Spirit directs us (John 14:14; Eph. 1:6; 2:18; 6:18).”[8] It is interesting to note that both God the Holy Spirit and God the Son offer intercessory prayers for us to God the Father (Rom 8:26; Heb 7:24-25). When God Does Not Hear Our Prayers      There are some things in life that God conditions on prayer (Jam 4:2), but praying is no guarantee He’ll grant our request. Being a righteous God, He only hears the prayers of those who seek to know Him and do His will. The apostle Peter writes, “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil” (1 Pet 3:12). The apostle John writes, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15).      Biblically, there are several reasons why God does not answer the prayer of believers: lack of faith (Jam 1:5-8), worship of other gods (Jer 11:12-14), failure to take in Bible teaching (Prov 1:24-31; 28:9; Zech 7:11-13), selfishness (Jam 4:2-3), carnality (Psa 66:18; Mic 3:4; Isa 1:15; 59:1-3), lack of harmony in the home (1 Pet 3:7), pride and self-righteousness (Job 35:12-13), and lack of obedience (Deut 1:43-45; 1 John 3:22; 5:14). All of these failings can be corrected as the believer learns God’s Word and lives obediently by faith. Failure to learn God’s Word and/or apply it results in self-harm, much like a child who will not listen to her parents, but repeatedly keeps reaching for the hot flame because it’s pretty. God’s commands are designed to bring blessing, either by teaching us to avoid that which is harmful, or to pursue that which is helpful. Summary      Prayer is a blessing we enjoy as believers as we can come before God’s throne of grace and make requests (Heb 4:16). As Christians, we are to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18), and to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th 5:17; cf. Luke 18:1; Rom 12:12; Col 4:2). As we advance toward spiritual maturity, God will occupy our thoughts in all matters, and prayer will come more and more naturally, and we will seek His interests above our own and pray according to His will.             [1] Other words include פָּלַל palal – to intervene as a mediator (Gen 20:7; Job 42:8), לַחַשׁ lachash – a whispering prayer (Isa 26:16; 29:4), שָׁאַל shaal – to ask, inquire (Isa 7:11; 45:11), עָתַר athar – a prayer related to sacrifice (Job 33:26), δέησις deesis – an urgent request (Eph 6:18), and ἔντευξις enteuxis – simple prayer, childlike prayer (1 Tim 2:1). The word αἰτέω aiteo is not translated as prayer, but is clearly used when making requests to God (Matt 7:7; John 14:13). [2] Merrill Frederick Unger et al., “Prayer”, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). [3] W. L. Liefeld, “Prayer,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 931. [4] Moses provides a model prayer in Exodus 32:7-14 where he prayed on behalf of His people, Israel, that God would not pour out His wrath on them because of their idolatry (Ex 32:1-6). Moses’ prayer to God starts by identifying Israel as “Your people” whom He had rescued from Egyptian bondage (Ex 32:11). Israel was not just any people, but God’s chosen nation, who had already tasted of His great grace and compassion.[4] After citing God’s deliverance, Moses then argued with God to withhold His wrath for two reasons: First, if God destroyed Israel, then His reputation among the pagan nations would be tarnished (Ex 32:12). Moses sought to protect God’s reputation in the eyes of others, even unbelievers, and to uphold His glory. Second, if God destroyed Israel, He would be in violation of the promises He’d made to Israel’s forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Ex 32:13). Moses did not want others to see God as one who fails to keep His promises. Moses’ prayer was heard and God relented of the judgment He intended to bring on His people because of their sin (Ex 32:14). [5] However, there does seem to be at least one occasion in which God heard the prayer of an unbeliever who was seeking Him for salvation (e.g., Acts 10:1-2, 30-31; 11:13-14). It could be that if an unbeliever seeks God for salvation, as Cornelius did, then His prayers for salvation are answered. [6] Although there is at least one petition in the NT directed to Jesus (Acts 7:59-60). [7] The Greek preposition ἐν can mean, “in” “by” or “with” the Spirit. Hoehner translates the prepositional phrase ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ ἐν πνεύματι as “at every opportunity or occasion in the Spirit” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Baker Academic, 2002, p. 856). Hoehner further states, “In the immediate context [of Eph 6:18], praying in the Spirit may well be connected to the sword of the Spirit. The sword of the Spirit is, on the one hand, God’s spoken word to put His enemies to flight and, on the other hand, the believer’s utterance to God in prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit to aid in the struggle against the evil powers” (p. 857). [8] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 68.

Expositional Bible Studies

This site contains verse by verse studies on various books of the Bible. The hermeneutical approach to Scripture is literal, historical, and grammatical. Dr. Cook is currently teaching through the book of Deuteronomy. Completed Bible studies include: Judges, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, John, Acts, 1 Peter, and Revelation.

There are also many doctrinal studies on subjects such as Bibliology, Theology Proper, Anthropology, Christology, Pneumatology, Soteriology, Angelology, Demonology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and others. 

To find a book or doctrinal study, go to the search option and type what you're looking for (i.e. John, Acts, salvation, angels, spiritual warfare, etc.). 

Thinking on Scripture is a grace ministry that offers Bible teaching without charge. 

Copyright 2013 Steven Cook. All rights reserved.

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