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

4 days ago

Either one is a theist or an atheist. Choices have consequences, and which 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 complete article for this lesson can be found at: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2022/... The Bible as Divine Revelation: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/... YouTube Video: https://youtu.be/v_DuD4x5f0c 

6 days ago

This lesson is part of a series on knowing and doing the will of God. The study notes for this lecture can be found at: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/12/18/knowing-and-doing-the-will-of-god/ 

Saturday Jan 08, 2022

This lesson is part of a series on knowing and doing the will of God. The study notes for this lecture can be found at: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/12/18/knowing-and-doing-the-will-of-god/ 

Saturday Jan 01, 2022

This lesson is part of a series on knowing and doing the will of God. The study notes for this lecture can be found at: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/12/18/knowing-and-doing-the-will-of-god/ 

Wednesday Dec 29, 2021

While discussing eternal rewards in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-2, 12, 46; 6:1-6, 16-18), Jesus taught there would be varying degrees of placement in the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 5:19, Jesus said, “whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” In this verse, Jesus talked about two kinds of saved people, both of which will be “in the kingdom of heaven.” This is plainly understood from what Jesus said. The first group will be believers who, after salvation, live a life of disobedience to God, rebelling against His Word, and teaching others to do the same. These disobedient-to-the-Word believers will forfeit eternal rewards and have a low status in heaven. Jesus calls them least, which translates the Greek word ἐλάχιστος elachistos, which refers to being “the lowest in status, least…being considered of very little importance, insignificant.”[1] The second group of believers will be those who live a life of obedience to God, learning and doing His Word, and teaching others to do the same. These obedient-to-the-Word believers will be rewarded by God and be blessed with a high status in heaven. Jesus calls these great, which translates the Greek word μέγας megas, which in this passage refers to being “great in dignity, distinguished, eminent, illustrious.”[2] This gradation of status in heaven is taught elsewhere by Jesus (Matt 11:11; 18:1-4; 20:20-28). To be clear, Jesus is not addressing salvation in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7); rather, He’s addressing the demands of discipleship and rewards. Click here for a complete set of notes: Great and Least in the Kingdom of Heaven - A Life of Discipleship.    Here is the video version.    [1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 314. [2] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1207.

Sunday Dec 26, 2021

The central idea of Jeremiah 23:25-40 is that false prophets were giving false messages derived from depraved imaginations and their messages were confusing God’s people and leading them astray from His will. Here is a complete set of study notes: https://thinkingonscripture.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/jeremiah-23_25-40-true-and-false-prophets.pdf 

Saturday Dec 18, 2021

This lesson is part of a series on knowing and doing the will of God. The study notes for this lecture can be found at: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/12/18/knowing-and-doing-the-will-of-god/ 

Sunday Dec 12, 2021

     In this pericope, Moses addresses Israel’s future request for a king (Deut 17:14-15), and then specifies the requirements of that king that he may serve as the Lord’s viceregent (Deut 17:16-20).      God knew subsequent generations of Israelites would desire a king after they’d entered the land of Canaan and He was favorable to the notion, albeit with restrictions. Moses wrote, “When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me” (Deut 17:14). Being omniscient (Psa 139:1-4), God knew Israel would possess the land of Canaan, a land which He owned and controlled (cf. Lev 25:23; cf., Psa 24:1; 89:11). He also knew the Israelites would, in time, desire and request a human king to rule over them. The word king translates the Hebrew word מֶלֶךְ melek, and was used of Israel’s leaders from 1050 to 586 B.C. Having a king was not a problem, for God had promised Abraham—the progenitor of Israel—that he would be the father of many nations, saying, “kings will come forth from you” (Gen 17:6; cf. Gen 17:16; 35:11). Later, God had narrowed the kingly line to the tribe of Judah, saying, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen 49:10). The problem was that Israel would desire a king in order to be “like all the nations” around them. God wanted His people to be separate, distinct, and unlike the nations of the world. He said, “I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples” (Lev 20:24b). He called them to be “a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). Daniel Block notes, “In contrast to the offices of judge (Deut 16:18–20; 17:9), priest (Deut 17:9; 18:1–8), and prophet (Deut 18:9–22), the office of king is presented as optional, subject to the desire of the people.”[1]      God would grant Israel’s desire to have a king, but He set guidelines for the king, guidelines that would complement the nation’s operations and not hinder it from being holy. Moses said, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman” (Deut 17:15). God would be the One to select their king, and He did via His prophet, as was the case when Samuel anointed Saul (1 Sam 9:15-16; 15:1), and later David (1 Sam 16:1-3, 12-13). Warren Wiersbe writes: "The king was not to be elected by the people; he was to be chosen by God. Israel’s first king was Saul (1 Sam 9–10), but God never intended Saul to establish a royal dynasty in Israel. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, but Judah was the royal tribe (Gen 49:8–10), and the Messiah would come from Judah. Actually, Saul was given to the people to chasten them because they rejected the Lord (1 Sam 8:7), for God’s greatest judgment is to give His people what they want and let them suffer for it."[2]      God knew His people well, and He knew they would be tempted to live in conformity to the pagan values of the world around them. In order to keep His people distinct from other nations, and to keep them looking to Him as their God-King, He placed prohibitions on the kings of Israel. These prohibitions included: 1) multiplying horses to strengthen the army, 2) multiplying wives for pleasure and political alliances, and, 3) greatly increasing silver and gold for financial security.      Starting with the development of the king’s army, God said, “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way’” (Deut 17:16). Horses were used in military battles and pulled chariots, which were the tanks of the day. God wanted the king to look to his Lord for deliverance and not rely on military might like the pagan nations did. Egypt was a major source of horses, and God forbid His people from returning to the place where they’d been delivered from captivity.      Addressing the king’s marital life, God decreed, “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away” (Deut 17:17a). Pagan kings in the ancient world multiplied wives as a means of securing political alliances with neighboring nations and also for sexual pleasure, which was the purpose of the concubine. Human relationships either help or hinder a believer’s walk with God, and there was no closer relationship a king could have than with his wife. God knew if Israel’s kings married women with pagan values and practices, it would only be a matter of time before they turned his heart away from Him. Wives played key roles in the lives of Israel’s kings, either for good (Prov 31:10-12) or bad (1 Ki 21:25; 2 Ki 8:16-18).[3]      And concerning the king’s treasury, God said, “nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself” (Deut 17:17b). Having wealth is essential to the economic development of a person and nation, and there was nothing wrong with the king having wealth. This prohibition pertained to the pursuit of wealth by human means, which would prove to be a consuming passion that would turn his heart away from the Lord. David said of God, “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone” (1 Ch 29:12). God may bless His servant with riches; however, David also said, “If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them” (Psa 62:10b). Money was necessary for living, but was also unstable and could easily be lost. The rule was, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens” (Prov 23:4-5; cf., Prov 27:24). The Lord Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Wisdom is found in the one with a temperate heart (Prov 30:7-9), who is content with what the Lord provides (1 Tim 6:8), is concerned with storing up wealth in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), pursues a life of righteousness (Matt 6:33), and if blessed with wealth, uses it for godly purposes (1 Tim 6:17-19). Daniel Block states: "These prohibitions, then, address three major temptations facing ancient rulers: lust for power, lust for status, and lust for wealth. The text does not prohibit the purchase of horses, or marriage, or the accumulation of some silver and gold. The threefold repetition of “for himself” emphasizes the ban concerning the king’s exploitation of his office for personal gain."[4]      How was the king to know God’s will for him? He was to know it by reading the book of Deuteronomy, which enriched his thinking and guided his actions. In fact, God required the king to hand write a copy of the book of Deuteronomy, saying, “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests” (Deut 17:18). The king did not make laws, but received them from God, who was Israel’s divine King (Psa 44:4; 74:12; Isa 43:15), as well as their Legislator and Judge (Isa 33:22). God’s laws were inscripturated and could be studied and applied by the king, or any who desired to know God and live His will (Deut 6:1-3; Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-3; Mal 2:7). Writing out a personal copy of the law in the presence of the Levitical priests signified this as a sacred act. It’s possible the Levitical priests, being present, would ensure the copy was wholly accurate. And the king was to carry it with him and read it all the days of his life as a manual for righteous living before his holy God. All of this assumes the integrity of language, in which the author’s original meaning was permanently infused in the words and phrases he wrote, and that language itself served as a reliable vehicle for communication. The end result was that the reader was responsible to know what had been communicated and would be blessed or disciplined based on whether they responded to it positively or negatively. Here, the integrity and authority of the written commands was to be honored by the king who subordinated himself to his God-King.      After hand writing a copy of the Law, the king was required to keep its content flowing in the stream of his consciousness at all times. This meant he was to carry the Scriptures with him all the time and read it daily. God said, “It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes” (Deut 17:19). Again, the integrity of language is assumed as subsequent kings would have an objective standard by which to guide their thinking and actions.      The daily reading of God’s Word was also intended to help keep the king humble, “that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel” (Deut 17:20). The king, like all Israel, was under God’s ultimate authority. But being the king also meant he was to serve as a spiritual leader to God’s people, and this meant he was held to a higher standard, for if the king turned “aside from the commandment, to the right or the left” it meant leading others into sin. But if the king was obedient, both he and his sons would know God’s blessing and the Lord would ensure their continuation in the land. Without question, the most important qualification for the king was to know God’s Word and walk in it. Failure at this point would result in a prideful ruler who would, by default, be governed by the inclinations of his sinful heart and the values and practices of a fallen world that is governed by Satan and his forces.      The king who followed these directives would serve as the ideal Israelite, not relying on self or resources, but be wholly devoted to God and guided by sacred Scripture. Later, when Samuel was leading Israel, the people came to him with their concerns and asked for a king that they might be “like all the nations” around them (1 Sam 8:4-5). This displeased Samuel greatly (1 Sam 8:6). However, when he prayed about the matter, God told Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7). The Lord also said, “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also” (1 Sam 8:8). Samuel warned them about the ways of “the king who would reign over them” and the abuses that would follow (1 Sam 8:9-18). Even with the warning of tyranny and abuses, the people requested a king (1 Sam 8:19-20), and God gave them the desires of their heart by selecting Saul, a Benjamite (1 Sam 9:1-2), who did all the harm God had warned them about.      Saul started out well, but in a short time He became disobedient to the Lord. Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you” (1 Sam 13:13a). As a consequence, God told Saul, “Now your kingdom shall not endure” (1 Sam 13:14a). Samuel informed Saul about the reason he lost his kingship, saying, “because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you” (1 Sam 13:14c). Samuel also informed Saul about his replacement, saying, “The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people” (1 Sa 13:14b). God selected David as Saul’s replacement, and David was “a man loyal to Him” (1 Sam 13:14 CSB). Throughout his life, David sought the Lord and studied His Word (Psa 1:1-2; 25:4-5), walked with God and taught others to do the same, saying, “I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You” (Psa 51:13). David was a writer who composed 73 Psalms which instructed others in righteousness and led them in worship. And when David sinned, he handled his failures in a biblical manner by confession (Psa 32:3-5), and owning the consequences (1 Chron 21:13). Israel’s kings were sometimes compared with David (1 Ki 15:1-5; 2 Ki 16:2; 18:1-3; 22:1-2; 23:3). David also instructed his son, Solomon, to know God’s Word and to walk in it (1 Ki 2:1-3). Though Solomon knew God’s directives for kingship, he broke all three commands as he accumulated horses from Egypt (1 Ki 4:26-28; 10:26-28), wealth by oppression (1 Ki 10:14-25; 12:4), and hundreds of wives and concubines (1 Ki 3:1; 11:1-8). Solomon had great wisdom, but he failed to apply what he knew. All believers have this capacity, which is why James said, “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam 4:17). Being a good leader is always about learning God’s Word and doing Gods will, staying humble, staying faithful, and selflessly seeking the best interests of others.      It is true that David practiced the sin of polygamy contrary to the Law of Moses. From Scripture we know the names of eight of David’s wives: Michal (1 Sam 18:27), Abigail (1 Sam 25:39-42), Ahinoam (1 Sam 25:43), Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:24), Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah (2 Sam 3:2-5). He had other wives and concubines that are not named, as Scripture reveals, “David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron” (2 Sam 5:13a). Interestingly, the Bible says nothing negative about David’s practice of polygamy, and though it was a sin according to Scripture, it was apparently tolerated in David’s life, perhaps because it never resulted in his wives leading him into idolatry as it did with his son, Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:1-11).[5]      In summary, the Mosaic Law placed limitations on the role of the king because of the tendency of those in power to become corrupt, because the proclivity of the human heart is bent toward self-interest rather than God’s interests. However, if the king in Israel learned God’s Word and followed His directives, stayed humble and faithful, he and the nation would know ongoing blessing.   [1] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 418. [2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Equipped, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1999), 118. [3] Mothers have been influencers as well, either for good (Prov 31:1) or bad (2 Chron 22:2-3). There is merit to the statement, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. [4] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 419. [5] Biblically, some acts of obedience are more important than others, and some acts of sin are more egregious than others. For example, Samuel, told Saul, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). Solomon wrote, “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice” (Pro 21:3). Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt 23:23). Likewise, some sins are worse than others and bring greater judgment. Jesus told His disciples not to be like the Scribes, “who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers”, saying, “These will receive greater condemnation” (Luke 20:47). Concerning the citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida, Jesus said, “it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (Matt 11:22). The apostle John, writing to believers, states, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17a). However, he drew a distinction, saying, “there is a sin that results in death” (1 John 5:16b), and “there is a sin that does not result in death” (1 John 5:17b). These are obvious statements that show some acts of obedience are better than others, and some acts of sin are worse than others.

Monday Dec 06, 2021

     God’s Word reveals there’s a divine drama unfolding, and the actors consist of angels and people, both good and bad, who operate in interlocking realms that are invisible and visible, both affecting the other. Failure to grasp this biblical truth limits our ability to understand what is transpiring in the world and what role we play. God desires that we live in reality, and His revelation is the blessing that provides insights we could never know except that He has spoken. What we do with that revelation determines whether we’re a force for good or evil. When believers know and live in God’s Word, it affords them the opportunity to make good choices that can bring blessing to those near them. But the opposite is true, that believers living outside of God’s will can bring suffering to those in their periphery. This was true of Jonah who was in disobedience and others suffered because of it (Jonah 1:11-12). But when Jonah obeyed God, many with positive volition were blessed and God’s judgment upon a nation was stayed (Jonah 3:1-10). As Christians, we should play our part well, sharing the gospel of grace and communicating God’s Word as best we can. But we must always keep in mind we’re not the only actors, and that Satan and his forces are at work, trying to weaken individuals, groups and nations. It is the work of Satan in America that motivates the writing of this article. Full article is here: https://thinkingonscripture.com/2021/09/11/where-satan-is-attacking-in-america/ 

Saturday Dec 04, 2021

     This unit of Scripture is part of a larger section in which Moses addresses four leadership offices God would assign in Israel, namely, judges (Deut 16:18-17:8), priests (Deut 17:9-13; 18:1-8), kings (Deut 17:14-20), and prophets (Deut 18:15-22). These four leadership offices were bound by the Mosaic Law, which legitimized their authority and was the guide for their rulership.      In this pericope, Moses continues his message to the Israelites who were about to enter the land of Canaan. In addition to judges (שָׁפַט shaphat) who would serve in local communities (Deut 16:18-17:8), Moses introduces a higher court that consisted of Levitical priests and a judge who would serve at a central location, namely the tabernacle or temple. This higher court was intended to handle legal cases that were too difficult for judges in local communities.      Being a theocracy meant God was their Judge, Lawgiver, and King (Isa 33:22). As King, He was their national leader. As Lawgiver, He was the source of their legislation. As Judge, He would evaluate His people on the basis of their adherence to His laws. Moses himself had previously served as a judge (Ex 18:13-16), and had instructed others in God’s law (Ex 18:17-26). The men Moses selected to serve as judges were to be men of good character, “men who fear God, men of truth, and those who hate dishonest gain” (Ex 18:21a). These men could be selected from any of the tribes in Israel, and their moral integrity was to be the chief quality. Once selected and trained, judges in Israel were to see themselves as subordinate representatives of God, the supreme Judge of Israel. God directed His judges to adhere to His standards, saying, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut 16:20). This meant knowing and judging according to God’s written laws. If a judge in Israel perverted justice, it meant he diminished the character of God. Following the directives in Deuteronomy, King Jehoshaphat (who reigned from 873 to 848 BC) appointed judges in Judah and told them, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the LORD who is with you when you render judgment” (2 Ch 19:6). He also spoke to the priests in Judah and told them to help execute “the judgment of the LORD and to judge disputes among the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Ch 19:8).[1]      In Israel, the priest (כֹּהֵן kohen) referred to those who drew near to God on behalf of others, usually in sacred matters of prayer and sacrifice. God originally intended the whole nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, saying, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). However, because of the sin of worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:1-35), God took that privilege from the nation and confined the priesthood to Aaron and his descendants, and the Levites were to be their assistants (Num 3:1-10; 18:1-7). According to God’s law, priests were to: Be holy in their behavior (Ex 19:6). Teach His law to others (Lev 10:11; Deut 33:10). Preserve the tabernacle and temple (Num 18:1-4). Officiate duties in the Holy of Holies once a year (Ex 30:6-10; Lev 16). Inspect people and fabrics for cleanliness (Lev 13-14). Receive tithes (Num 18:21, 26; cf. Heb 7:5). Offer sacrifices for sin (Lev chapters 4, 9, 16). Educate and lead God’s people in religious services (Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-5, 8). Help judges decide legal matters (Deut 17:8-13).      Moses opens this section by addressing the judges in local communities, saying, “If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses” (Deut 17:8). The word court literally means gate (שַׁעַר shaar) and refers to the gate of the city. The city gate was an open area that served as the place where litigants would meet town elders, other citizens, and judges who helped adjudicate crimes or legal matters. Not only where these cases open to the public, but they were also handled relatively quickly (see Ruth 4:1-11). However, Moses assumed there would arise difficult cases in which local judges could not render a ruling, cases of homicide, lawsuit, or assault. When this happened, the judges could take the matter to a higher court.      The higher court would be at a central location of God’s choosing. At first, this would be the tabernacle and later the temple. Moses directed the local judges, saying, “So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case” (Deut 17:9). It could be that the Levitical priests would select one of their own to serve in a judicial capacity; however, the use of the definite article connected with the word “judge” ( הַשֹּׁפֵטha shaphat – the judge) implies a distinction between them. That is, there would be several priests and a particular judge who resided at the tabernacle/temple. These would serve as the court of last appeal. It’s possible the high priest could discern a divine answer by using the Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:29-30; cf. 1 Sam 28:6); however, it seems more likely the theological and experiential wisdom of the priests and judge would decide the case. Once a verdict came down to the local judges, they were instructed:      You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. (Deut 17:10-11)      The local judges who brought the difficult case were bound to adhere to the decision given to them by the priests and judge at the tabernacle/temple. The verdict was declared from the “place which the LORD” chose, which meant Yahweh was involved in the decision, and it was final. The judges who originally brought the case were not free to execute a sentence either with leniency or severity beyond what had been handed to them. The decision of the court represented God’s will, and to reject or deviate from the court’s decision was to reject or deviate from God’s decision, and such an act would be a crime against the Lord. Moses wrote, “The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel” (Deut 17:12). Executing those who rebelled against the Lord’s decision was seen as purging evil from their communities. In this way, the judges would advance God’s directive to administer “justice, and only justice” within their communities (Deut 16:20a). If the rebellious person was put to death, it would create a healthy fear that would prevent others from rejecting the Lord’s authority. Moses said, “Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again” (Deut 17:13). It’s noteworthy that this legal system Moses was providing assumed objective standards of law (that everyone could observe) predicated on the integrity of words (that didn’t change or lose meaning) and the reliability of language as a vehicle of communication from one person or group to another.      Moses was providing God’s laws, which were a reflection of His righteous character and the basis for their covenantal relationship with Him. Obedience to God’s directives guaranteed blessing and disobedience guaranteed cursing (Deut 11:26-28). Remember, the exodus generation had seen the Lord’s power and experienced His liberation from Egyptian slavery (Ex 13:3), yet, they rebelled against the Lord ten times—disobeying His commands—and were punished by Him (Num 14:22-23). The result of their disobedience was they were not permitted to enter Canaan, but to wander in the wilderness for forty years until they perished (Num 14:28-35). Though they had the promises of God, “the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard” (Heb 4:2). After the exodus generation died, Moses educated their children, restating the Law (Deuteronomy), and these experienced the Lord’s blessings because they responded positively to the godly leadership of Joshua and followed the Lord’s directives. However, after Joshua’s death (Judg 2:8-9), and the death of the generation of Israelites he’d led (Judg 2:10a), we learn, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judg 2:10b). Rather than follow in the ways of the Lord, we learn, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger” (Judg 2:11-12).   [1] Jehoshaphat was a relatively good king who followed after the ways of King David. Jehoshaphat started his reign by committing himself to the Lord and destroying the pagan worship centers throughout Judah (2 Ch 17:3-6). He then directed godly men to teach God’s Word throughout the land (2 Ch 17:7-8), and “They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people” (2 Ch 17:9).

Sunday Nov 21, 2021

     This pericope opens with a directive from the Lord (Thus says the LORD) to Jeremiah who instructed him, saying, “Go and buy a potter’s earthenware jar, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the senior priests” (Jer 19:1). God called His prophet to make a trip to the local potter’s shop in order to purchase a pot. Jeremiah bought a specific kind of jar (בַּקְבֻּק baqbuq) that had a narrow neck and was used for pouring liquid. It’s likely the name of the jar was an onomatopoeia, where the name sounded like the kind of noise it made as the liquid was being poured out. Apparently, Jeremiah’s message was for the leadership of the city, as he was instructed to take some elders and senior priests along with him.      The Lord instructed Jeremiah, saying, “Then go out to the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is by the entrance of the potsherd gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you” (Jer 19:2). After visiting the potter’s shop, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to head to the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is just south of Jerusalem. It’s likely the potsherd gate was near the potter’s shop and was known as the place where the potter would discard broken vessels that were no longer useful and could not be repaired.      The content of Jeremiah’s message was then given by the Lord who instructed His prophet, saying, “Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle.’” Hear the word of the Lord was the common phrase spoken by a prophet who spoke for the Lord. This reveals that the message was not from the prophet himself, but was actually God’s Word to the people. The plural reference to the “kings of Judah” likely includes the current leadership as well as the prior dynasty of kings responsible for the deplorable state of affairs in Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah used God’s proper name, YHWH (יהוה), eight times in this chapter. YHWH (יהוה) was God’s covenant name with Israel and would have reminded the people of their relationship with Him. Jeremiah also used one of God’s titles, referring to Him as “the LORD of hosts”—literally, the LORD of the armies—who was also identified as “the God of Israel.” It should be remembered that Israel was a theocracy and God was their Judge, Lawgiver, and King (see Isa 33:22). They were in a binding contract with Him which included blessings and cursings depending on whether they obeyed or disobeyed (Deut 11:26-28; 28:1-68). Because of Israel’s long history of idolatry and rebellion, they had chosen the path of cursing. Because God has integrity and keeps His Word, He was about to fulfill His promise to judge them based on the agreement of the Mosaic Covenant. God was about to unleash a calamity (רָעָה raah – evil, misery, distress, injury, calamity) upon Judah and Jerusalem, and the result was that “the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle.” Here was a sensation that one could feel all the way up to one’s ears as the news of terrible calamity was about to be unleashed on the nation. God then explains why this was going to happen. He said: "Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind." (Jer 19:4-5)      Jeremiah mentions three reasons for God’s judgment: 1) They had forsaken the Lord, which meant the covenant relationship had been abandoned. Once they had forsaken the Lord and His righteous directives, all forms of evil followed. 2) They had made Jerusalem an alien place where sacrifices were made to idols. 3) Their pagan sacrifices had degenerated to the place where they sacrificed their innocent children to Baal.      Idolatry had permeated Judahite culture to such an extent that they’d lost their identity as God’s people and were no longer distinct from the pagan cultures around them. Forsaking Yahweh did not lead to atheism, but idolatry, which is a form of thievery, as it gives worship to manmade objects instead of the Lord. Biblically, there is only one God (Isa 45:5-6), and to worship someone or something in His place is to steal the glory due Him (Isa 42:8). Furthermore, idolatry subverts the Lord’s authority and eventuates in social and judicial perversions. Being only a block of wood or stone, idols cannot provide, protect, or guide those who worship them, but neither do they make demands contrary to the proclivity of the fallen human heart. And when there is no check on the human heart to restrain its sinful inclinations, the result is a breakdown in morality that weakens society and leads to harmful behavior, especially toward the righteous, vulnerable, and innocent within a community. Sadly, many churches in America have become superficial and useless, reflecting more the values of our declining culture rather than the holiness God expects of those who are His children and possess His Word.      According to the Mosaic Law, human sacrifice was regarded as murder (Lev 18:21; Deut 12:31; 18:10), and God prescribed death for those who practiced it (Lev 20:1-2). We know from Scripture that by the end of his life King Solomon turned away from the Lord and worshipped idols, even building places of worship for them (1 Ki 11:4-8). These pagan worship sites were later used by Israelites to sacrifice their children (Jer 32:31-35). It is recorded that two of Israel’s kings, Ahaz and Manasseh, caused their sons to be burned alive to pagan gods (2 Ki 16:1-3; 21:1-6). Apparently, other Israelites were also sacrificing their sons and daughters to idols (Psa 106:34-38; Jer 7:30-31; 19:4-5; 32:31-35; Ezek 16:20-21). Paul tells us that such sacrifices are actually offered to demons (1 Cor 10:20), so it’s no surprise that such sacrifices are hellish. Because Israel became corrupt, God destroyed and expelled them from the land by means of military defeat from their enemies. Child sacrifice is mentioned in the list of sins that brought the nation to destruction (2 Ki 17:6-23).      When it comes to sacrificing their children, the United States of America outdoes all previous cultures. As of 2021, more than 62 million babies have been aborted in America since Roe v. Wade.[1] Most children are sacrificed for the parent’s self-interest. Of unintended pregnancies in the USA, four in 10 are aborted, which amounts to roughly 3,000 per day.[2] And girls are more likely to be aborted than boys, which translates to a form of gendercide.[3] The killing of innocent human life is a violation of the sixth commandment, which states, “You shall not murder” (Deut 5:17). Today, we don’t have idol centers located in temples or fields where children are sacrificed to a pagan deity; rather, we have clinical offices with well-educated and well-paid hitmen who use their surgical tools and vacuums to murder the innocent. Our government not only legalizes such activity, but uses tax dollars to fund it. We are a nation guilty before a just and holy God, and one wonders how long such evil can continue before the Lord’s judgment falls and renders to us what we deserve? It’s unimaginable to serve a God who cannot or will not judge us if we continue our current course of spiritual and moral decline. Of course, forgiveness is available to those who humble themselves and turn to Christ as their Savior. This is true for any sin, however heinous, even murder.      We know Judah was unrepentant and that God’s judgment was coming upon them. Jeremiah continued His message from the Lord, saying, “therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter” (Jer 19:6). God would change the name of this valley to fit the crime that was committed there; namely, the slaughter of innocent children. In this way it was to serve as a memorial that recalled Judah’s unfaithfulness to God and the evil that fell upon the children of the nation.      The leaders of Judah had other plans, but God would overrule them and bring about His judgment. The Lord said, “I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hand of those who seek their life; and I will give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth” (Jer 19:7). God’s judgment would be terrible and swift. And the punishment would fit the crime, as they would be put to death by the Babylonians whom God would raise up as a weapon against them, and their dead bodies He would give as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the fields. Such language is employed of Jesus at His Second Coming when He puts down rebellion before establishing His kingdom on earth (Rev 19:11-18).      The city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in such a way that others would see and be amazed. God said, “I will also make this city a desolation and an object of hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its disasters” (Jer 19:8). God would intentionally make Jerusalem an object lesson for others to see; no doubt, that others might learn to fear the Lord.      God revealed further judgment in which He would create a distressing situation that would result in Israelites engaging in cannibalism. God said, “I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them” (Jer 19:9). God knows the wickedness of the human heart and the perversities that materialize when there is no restraint on sin. One day these Judahites were sacrificing their children to Baal and Molech, and in a short time they would resort to eating them! God had warned of this judgment upon the nation if they turned away from Him and lived sinful lives (Deut 28:53-57; cf. Jer 11:1-8). Later, Jeremiah wrote about how this came to pass during the Babylonian siege (Lam 2:20; 4:10).      God instructed Jeremiah, saying, “Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you” (Jer 19:10). Here, Jeremiah’s act was itself a Word from the Lord, as it communicated in visual form the mind of God toward Judah and Jerusalem. And after breaking the jar, Jeremiah gave a message, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial” (Jer 19:11). Just as Jeremiah easily broke the jar, so God would break His people and Jerusalem for their sins. And just as the potter’s jar could not be repaired, and would be thrown into a trash heap, so the Israelites, who were guilty of horrible sins, would be killed and buried in Topheth because there is no other place for their corpses. The Lord continued, saying, “This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,” declares the LORD, “so as to make this city like Topheth” (Jer 19:12).      Jeremiah offered no call to repentance. Rather, the picture is one of judgment that is sudden and final. The clay jar is broken and that’s it. God’s judgment was upon that generation to whom Jeremiah spoke, but His judgment did not render His former promises to the nation obsolete, as future generations could know God’s grace and blessing. Walter Kaiser states: "The fact that this sin-sickness cannot be “cured” does not mean that there are no future possibilities for a restoration to God’s favor again. This word of judgment is for the present generation; there will be no reversals for those who have failed to respond so frequently to the message currently being delivered, but the promises of God made to the patriarchs and others about his choice of the nation, his gift of the seed that will bring salvation, his gift of the land, and especially his gift of the gospel (that is, that in your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed), are all irrevocable (Rom 11:29)."[4]      Speaking about the destruction of the city, Jeremiah continued, saying, “The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled like the place Topheth, because of all the houses on whose rooftops they burned sacrifices to all the heavenly host and poured out drink offerings to other gods” (Jer 19:13). The reason for God’s judgment is clear. His people had turned away from Him and been worshiping openly on rooftops, offering sacrifices and drink offerings to astral deities and other gods. Because of their unfaithfulness to the covenant, God would destroy Judah, and Jerusalem would burn (Jer 7:16-20; 32:29-30).      After giving his object lesson with the clay pot, we learn, “Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house and said to all the people” (Jer 19:14). Once in the temple courtyard, Jeremiah said, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to bring on this city and all its towns the entire calamity that I have declared against it, because they have stiffened their necks so as not to heed My words’” (Jer 19:15).      Because Israel was in a special relationship with God, they were to live righteous lives and not in conformity with the fallen world around them. In this way, they were to have a right attitude and a humble heart that was willing to do God’s will. Instead, the leadership and people stiffened their necks and defied God’s Word and lived sinfully by worshipping idols and sacrificing the innocent. Judah’s prolonged sinfulness had blinded them to their depraved spiritual condition and they were beyond repair by preaching (Jer 25:3) or by prayer (Jer 7:16). Judgment was coming.      Jeremiah’s message fell on hard hearts and was not received kindly. The next chapter reveals the resistance and hostility Jeremiah received for speaking God’s Word, with the result that he was beaten and placed in stocks by Pashhur, a priest and chief officer in Jerusalem (Jer 20:1-2).   [1] Sam Dorman, “An estimated 62 million abortions have occurred since Roe v. Wade decision in 1973”, (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/abortions-since-roe-v-wade). [2] Worldometer, https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/ [3] Abortion in numbers, (https://thelifeinstitute.net/learning-centre/abortion-facts/issues/the-numbers). [4] Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Tiberius Rata, Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 245.

Saturday Nov 20, 2021

     This unit of Scripture is part of a larger section in which Moses addresses four leadership offices God would assign in Israel, namely, judges (Deut 16:18-17:8), priests (Deut 17:9-13; 18:1-8), kings (Deut 17:14-20), and prophets (Deut 18:15-22). These four leadership offices were bound by the Mosaic Law, which legitimized their authority and was the guide for their rulership.      In this pericope, Moses continues his message to the judges in Israel (Deut 16:18-20) and addresses the evil of idolatry that may happen within a community (Deut 17:2-3). If the judges heard about a case of idolatry, they were to launch a thorough investigation (Deut 17:4a), and if the report was true, the man or woman guilty of the evil act was to be put to death by stoning (Deut 17:4b-5). The evidence for the case was based on the eye witness testimony of at least two, or preferably, three persons (Deut 17:6). The persons who testified as eye witnesses were to be the first to cast a stone against the offender, and then others within the community were to join in and execute the offender (Deut 17:7a). In this way, God’s people purged the evil persons from their community, thus removing the existential danger of idolatry (Deut 17:7b).      All Israel was to remember and honor God as their Ruler, Lawgiver, and Judge (Isa 33:22). The nation was being blessed with the land of Canaan which God had promised to them (Gen 15:18; 17:7-8; 26:3-4; 28:13-14; Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:2). Though God was giving them the land as a blessing (Deut 4:1, 40; 11:31-32; 13:12; 16:20), He retained ownership at all times (Lev 25:23; cf. Deut 10:14; 2 Ch 20:5-7; Psa 24:1; 89:11; Acts 17:24-26). The land of Canaan was theirs by divine promise, but possessing the land was contingent on their faithful obedience to the conditions of the Mosaic Covenant. If Israel repeatedly turned away from God and pursued idols, the Lord would curse them as He’d promised and eventually remove them from the land (Deut 28:63). Concerning the passage under consideration, Moses said: "If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly." (Deut 17:2-4a)      God was going to give towns for His people to live in, but it was their responsibility to live righteously and to maintain the covenant relationship they had with Him. Personal responsibility is here in view. If the judges in the local communities became aware of a person—man or woman—who was committing idolatry, it was their responsibility to investigate the matter. The specific offense mentioned here is that of idolatry, which Moses calls evil (הָרַע ha ra - lit. the evil, referring to idolatry; cf. Judg 2:11; 3:7; 10:6). Idols were generally manmade objects, but could also include stellar bodies such as “the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host” (Deut 17:3b). Idolatry was a crime of the highest order. Peter Craigie writes: "The crime undermined the very basis on which the covenant community existed and therefore it was to be dealt with very severely, for it threatened the security and life of all Israelites. Thus, the crime, though religious in form, was political in significance. It is analogous to the modern crime of espionage or treason in time of war, for the net effect of both would be to weaken the security of the homeland."[1]      That this crime was done “in the sight of the LORD your God” implies God’s omniscience (cf., Psa 139:1-4; Matt 10:30). And Moses uses the proper name of God (יהוה) which was the name He used when establishing His covenant with Israel. The word transgressing translates the Hebrew verb עָבַר abar, which means to pass over, go one’s own way, or transgress. Here, the term refers to unfaithful individuals who are walking away from the Lord, going their own way, breaking the contract, and worshipping blocks of wood or stone instead of the One who had liberated them from slavery (Deut 5:6), given them the land of Canaan (Deut 4:1; 9:6), cities, houses, wells and vineyards (Deut 6:10-11), enabled them to produce wealth (Deut 8:18), and promised to bless their labor (Deut 7:13; 11:13-15). The word covenant translates the Hebrew word בְּרִית berith, which means covenant, agreement, or contract. Israel was in a binding relationship with God—a contract—that promised blessing if they obeyed (Deut 28:1-14) and cursing if they disobeyed (Deut 28:15-68; cf. Deut 11:26-28). God was giving His people land and towns, and also written laws which were intended to guide the leadership concerning the formation and practice of good government. It was the leadership’s responsibility—as theocratic administrators in God’s kingdom—to apply His laws within their towns. If a judge heard about someone practicing idolatry, he was to take action and investigate the matter thoroughly (Deut 17:4a). It would be unjust to convict someone on the basis of mere hearsay. A careful investigation would be necessary in order to establish beyond all doubt that this crime had been committed.      Moses continued, saying, “Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death” (Deut 17:4b-5). If the offense of idolatry was true, the offender—whether man or woman—was to be executed. The reason was idolatry was tantamount to treason because it subverted God’s authority by influencing the Israelites to devote themselves to a manmade idol. If left unaddressed, idolatry would destroy Israel from the inside out. An idol, being only a block of wood or stone, cannot provide, protect, or guide those who worship them. However, part of the attraction of idols is that they make no demands contrary to the proclivity of the fallen human heart. And when there is no check on the human heart to restrain its sinful inclinations, the result is a breakdown in morality that weakens society and leads to harmful behavior, especially toward the righteous, vulnerable, and innocent within a community. The punishment for idolatry was death (Deut 17:5; cf., Deut 13:10), and the participation of others in the community to execute the idolaters showed their understanding of the seriousness of the crime and its potential harm on them all.      When the judges investigated a case to determine guilt, it was to be “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses” (Deut 17:6a). This set a high bar for trials which was intended to protect the innocent and judge the guilty. Moses continued, saying, “he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deut 17:6b). Moses had previously stated that capital punishment could not occur on the basis of a single witness, saying, “no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness” (Num 35:30b). For emphasis, he repeats this policy later, saying, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (Deut 19:15).[2] In Israel, as in any society, there was always the possibility that a wicked person would present a false charge against another, thus corrupting and weaponizing the judicial system for evil ends. The Lord had clearly forbidden this, saying, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Deut 5:20). The two or three witness policy would mitigate against this sort of corruption. In fact, there was a statute that condemned the false witness to bear the punishment he sought to bring upon another. Moses said, “If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing…[and] if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother” (Deut 19:16, 19). These laws, if properly followed, would allow the judicial system to function properly and for Israel to administer justice against idolaters.       Because sin is contagious, an egregious sin such as idolatry could spread from one family to another, to communities, and eventually infect the whole nation. Failure to follow this instruction would allow the spiritual disease to spread throughout the community, which could bring about the death of the nation.[3] Concerning the execution of the idolater who was determined to be guilty, Moses said, “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people” (Deut 17:7a). Concerning the involvement of the witnesses in the execution of the offender, Eugene Merrill writes: "The purpose for this contingency was to preclude personal or private vindictiveness and to assure that what was observed had actually occurred and was not the product of poor sensory perception or an overactive imagination. To forestall a conspiratorial process in which witnesses would collaborate in misrepresenting the truth, the witnesses would themselves be forced to hurl the first stones of execution (v. 7). The gravity of what they were called upon to do would be so great that it was likely that the collusion would unravel either in the judicial process itself or subsequent to the miscarriage of justice."[4]      The public execution was not to be administered by the leadership, but by the residents of the town. Those who personally witnessed fellow Israelites practicing idolatry were directed be the first to cast a stone. Then, other Israelites were to participate in putting the offender to death, and in this way, Moses said, “So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deut 17:7b). Here, the purging consisted of the person who practiced idolatry and thus influenced others to evil. Daniel Block states, “Moses’ concern for communal health leaves no room for sentimentality or prejudice. Yahweh’s agenda requires a people united in its devotion to him and rigorous in its preservation of its own character as a holy people (cf. 7:1–6). Eliminating those guilty of capital crimes eradicates the evil from the land and the people.”[5]      If this law had been faithfully executed by the judges and citizens in Israel, it would have kept idolatry at bay and helped preserve the spiritual and moral purity of the nation. However, the record of Israel’s history—with the exception of a few generations that were faithful to God—is a record of their worship of pagan idols, which at times included human sacrifice (Deut 12:31; 18:10-11; 2 Ki 17:6-23; 21:6; Psa 106:37-38; Jer 7:30-31; 19:4-5; 32:35; Ezek 16:20-21). Because of a breakdown in leadership and jurisprudence, God eventually judged His people because they failed to judge themselves. After hundreds of years of idolatry, God 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). Present Application:      Idolatry, at its core, it is the selfish sin of substitution in which a person dedicates himself to something or someone lesser than God to direct his life and to meet his wants and needs. God states, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Ex 20:3-4). Biblically, there is only one God (Isa 45:5-6), and to worship someone or something in His place is to steal the glory due Him (Isa 42:8). Idolatry is thievery of the highest order. An idol is merely the work of a craftsman (see Isa 44:9-20). There is no life in it (Psa 115:1-8; Jer 51:17; Hab 2:18-20), nor can it deliver in times of trouble (Isa 46:5-7). And, as stated previously, an idol cannot provide, protect, or guide those who worship it. However, part of the attraction of idols is that they make no demands contrary to the proclivity of the fallen human heart. And there’s the problem. For when God and His Word do not hold the place of preeminence so as to govern the life of a person (concerning personal choices, family, finances, business, etc.), the heart is then free to follow its sinful inclinations. The result is a lifestyle that ultimately frustrates the worshipper, weakens his/her morals, and eventuates in the harm of others for the sake of self-interest.      Like Israel, Christians are susceptible to idolatry. Writing to Christians in Corinth, Paul said, “Do not be idolaters” (1 Cor 10:7), instructing them to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14), revealing that a sacrifice to an idol is really a “sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Cor 10:20a). The reason for Paul’s instruction was he did not want the Christians at Corinth “to become sharers in demons” (1 Cor 10:20b). The apostle John, who twice bowed to worship an angel and was rebuked for it (Rev 19:10; 22:8-9), wrote to Christians, saying, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).      Modern forms of idolatry can include: 1) The actual worship of physical idols in one’s home or pagan temple (Ex 20:3-5; cf. Ex 32:1-4). This form of idolatry is straightforward in its form and function, as one worships the physical representation of pagan deity. Various forms today can include Hinduism, New Age, ancestor worship, astrology, and the occult. 2) Money, the aggressive pursuit and acquisition of which makes us feel secure and powerful (Matt 6:24; 1 Tim 6:6-10). Money can be a blessing, but only when it does not take the place of God. A good test of whether money has taken the place of God is whether we hoard it or use it wisely for God’s purposes and glory (1 Tim 6:17-19), the advancement of Christian ministries, and helping the less fortunate in society (Jam 2:15-16). 3) Humanism, which places mankind at the center of everything and makes us look only to ourselves or others for purpose, meaning, and the solution to our own problems. Atheism, big government (socialism and communism), naturalism (which teaches evolution), and environmentalism are all manifestations of humanism, as we become our own lords to find meaning in life and to solve our own problems without God’s help. Humanism is what predominates in our universities, government, businesses, and social institutions. 4) Pleasure, which elevates physical stimulation above all else. Manifestations of this can include a commitment to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and entertainment such as music and television with the result that God has no place in the life of that person. When all of life is under God’s control, we will have eliminated our personal idols.      Idolatry in the Church should be dealt with as a most serious offense. However, the Church is not Israel and we are not under the Mosaic Law as the rule of life (Rom 6:14; Heb 8:13), but under the Law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 6:2); therefore, how we handle idolaters is different. Israel was required to execute those guilty of idolatry (Deut 17:2-5), but no such command is given to the Church. God’s directive for the Church is to disassociate from the rebellious person who refuses to turn from idolatry in order that we might preserve our walk with God. As Christians, we are to live holy lives, as Peter wrote, “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:15-16). To be holy means we are set apart from the sinful ways of the world and living in conformity with God’s character and commands. God directs us to manage our relationships with others, for though we live in a fallen world and interact with sinful people, we must be careful who we let into our inner circle of friends, for “bad company corrupt good morals” (1 Cor 15:33; cf. Prov 13:20; 22:24-25). Israel, as a nation, failed to manage their relationships with the surrounding pagan nations, and as a result, they “mingled with the nations and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons” (Psa 106:35-37). The very wise King Solomon failed to manage his relationships and “his wives turned his heart away after other gods” (1 Ki 11:4). The result was, “Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done” (1 Ki 11:5-6). Writing to Christians at Corinth, Paul stated, “I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor 5:11; cf., Rom 16:17; 2 Th 3:6). Disassociation was for the purpose of maintaining holiness with the Lord and avoiding a snare that will trap us in sin. Disassociation is never easy, for we love fellow believers and desire friendship with them, praying and reminding them of Scripture when we have opportunity, hoping they will come to their senses and come back into fellowship. However, our walk with God must always take priority, for He is our greatest Friend, and allegiance to Him secures for us all that is strong and good and meaningful in life. And if/when the erring believer turns back to the Lord and resumes his/her walk-in-the-Word, then all will be as it should, and we should extend forgiveness and grace and welcome him/her back into fellowship.   [1] Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), 250. [2] In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses this same rule in church policy concerning charges brought against Church leaders, saying, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). [3] Unfortunately, this is what happened, as idolatry was permitted. A terrible example is seen in Solomon who allowed his wives to influence him to worship foreign gods (1 Ki 11:1-10), and this had a negative impact on the nation of Israel, as it encouraged others to worship idols. Because Israel pursued idols, this brought God’s judgment, which ultimately led to the nation’s destruction (2 Ki 17:6-23). [4] Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, vol. 4, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 261. [5] Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy, ed. Terry Muck (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 407.

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. 

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