Archive for the ‘Old Testament’ Category

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Evil Opposition in Scripture: A Series…

May 25, 2012

Part 1. Introduction…

From the moment of the Fall there has been a tension present in history.  Adam and Eve felt it and hid themselves in response to it.  God described it in the curse of the serpent and the promise of the Seed.  Cain displayed it with the murder of his brother.  From Cain on, there were a long line of those who embodied it and fell victim to its effects.  The “tension” in question is presence of evil opposition to God’s anointed.  The tension of messianic opposition is rooted in Genesis 3, and branches out through scripture.  Present along with the proto-euangelion in Genesis 3 is also a proto-opposition that bears witness to the type and fate of those who will seek to oppose the seed of the woman.

Where the allusion to the messiah is present, so too is the specter of His opposition.  The presence of these two forces together creates a palpable tension that pulses through the narrative of the Bible.  Each side is marked by characteristics that point forward to their ultimate fulfillment.  Messianic characteristics found in individuals within the text point us to Christ as judge, lawgiver, king, and Immanuel.  Likewise the characteristics of the opposition point us to their ultimate fulfillment in Satan as adversary, deceiver, self-exalting murderer, and defeated one.

This evil opposition and its characteristics can be seen in individuals throughout the text as they seek to oppose the will of God, often as they oppose His chosen people Israel.  As the types for Christ become more pronounced and specific within the text so does the type for Satan.  Our purpose here is to examine this character of evil opposition, its source, its mean and its in end the text.  We shall attempt to prove that there is a link between three passages of scripture that inform our understanding of the presence of evil opposition to anointed of God.

First we will examine the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his King in II Samuel.

Second we shall center on the figure represented in Israel’s taunt of Isaiah 14, “the son of the dawn” and I will argue that Isaiah has Absalom in view in this passage.

Third we will see how both of these Old Testament texts point forward to Judas’ opposition to the Messiah King in the gospels.

Finally we shall draw these texts together and try to make sense of their common characteristics.  By looking at these texts we desire to increase our understanding of both the opposition; Satan, and the One being opposed; Christ.  To that end, as we peer into the darkness may the marvelous light of God may be more pronounced; that we might gain hope by seeing the futility of those who oppose God.

In the Next Post, Part 2, we will discuss the characteristics of evil in Scripture.

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The Content of Complacency…

April 30, 2012

The conception of complacency:

Genesis 3:1-15  Adam and Eve resided in the comfort provided by God and their sole responsibility to was to carry out the commands of God in creation.  In their comfortable state, they were deceived to think that God was not to be trusted, and that their fate lay in their hands.  Rather than being content in what God has provided, they became complacent.  They displayed a disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold provision and protection.

Constant complacency:

-Genesis 6-9  The earth and mankind was afflicted by sin (Gen 6).  God provided deliverance through the judgement of the flood (Gen 7-8); Noah experienced the comfort of deliverance(Gen 9:1-19); Noah was lax in obedience and he got drunk off of his own wine and was exposed naked (Gen 9:20-29).

-Genesis 15-18 Abram was promised a seed that would multiply and bless the world.  Instead of waiting on the Lord, he relied on his own ingenuity, and disregarded God in the face of His provision, sleeping with Hagar and fathering Ishmael.

-Exodus 32  God had delivered His people from the affliction of slavery and provided for them protecting them in the wilderness, comforting them.  They got restless waiting for Moses to return from the Mountain of God, and they rebelled, constructing a golden calf, placing their trust and hope in a God of their own creation.  They disobeyed the command of God that there be no other Gods than Yahweh, they displayed disregard for God and His commands in the face of His manifold protection.

-Judges  Judges tells the story of the people of Israel inhabiting the promised land.  God had provided the land for them, and delivered them into it through the leadership of Joshua.  And yet, they continually disregarded God’s provision.  So God gave them judges to lead them.  But in the end, they occupied the land that he had given them and each ended up doing “what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)  This created an environment of horrendous acts, rape, murder, and idolatry.

-2 Samuel 11-12: David was complacent during the period in which he sinned with Bathsheba.  During a time “when the kings go out to battle” david remained in the comfort and security of the palace.  Rather than fulfilling his duties as king and fighting alongside his men, David remained in the comfort of the palace.  Rather than obeying the law he loved, to not commit adultery, David was complacent and gave in to his sin.  He showed callous disregard for God in the face of His provision, in that David had wives, and concubines, yet he still lusted after Bathsheba.

The conclusion of complacency

-The people of Israel in the prophets: Complacency is both rooted in disobedience and manifests itself in disobedience and ends, like all disobedience, in judgement.  God had commanded that his people worship only Him, that they wait on Him for there are no gods or rulers like Him. (Isa 40)  And yet Israel was complacent in their worship.  He commanded that hey love Him with all of their heart soul and mind (Deut 6:5) and yet their hearts slowly drifted from Him; that drift was complacency.  By the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah before the exile, and the prophets like Malachi after the exile; the people of Israel were merely going through the motions with no true love for God.  The people came near to Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. (Isa 29:13)  They felt like they could get by with mere lip-service without really believing in who God is and in what He had commanded them to do.  The result was affliction and judgment in the form of exile and conquest.  Malachi bears witness to this complacency, the priests were going through the motions, offering sacrifices, but they cared little about obeying God fully.  God commanded that the sacrifices to be brought to the altar be whole, without blindness or blemish,(Leviticus 22:22) but the priest were content to continue with substandard sacrifices.  The result was distance from God and the judgment of His silence for 400 years.

In the NT:  Throughout the NT, Christians are called to guard themselves agains complacency.  They are to love the Lord; pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17); Guard against errant doctrine to stand firm (Gal 5:1); and to guard against idols (1 John 5:21).  Failure to do these things results in grieving the Spirit, and exclusion from the body of Christ. (Eph 4:30 and 1 Cor 16:22)

The conclusion of complacency gone unchecked and unchallenged is envisioned in Rev  3 where the church in Sardis is addressed by Christ.  They are a church, they have a name, they think that they are alive, but in fact He knows their deeds and they are dead.(3:1)  Complacency can have the appearance of life and activity, but if the activity is not obedience to God, and its life is not found in Christ, it represents a disregard for God in the face of His provision in Christ.

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An Eye for an Eye: the Rules for Revenge…

February 9, 2012

In considering Sermon on the Mount, one is constantly confronted with statements that seem all to common though frequently misread.  It is amazing when you listen to popular culture, to hear the tell-tale signs of Biblical influence.  How often have we heard the statement “an eye for an eye” in regards to revenge or retribution.  Absent its Biblical context these phrases have very divergent meanings.  And absent the Sermon on the Mount and Christ’s revelation regarding God’s Law, we are prone to misuse and mistake God’s Law for our license to sin.  In Matthew 38-42 Jesus defines the scope of Christian ethics in relation to other people.  He begins by challenging the assumptions of His listeners and confounding their tendencies.  Here we will ask and attempt to answer two questions; What was the original intent of the OT law regarding “an eye for an eye”? and Did Jesus contradict this law?

What was the original O.T. Intent in the law of an eye for an eye?

An eye for an eye – This is an exact quotation found in three OT passages (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21) and reflects the principle of lex talionis a Latin phrase from, (lex = law and talionis = retaliation = literally the “law of retaliation”)  Mankind is prone to an excess of sin in every area of life, and in seeking justice there is no exception.  This principle serves to “rein in reckless blood vengeance,”[1] such as we find in Genesis 4:23-24, where Lamech boasts that he will return abundant vengeance on those who have done him wrong. If Cain is avenged 7 times, then Lamech 70 times.”  To prevent such excess this principle was instituted, to insure that the punishment would fit the crime.  This principle was meant to inform the law courts on the appropriate level of punishment needed for offense and to provide an end to unlimited blood-feuds between wronged parties. However, by the time of Jesus, this was being misused as a license to pursue vengeance.

The Old Testament “did not allow an individual to take the law into his own hands and apply it personally. Yet that is exactly what rabbinic tradition had done. Each man was permitted, in effect, to become his own judge, jury, and executioner. God’s law was turned to individual license (permit to act, freedom to take a specific course of action), and civil justice was perverted to personal vengeance. Instead of properly acknowledging the law of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth as a limit on punishment, they conveniently used it as a mandate for vengeance-as it has often been wrongly viewed throughout history. What God gave as a restriction on civil courts, Jewish tradition had turned into personal license for revenge. In still another way, the self-centered and self-asserted “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees had made a shambles of God’s holy law.”[2]

We see this same perversion being addressed occurring earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, concerning divorce. (5:31-32 and Matt 19:8)  Where additions were made to God’s law not to alter His law, but because of the hardness of the human heart.  “God gives by concession a legal regulation as a dam against the river of violence which flows from man’s evil heart.”  Jesus here is addressing and focusing on the heart of His disciples, not the law of God.

Does Jesus contradict The OT Law?

No. Jesus did not come to end the law but to fulfill it.  To redeem the law, which did not exist to provide a license to sin through legalism, but to guard the hearts of Israel, expose sin, and provide for sins redemption through sacrifice.  “Jesus opposed the rabbinic interpretation of the Law, rather than the Law itself.”[3] In the Old Testament the principle of lex talionis  (the law of retaliation, “eye for an eye.”) was meant to be used and applied in the judiciary process, “this is not the sphere of application in Matthew.  Jesus does not overthrow the principle of equivalent compensation on an institutional level that question is just not addressed but declares it illegitimate for His followers to apply it to their private disputes.”[4]


[1] Dockery, David. Seeking the Kingdom: the Sermon on the mount for Today. Wheaton: Shaw Pub. 1992. 61

[2] MacArthur, John.  Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Quarles, Charles. The Sermon on the Mount. Nashville: B&H pub. 2011. 146.

[4] Allison, Dale. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of the According to St. Matthew, Vol 1. T&T clark Pub. 2000.  542.

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Keeping and Doing: Aided by Journaling…

August 31, 2011

When it comes to studying the Word of God there are as many methods, techniques and options as there are people.  But few methods are as helpful as concentrated study and copying the text for yourself.  The Kings of Israel were given this command In Deuteronomy 17:18-20;

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,  that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20

There was a legal benefit to this to be sure.  The law of God was the law of the land, it would be analogous to having the president of the United States, upon assuming office, write out his own copy of the constitution. (not at all a bad idea if you ask me.)  But there is a spiritual component to this command which far outweighs any civil aspect.

The law, the Word of the living God, given to His people, is the key to salvation and blessing to all who receive it.  A Blessed man is one who delights in this law, and meditates on it day and night.  And there are few methods of meditation better than simply copying the text with your own hand and letting each word sink into your soul as the ink dries on the page.

To this end, there is a great product which is relatively recent, which is designed to help facilitate and encourage this type of study.  It is called the 17:18 Journable series.

The books each contain an outline of a biblical text and blank pages, one page for text and the other for reflection.

From their website:

Each book is organized so that you can write out your very own copy of Scripture. You will be writing the Bible text only on the right hand page of the book. This should make for easier writing and also allows ample space on the left page to write your own notes and comments. From time to time a question or word willbe lightly printed on the left page; these questions are to aid in further study, butshould not interfere with your own notes and comments.

I have a couple volumes and have found them to be exceedingly helpful and a real aid in my study and relishing of God’s great gift.  The true delight comes when you complete your book, and you have your own hand written copy of the text, to keep, to study and to pass on to future generations.

Hopefully this will be an encouragement to us as we seek to keep and do this word, to be doers and not hearers only, of the implanted word, able to save our souls.

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The City, a Place Where Wondering Ceases…

June 26, 2011

The city, a place where wondering ceases.  Psalm 107 is a powerful recitation of God’s faithfulness displayed in the shepherding of His nation Israel through the dessert.  The wilderness throughout scripture is a place of testing, punishment and judgment.  Cain is cast into the wilderness east of Eden, punished for spilling his brothers blood.  Israel wanders through the wilderness until God’s righteous judgment is fulfilled, Jesus enters the wilderness led by the Spirit to face temptation and reckon with evil.  Rest for the weary wanderer lies in the cities.

In the Psalms, Israel sings of their land, promised and flowing with provision and blessing.  They were to till fields they had not planted, and to live in cities they had not built.  Psalm 107 tells us of such a story.  God is the great urban planner, who gathered people, “in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” (vs. 3)  They wandered through deserts and wasted places, souls faint; bodies dried up and thristy for lack of a city.  But God in His enduring lovingkindness heard their cry and “led them by a straight way til they reached a city to dwell in.” (vs. 7)  The cities of man, built by foreign hands, represented for Israel the promised reward for faithfulness in their wandering.

How many in our cities are still wandering?  Led by God’s unseen hand, drawn to occupy apartments they did not build, resting in the security of the city, but filled with spiritual unrest.  They face an eternity lost to wonder apart from the satisfaction found in God.  May God allow me to preach in such a way that they cry to Him their satisfaction, and are led a straightway to an end of their wandering, through the wilderness of life to the eternal city.  Where the weary soul is satisfied and the hungry soul is filled with Good things.(9)

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What is Sin? The Unholy Trinity…

June 24, 2011

Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity In Psalm 51.

What is sin, really? 

From the very first verses in this psalm, David is upfront and honest about his actions and the punishment he deserves.  He has not only missed the mark, and failed to follow the law, he has actively engaged in criminal activity, adultery, murder, lying, theft, all of which leads up to a virtual rebellion against the God he now implores for forgiveness.  This is a pattern of evil easy to criticize, but also all too easy to mimic in our own lives.  Thankfully we serve a God or mercy, and compassion.  There is no reason that we should be accepted by a Holy God.  All of us from ‘small’ sins to great transgressions display hearts in rebellion to our maker.  Our only choice is to throw ourselves at His mercy and plead for grace.  David models both the confession and the call for mercy, for his sins, his life of iniquity and pattern of transgression.

 a.     Sin: The word used twice in this Psalm for ‘sin’ is the word חַטָּאָת or chatta’ath.  This word is rooted in the idea of mis-step, to stumble or falter.  To miss the mark, induce sin, or bring guilt and or condemnation.  It is from these sins that the Israelites sought absolution through sacrifice.  David rightly seeks to be ‘cleansed’ from this act and will feel confronted with his sin continually until he is forgiven.

 b.     Iniquity- The word here is עָוֹן or ‘av-own’. It occurs some 237 times in the Old Testament and describes a pattern or display of criminal activity.  This is not merely sin, or missing the mark but engaging in a crime, for which one would be prosecuted, tried and judged.  Sometimes it is the penalty for sin, in that sin brings about iniquity, a pattern or ‘life of crime’.  It is rooted in the idea, and comes from the word to bend or pervert, to twist or distort.  So one could see the natural transition here, from twisted and perverted to iniquity and crime.  To bend and twist the law to fit your own way is to commit a crime.  Certainly David is guilty of this, and rightly seeks to be absolved of his crime, ‘wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.’ Vs. 2.

 c.   Transgression- The word here is פֶּשַׁע or ‘pesha’.  It occurs some 99 times in the Old Testament.  It is rooted in the idea or rebellion or revolt.  Its root word means as much, to turn away from.  Israel was in rebellion against David’s kingdom (1 King 12:19) This is to commit sin against someone else, Joseph’s brothers transgressed against him by selling him into slavery.  Israel.  One can and does transgress against God, every time one sins.  God promises to punish those who transgress Ps. 89:32 but to those who he forgives, He not only forgives but places their transgressions far from them. Ps. 103:12.  But Christ was numbered among the transgressors bearing the sins of many and interceded for them. (Isa. 53:12)

John MacArthur writes:

“If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this, “Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.”  That’s what comes out of Psalm 51, a man who feels dirty, sick, isolated and afraid…all consequence of his sin. And out of that, he pours forth this confession and it has all the right perspectives of a true confession would be threefold…see your sin for what it is, see God for who He is, and see yourself for who you are. Any true confession is going to have to interact with those components.”[1]


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All we have to fear is… the Lord Himself…

June 21, 2011

13The end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  14For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Imagine these verses as the dying words of “the Preacher” or Solomon.  For 12 chapters he has conveyed wisdom and instruction about life.  The thrust of that instruction has been that all life is vanity.  Here we have a king, a wise man, a lover, a ruler, fellow human being who has gone to the effort to communicate to us the meaning of life and instruct us as to how we should spend our time.  All life is vanity.  It is a vapor.  But should you think that Solomon is preaching nihilism you’re mistaken.  He is not saying, “he you might as well throw yourself off a cliff because nothing in life is worth pursuing.”  One thing matters: Your relationship with and your pursuit of God.

Some have described John 3:16 as an encapsulation of the whole Bible.  Within one verse lies the most important message anyone can ever hear; that God loves His creation, sacrificed His son to redeem it and if you believe in Him you shall not perish but live forever with Him in Glory.  Verses 13 and 14 of Ecclesiastes serve as an encapsulation of the rest of the book and serve as a good guide for life.  Time is precious.  The book is about to close and after all is cleared away; this is what you need to know.  In these last words He re-emphasizes what he has said previously three other times.  Just in case you haven’t gotten the message.  “Fear the Lord and keep His Commandments, because this applies to every person, God will bring every act into judgment, everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.”

This fear is a reverence which motivates rather than a revelation which paralyzes.  Solomon has spent the last 12 chapters speaking on the vanity of life, people’s opinions, oppositions, desires, and pursuits.  None of those should be feared.  None of those should motivate us to do anything.  The only thing we should allow to motivate us is a healthy fear and respect for the One who made us.  Jesus instructs His disciples of the very same thing; “do not fear the one who can destroy your body… but rather fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)  This is a recognition of who God is, He is our creator and our sustainer, we live because He formed us and we exist for Him, our lives are not our own, they are set apart for His glory.

If we think that we can merely pay lip service to this and say, “oh I fear God, but I still want to live the way I think is best.”  Or worse, if we give all appearances that we fear God, but hidden in our hearts is rebellion against Him then we will be in for a rude awakening.  God is not fooled and He is not mocked.  He will bring everything into the light (judgment) and expose every hidden thing.  He is concerned with your heart.  You can act holy, you can act righteous, but if hidden in your heart is sin, un-confessed and un-crucified you will likely hear on that Day of Judgment, “depart from me, for I never knew you.”

So how do we as Christians read this book and understand these verses?  We are besieged with books telling us how to live our lives and please God.  Walk into any bookstore, listen to any podcast, and you will find countless opinions about how to please God and find His favor.  Solomon even alludes to these opinions in verse 12, “be warned: the writing of many books is endless and devotion to books is wearying to the body.”  If we were to follow all the advice written in all the books or heard on all the podcasts we would soon become weary and overburdened.  There is no end to man’s effort to find favor with God.  But the gift of God and the glory of the gospel is that favor is not found in books, podcasts, websites or advice.  Favor is found in the One who takes the judgment we deserve upon Himself cleanses us from all sin.  Through Christ we can truly obey.  Through Christ obedience, rather than being a burden, becomes an act of love from a child to a Father.

If we are in Christ we approach God with reverence but also confidence; committed to obey His commandments, the greatest of which are these: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”  If these commandments are hidden in our hearts, and our lives are lived in their pursuit, when we are exposed on the Day of Judgment we will have no cause for fear.   Knowing that hidden in us is His glory rather than our condemnation.  And we will hear those comforting words, “well done, good and faithful servant.”