Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Adonibezek: The Lost Believe in Justice

The beginning of Judges tells the story of the heathen king, Adonibezek.  Joshua had died and now God spoke directly to the tribes of Judah and Simeon to go up and fight the Canaanites as a whole and among them the Perizzites, and to take their land.  They attack the town of Bezek, which is apparently a little ways West of Bethlehem, if you can visualize that on a map.  They killed ten thousand Canaanites in Bezek and captured Adonibezek, whose name means, lord of Bezek.  They cut off his thumbs and big toes.

When I think of that, I sometimes think of Rocky Bleier, a running back for the championship Pittsburgh Steelers, during their four Super Bowl wins.  He had fought in Vietnam and the shrapnel from a hand grenade had blown off part of his foot, yet he still played running back in the NFL.  I think, how did he play running back without part of his foot?  How could Adonibezek fight without two big toes?  That was the point, of course.  And without thumbs, he couldn't hold on to a sword either.

Upon this occurrence, Judges 1:7 says:

And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.

No pun intended, but this stuck out to me in Bible reading, mainly the last part, his saying, "So God hath requited me."  Adonibezek believed in justice.  Not karma.  I've found this to be the case with the lost.  They believe in justice, they just don't like it when it applies to them.  It's very often in the back of someone's head that there will be payback for the things that they have done.

I have a feature on a Bible program, when looking up the usage of the Hebrew word, either "search on this form" or "search on all forms of lemma."  A lemma is a form of a set of words, what you might call the root word.  It looks up all the forms of a word.  "This form" would be letter for letter that particular word, the same in every way.  All forms of this lemma are found 236 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and this exact form only twice, the other translated "finished" in 1 Kings 9:25.

The Hebrew word for "requited" is shaw'lam (my transliteration), which in its root means to be complete or sound.  It is the root idea of justice, the idea of something coming full circle, whatever you've done coming back on you, completing the circle.  It means "perfect," an end being met, or "full" or "finished."  Adonibezek's cutting off the toes and thumbs of seventy other kings wasn't the end of the story.

The law of lex talionis, the law of equal retribution, is an eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth.  This is equal justice.  The expression lex talionis was written in 450 BC in Roman law known as the Twelve Tables and written: “If a man has broken the limb of another man, unless he makes his peace with him, there shall be like for like, talio esto.”  The very beginning of the concept of lex talionis used the example of the breaking of a limb of another man, something close to what Adonibezek had been doing.

Adoni means "lord," but Adonibezek knew that he wasn't the highest law.  There was a higher law than him, a lord that was higher than what he was.  Adonai is one of the names of God in the Old Testament.  Adonibezek fancied himself a regional or local lord and the God of Heaven was the Lord of all.

The laws of nature and nature's God, the language of the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson, include this law of equal retribution.  I've found everybody believes in justice.  They know what it means and they want it for themselves, but they don't like it when it applies to themselves.  In this case, Adonibezek knew he was getting it though.

Adonibezek says, "God hath requited me," so the thought could be that he was acknowledging God.  It's unlikely.  He uses Elohim, the Hebrew name for "God," but also used by the heathen to refer to the god of their own imagination.  He did believe in god at least.  He at least believed in justice, and God Himself inspired this to be written.  These words were recorded in scripture.  God had requited Adonibezek, actual God.

Man has God's law written in his heart as a default position by which he may judge truly.  The world functions according to Divine standards. This is our Father's world, no matter what happens, and that is a presupposition that is useful in the conviction of every unbeliever, Adonibezek being an example.  His conscience admitted to him that this was justice from God for what he had done.  The world functions according to the laws that God both set in motion and in which He directly intervenes.

Monday, August 30, 2021

They Did Not Drive Out the Inhabitants of and from the Land

The idea of driving out anybody from almost anywhere is not acceptable in a woke world or does not work according to political correctness, the latter a softer, earlier iteration of wokeness.  The act of driving out inhabitants from the land is a major theme, however, of the Old Testament.  Israel is in bad shape at the beginning of Judges and a major, if not the major, reason is that the various tribes of Israel did not drive out the inhabitants of the land from the land.  You could add, "and keep them out."

A prerequisite for Israel from God was to drive out the inhabitants of the land God would give them.  In fact, God would drive the inhabitants and He would use Israel to do it.  It wasn't really even their driving out the inhabitants, but God using them to do it.

It was God's will to drive out the various Canaanities.

Exodus 23:28, And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.

Exodus 33:2, And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:

Exodus 34:11, Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

Numbers 32:21, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him,

Numbers 33:52, Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:

Deuteronomy 4:38, To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.

Deuteronomy 11:23, Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.

Joshua 3:10, And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.

Joshua 13:6, All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.

Joshua 17:12, Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

Joshua 17:18, But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine:: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.

1 Chronicles 17:21, And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?

If they did not drive them out, this was not good -- very bad.

Numbers 33:55, But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.

Joshua 23:13, Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

This is still a general principle for the success of any people.  The general principle is separate from people, their culture, or their way of life.  Try to reach them and if they do not listen or won't follow the scriptural way, separate from them.  They won't like this, but this is the only way to preserve a godly people and culture in order to please God.  It is holiness, which is primary to the nature of God.

In the early history of Israel, one of Abraham's family settled in Sodom and Gomorrah, and that ruined his family.  God of course destroyed those cities with fire and brimstone.  Just the opposite of driving out people is to join with them.  Psalm 1:1, obviously the first verse of the entire Psalter, says,

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Israel failed when they did not drive out the people from the land.  They disobeyed God in not doing this.

Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. 21 And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day. 27 Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns:: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. 28 And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out. 29 Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries. 31 Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob: 32 But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.

This whole first chapter is about either destroying these inhabitants or not driving them out.  The first good and the latter bad.  Mixing with people, intermingling with them, or coexisting with them is not the will of God.  The rest of Judges testifies to the failure of not driving out or not separating.  They effect the people until they become more and more like the inhabitants.

The New Testament is the same.  You evangelize the lost.  If they won't listen, you separate from them, especially those who call themselves brothers (1 Cor 5:11).

This principle of driving out inhabitants or separation is crucial to the preservation and practice of truth.  It's in every New Testament book.  It is a principle that not only protects an individual, family, and church, but it also is crucial for a nation, like Israel.

This above principle applies to the United States, which relates to borders and immigration.  If there is an American way, it won't be preserved without some form of separation to keep out those who won't think the same way.  I'm afraid that ship has sailed or that practice won't be able to be put back into the bottle.

Other nations might need to think about separating from the United States.  Even though the Taliban is godless and pagan, they have a way of life they are protecting by ejecting the United States.  They don't want American culture to infiltrate their very specific view of the world.  They know that can't happen without separation.

As an example of what God said and the implementation of this principle, I noticed today that European nations were considering a policy for Americans visiting there to stop the spread of Covid.  Quarantine is an extreme form of separation to stop disease from spreading.  It is the same principle.  People judge Covid to be dangerous.  They don't want it.  A bubble, like the NBA bubble in 2020, was deemed necessary to continue the season.

The continuation of true doctrine and practice necessitates some kind of bubble.  Young people or a youth culture in general don't want a bubble.  They want outside of it.  They want amalgamation, integration, and association.  They very often want to be like everyone else and be accepted by them.  It is a fools errand on their part, because it won't end in acceptance.  It doesn't work that way.  The cancel culture shows this.  However, it will result in their not being right with God, the most important consideration any of them should ever have.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Required Rejection of Dismayal

The English, "dismayed," is found only in the Old Testament, and 31 times in the King James Version.  The Hebrew word is hay'tawt (my transliteration), which is found 57 times in the Old Testament, the following the first five usages:

Deuteronomy 1:21, "Behold, the LORD thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged."

Deuteronomy 31:8, "And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed."

Joshua 1:9, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Joshua 8:1, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land."

Joshua 10:25, "And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight."

In all five, the verb, hay'tawt, is a command:  neither be discouraged, neither be dismayed, neither be thou dismayed, neither be thou dismayed, and nor be dismayed.

Of all the commands in these familiar passages, "be not dismayed," I contend, is the one that slips through the cracks.  What gets attention are those such as, "go," "possess," "fear not," "be strong," "be not afraid," and "be of a good courage."

God doesn't want His people to be dismayed.  It's not an English word we use any more.  It is "to be broken," "panicking," "shattered," or "disheartened."  Dismayal relates to attitude, outlook, or disposition.  God requires particular dispositions, which does mean that we can understand them.  We must say, no, to being dismayed, and we can know what that is.  We can't play dumb on dismayal.

What is the underlying cure for dismay, what buoys against that sinking?  God sets the land before you.  God is with you.  God will not fail or forsake you.  God has given you the king, his people, and his hand.  God will put his foot on the necks of His enemies.  It is God.

When a professing believer is dismayed, it reflects on His belief.  What does He believe about God?  How can he remain dismayed when God is God, God is Who He is, God has done, does, and will do what He does and will do.  God wants an attitude, a disposition, that matches the truth.  These are affections. A true, governing knowledge of God affects our spirit.  Jonathan Edwards in his Treatise on the Religious Affections wrote that the "affections of the soul" move someone out of a state of indifference.  He writes:

The Knowledge which the Saints have of God's Beauty and Glory in this World, and those holy Affections that arise from it, are of the same Nature and Kind with what the Saints are the Subjects of in Heaven, differing only in Degree and Circumstances. . . . Those Affections that are truly Holy, are primarily founded on the Loveliness of the moral Excellency of divine Things. Or, (to express it otherwise) a Love to divine Things for the Beauty and Sweetness of their moral Excellency, is the first Beginning and Spring of all holy Affections. . . . That Religion which God requires, and will accept, don't consist in weak, dull and lifeless Wouldings, raising us but a little above a State of Indifference: God, in his Word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good Earnest, fervent is Spirit, and our Hearts vigorously engaged in Religion.

This is a person, who is not dismayed.  He doesn't need to be fired up.  He doesn't need short-term, temporal, fleshly gratification to motivate him.

Edwards uses the word, "Wouldings," "dully and lifeless Wouldings."  They are not can or will, but would.  They would, but they won't.  They would do it, but they can't get themselves to do it, because their disposition is so dull and lifeless.  God isn't a good enough reason.

Not being dismayed closely relates in a positive way to the joy in heaven, the joy in the Trinity that the Triune God wants men to share.  Live in light of eternity.  God requires this too.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Required Specific Application of Non-Specific Biblical Commands

There are over 1,000 commands in the New Testament alone.  Some of them are specific.  Some of them, I'm calling, non-specific.  You can easily find a list of all the commandments of the New Testament.  I said "some" for the specific and "some" for the non-specific, but those two are far from equal.

Scripture uses commandments a lot.  This has stopped being normal in our culture.  Very few people tell people what to do anymore, and especially as it relates to the Bible, what God says.

When I took English, the command was a verb with an implied subject, "you."  A command is not an option.  You are required to follow a command.  It's called "obeying a command."  A command demands obedience.

The Bible is authoritative.  It is an authority.  It is the highest authority.  It is God's Word.  God makes commands because He is the highest authority.  He is on top of the command chain.  He is called "the Highest" in scripture.  He is above everything and everyone.

Sometimes God's commands are specific.  Here are some examples.
Ephesians 4:28, "Let him that stole steal no more."
Ephesians 5:6, "Let no man deceive you with vain words."
1 Corinthians 7:10, "Let not the wife depart from her husband."
1 Corinthians 7:11, "Let not the husband put away his wife."
1 Thessalonians 4:2, "Abstain from fornication."
I've got some news for you.  Most of the commands in scripture are non-specific.  If you kept all of the specifics, I haven't counted how many that is, it's at the most twenty percent.  That leaves 80% of the commands as non-specific.  It may be more than that.  Those are commands too though.  They also require obedience.

To obey non-specific commands also requires specific applications of those non-specific commands.  If someone wants to, he could ignore these commands, and someone could easily go without notice.  God will see it, but these commands, and there are hundreds of them, I contend, are ignored.  They've got to be applied and they can be applied in a specific way.  God isn't commanding us to do something or not do something (a prohibition) that can't be understood.  Let me give you some examples of these.
Romans 13:14, "Make not provision for the flesh."
1 Peter 2:11, "Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
Romans 12:2, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Luke 12:15, "Beware of covetousness."
2 Timothy 2:22, "Flee youthful lusts."
We're all still accountable to God to obey all of these non-specific commands.  They do relate to music, to dress, to what we call "cultural issues."  We can't play dumb.  God knows.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"Know For a Certainty," As Seen in the Old Testament, Especially Joshua 23:13-14 and the Hebrew Idiom There, and Its Relevance to Today

While reading through the Bible a second time this year, I came across Joshua 23:13:

Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.

In a day of uncertainty, where we are challenged to say that we "know" anything for sure, here is a strong statement at the beginning of the verse, something the audience should "know for a certainty" that would happen in the future.  This could be considered a doctrine of its own, because how could anyone "know for a certainty" something is going to happen or not going to happen in the future?  I decided to look at the Hebrew behind this English translation to see what the words were.

"Know for a certainty" translates a Hebrew idiom, where the same Hebrew word is used back to back, and in this case it is yawda (my transliteration).  Yawda and yawda, the same Hebrew root, appear side by side.  The first form is yaw-doe-a (my transliteration), which is a qal infinitive absolute verb, and the second is te-dÉ™-oo´ (my transliteration), a qal imperfect, second person, masculine, plural verb.  Literally, the two words together say, "Knowing, ye will know."  The sense of those two words in the English is "know for a certainty."

In 1933, Charles Eugene Edwards wrote a journal article about the above Hebrew idiom construction in Bibliotheca Sacra, entitled, "A Hebrew Idiom."  The first paragraph of that journal article reads [BSac 90:358 (Apr 1933) p. 232]:

In his commentary on Matthew, D. J. A. Alexander refers to a Hebrew idiom (p. 408) “which combines a finite tense and an infinitive of the same verb to express intensity, repetition, certainty, or any other accessory notion not belonging to the essential import of the verb itself”. An illustration is in Is. 6:9, which is more literally quoted in Matt. 13:14, “Hearing ye shall hear”, and “seeing ye shall see”. And Dr. Alexander remarks, (p. 358) “The Hebrew idiom is retained, which uses two forms of the same verb for intensity or more exact specification”. Too literal a translation might sometimes be barbarous or absurd. For example, Joseph never meant to say (Gen. 40:15) “For stealing I was stolen but as it is properly rendered, “For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews”.

The repetition of the same word brings intensity.  For the verb "know," bringing intensity to "know" is "certainty" or "surety."  That idiom of that exact Hebrew verb in Joshua 23:13 is found thirteen times in the Old Testament.  For your reference, here are those twelve usages underlined in the King James Version, minus Joshua 23:13:

Genesis 15:13, And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

Genesis 43:7, And they said, The man asked us straitly of our state, and of our kindred, saying, Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words: could we certainly know that he would say, Bring your brother down?

1 Samuel 20:3, And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.

1 Samuel 20:9, And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee?

1 Samuel 28:1, And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.

1 Kings 2:37, For it shall be, that on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head.

1 Kings 2:42, And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Did I not make thee to swear by the LORD, and protested unto thee, saying, Know for a certain, on the day thou goest out, and walkest abroad any whither, that thou shalt surely die? and thou saidst unto me, The word that I have heard is good.

Proverbs 27:23, Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.

Jeremiah 26:15, But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.

Jeremiah 40:14, And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not.

Jeremiah 42:19 The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.

Jeremiah 42:22, Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

Joshua in his speech to gathered Israel uses the same Hebrew verb in Joshua 23:14, the next verse:

And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.

Looking at the usage of the verb in verse 13 and then in verse 14, the understanding is that they should know with certainty about their futures and that they already do know in the present.  They should know what's going to occur in the future with certainty partly because they already know in the present.  What they know in the present in their hearts and in their souls, an expression that also brings intensity to knowing, is that not one thing failed of all the good things which the Lord their God spoke concerning them.  If they know that in the present, then they know with certainty also what God says to them through Joshua for their future.

Nothing is more sure than the Word of God.  It is so sure that the knowledge is certain.  If God says it, it is certain.  This certain knowledge could be and should be called, the truth.  It is the truth.  Any contradiction to it is a lie.  Today it could and should also at least be called, "science."  God created all natural laws and He spoke all moral law.  They are both all true, knowledge, and scientific.

Uncertainty is a tool of Satan from the very beginning of time.  Satan's temptation of Eve created uncertainty about what God said.  The uncertainty relates to the human will, giving a person liberty where he doesn't have it.  The uncertainty about what God said gave Eve what she thought was liberty to eat.  Maybe she wouldn't die if she ate of the tree.  Maybe God was doing something other than what He said.

The liberty created by uncertainty is a confusion of sovereignty.  Who is sovereign?  Or, who is the true or actual sovereign in the world?Sovereignty shifts from God to man.  If I can't be sure of what God said, then I am free to do what I want to do.  God can't hold me responsible for something I couldn't know.  This conflicts with faith that pleases God.  God isn't pleased by the uncertainty that fuels unbelief and disobedience.  He wants us to be sure.

In Joshua 23:14, Joshua says, you already know.  This is a presupposition.  The Apostle Paul uses the same presupposition in Romans 1:18-20:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Not knowing, being uncertain, is an excuse.  It isn't a valid excuse.  It allows for a wide range of possibilities for men.  Anticipating that excuse, in Deuteronomy God takes a preemptive strike after repeating His law to the people Israel through Moses (30:11-14):

11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

Today people will say either the Bible was written by men, it isn't preserved in a perfect way, or it can't be understood because of the centuries of separation from its original writing.  The will of God then becomes very pliable, very adaptable to the will of man.  He won't be challenged by authority because there is none.  He gets to do what he wants with uncertainty as his premise.  This is a lie, just like it was in the Garden of Eden.  Don't think that you are free to go your own way because you can't know the truth.  God's Word is true.  Know with certainty.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

What Is the Righteousness of the Pharisees That Ours Is Supposed to Exceed According to Jesus?

In what's called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in Matthew 5:20:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

I've heard this explained in a number of different ways, often, I've found, in convenient ones to make room for false doctrine or practice.  One error I've heard says something like the following and maybe you've said it.  I'm going to indent it, so that you'll know it's representing what other people say it means:

The Pharisees were super righteous people.  They were fastidious at keeping the law, since they were experts and were so, so into the law.  They were very righteous people, just not perfect, which is what it had to be in order to be saved.

Furthermore, there are versions of Pharisees today.  They try to keep all the laws and are very strict.  This strictness is Pharisaical, and it produces people who are self-righteous and are trying to impress people with their righteousness by being stricter than others.

This representation of the "righteousness of the Pharisees" doesn't fit the context in the sermon of Jesus.  Jesus wasn't talking about how greatly righteous the Pharisees were, but how poor their righteousness was.  That is seen in the preceding and the proceeding context of Jesus' sermon.  I contend that evangelicals use this false interpretation of the sermon to attack both keeping the law and strict keeping of the law.

A misrepresentation of Jesus, that He wishes to disabuse His audience, was that He, as a teacher, was trying to destroy the law.  He says in verse 17:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

You could hear, "Just the opposite."  What Jesus came to preach didn't result in people not being righteous.  They couldn't and wouldn't be righteous the Pharisee way.  The Pharisees were the ones diminishing the law, not Jesus, and Jesus illustrates that in the post context of verses 21 to 48.  The standard remained God and not the Pharisees, as Jesus ends the chapter in verse 48.

As Jesus described His position on not destroying the law, He talked about the perpetuity of every jot and tittle (verse 18) and that the greatest in His kingdom kept the least of His commandments (verse 19).  The salvation that Jesus taught would produce righteous people.  They could and would keep the law -- more than that.

Jesus first illustrates His position by giving several illustrations of the application of "Thou shalt not kill."  His audience had been taught that particular law or standard of righteousness and if they were at the Pharisee level, they wouldn't still be keeping the law like Jesus taught that it should be kept.  Because of that, they weren't being righteous.

If Jesus' audience hated people in their heart, they were guilty of murder before God.  If they said certain hateful things, they were committing murder.  If they wouldn't reconcile with someone, they were as much murderers likewise.

Pharisaical righteousness was designed around something less than law keeping.  They didn't really keep the Sabbath, didn't really not murder, and didn't really not commit adultery.  They didn't really love God or their neighbor.

The Pharisees concocted means of appearing to keep the law or just keeping their own minimization of the law, what we might call today a deconstruction of the law.  With the Pharisees, you could keep the law without actually keeping it.  Jesus pointed this out again and again.

You don't have the righteousness of God when you have that of the Pharisees.  You weren't keeping the law, when you were a Pharisee.

There is an irony to the false interpretation.  It is Pharisaical.  It purposefully diminishes the law and therefore diminishes the righteousness of God.  What I'm saying also fits into what the Apostle Paul said that they did in Romans 10:3:

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

The righteousness of justification by faith produces a righteousness greater than what the Pharisees believed and lived.  It would look like the righteousness of God, because it was a righteousness of the power of God.  This was having your house built on the rock of Jesus Christ and not the sand of the Pharisees. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

The Coddling of the American Mind, Questioning One's Salvation, and Showing Grace and Mercy

Three veins of thought I recently read and heard come together into one theme for this post.  Each of them intersected into a common orbit, like three strangers meeting at an English roundabout and deciding to stay.  First I want to credit the three sources.

The first, The Coddling of the American Mind, was mentioned by popular linguist and author, Columbia professor John McWhorter at Substack in a part of his anti-anti-racist series, the article titled, Black Fragility as Black Strength.  He borrowed from the recent conservative book, The Coddling of the American Mind, for the outline of his article.  The title of that Lukianoff and Haidt book also takes from a now classic published in 1987 by University of Chicago professor, Allan Bloom, titled, The Closing of the American Mind.  The coddling of the American mind is a later iteration of closing the American mind, both occurring on university campuses.  Truth approaches a coddled mind and it closes like the Mimosa pudica to escape injury, remaining in error.

Questioning salvation is scriptural.  At least two books of the New Testament, 1 John and James, have this as their subject matter.  Parts of several other New Testament books speak to the unconverted in a mixed multitude, including Hebrews.  Jesus Himself addresses this crowd.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves."

With an attitude of great surprise, Tim McKnight on his post, "Social Media: 7 Tips for Christians," started with these two sentences:

Last night I experienced a first on social media. A person claiming to follow Jesus Christ questioned my salvation.

McKnight, a person claiming to follow Jesus Christ, questioned someone questioning his salvation.  The Apostle Paul said, question people's salvation, Jesus questioned people's salvation, and every true evangelist will question someone's salvation.  It shouldn't have been a first on social media, but this was considered an offense.

The above offense of questioning salvation then also dovetails with number three, a sermon I was listening to on Christian radio in our area, where the speaker was emphasizing "showing grace and mercy" to others.  As I listened to his defining the practice, I tried to connect the practice to scripture.  I understood from what he said that "showing grace and mercy" was a kind of toleration of unacceptable behavior, putting up with how others behave without saying anything.  That might have become the standard understanding of the concept of showing grace and mercy.

Let me put this together.  Coddled minds, who don't want their salvation questioned, need us to show them grace and mercy by leaving them alone.  The Apostle Paul didn't coddle the Corinthians when he called on them to question their own salvation.  Would he have done better to coddle them and would this have been to show them grace and mercy?

Often the Apostle Paul starts his three pastoral epistles with these almost identical statements:

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Not outdone by Paul, the Apostle John began 2 John with the following in verse 3:
Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
He proceeded to question the salvation of many people in verses 9-10:
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:  For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
He also encourages you to question the salvation of others.  Someone could be coddled all the way to eternal damnation, thinking they're saved, when they're not.

I'm very much for showing grace and mercy, but I also want to get a handle on what that means.  Everyone needs mercy.  We don't condemn people when they sin or if they offend us personally.  We show them grace by helping them stop sinning, not by ignoring their sin.  There is a gracious way to help people.  What Paul writes toward the end of 1 Thessalonians is good instruction (5:14):
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Some need comfort, some support, but others warning.  Everyone needs patience.  How long is patient?  It isn't interminable or else you'd never warn the unruly.

Paul told Titus that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust (Titus 2:12).  Showing grace means teaching others to deny ungodliness and worldly lust or to do just what Paul did in Ephesians 5:11 when he wrote:  "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them."  Is that showing grace?  Not to a coddled mind.

We're in a difficult situation today where people need the most questioning in history and with their coddled minds, they can endure none of that.  Questioning is occurring, but it's mainly about questioning.  They will not show you grace if you do not show them grace, all depending on the meaning of grace.

I recognize that I'm probably preaching to the choir with this post.  Everyone else, show me some grace, okay?

Monday, August 02, 2021

Where Does the Bias Toward Alien Life Come From?

I was watching an Olympic event this week and a commercial came on screen for Netflix with an alien on its craft, watching a stream of shows from space.  Some might say it was just a joke, except that it isn't for many, many people.  It works as a concept because people think life out there is paying attention to what's happening on earth.  It's a tolerable option now pushed by multitudinous science fiction productions.

Richard Dawkins said publicly in 2008, caught for the film Expelled, that since we don't know how life originated in the first place, an "intriguing possibility" is that alien civilization evolved elsewhere and then "designed" and "seeded" the first life on earth.  He may have taken that idea from a scientific paper in 1973 by Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel, which they called "directed panspermia."  Crick later revised this position, but these speculations highlight the trouble with the existence of evidence of design in the massive amounts of genetic information in DNA, what Dawkins, the famous atheist scientist, slipped out as an apparent "signature of some kind of designer."

I actually hear often the alien explanation for life on earth when I'm out preaching the gospel.  People know it isn't an accident that we got here or that we are who we are with all of our complexity.  They are unwilling to say it's because of God, but they also don't accept that we evolved at least here on earth from a common ancestor.

Are aliens a good answer for the existence of the colossal and labyrinth of complicated information at the core of human existence?  Where does that bias toward alien life come from?  Is it scientific?

The reach for alien life as an explanation for human origins defers to intelligent cause.  The presence of the functionally specified digital explanation in DNA infers intelligent design.  Are aliens an even reasonable explanation as the designers behind life on earth?  Are aliens an adequate cause with the known power to produce the kind of effect of large amounts of specified information?

In the search for extraterrestrial intelligence scientists start with presupposition then of specified information contained in electromagnetic signals coming from space.  However, radio astronomers have never yet found such information bearing signals.  All of life on earth does have such information inscribed even in its simplest living cells.  No evidence exists that infers anything from space is the causal agent for life on earth.

The speculation of alien origin of life on earth springs from a bias against a divine causal agent.  It isn't science.  No science backs alien origin of life on earth.