CTT | What is the Biblical Stance on Racism?

CTTThe Bible has many references to people groups, nations, and lineage, but does that make it racist? Not in the way we generally think of racism. In our modern-day we tend to focus on visible distinctions (skin color, hair type, or language) and we use those distinctions to malign people. The color of a person’s skin is used to determine if a statement or decision was racist, wrongfully exempting some and falsely accusing others of racism. When the world rejects Truth and defines all “right and wrong” based on self we shouldn’t really find double-standards all that surprising. We live in a day where sinful judgement takes place all of the time and is often smoke-screened with ad hominem attacks and straw-man racism. Rather than discuss the issues at hand, many who struggle with racism who are caught without a valid argument are the first to play the “racist” card. The world is lost because it has rejected the Truth of God’s Word.

Romans 1:18-20 (ESV)18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

So enough about how wrong and sinful the world is today. Let us turn to the Truth of God’s Word to explore this notion of racism and see what the Bible has to say on the matter.

God Created Mankind as One Kind, a single race.

Let us begin on the sixth day of Creation Week.

Genesis 1:24-31 (ESV) 24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Every living creature is created according to its kind. When God created plant life (day 3), He instituted the concept of bearing seed after it own kind. Each kind of plant will only bear seed of its own kind, and it will not bear the seed of a different kind. A banana kind will not suddenly bear seeds for stone fruit (like peaches). When the Bible refers to procreation of man, it uses the same rules of seed bearing after its own kind. The Hebrew word (אָדָם) is translated Adam, man, and mankind. All of mankind are a single race. That any man can join with any woman and produce children after their own kind demonstrates this truth. The creation account in Chapter 2 further illustrates this truth.

Genesis 2:18-20 (ESV) 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.

In all of creation, there was no helper suitable for Adam. Therefore God created woman out of man and joined them together. One race, one kind, and it was all very good. Now, God designed within Creation a wide array of variety, for we have classified many variations within kinds (different cats, dogs, fruit, vegetables) of the lower creatures and within mankind (heights, weights, skin tones, hair types, eye colors, etc). Before the fall, there was only Adam and his wife, but the genetic material was all there. With sin came the curse, and degradation of all of creation. Divisions of mankind happened, but they did not become different kinds.

The Reset in the Time of Noah

We know that there was great variety in mankind after the fall as they multiplied on the earth. There were men of great renown (Nephilim or giants) in those days and after the flood (Sons of Anak; Numbers 13 (ESV)).  In Genesis 6, we see God is grieved by the wickedness of mankind on the earth and brought judgement upon it, saving Noah and his family. Now all people groups, all of the race of mankind is preserved in the 8 who were aboard the Ark. After the flood, the face of the whole Earth was changed, as well as its climate, and the need to survive in multivarious environments had to have been designed into the mankind by God, and it was. All of mankind spoke one language, and were one people.

Now sin persists in mankind and soon after the flood and the first harvest of the vine, Ham, sinned against his father, Noah. Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, as punishment for the wrong committed him by Ham. This becomes our first major separation of people groups, the sons of Canaan become subjects to Japheth and Shem who did what was right by Noah. This is a prophetic judgement on the house of Canaan, one God revisits in the time of Abraham.

Genesis 17:7-9 (ESV) 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.

Abraham was a descendant of Shem. But how did the groups become so foreign to one another in the time that passed between Shem and Abraham, such that Abraham was a sojourner in the land of Canaan?

The Tower of Babel

Let’s look turn to the beginning of Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

So, we see the first separation of people groups after the flood comes as a direct result of sin committed against Noah. A prophetic declaration of separation from the sons of Shem and Japheth and the sons of Ham. After some time, we have a second, major separation when God confused the languages of the people. Remember that everything here was written by Moses as he recorded God’s eye-witness account. We have some clue as to how the languages divided the people by looking at the genealogies recorded in chapter 10, particularly in how the accounts of the descendants of Japheth, Ham, and Shem are concluded. Let’s look at the descendants of Ham.

Genesis 10:6-20 (ESV) 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.

The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. 19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

I’ve highlighted several of the people groups that would become enemies of Israel, worshipers of false gods, wicked men of old. I am confident that most of the highlighted ones are easily recognized while a couple (Heth and Cush) might not be so. We looked at the significance of the descendants of Heth in the story of Jacob and Esau. We will take a look at Cush, but for now I’d like to draw your attention to the significance of Nimrod, the first on earth to be a mighty man. Now, we know that there were Nephilim or giants before the flood, so here the connotation is that Nimrod is perhaps the first earthly king. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. This is significant in understanding what went wrong in the building of the Tower of Babel. After having established his kingdom, he sought to build a tower into Heaven, to be like God, and he had the support of the people. We see that when he left the land of Shinar, he built Nineveh.

After God confused the languages of the people, they dispersed in clans, languages, and nations over the Earth. When their languages split, so did their gene pools and their cultures. Very few remembered God their creator… as we see in chapter 12, God calls Abram to leave the land of his family (Ur of the Chaldeans) into a land that God would give him. We see God calling Abram out of the dispersion of people who had at one time committed to build a monument to themselves, a tower to Heaven. Much like today, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to call out of the world a people for Himself. The key separation here is a people who follow and worship the One True God, the descendants of Abraham.

What about skin color?

Skin color has already varied because our genetic makeup has already been set; however, it has not been mentioned as a determining factor in dividing people groups. Now that we have clans and languages split, and the post-flood world, it stands to reason that skin color may become more and more significant in the natural selection process based on climate and language. Answers in Genesis did a good job of explaining how skin type plays a role in natural selection with regards to climates.

Fast-forwarding to Moses as he records the Law, he is God’s chosen prophet to the children of Israel. God used Moses to deliver Israel from their slavery in Egypt, and to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness while God made Himself known to Israel first, and the rest of mankind later. He promised Abraham that the nations would be blessed by his offspring, that is Jesus Christ, through whom all mankind might be saved from the wrath earned by their sin. In Numbers, chapter 12, we see events transpire that would easily qualify as racism in today’s vernacular.

Numbers 12  (ESV) | Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. 10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

Ah, here we have a reference to Cush, the son of Ham. The Hebrew word here translated “Cushite” is elsewhere translated “Ethiopian”. The root of this word is the Hebrew word for the Cush which also means “black”. Cush was probably given his name because he was born darker than his siblings. The land of Cush is the land in the southern regions of the Nile, south of Egypt. Moses had taken a black woman for a wife, Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses for it, and God’s anger is kindled. The people have the Law and the statutes of the Lord. If they had any just objection to Moses marrying this woman, they would have presented their case. They didn’t, Miriam and Aaron objected to the marriage and even slightly invoked their status as having prophesied before the Lord before as somehow supporting their issue against Moses. God was furious. He addresses even the fact that the prophets don’t even speak to God in the same manner that God speaks to Moses. As punishment, God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Even when Moses makes his plea with God to heal her, God insists they abide by the Law, and so Miriam must observe the Law and wait 7 days outside the camp before being allowed back in. Is false judgement according to the color of skin condoned in the Bible? Absolutely not. Miriam was cut off from her people (for 7 days) for it.

Conclusion

What we superficially throw around as racism is in no way condoned in the Bible. God created one race, one kind, that is mankind. There are divisions of people, first and foremost whether or not we know the One True God and worship Him as God. There are differences within mankind, differences that I believe God enjoys, for He is the one who Created our variety, our languages, our appearance, our skills, our laughter. He created us in His likeness, in His image… we are a dim reflection of His Greatness. We all are sinners, we’ve all fallen in the sin of Adam and are born dead in sins and trespasses. But just as in Adam all men have sinned and died, through Jesus a way of salvation was provided for all of mankind.

John 3:16-21 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

John 6:28-29 (ESV) 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Do the work of God, believe in Jesus Christ, whom the Lord God sent out of His love for us, so that we might not perish. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. May the Lord bless you and keep you in His Word.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

The Bread & Water of Jesus

Rock of Horeb by Mariano David Otero ©2010-2014 MarianoDavidOtero

Rock of Horeb by Mariano David Otero ©2010-2014 MarianoDavidOtero

To get this week started on a Gospel note, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the foreshadowing of the Gospel of Jesus found in Exodus. Today, we’ll look at Jesus’s claims of being the bread and water of life. Let’s begin with a look at the account in Exodus.

Exodus 16:1-5 (ESV) | Bread from Heaven
1 They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

Exodus 16:31-34 (ESV)31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept.

Now, if you remember back in our discussion of the Testimony, you know that here it references the Ark of the Testimony, later called the Ark of the Covenant. Inside of the Ark are the stone tablets of the Testimony, the 10 Commandments. If you read the full chapter, you will see that God also sent quail into the camp at night, so that the children of Israel can also have meat. We are skipping this portion for this study because Jesus did not refer back to the quail, but He did teach regarding the manna from heaven.

John 6:25-40 (ESV)25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Amen. Notice that the Jews with whom Jesus spoke knew the Law. They knew that the manna from heaven served as a testimony, only they were confused as to whom the manna testified. They believed it proved that Moses was giving them the Law from God. The error is slight, and it is subtle, but Jesus identifies it perfectly when He clarifies “it was not Moses who gave you the bread…” The testimony was not of Moses, it was of God the Father. Like the stone tablets of the Testimony, while the Law did come into their midst in the hands of Moses, it was to point the children of Israel to God the Father, not to Moses. Similarly, the Law and the manna were pointing to Jesus, the Son of Man. Jesus declared Himself to be both the Son of Man (descendant of Adam promised to crush the head of the serpent) AND the Manna Sent from Heaven, sent by God the Father to grant eternal life to everyone who looks on Him and Believes. This is another place where we see the “Fully Man” and “Fully God” identity of Jesus Christ laid out in Scripture by His own teaching. Notice here that Jesus is the bread of life and that whoever comes to Him will not hunger. We see in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” and many times we see the double meaning of this passage as both asking God to meet our daily bodily need for food as well as spiritual nourishment in the Word of God. But we also see Jesus declare that whoever believes in me shall never thirst. Since this statement comes connected to His declaration that He is the manna sent from heaven, it stands to reason that the reference to thirst may also stem from Exodus, and it does. Let’s turn to the very next chapter in Exodus.

Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV) 1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Here at the start of Chapter 17, we find the children of Israel leaving the wilderness of Sin. While the temptation to allegorize the English name of this wilderness, the Hebrew doesn’t quite point in that direction. The Hebrew word translated Sin here is (Ciyn) is different from the Hebrew word for sin as in something that is sinful (chatta’ath). Ciyn translates into “thorn” or “clay”, but here it is referencing an actual place, an area of wilderness where there is no water, especially not enough for all of the Israelites here.

There is significance in God’s command for Moses to take the staff with which he struck the Nile (as commanded by God)  when God turned the River Nile into blood as the first plague of judgement upon Pharaoh. Moses was to strike the rock at Horeb so that Israel would know that it was God who led them out of Egypt. The split in the rock comes after a blow of judgment, and from the split comes a flow of water to quench the thirst of the children of God. This also points ahead to the cross, where Christ would lay down His life and bear the full wrath of God that was due us for our sin, so that in Him we might have eternal life.

John 19:28-37 (ESV) 28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

The water flowed after the Rock was pierced. By the blood of Jesus Christ, the debt we could not pay was paid for by Him. All who look upon the Son and believe in Him will never thirst, for in Him they will find Living Water. This is a call of the Gospel that goes out to all people, both Jew and Gentile.

John 7:37-39 (ESV) 37 On the last day of the feast [of booths], the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 4:7-15 (ESV) 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The call goes out to everyone, Gentile and Jew. At the feast of booths, Jesus is talking to Jews who are observing the Law. The call to come to Jesus all who are thirsty includes believers. We must not get so caught up in observing the Law that we lose sight of the Gospel and become thirsty ourselves.

The Gospel for Today and Tomorrow

The Jews in Jesus’s day looked back to the Law as testimony of Moses, but failed to recognize the fulfillment of the Law in their day, in the very body and ministry of Jesus. Sadly, I fear that many Christians fall in the same trap, only now they do it with the Gospel. They think of the Gospel as something they needed to “get saved” or “be born again” sometime in the past, and then go through life trying to sanctify themselves by works of the Law, forgetting that the Gospel isn’t just something you needed at one time or that took place once in your life, but the Gospel is for our every day. Give us this day our Daily Bread, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is needed every day. We need forgiveness and remission of sins daily, and we have not yet fully grasped the promise of the Gospel, for we each will still die for our earthly bodies are corrupt. The fountains of living water, the eternal life as a promise for all who believe are prizes that lay ahead of us, in the great tomorrow, the Day of our Salvation.

Revelation 7:9-17 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

There’s still more to come for God’s people. Don’t allow the charlatans and the peddlers of false gospels distract you from the Promise of the Kingdom to come. This temporal life is a but a vapor, a breath of time. While we are here, let us be faithful stewards, striving to do the works of God so that His Will might be done in all the earth. What is that work? Well, as Jesus said earlier, that we believe in Jesus Christ who was sent by God, so that whoever looks upon the Son and believes will have eternal life. This is the work of the Gospel, and our charge as stewards of the Gospel.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His Will,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

The Pharisee and the Celebrity Pastor

Road to Emmaus  by James J. Tissot

Road to Emmaus
by James J. Tissot

If you spend some time listening to some Celebrity Pastors mishandling Scriptures, you’ll notice that while the doctrines they peddle may vary, they share a common problem, a problem the Pharisees shared. They strip-mine the Scriptures to justify their ideas and miss the point of the Bible. It is also interesting to note that many of these celebrity pastors are quick to accuse those who measure their words by the Scriptures of being “Pharisaical”.

The Pharisees did not faithfully handle the Word of God (the Law and the Prophets) for if they had, they would have recognized Jesus for who He is. A few months ago, we took a look at the sin of the Pharisee, but today I want to look at how their mishandling of scripture is alive and well today among celebrity pastors. I will do my best to point out the problem without naming names, because our goal here is to study what the Bible teaches, not what false teachers teach.

The Bible Isn’t About Us

It has been a while since we’ve visited this declaration that the Bible is not about us. The Bible is the very Word of God, and the Bible is about God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Law and the Prophets point to Christ. The New Testament points to Christ. The Bible is the Revelation of God to His people.

John 5:25-47 (ESV) 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Moses wrote about Jesus. The story of the flood is about Jesus, not Noah. It’s about God keeping His promises, not about what Noah did to earn favor with God. The Story of the Covenant with Abraham, is a story about the Promise of Jesus Christ, not about Abraham and the circumcision. The Law, the 10 commandments, were given as a Testimony of the Greatness of God, not a means for earning favor with God. The Pharisees searched the scriptures hoping to find hidden laws, or secret meanings behind the texts that would grant them deeper knowledge and understanding, all the while missing the overwhelming point of the Scriptures, that being Jesus. They completely missed that Jesus was fulfilling the Law and the Prophets right before their very eyes. And Jesus called them on it directly. The Pharisees added to the Laws and created extra standards for keeping the Laws adding all sorts of rules to specify how people were to keep the Sabbath and creating detailed rituals in how they were to wash their hands to keep themselves clean. The Pharisees also made rules that superseded (wrongly) the Law as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 15.

Why is it a Problem?

When we teach from the Law in a manner that does not find both its anchor and its destination in the person of Jesus Christ, we risk placing a yoke of the Law upon the neck of those who have accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are therefore sheep needing to be fed and guarded from wolves.

Acts 15:1-11 (ESV)  15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

We must teach the Law, for the Law points us to Jesus. Without the Law, we cannot fully understand the Gospel. However, we dare not teach the Law as if it were the Gospel. We dare not supplant the Gospel for the sake of the Law. We need Jesus to stand between us and the Law because He is the Only one who could fulfill the Law, and He did so on our behalf. He fulfilled the Law where we could not, and then died a death He did not deserve so that in Him we might find forgiveness of sin.

Galatians 2:15-21 (ESV) 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV) 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

How Should We Teach the Law?

We should take our lessons from the New Testament. Look at the recorded sermons in Acts, look at the approach taken by the writer of Hebrews, and Paul’s letter to the Romans. They work through the Law and the Prophets to build the case for Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Remember, the Apostles had not yet written the New Testament when they were first preaching the Gospel. They preached the Gospel from the Law and the Prophets. When they refer to the Scriptures they are largely referring to what we call the Old Testament (though Peter does reference Paul’s writings in 2 Peter 3:14-18, which is pretty cool). Those who presume to teach the Law should also be perpetual students of the Law. This is another reason why we should follow the church structure given to us in the New Testament (plurality of Elders) rather than assume a Mosaic structure. Moses spoke with God face to face (Exodus 33), and wore a veil over his face after speaking with God because it shined such that fear would come upon the children of Israel (Exodus 34). Since we are NOT Moses, we should follow the Church structure set in place by the Apostles in the New Testament.

Here are some pitfalls I’ve seen in some of the derailed sermons I’ve witnessed (radio, TV, online, etc) and run into myself whenever I’m putting together these Bible Study blogs.

  • Attempting to turn a descriptive text into a prescription. This happens the most when the text being used is a once-in-the-Bible miracle that then gets broken down into steps that Christians should follow to get God to do the same miracle for them. “Sun Stand Still” is probably the most popular example right now, but there are new fads/trends popping up in Christian bookstores all the time.
  • Confusing the foreshadowing for the substance. This is when we look at the Tabernacle in Exodus and think that we are supposed to somehow return to those days when it was a foreshadowing for the in-dwelling of God the Holy Spirit within each of us as the promise from Jesus Christ. We also see this in churches that lift up the Pastor as a Moses, a Judge, or a Prophet from the Old Testament. That is not the leadership that Christ left for the Church. Jesus is our High Priest, the Head of His Church, we don’t have a singular vicar here on Earth.
  • Word-Search Proof Text. It happens most often when a topical sermon starts with an idea, a truism, a doctrine of man, where a term or phrase is searched in the Bible and exact hits are used to make the case that what is being presented is Biblical because isolated verses can be found in the Bible. Remember, Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Scripture out of context. While this is the most common pitfall, it is generally the easiest to refute. Simply read the text in bigger chunks so that you have a better idea of the context of each passage. Know the covenants of the Old Testament and learn to understand the blessings and curses tied to the covenants.

If you are reading this blog and are a blogger or teacher, I implore you to take note whenever someone challenges what you’ve shared. If you cannot defend your position Biblically, then either your position is faulty or you are simply lacking in understanding and need to grow in the Word. I’ve been blogging for a just under a year and can already see a lot of growth since my earlier posts. I am not a pastor or a teacher, but I am the head of my household. I bear the responsibility of being the spiritual head of my household, I must ensure that my wife and kids are being taught the Word and fed sound doctrine. A major part of that responsibility is in which church we attend on Sunday morning, which Bible Studies we participate in, and also what I write here and discuss with my family in my home. If my wife gets theologically ambushed while at the grocery store, I bear some responsibility for how she handles it. I know that whatever transpires, she will share it with me; not always in detail but enough to take the core question to the Word of God. We discuss each of these blog posts over dinner or before bed. As a father and a husband, I bear a great deal of responsibility.

That responsibility grows exponentially when one becomes an Elder, a Teacher of God’s Word, a Pastor (shepherd) over God’s sheep. James warns of this in his letter:

James 3 (ESV) 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That should not discourage us from preaching the Word of God; rather, it should compel us to take the preaching of the Word of God seriously. We must set aside arrogance and selfish ambition and humbly teach the Word of God in meekness of wisdom. We rely on the Word of God to explain the Word of God, and we take every question back to the Word of God. For we know that the all scripture is God-breathed and sufficient for every good work.

Notice also that James makes clear that “we all stumble”. That isn’t some clever use of the word “we” that doesn’t include the speaker. Therefore, if we all stumble, then we all share in our need to repent and ask for forgiveness. We share in our need for a Living Savior, One who has already paid the price for our sin, so that when we stumble and fall into sin, we have a Loving God who is Faithful and Just to forgive us our sin. In the same way that King David repented when he was rebuked by Nathan, so we must turn our hearts toward God whenever we are caught in sin… and God is faithful to forgive us by the blood of His Son, Jesus.

May the Lord bless you and keep you firmly in His Grace,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Mockery is Condemnation

18 century icon painter - Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia

18 century icon painter – Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia

We need to practice Biblical discernment in everything we do. We must share the Truth in Love. Rebuke and Admonition are unpleasant and often despised and resisted. We are often tempted to resort to mockery of those who refuse to repent. When we engage in mockery, we are pronouncing judgment and condemning the object of our mockery. We are no longer seeking repentance from the one being mocked, and this can be problematic even if we are in the right. Today I want to address the topic of bringing correction to those who are stubborn in their sin or false doctrine and reject sound doctrine and what is at stake when we resort to mockery… when we are in the right. A fool mocks from a position of error, and that is not what we will be addressing today.

Elijah Mocked the Prophets of Baal

Yes, he did. Some point to Elijah as their justification for engaging in mockery. I want to take a look at what is happening in context so that there is no mistaking what is going on in the story. To rightly understand the story of Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal, we need to first understand who Ahab was. For that, let’s begin in 1 Kings 16.

1 Kings 16:29-34 (ESV)29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Now, not to get too sidetracked, did you notice that in the days of Ahab, Hiel built Jericho at the cost of 2 sons? Well, it points all of the way back to the days of Joshua, when the God destroyed Jericho on behalf of His people, Israel. If we turn briefly to Joshua 6.

Joshua 6:26-27 (ESV) 26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.

Okay, so here we have a wicked King over the northern kingdom of Israel. More wicked than any before him. His wickedness trumps that of Jeroboam in that he takes as a bride the daughter of the king of Sidon. Ahab then worships Baal, builds a temple for Baal in Samaria (the capital city of the northern Kingdom of Israel) and sets up an Asherah. Idolatry. Ahab provoked the Lord, the God of Israel to anger. So God sends His prophet to Ahab.

1 Kings 17:1 (ESV) 17 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Now, the story follows Elijah as he goes into hiding while the judgment of the Lord falls upon Israel. Judgement provoked by the sin of Ahab.

1 Kings 18:1-6 (ESV)  18 After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. 3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, 4 and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) 5 And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” 6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

Now we see that Jezebel began killing the prophets of the Lord, and Obadiah hid 100 prophets in groups of 50 and fed them in secret. So, not only is Ahab worshiping a false God, his wife had also openly attack the prophets of the Lord God. It had not rained for 3 years, and the famine was rough. While Elijah was indeed a prophet of God, and heard from God directly, the shutting of the sky as a punishment for the sin of Israel is not spontaneous nor should it have been unexpected. Why? Because according to the Law, the Covenant with Moses, God already warned Israel of the punishments or curses for disobedience. We can find it in Deuteronomy 28, but specifically verse 24 states, “The Lord will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” So, the Prophet Elijah brought the Word of the Lord to Ahab, and the sign given (lack of rain) points back to the Law of Moses. Ahab doesn’t get, as we’ll see in a moment, but the sign and wonder doesn’t point to Elijah, it points to God. This is Ahab’s first recorded warning, 3 years of drought.

1 Kings 18:17-19 (ESV) 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.

Ahab doesn’t get it. He had completely forgotten who was God of Israel, and considered Israel his own, a nation of his making, a nation that followed Baal. He did not recognize the true cause for the drought and accused Elijah of being the troubler of Israel. While 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah ate at Jezebel’s table.

1 Kings 18:20-24 (ESV)  20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

Elijah called an assembly of the people of Israel and charged them to choose whom they will serve, whether the One True God of Israel, or Baal. And the people remained silent. This was a second appeal to the Children of Israel to repent and reject the idols and false god Baal, and return to the True God of Israel. The Israelites responded properly to Joshua, but those assembled before Elijah fell silent. Repentance would not come without a sign. Whenever I read Matthew 12, I wonder if this very moment is part of what went through Jesus’ mind when he responded to the scribes, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign…” (Matthew 12:38-42).

1 Kings 18:25-40 (ESV) 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

The false prophets stood condemned long before God consumed the altar with fire. Their fate was already sealed according to the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 13:4-5 (ESV) 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Judgement had come to Israel. So why did Elijah mock the false prophets? Not for their sake, not for their repentance; rather, so that they would double-down and leave no room for doubt that they had fully exhausted everything they had into their apostasy, for the sake of the witness of Israel. Israel’s silence, while a failure, at least shielded them from being put to death along with the false prophets. They repented immediately at the sign of the Lord God, and they obeyed Elijah’s command to seize the false prophets. Elijah put them to death, as required by the Law.

Now lets look at something very cool. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7 (yes, this is before the events in 1 Kings 18) to the dedication of the Temple built by King Solomon.

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)7 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:11-14 (ESV) 11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The people should have recognized the 3 year drought as a sign of rebuke for their sin. They should have repented. They did not. Notice also here that the fire being called down from heaven was not new to Israel. This is how the Lord God answered Solomon’s prayer that began 2 Chronicles 6. So even the sign that Elijah proposed points back to the Lord God. God had already done this for His people. And the significance of that fire points back to when God lead the Children of Israel in the wilderness at night. How great is the Mercy and Grace of our God!

Conclusion

There is a time for mockery, but it is always a sign of judgement and condemnation. Israel will continue to sin and chase after false gods, and God makes a mockery of her among the nations. Hence the eventual scattering of the 10 tribes of Israel, leaving only Judah and Levi. They, too, are sent into Exile for 70 years, when they can repent and cry out to God.

We must rebuke false teaching, and silence false teachers. We must do so in love and humility, for it is not by our power or authority, but by the Word of God. You cannot mock a professing Christian in the name of “reaching out to them that they might repent”, that is not what mockery does. One who continues in sin, rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sound doctrine (defined by the Word of God, not the doctrines of men), then mockery may be in order so that the one who stands condemned by their own might be a warning to all who believe. Mocking someone who is caught in sin will harden his/her heart before it leads to repentance. Elijah didn’t begin with mockery, he closed with it… and then he put the false prophets to death.  Notice, this entire study has been under the singular premise that the one mocking was undeniably correct and spoke the Word of the Lord. Mocking someone from a position of error adds sin upon sin and invites condemnation of its own. Ultimately, we should be slow to mock, quick to forgive, and we should always point others to the Word of God and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

May the Peace of God remain with you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

What is your Testimony?

Stiftshuette Modell

Stiftshuette Modell Timnapark CC BY-SA 3.0

Growing up in Evangelical churches, we heard often from folks who wanted to share their testimony with the church. A lot of weight was given to the sharing of one’s testimony. In fact, it was weighted so heavily that many times I heard caveats that both disturbed and discouraged me in my faith. Caveats such as, “well, my testimony isn’t nearly as powerful as that of brother so-and-so” or “I don’t have much of a testimony, because I grew up in a Christian home”. Such rubbish. This is NOT Biblical, and I want to end the week by looking at what our testimony is.

Your Testimony isn’t about you

We will look at the Biblical definition of what a testimony is, and what our testimony is supposed to be in a minute, but I want to point out that the major flaw in the caveats I mentioned is that they betray a fundamentally flawed view that a testimony is about the person giving it. It isn’t. Have you ever heard someone give their testimony and start to get a little uncomfortable about how they keep going on and on about how bad they were? We get into weird competitions over who was the “most bad” person was before they were saved.

Everyone born of man is born equally dead in sin. Sin isn’t a merely list of wrongdoings, it is a state of being.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV)
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Apart from the Gospel, no one is righteous, nor can they be made righteous or justified in God’s sight, even by the Law. Man’s need for Jesus Christ is Universal. In the same way, all who have come to the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ share in that same testimony, that we all need Jesus. We don’t need to add to our sinfulness to amplify the Gospel. On some levels, we want people to know that the Gospel finding ME was such a super big deal that no one should ever doubt in it. But that isn’t the focus of the Gospel, it is a blanket truth for all of mankind. Unless the Gospel of Jesus Christ finds you, you have no hope of salvation. And that is why we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our testimony isn’t supposed to glorify our sin; rather, it is supposed to focus on the Word of God.

Now, let us take a look at some Biblical foundations of what a Testimony truly is so that we might have a better understanding of what it means to share your testimony.

The Ark of the Covenant

If you remember in a post from earlier in the week I made reference to how the Passover Lamb pointed to Jesus on the Cross, as an atonement, the final atonement for all our sin. How in the Israelites leaving Egypt points to our being rescued out of the kingdom of Darkness, and how their passing through the Red Sea points to our water Baptism which represents joining Christ in His death and burial and resurrection to a new life in Him. We also compared the wandering of Israel for a generation in the wilderness to our living in a fallen and sinful world as we make our way to the Promised Land which in our case is the Kingdom of Heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ. In keeping with that same imagery, let us now turn to Exodus 25, when God commanded Moses to build an ark.

Exodus 25:10-22 (ESV)
10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on itsfour feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

Now, outside of the Law of Moses, this ark is most commonly referred to in the Bible as the Ark of the Covenant. What we see in Exodus and in Numbers, though, is that it is referred to several times as the Ark of the Testimony. I hadn’t noticed that before, so it’s very exciting for me to read now. We see here God instructing the building of the ark, and he tells Moses that he will be giving him a testimony that should be placed into the ark. Before we get to that, notice where the mercy seat of God is placed… over the testimony. We can already see here, that the Mercy Seat of God rests atop the Testimony that God will give. Let us move ahead a bit as we follow the instructions regarding the ark.

Exodus 26:31-35 (ESV)
31 “And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. 32 And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.34 You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.35 And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side.

This veil, is the one that was found split when Christ died on the cross. Notice that before Christ, the veil separated God’s people from the mercy seat except for certain times, and then only by proxy (the High Priest). Now, let’s jump ahead a bit (Moses was given a lot of instructions here) to chapter 34.

Exodus 34:27-35 (ESV)
27 And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Praise the Lord. The testimony is the Law of God, the 10 Commandments. They were given to Israel as a testimony to His Covenant with them. If you read from the beginning of the chapter, you see God instructing Moses to bring 2 fresh tablets to replace the ones that he smashed after seeing the sin of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Those, too, were called the tablets of the testimony.

Exodus 31:18 (ESV)
18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Exodus 32:15-16 (ESV)
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

Exodus Chapter 40 concludes the instructions given to Moses regarding the tabernacle and the ark.

Exodus 40:16-21 (ESV)
16 This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

The Day of Atonement

Now that we know that the testimony Moses was to place inside the ark was the two tablets of the testimony. They were placed into the ark of the Testimony, upon which rested the Mercy Seat of God, and all of it was behind the veil. Let us skip ahead to Leviticus to see the Ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat.

Leviticus 16:1-5 (ESV)
1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2 and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.

Leviticus 16:11-16 (ESV)
11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.

We see a great deal going on here, but I wanted to point out this Day of Atonement and the special place of the ark of the Testimony and the Mercy Seat, and the blood of the atoning sacrifice. All of this points to Christ.

Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant*

In closing, I recommend reading the book of Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews explains the 2 covenants beautifully, and when you read through it, take the time to cross-reference the Old Testament passages.

Hebrews 8 (ESV)
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

And the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, is that this new covenant is available to all people, not just the Jew. And our testimony, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 19:9-10 (ESV)
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Amen. Whenever you share your testimony, know that what you are sharing is not supposed to point to you; rather, it is to point to a risen Savior, whose blood was shed on your behalf, so that you can stand before the Mercy Seat of God without fear of judgement.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Grace and Peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Jorge