Tags: Deus Absonditus, Deus Revelatus, Deuteronomy 29, Genesis 50, God's decretive will, God's hidden will, God's revealed will, sovereignty of God, will of God
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The Deus absconditus, meaning the hidden or obscure or secret will of God, would include the decretive will of God. The Bible is a huge book, and it reveals more about God than we could fathom in this lifetime, but, in addition to that, there is an eternity of information about God that we cannot know.
The Deus absconditus is contrasted with the Deus revelatus, meaning God’s revealed will. Certainly, what God has revealed is trustworthy and true, even when it appears to be in conflict with what is really happening. God is not harassed into mutability by human actions, nor can His ultimate plans be thwarted or frustrated by human actions, although from the finite view it may sometimes appear that way. One Biblical example of this is Moses’s intercession with God when he came down from Mt. Sinai to see the people worshiping the golden calf. It appears that Moses “changed God’s mind,” but from the perspective of God’s hidden and decretive will, everything that happened was subject to God’s own sovereign control. The parade example of this is the unfolding and culmination of the life of Joseph.
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
A lifetime of ups and downs caused by the sins of others was used to weave a beautiful tapestry of redemption and salvation.
Tags: Biblical jealousy, Biblical justice, Cozbi, creepers, creepy, Numbers 25, Phinehas, Psalm 106, vigilantism, Zimri
And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
In a previous lesson I discussed the reason for all this weeping. The Israelite men had been seduced by Moabite and Midianite women on the plain of Moab, and had “joined themselves” unto Baal, a false pagan god, the worship of which involved fornication in order to induce supposed fertility in the crops. God was very angry about this blatant violation of His laws against idolatry, and He commanded Moses to execute the leaders, and to hang their bodies up in broad daylight.
Psalm 106 offers a commentary on this:
They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
So the people were weeping not only because of the deaths of their fathers, grandfathers, and older brothers, but because of a deadly outbreak of disease. However, before you get the idea that everyone was repentant and crying the right kind of tears, you will note the first part of Numbers 25:6: “And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman…” Apparently, some of the men weren’t through partying with these pagan women. Perhaps they were too clueless to realize that God was angry (not likely), or perhaps they were just so intoxicated with sin that they didn’t care.
Who was this man who brought his consort into the place of weeping and repentance right in the sight of Israel and all the congregation? Later on in the narrative the Bible tells us his name, Zimri, and that he was the son of a prince of one of the chief households in the tribe of Simeon. His name meant “my music” or “my song” – as in “they’re playing our song.”
What about the woman? Her name was Cozbi – which meant “a doctor of the house of Huxtable who likes jello pudding pops.”
Sorry, just kidding. Cozbi was a Midanite woman, and, in fact, the daughter of one of the princes or leading families of the Midianites. Her name, instead of meaning “my song,” actually meant “my lie,” possibly because her father had sired her with someone other than his wife, and either her mother of the other woman had been forced to admit the “lie,” and gave her the name as an apology or at least a reminder.
So there they were – Zimri and Cozbi – gallivanting into the camp at the most inappropriate time. It’s tough to analogize the impropriety and impudence of such an act – maybe we could describe it as the rough equivalent of a murderer bringing a date to his victim’s funeral. And that’s not all. They went right into Zimri’s tent, a very brazen sin and a big slap right in the faces of Moses, the leaders who were weeping before the Tabernacle, and, of course, Jehovah Himself.
In the previous lesson in this series I said that there are two different types of weeping. Weeping before God with a contrite heart is good and honorable. Selfish weeping is the kind of weeping that someone who remains at enmity with God would do. Now I will show that there is also a type of creeping with the enemy that is useless at best, and harmful at worst. Zimri was not a very effective creeper if he thought he could sneak into the Israelite camp with this Midianite woman, but, at the same time, he wasn’t suicidal. He must have deceived himself into thinking that he could creep around with sin and get away with it.
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
Zimri lusted exceedingly, and when sinful lust takes over a man’s heart, there are times when God will give that man the desires of his heart. But those desires will produce leanness in his soul. They will produce a hunger for more sin and a reckless disregard for the consequences. They will bring about the loss of all good sense.
You and I have a great capacity and opportunity to creep around with sin. However, be warned: We may creep around with the enemies of God, but we will never creep past the sight of God. We may creep around with the world, our flesh, Satan, sinful practices, materialism, covetous, laziness, and many more, but God sees all. We will no more evade His notice than did Zimri as he crept into his own tent to enjoy the pleasures of sin while the judgment of the God he was offending rained down all around him.
And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
Phinehas’s name meant “mouth of brass.” He was not “silver-tongued.” He was plainspoken. His words were not not fancy, but they carried weight. Eleazar was the grandson of Moses’s brother, Aaron, the high priest. Phinehas picked up a spear. It was the weapon of a soldier, not a priest, and it was a no-nonsense weapon – a weapon normally used for throwing or thrusting – and he took it up with a deadly purpose.
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent…
We don’t know precisely how Phinehas did this. Did he stride forcefully and ostentatiously? Or did, he, too, creep? Did he encounter people who inquired what he was doing as he followed Zimri and Cozbi from a distance, brushing them aside gruffly as he pursued? Or did he hang back stealthily, sneaking along like a spy following another spy through the alleys of Cold War Berlin? We just don’t know. However, I will say that there are times, when we go to confront sin in the midst of a Christian fellowship or in the lives or our friends or acquaintances, when we should use tact and discretion. There are other times when we are authorized to be blunt and direct – or maybe I should say “sharp” and direct.
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly…
I am in no way condoning murder or even vigilantism. This was an instance of Old Testament justice under the Law of God. It is not prescriptive behavior for New Testament Christianity. If we are to imitate anything from this incident, it must be only the the principles, not the practice. However, in this particular instance:
… So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
Whether or not Phinehas crept up on the couple before putting a stop to their sin, two things are certain:
1. It was effective. It stopped the plague.
2. It did not displease God. In fact, it pleased the Lord very much.
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
Phinehas’s act seems so extreme, so violent, so primitive and brutal that you almost expect to find some qualifier to it somewhere in the Word of God – something at least a little cautionary or disapproving of it. But I could not find a single smudge on the character of Phinehas because of this action
Even Psalm 106, which gives the commentary on it centuries later, says this:
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.
If anything, the Holy Spirit has the psalmist make him sound like even more of a hero! Next time, we will look for clues as to what was going on in Phinehas’s mind and heart as he performed this act.
Tags: 1 John 5, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, Jesus Christ, MMA, overcomer, The Son of God, the world, UFC
In fighting sports, the winner is typically declared in one of two ways: (1) the fight comes to an end and the official judges who watched the fight decide who won; or (2) one of combatants “finishes” the fight by knocking out his opponent, making him give up, or injuring him to the extent that he can not keep fighting. Fighters who win fights by the latter means are called “finishers.” As the fight announcers like to say, they “don’t let it go to the judges.”
There is a fight going on between Jesus Christ’s church and the “world” – meaning, the system of this world, which is influenced, and sometimes organized, by Satan, and which opposes the Kingdom of God. In a battle between God and anybody or anything else, it should be obvious Who the winner will be, but, while the battle is still raging, human beings need to choose on whose side they will fight.
The “world” is not joke. It’s a fierce warrior, and we can be very fixated on what we can see with our eyes, what we can touch with our hands, and what makes sense to us in our immediate circumstances. Therefore, we tend to rely on things like our family, friends, finances, health, career, contacts, and intellect. These things make look like they are able to overcome the world, but the fact is, they are not “finishers.” There is really only one Person who is worthy of our faith if we are to truly overcome the world, even when our energy, resources, and wits are flagging.
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
I John 5:5
Tags: childish, childishness, commentary on Matthew, Matthew 11, Matthew 12, rejection of Christ, rejection of Jesus, Sunday School lessons on Matthew, whosoever
The second big transitional phrase in Matthew comes at the beginning of Chapter 11:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
The transition is from a section dealing with the King training His workers/warriors to a section dealing with the types of battles they faced.
Jesus explained that the religious leaders had been introduced, both by John the Baptist and by Jesus Christ Himself, to their true King.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
These leaders, having heard the principles of His Kingdom, did not worship Him. Instead, they rebelled against Him. Worship involves surrender and humility. The rebellious leaders chose to be childish, and childishness involves pride and self-worth, along with a desire to show that “I can do it on my own.” This is the attitude that almost kept me from coming to Christ.
In Matthew Chapter 12 we see that the religious leaders began to take on the methods of Satan. Instead of just killing Jesus, they began to attempt to subtly undermine the principles of His Kingdom.
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
However, when their tactics did not work, they did in fact try to kill Him. This was what they had done in the past to God’s anointed prophets, kings, and priests. What they did not realize was that Jesus was…
Greater than the previous priests:
But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
Greater than the previous prophets:
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Greater than the previous kings:
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
It is not enough to clean out our spiritual house. The house must be filled with something.
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Tags: Biblical chastisement, Biblical judgment, commentary on Hebrews, Hebrews 3, Hebrews 5, John 19, Sunday School lessons on Hebrews, the work of Christ, Word of God
Lord, as we study and discuss your Word, help us to draw near to You. Help us to see truth, and help us to resolve to do right. Lead us, Father, away from temptation, and deliver us from evil. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.
Hebrews Chapter 4 reveals second of the five admonitions (encouragements mixed with warnings). The first one was: Don’t let doctrine slip away from you – don’t drift. The second one is: Don’t be suspicious of God’s promises. In other words, don’t doubt or disbelieve His Word.
We show or prove our belief by submitting – by showing our fear – not fear of God’s wrath, but fear of chastening. It’s like when an obedient dog rolls over on command. It’s part ritual, but there’s also a real desire to please, and to avoid displeasing his master.
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
The “therefore” in that verse reflects back to the previous chapter:
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
If there were some who could not enter in to their rest because of unbelief, doesn’t it stand to reason that we don’t want to copy their mistake? Suspicion concerning God’s promises will lead to unbelief, and will keep a believer from entering in to his rest. I’m not talking about our Heavenly rest; I’m talking about a confident realization of our peace with God that allows us to draw near to Him.
The opposite of letting slip is holding fast (holding tight). Drawing near to God requires total attention – fixation. We’re not going to draw near to God by accidentally backing into Him, or bumping into Him. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like that expression, “Let go and let God.” It sounds good. It’s cute phonetically. It even has an okay-ish application to it, in the sense that holding onto fears and worries and bitterness that I can’t control would not be good, so I need to “give them to God.” Also, holding onto sin is certainly not good; I need to call on the Lord to “deliver” me from sin. But I must not “let go” of my focus on God – of my zealous desire to please Him. This does not mean that I’m supposed to worry that I can never please Him, or that He will kick me out of His family if I fail. It means that, if I’m not sincerely trying, my knowledge of His righteousness and my fear of Him reminds me that He will chasten me in love.
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
“Laboring to rest” sounds contradictory, but the Holy Spirit resolves the tension by showing us how to do it:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Bible is alive, and it is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). It judges our hearts as we submit to its judgment. Forced judgment is not for the children of God; it’s for the enemies of God. God’s righteous wrath is not for those who are drawing near with a pure heart; it is for those who are far away and who are attacking Him from the outskirts, or who are running away from Him because they despise Him.
For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
The reason it is possible for us to be free – no, more than just free – even welcomed and beckoned – and to come let the Word of God judge our hearts, is because Christ is superior to Moses and the other prophets in that He finished His work.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Christ did not die with His work unfinished. He died to pay the sin debt once for all. That’s why many true Christians have such a problem with people trying to add something to salvation: it minimizes or denigrates the work and victory of Christ on the Cross.
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 29, Levitical priesthood, Old Testament priests, Old Testament Worship, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, Tabernacle, Tabernacle furnishings, Tabernacle worship
The framework of the Tabernacle was built with acacia wood, which is strong, pliable, and abundant in the region where the Israelites were encamped. Acacia wood was also used in the furnishings for the Tabernacle, some of which would then be covered with gold, although some of the furnishings were actually made of solid gold.
The inside coverings of the Tabernacle were linen, woven, and thicker and coarser toward the outside. Goat hides with the fur still attached were used for one layer. The metals and materials that were used went from being more precious on the inside of the Tabernacle – closer to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies – to less precious as the construction moved further toward the outside.
The altar that would be used for the burnt offerings was similar to what we would think of as a big grill. There was also a laver for washing.
All the people who were allowed to worship would be allowed in the courtyard. Only priests could go into the Holy Place, although this area was visible from the outside.
There was the Table of the Bread of the Presence, which symbolized God’s fellowship with His people. In ancient customs – especially between the parties of a covenant – the eating of a meal together signified honor, respect, and trust. There was a lampstand for light, and to represent God’s light in the world. There was the altar of incense, by which the people were reminded of the need to live lives that smelled pleasing to God.
Only the High Priest could go into the Most Holy Place where the Ark was. No one else could even see inside there. The Ark was wrapped for moving, and carried by poles inserted through rings, because it was holy, but also to keep it from being damaged or worn.
In Exodus Chapter 29 we can read about the ordination or installation of the priests. They had special washing rituals, which symbolized washing off the world. They had special clothing so that they could be visually recognized as dedicated unto God. They performed special sacrifices to remind them that the external things they were doing were only symbols, and that the real focus was on God.
And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.
They received symbols of special consecration upon their:
-Ears, to remind them of the importance of what they would hear – the Word of God and the petitions of the people;
-Thumbs, to remind them of what they were to do with their hands – pick up the burdens of God’s people and minister to Him in symbolic sacrifices;
-Toes, to remind them of where they were to go – into and among God’s people, and into the Tabernacle.
Just like New Testament believers, they were called to present their bodies as living sacrifices. If we fail to surrender our bodies to the Lord, it will do us no good to plead the excuse that God looks upon the heart and isn’t concerned with our outward actions, because our outward actions are the best indication of what’s really going on in our hearts. God wants both – the inward and the outward. Those of us who are Christian fathers and husbands especially need to be careful about what we listen to, what we pick up, and where our feet go.
Tags: Christian liberty, Martin Luther, Martin Luther quotes, Proverbs 27, Proverbs 29, Psalm 107, Psalm 5, Roman Catholic, swimming quotes, the sea in the Bible
For since I know that Your Blessedness [sic] is driven and tossed by the waves at Rome, so that the depths of the sea press on you with infinite perils, and that you are labouring under such a condition of misery that you need even the least help from any the least brother [sic], I do not seem to myself to be acting unsuitably if I forget your majesty [sic] til I shall have fulfilled the office of charity. I will not flatter in so serious and perilous a matter; and if in this you do not see that I am your friend and most thoroughly your subject, there is One to see and judge.
Martin Luther, writing to Pope Leo X in the prefatory remarks of On Christian Liberty
For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
Tags: 2 Peter 3, anthropopathism, emotions, Ephesians 4, Ezekiel 18, Ezekiel 33, feelings, God's will, Matthew 7, the Will of God
A third broad category of thought about the will of God is called the dispositive will, or the will of disposition. Your “disposition” is how you are inclined to feel about something. It does not necessarily dictate that you will act in accordance with your feelings, but it can certainly influence your actions. It can be helpful to think of it as God’s “emotive” will because we know that God does have emotions. His emotions are holy and perfectly controlled, but if we ascribe human emotions to Him for the purpose of being able to discuss His character and actions (and the Bible does this) it is called anthropopathism.
The Bible does not always let us in on God’s inclination or disposition about certain matters, but sometimes it does. For example:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
II Peter 3:9
What does this tell us about God? It does not reveal His decretive will because obviously many are going to perish despite the fact that He is not “willing” that any should perish.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Nor is II Peter 3:9 dealing expressly with God’s preceptive will, because, although He does command everyone to be saved, this is talking about His desire rather than a command. What it is revealing is God’s dispositive will – His inclination or His feelings about those who reject Christ, regardless of how they wound up in that condition.
Another example of the Bible describing God’s will in dispositive terms is:
Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
This verse is speaking about earthly, temporal life, not eternal life, and it asks a rhetorical question, so the answer should be clear.
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
The Lord could force the wicked to turn from their ways, and His disposition is inclined toward delighting in repentance, but He does not always do so. In fact, the punishment of the wicked conversely satisfies His justice, wrath, and holiness, but it gives Him no predispositional or emotional delight, and – emphatcially and obviously – no sinful delight.
Here is another example:
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
These verses express God’s will in the preceptive sense because they command us not to do certain things, but they also give us insight into the dispositive sense of His will because they tell us He can be grieved (a combination of sadness and anger). Am I really powerful enough to grieve the Spirit of God? My “power” is not really the issue, but my sin and rebellion certainly do affect our loving and caring God, and He responds with love and what seems in our finite human understanding to be a “hurt” response, although He keeps His promise to eternally seal us, despite our sin.
Neither the apparent conflicts between these operations of God’s will (preceptive, decretive, dispostive), nor the recognition of their complementarity, can be explained away by appeals to the “free will” of man, because God is still omniscient and omnipotent and omnipresent and omnibenevolent, which leads us to consideration of God’s secret, or hidden, will, which we will look at next time.