Know Your Limits

July 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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Having used the example of foregoing the right to be paid for ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 9, the Apostle Paul then returned to the question concerning eating meat offered to idols and attending feasts or services in idolatrous temples.

There is an emphasis on the word “all” in I Corinthians 10.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

I Corinthians 10:1

The statement, “I would not that ye should be ignorant” is similar to the the expression, “Know ye not..?” that is so common throughout I Corinthians, and here it expresses the same idea. The Holy Spirit through Paul was referencing the narrative account of Exodus, where God’s people had passed through the parted Red Sea, and were guided by the cloud-by-day/pillar-of-fire-by-night. These were very obvious reminders of the presence of God with them.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

I Corinthians 10:2

They not only had immediate reminders of God’s presence, but they had his mediated reminder in the person of the mediator Moses.

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

I Corinthians 10:3

For the Israelites in the wilderness, their “spiritual meat” was manna. It was spiritual in the sense that it came supernaturally, but also in that it was a spiritual reminder of God and His Spirit.

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

I Corinthians 10:4

There is much confusion among the commentators about this verse, with some thinking that an actual rock followed the Israelites around, but I think the better view is that the verse is teaching that the pre-incarnate Christ was with them spiritually, and that He was their provider of living water as well as physical water.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

I Corinthians 10:5

This verse deviates from the pattern by saying “many” instead of “all,” but we know that all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of that generation that left Egypt were overthrown in the wilderness. Being a “Know” is really about being a believer, but belief is something that is unsafe to take for granted. We need to demonstrate our knowledge and belief with action.

The Old Testament stories are true historical events, but they were also designed by God as types and learning tools. There are a number of things that we need to learn from the wilderness wandering of our spiritual forbears:

1. Be careful about lusting.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

I Corinthians 10:6

We were made by God to have strong desires, but our tendency is to forget that God gave us those desires to yearn for Him and to glorify Him. Instead, we usurp them and aim them at that which is evil.

2. Remember that you must not become involved again with idolatry.

Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

I Corinthians 10:7

This is a reference to Exodus 32. All the Know-Nots are idolators in some sense, and our own hearts, apart from Christ, are idol factories.

Nor does idolatry tend to remain dormant in hearts. Just as true worship of God expresses itself in outward actions, so false worship of anything other than God tends to express itself in manifestations of sinful behavior.

3. Do not fornicate.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

I Corinthians 10:8

This is a reference to Numbers 25. The people joined themselves to Baal, the worship of which involved the prostitution of virgins. The temple of Venus in Corinth was also a place where fornication was deemed a method of worship.

4. Do not tempt Christ.

Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

I Corinthians 10:9

This is a reference to Numbers 21. The idea of tempting Christ, in the context, only makes sense if He is truly God (which He is), and it is something that we are prone to do when we hear His Word but fail to obey it. I hope that you find reading the Bible and listening to sound Biblical preaching and teaching enjoyable, but you also need to know that it is dangerous.

5. Do not get involved in murmuring (grumbling and complaining).

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

I Corinthians 10:10

This is a reference to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 14. Murmuring is a danger for overconfident Knows. We must not be overconfident in our “Know-Ness.”

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

I Corinthians 10:11-12

These things weren’t just recorded for our knowledge. They were recorded to keep us from being overconfident. Temptation will always be present, but there is always a way to escape.

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Fellowship with the Lord is safe and it keeps us safe.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

I Corinthians 10:16-17

The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is an important time of memorializing our fellowship with Him. If you are married, you still have fellowship with your spouse when you are doing other things, and even when you are physically apart from each other, but the relationship will suffer if you do not spend concentrated periods of time and attentiveness together.

What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

I Corinthians 10:19

Meat sold in the market was okay for the Corinthian Christians to purchase and eat, even knowing the possibility that it had originally been used in some type of pagan ceremony. Likewise, they were not required to give their pagan hosts the third degree about where the food had come from if they were invited over for a meal.

However, it was still very important that they flee from any actual idolatry, because the worship of some idols is demonic.

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

I Corinthians 10:20-21

Idolatry is still idolatry, even when it is more particularly classified as syncretism, as was illustrated by the case of the golden calf.

Paul had taken great care to answer the Corinthians’ question about how they should deal with their dietary choices as they related to their consciences. He came to the conclusion that they were under no obligation to inquire too closely concerning the questionable source of hospitality offered by others, but when the thing offered is important to others, it must become important to us. So, if the host considers the meal idolatrous worship, then the Christians must not partake, or, if others perceive that you are participating in idolatry, it would be better not to participate.

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

I Corinthians 10:23-28

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A Body of Idolatry

June 16, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. If we take this literally, and I think we should, then it will remind us that all our limbs and sensory organs are to be dedicated to serving and glorifying God. If we ignore this command we run the risk of living like idolaters.

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

Psalm 115:4-7

A material idol, designed to act as, or represent, a false god, has a mouth that can’t talk, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, a nose that can’t smell, hands that can’t pick up anything, feet that can’t walk, and a throat with no sound. And then comes the kicker:

They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

Psalm 115:8

These idols are made by the very people who are worshiping them! How can they be so self-deluded?! Imagine praying for deliverance to a little figure that needed you to even carve it into existence. Can people really believe that a god would be dependent upon its own “creator?”

It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Logic, apart from the wisdom that comes only from the True and Living God, is not our strong suit. In fact, if we do not keep our hearts diligently focused on God, we will quickly fail into delusion and all sorts of idolatry.

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Then, pretty soon, we will usurp the use of the mouths that God has given us, and start speaking disrespectfully, rebelliously, and deceitfully.

Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Proverbs 4:24

Next we’ll stop looking for God’s beauty in His creation, and we’ll studiously avoid looking for people who are genuinely needy or who make us feel uncomfortable, and we’ll instead use God’s gift of vision for peeking at forbidden and ugly-but-seductive things.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.

Proverbs 4:25

Before we know it, our idolatrous feet will follow our idolatrous eyes and hearts right off of God’s safe path and into the world’s bramble of unfulfillment, heartache, addiction, danger, and desolation.

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.

Proverbs 4:26-27

We are poor identifiers of our own idolatry. Most of us think that our common sense would kick in somewhere around the time we started placing offerings into the hands (hands that we ourselves had fashioned!) of idols that could not hold the very things we were trying to give them. But, no, here we are, hopefully knowing somewhere deep down that we – and all of the complex creation around us – were made by Someone infinitely greater than us, yet still trying to give our time, talents, and treasure to man-made idols, such as political parties, houses, cars, electronic devices, investment portfolios, clothes, and entertainment. What a contradictory race of creatures we are, to desire to be “blessed,” but to want to dictate, design, and direct our own trivial blessings, while our Supreme Maker and true source of all true blessings, is relegated to the sidelines of our lives and largely ignored.

Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield. The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:11-16

What the Knows Ought to Know about Conscience

June 2, 2017 at 10:53 am | Posted in I Corinthians | 3 Comments
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This may sound obvious, but it bears mentioning: As Knows (Christians), we ought to know that we don’t know everything.

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

I Corinthians 8:1

Clearly the Corinthian Christians were forbidden from practicing idolatry, but it was difficult, in those days and in that place, to purchase from a market, or to consume, meat that had not been offered to a false idol. Usually, in ancient times, sacrifices were divided – with some being burned, some being eaten at a temple, and some going to the priest. The priests sold their leftovers to markets. The Knows at Corinth “knew” this – and they “knew” about avoiding idolatrous worship practices – but knowledge by itself tends to swell a person with pride. We expect humility to be the great deflater, but here the Bible teaches us that love (“charity”) fills people up (“edifies”) in a good way – not with puffy vanity, but with wholesome nourishment that builds us up.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

I Corinthians 8:2

Humility is self-defeating when we are proud of being humble, so knowledge apart from love, while puffing us up, makes us ignorant.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

I Corinthians 8:3

We might ask, “Known of him by whom?” Known by others? Known by himself? Or known by God? All three would apply. Our testimony of love for God should be evident. Because it is a “given” knowledge, it humbles us, but it is still knowledge – awareness of the truth – so that we can KNOW we belong to God. And certainly God knows those who belong to Him. False professors will hear Jesus say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

A willingness to examine our practices in light of Scripture, even when it come to things as mundane as eating, and a willingness to examine our consciences, can be a convincing sign to others and to ourselves that we have a real relationship with God – that He inhabits every area of our lives as He should – and that we understand our moment-by-moment existence as “coram Deo” – before the face of God.

The Knows also ought to know that not everyone knows the same things.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

I Corinthians 8:4

The Corinthian Christians knew that idols – as the representatives of false gods, and as supposedly talismanic objects in and of themselves – had no real power because the list of real Gods stops at one.

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

I Corinthians 8:5

This is a reference to spiritual beings which are sometimes called gods – and do in fact have supernatural powers.

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

I Corinthians 8:6

We know that these beings are created, and, even though they may have power, their existence and whatever power they possess is totally dependent upon God the Father and Christ the Son.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

I Corinthians 8:7

However, even some of the Knows at Corinth were a little shaky on this understanding. For them to eat food which had been sacrificed to an idol would defile their weak (not properly informed) consciences. “Unto this hour” implied that they were truly Knows, but that some of the superstition of their previous “Know-Notism” (paganism) had not yet been fully sanctified out of them.

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

I Corinthians 8:8

It’s not what goes into the body that makes us more or less holy in terms of our standing before God (although mind-altering substances would be a different matter). So, when is it okay and not okay for Knows with stronger consciences to exercise their liberty and eat a t-bone steak left over from an Apollonian feast? The answer to this has to do with Christians understanding and prioritizing the greater good.

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

I Corinthians 8:9

Remember how love deflates proud knowledge. It also reminds us – in our humility – to serve someone besides ourselves.

For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

I Corinthians 8:10

Be careful about where you exercise your liberty. Someone watching you might misunderstand and think it is okay to do what they thought was wrong – for the wrong reasons. Christian liberty is properly developed from a sharper – not a duller – conscience. Iron sharpens iron: Christians are supposed to sharpen each other, not make each other dull.

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

I Corinthians 8:11-12

If your love for your fellow brother or sister is not strong enough to keep you from callously exercising your liberty, your love for Christ certainly ought to be.

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

The good of fellow Christians is the overriding factor when it comes to nonessential liberties.

Judgment, Sentencing, and Punishment

October 3, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Hosea | 1 Comment
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In Hosea Chapter 4 God listed the charges against the people, and presented evidence of their idolatry. In Chapter 5 He makes His summation or “closing argument.”

They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord.

Hosea 5:4

God had withdrawn His Spirit from among them. It didn’t matter how Godly they sounded in their protests or professions, nor how fervently they celebrated in their feasts. They would show up at a festival ostensibly to honor God, and then behave like pagans, allowing their daughters to engage in pagan fertility rites and fornication.

Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.

Hosea 5:8

With the term “Bethaven” God used Hosea to make a very effective legal argument. Bethel – where they were supposed to worship – meant “house of God.” The pun on the word “Bethaven” meant “house of evil” or “house of deceit.”

Then God had Hosea read the penalty attached to the crimes of which the people had now been convicted.

Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.

Hosea 5:12

Moths eat away from the inside, and turn objects into rot.

For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.

Hosea 5:14

Moths work secretly for a long time before the destruction they cause is revealed, but lions attack suddenly from the outside, and the damage they cause is quickly and obviously apparent.

In Chapter 6 the people attempted an appeal of their conviction and sentencing.

Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.

Hosea 6:1-3

However, their appeal was a false repentance, and it was rejected and denied.

O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

Hosea 6:4

The Lord had no use for a half-baked cake.

They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened. In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners. For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire. They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me. Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.

Hosea 7:4-8

They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.

Hosea 8:4

These people would be cut off, and we all face a judgment in which God would be justified in cutting us off forever from His benevolence, kindness, and favor. However, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus – who have received His salvation – Jesus Himself stands as our Advocate. On the Cross of Calvary He was cut off from God so that we may be accepted.

Here are some previous highlights from Hosea:

1. Going Beyond Fairly Tale Marriage (Hosea 2)
2. Arraignment and Prosecution (Hosea 4)
3. Have Mine Own Way (Hosea 4:16-17)
4. Beware the Facial Fall (Hosea 5:5)

Don’t be an Abusive, Angry, Absent, or Addicted Parent

September 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Don’t be an abusive parent. The goal of parenting is to train up disciples of Christ by trying to utterly convince the children that God has placed into our trust of His absolute supremacy, as we nurture them and teach them His Word. This lofty goal involves corporal discipline, but discipline is not punishment, and it is certainly not abuse. A parent who sinfully – whether physically or mentally – injures a child out of spite or loss of control is attacking God Himself, and this is a dangerous prospect to say the least.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6

Don’t be an angry parent. As Christian parents, we ourselves are the children of our Heavenly Father. He is angry with the wicked every day, but He is not angry at His Own children.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Our job is to prevent our children from feeling and practicing the sort of sinful wrath that God hates to see in His creatures.

Don’t be an absent parent.

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

Proverbs 23:26

We have to be present if our children are going to observe our ways. Too many parents spend so much time working that they rarely see their children, leaving them in the care of nurseries, daycare facilities, nannies, babysitters, and school systems. This is not God’s plan for child-rearing. Dads, especially, however, are even prone to being absent-while-present. Tuning in to a ball game on television and ignoring the kids elsewhere in the house (or right there in the room!), going hunting, fishing, golfing, remodeling old cars out in the garage, are all ways in which fathers unwind from the stress of their occupations while forgetting the important principle of being actively present in their children’s lives during crucial formative years.

Don’t be an addicted parent (unless it is an addiction to ministry that includes ministering along with your children!) Addictions to sinful activities – and addictions that are sinful not because of the object of the addiction, but because of the time, energy, money, and affection given to them – are closely akin to idolatry.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Corinthians 6:12

Our children will not be utterly convinced of the absolute supremacy of the true God if we worship multiple gods.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12

In a pagan land like America today, the failure of Christian parents to transfer a belief in the One True God will lead to the destruction of society and to the loss of God’s blessings on His people.

The Great Peradventure

February 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Exodus 32:26

“The gate of the camp” was just as significant as the location where Moses had chosen to smash the tablets. It was the official dividing line between God’s “chosen people” and just “people.” These were people who had forfeited their claim to God’s special protection and in fact had “exposed themselves” (both literally and figuratively) to God’s judgment and wrath.

Do you remember hearing or reading about the legendary incident from the Alamo when Colonel Buck Travis is said to have drawn a line in the sand to see who wanted to stay and who wanted to leave? Moses did something similar here – and the Levites made a wise choice in front of everyone. Imagine Aaron’s shame as he walked from the people over to Moses.

And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

Exodus 32:27

Moses used classic prophetic-command speech: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel…” = “This is God’s idea, not just mine. Get your swords, go in and out, make inquiries about who wants to stick with the idolatry and who wants to repent. Kill the ones who won’t confess and repent.” This was an observance of the legal death penalty. It didn’t matter who – their neighbors, their friends, their own family members. It sounds barbaric to us, doesn’t it? I hope you don’t want to throw out your Bible and become a liberal at this point, although, sadly, many have. You’ll have to reject the truth to do it – and you’ll also have to blame God for protecting your soul about 3000 years before you were even born. Remember, these were enemy combatants in a war – the war for truth – and those that chose to take the side of idolatry by refusing to repent are the ones who were willing to send everyone to hell for the sake of a pathetic bull-god orgy – even after waking up with their hangovers. I’m glad we don’t have to kill the apostates and the pagans today as New Testament Christians, but it would be good for us to remember that the stakes are just as high, in a sense.

And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Exodus 32:28

3000 executed criminals sounds like huge number, but that is just a fraction of the number that had been partying, because some of the guilty ones apparently repented and were spared.

For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Exodus 32:29

This gives more insight into how the fathers and male leaders were given an opportunity to repent and survive the Levite purge.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Exodus 32:30

You can see the heaviness that was on Moses the next day, but he knew the job was not finished. He still refused to sugarcoat their sin, because he knew there are consequences to even forgiven sin. In Exodus 32:30 the Holy Spirit has recorded the words of Moses – not as a prophetic revelation – but as a heavy sighing fumbling for the right word to describe what he knows he is going to have to attempt: atonement. “Peradventure.” What a terrifically descriptive word for the man who had been in the presence of this holy God – who knew His hatred for sin – but who also knew His mercy in response to confession and prayer. “I shall make;” “at one ment.” “Maybe I can somehow bring us back into loving fellowship with our God Who we’ve offended so greatly.” I hope you can hear that word “atonement” echoing all the way through the Old Testament into the New Testament and on into your life. I myself remember the estrangement from God – the horror of knowing He was completely beyond my sinful reach – when Jesus – the Rescuer – the Atoner – the AtoneMENT – brought me to Him!

The Consequences of Partying Naked

January 27, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Exodus | 3 Comments
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And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

Exodus 32:21

Notice how Moses correctly attributed blame to both the people (it was their idea) and Aaron (he did “bring the sin upon them”). Notice also the designation “sin” and the attribution of a degree: “so great a sin.” Idolatry is indeed a great sin.

Moses was so bold as he stood alone among riotous sinners because he had been in the presence of God. You and I, as Christians, will wilt in the face of resistance, ridicule, and the threat of reprisals if we try to stand for Christ in our own strength. But if we have been alone with God – hearing His Word – forsaking earthly distractions – we will be as bold as a lion.

And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

Exodus 32:22

Aaron deferred to Moses (“my lord”), but then tried to blame-shift. God had told Moses “I have seen this people, they are stiff-necked.” Now Aaron tells Moses, “Thou knowest the people, they are set on mischief.” This did not fool Moses. He knew that God’s assessment trumped Aaron’s assessment.

For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

Exodus 32:23-24

Aaron’s statement started off sounding like a confession, until he uttered the phrase, “out came this calf,” as if it’s something that “just happened.” The Bible had already told us what really happened:

And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:4

And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

Exodus 32:25

This makes it sound like Aaron made them strip off their clothes, but I think it is really referring back to Aaron’s instructions to give him their earrings to make the calf-idol. Moses recognized the spiritual implications of their sin – they removed God’s protection by breaking the Covenant – and now, having foolishly pretended that the bull idol could lead them, they were conversely in a worse position: truly exposed to their enemies.

When the Word of God Crashes the Party

January 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

Exodus 32:15

Moses with the tablets

The two “tables” (tablets) were identical – five “Words” on each side. Written documents in that day were: (1) papyrus (not very durable); (2) leather skins; (3) clay tablets; or (4) chiseled in stone (only the most important documents). These were the only documents in existence actually inscribed by God Himself without any human agency. Imagine the value!

And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

Exodus 32:16

The written Word of God is not a violation of Commandment No. 2 (against graven images). God is so associated with His Word that He allows us to have it “engraved.” This refutes the accusation (sometimes made by Roman Catholics and Pentecostals) that Baptists and other fundamental Christians who hold to the Bible as the sole standard of faith and practice are guilty of Bibliolatry.

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.

Exodus 32:17

Joshua was familiar with the sound of war. This sounded like war, even though it wasn’t. It was the first “rock concert” involving God’s people, but this type of loud boisterous worship was common in pagan idolatry – which Moses recognized when he discerned the singing amidst the din of revelry:

And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Exodus 32:18

You can meditate on this passage of Scripture and judge for yourself how loud and boisterous Christian worship music ought to be. I would submit that it ought not to be mistaken – even from afar – for carnal syncretistic worship – a combination of worshiping the performer while ostensibly worshiping God.

There is a certain irony or at least poignancy in Joshua’s mistaken assertion that a battle was going on, because there WAS in fact a battle going on – a battle between Truth and falsehood – between the real and the fake – between God and Satan the counterfeiter. Because of Moses’s anger, you can see that he grasped this:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Exodus 32:19

Moses had plead with God to turn from His anger, but now he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, and he too expressed righteous anger, breaking these unique, precious tablets in view of all the people “beneath the mount.” This was the exact same spot where the people verbally agreed to be bound by God’s gracious covenant. They broke the Covenant figuratively; Moses demonstrated it literally. We speak of breaking God’s law – but it is God’s law that will break the sinner – just as jumping upward off a roof temporarily seems to break the law of gravity, but ultimately breaks the jumper.

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Exodus 32:20

This describes a longer process than just one verse makes it sound like, but Moses wanted to utterly desecrate this false idol.

Why We Can, and Cannot, Have Nice Things

September 21, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

Exodus 31:1-5

One of the key differences between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the New Testament is that, under the Old Testament, certain people were periodically “anointed” or “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit permanently indwells born-again believers from the moment of salvation.

Bezalel, who seems to have been in charge of the construction of the Tabernacle, had certain talents – which are gifts from God – but not necessarily the same as the New Testament “gifts of the Spirit,” such as administration or evangelism or preaching and teaching or mercy or giving. Basically, Bezalel got an “upgrade” to his talents for working with gold and silver and bronze and metals and stone and wood, so that the work of the Tabernacle and its furnishings would be excellent, and would have a supernatural level of beauty, durability, and function.

Exodus Chapter 32 features one of the climactic moments of the Book of Exodus, and possibly even the climax of the narrative that runs through the entire “Hexateuch” (Genesis – Joshua). The events recorded here constitute in a key moment in redemptive history. The Old Covenant (which was then still a very new covenant) had just been given, confirmed, ratified, accepted, and sealed with blood. Moses had gone back up Mount Sinai to get the specifications for the Tabernacle and for Tabernacle worship. We know he was up there for 40 days, but, during that time, the people did not know how long he would be gone, and they were worried. They still lacked faith, despite everything they had experienced, seen, and heard.

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

Exodus 32:1

What if, while Moses was away, they came under attack like they had from the Amalekites? Had Moses abandoned them or died? Had Yahweh left them here? (His presence could not be seen in the pillars of fire and cloud anymore at this point, because He was with Moses on the mountain.) They still had manna and water, but who was going to lead them now?

Exodus 32:1 says that “the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron.” Aaron was supposed to be in charge while Moses was away, and it is possible they did this in order to oppose him or coerce him. It is also possible they simply plead or demanded, but, either way, Aaron still felt the pressure of the crowd. He was older than Moses, but had been with Moses, and was known as a priest, so it was natural that they would seek his leadership or his endorsement upon their desires. Besides, who doesn’t like a “leader” that can be controlled by his people, rather than one who answers only to God?

The people said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” What kind of “gods” have to be “made?” And it wasn’t, strictly speaking, “this Moses” who had brought them out of Egypt. It was really Moses’s God Who had done it. Maybe they wanted some help from the Egyptian gods, or maybe just something that they could see and touch to represent Yahweh for them. This was a definite violation of the 2nd Word, and probably the 1st, too.

And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:2-4

They asked for a “graving” tool, despite the specific language which warned them and forbade them from making “graven” images! The “calf” was supposed to be the image of a young bull, which was a cultic god in Egypt, but which also would have been representative of their idea of what a powerful god should be like – a god that could drive out their enemies in the promised land. When the people said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” this was an instance of either outright lying, self-deceit, or a syncretisitc attempt to remake Yahweh into the images of another religion. What tragic, rebellious, disobedient, shameful, and sinful thinking!

Properly Promoting the Principle of Personal Property

March 2, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
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The Decalogue’s 8th Word prohibited stealing, thereby promoting the principle of personal property. The Covenant Code further developed this concept by making application to specific “case law” examples, from which the proper enforcement and spirit of the law could be gleaned.

If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double. If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

Exodus 22:7-9

Earthly judges are not omniscient like the Divine Judge, so the law made provision for cases where there was no proof of theft.

If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it: Then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.

Exodus 22:10-11

There is always this understanding under the Law that it can not be perfectly enforceable by finite humans, but God is all-knowing, so an oath of the Lord could be required, with the faith that God would ultimately accomplish true justice even when the magistrates got it wrong.

In Exodus Chapter 22, the Covenant Code speaks of three offenses other than murder which warranted the death penalty. One was witchcraft or occult practices.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Exodus 22:18

This was a serious crime because it evidenced such a brazen lack of trust in God.

The next one was bestiality.

Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 22:19

Bestiality was singled out by God as especially heinous even though it was common among the pagans in ancient times, and was even part of pagan worship.

Finally, idolatry was once again addressed and made punishable by death.

He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

Exodus 22:20

Idolatry is treason against the Creator.

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