Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Thoughts on Moses’ Flight from Egypt

Last Sunday night I was considering some aspects of the life of Moses and especially concerning his flight from Egypt. Since we had one of our frequent power outages then, I had some time to consider it. What I find interesting is that in this story is a key to seeing how God judges our own actions at times. There are three basic accounts of this period of Moses' life found in Exodus 2, Hebrews 11, and in Acts 7. I would like to compare them now and see what we can learn from them.


One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, "Why do you strike your companion?" He answered, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid, and thought, "Surely the thing is known." When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well (Exo. 2:11-15).


By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible (Heb. 11:24-27).


At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. "When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?' But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons (Acts 7:20-29).


Looking at these two passages together we see some apparent differences. At first glance it appears that Moses fled Egypt out of fear and yet Hebrews says he did it out of faith not fearing. How could it be said to be by faith? I think the key lies in the fact that the path was begun in faith. Clearly it was only faith that would enable Moses to abandon all his privileges and go down to his own people, and identify with them even in slavery. This is more than mere patriotism, because his people were not just any nation, but were heirs of Abraham's promise. It took something extraordinary for him to be willing to do this. We call that something faith.

It was faith that caused him to go down to his brethren. However, it was a mistaken belief that caused him to kill the Egyptian. He was zealous for his people and angry at the wrong he saw done. In the back of his mind was the knowledge that he would deliver Israel and he thought this was the best mode of bringing it about. In this he was bitterly disappointed. He did not receive a medal of commendation from his people, perhaps not even a thank you from the one he rescued, but what he did receive was rejection, "Who made you a ruler…" At this rejection he was afraid and he fled. In a certain sense he was afraid of Pharaoh, and certainly that was his initial reaction, but Hebrews tells us that he left by faith, not fearing the king's wrath. The way I see it is that God is showing the deepest motive in Moses in Hebrews. He had abandoned a life of ease and comfort and came to the aid of his brethren because of faith. There was a mistaken zeal and misunderstanding of God's way mixed in with it, but it was still faith. Thus his flight was brought about by faith even though the immediate cause might have seemed to have been fear. God looks at things differently than we do. Later it became apparent that forty more years were required to complete the time God had promised to Abraham that the children of Israel would be in Egypt (Gen. 15:13; Exo. 12:41).

This has bearing on our lives today. There are times when we must make a major decision, sometimes a decision which will affect the rest of our lives. We pray about it, and we act according to what we believe God is requiring of us. The consequences can be hard sometimes. I am certain Moses was very discouraged when he sat down at the well. His bid to become deliverer of his people had been cast down, trampled on, and torn to shreds. Yet God saw faith. The very fact that he had tried to deliver Israel showed a hold on the promises of God, even if it was premature.

Another example of this sort of faith is seen in the life of the Apostle Paul. There is much debate as to whether Paul actually should have gone to Jerusalem. He felt bound in heart to go, his friends opposed it, and a prophet told him what would happen if he did. True prophecy will at times say what will happen in a given course, but that does not mean of itself that the course is wrong. Paul was determined to go. Scripture seems somewhat ambiguous as to whether he actually should have. This is actually comforting in a way, because there are times when we may make a choice to do what we believe is pleasing to God. Unfortunately, we may miss it. Sometimes we can look it over and wonder if we made the right choice, and others may wonder the same as they did with Paul. Paul's choice was not made for wrong motives though, he sincerely was going to Jerusalem to proclaim Christ. It was not out of selfish-ambition or other wrong motive that he went. So when he was in prison Christ appeared to him and encouraged him (Acts 23:11). In the end whether it was best for him to go to Jerusalem or not is a moot point since God used this imprisonment to fulfill the purpose He had for Paul when He called him, and Paul could write at the end of his life that he had finished his course. May God grant that the same may be said of us! Amen.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Make me Yours, O Christ

Make me Yours, O Christ! Wholly completely
O draw me, Christ! Tenderly sweetly

Lead through dark valley of shadowy night
Yet lead forth from darkness and into the light

Break, Christ, break for I broken must be
Then make O remake what I should be

O to hear Your voice if only in rebuke
Blessed be whatever whip that drives me on toward you

My sweet Sin Offering to you I’m betrothed
To bear your name and character my Beloved

O in that day in You let me be found
Not with my own, but your righteousness girt round

Then may the capstone of this work be laid down
As cries of , “grace, grace” forever resound

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Christ and the Apostles Used Scripture

Almost as important as our love for Scripture as Christians is the way we use it. It is my belief that every problem we face and many struggles we have in our own lives are because we do not let the Word of God go down deep enough, either because we do not know what it says with reference to our situation, or because we know it, but do not actually apply it in a practical way. Most of us will confess, myself included, that we wish we had a more thorough knowledge of Scripture, but if we are really honest we will also admit that there is a great disconnect between what we know and what we actually apply to our lives. The more clearly we see what is required of us, the better we will be able to enter into it, and where it is difficult as often it is, seeing it clearly spelled out in Scripture drives us to prayer so that we can be enabled to do what is beyond us.

In order to clearly see our duties we must first rightly divide the Word of truth. This is only possible as God gives us light on the Word, so it is imperative for us to pray for understanding in His Word. Also required is a correct application of God's Word. Sometimes people do not apply God's Word because it is viewed as something God spoke to a specific person at a specific time. While it is true that some scriptures are specifically for a specific situation (for example both Hos. 1:2 and Jer. 16:2 were clearly for those individuals in particular, and are not applicable to all believers), yet there are many that are applicable to everyday situations. I am writing this post not to give an exhaustive study of them, but simply to promote thought and I would appreciate other examples if anyone has them. I intend to give a few examples of how Christ and His apostles used Scripture and drew applications from it so that we can emulate them through God's grace and be ourselves strengthened by His Word.

Some might object that Christ as the Son of God, and the apostles as inspired men who wrote Scripture, could use Scripture in a way that would be wrong for us. I would answer that if they are not out pattern who is? If our pattern is not found in the Scriptures themselves than where are they found? Also if you look closely you will notice that even Christ Himself gave very little that was not previously in the Old Testament, far more of His ministry was involved in opening concealed truths from the Old Testament than in adding new doctrine. The few exceptions had to do with His distinct avowal of His Divinity (such as John 3:13) and even these He elsewhere proved from the Psalms, especially ones that were acknowledged as Messianic even by His opponents. Now I would like to take a look at the way Christ used Scripture.

  1. In the Temptation

One interesting to note about the temptation of Christ is that He not only met each snare of the devil with Scripture, but that strictly speaking they were not Scriptures used in context. They were however well applied. Thus while the context of Scripture is very important in its correct use for understanding doctrine, yet in application context is not entirely necessary. This fact has application to the objection of cessationists that when Pentecostals give prophecies which are quotations of scripture passages that they are not good, because they are not given in context. Let's take a closer look at the temptation in Matthew 4:1-10.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"


The first temptation is answered by a partial quote of Deut. 8:2-3, "And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." In quoting it the way that He does Christ takes the following into consideration: 1. This was to be remembered by the children of Israel 2. This remembrance was not for Moses' generation only 3. The wilderness experience was not only to teach and humble them but to teach the same lessons to those who follow 4. The lesson taught was that man needed more reliance on the Word of God than on daily bread 5. I do not need bread as much as I need God's Word, and I will not put the temporal above the spiritual.


The second temptation actually began by the devil quoting a messianic Psalm himself. Christ replied by quoting Deut. 6:16, ""You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah." He thus compared the demanding and complaining for water by Israel to force God to move on their behalf with any attempted coercion of God, even to do something He has specifically promised. The Apostle Paul also later condemned the attitude of let us do evil that good may come (Rom. 3:8).


The third temptation is more straightforward then the others, being directly against a clear precept of God, so I won't cover it here.


  1. Christ's appeal to the Historical Books


When those in His hometown were expecting Him to work great works there He went to the historical books of the Bible and said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:24-27). This was a masterful use of Scripture. He showed that in the Old Testament the prophets did not have inherent power to do as they wanted but were reliant on the will of God. Not only did God not heal all those in Israel, but to add insult to injury, instead He sent His prophets to heathens! The logic was inescapable and made the Jews who prided themselves more on natural descent than spiritual relationship hopping mad.


Another example of Christ's use of the historical books is seen when He was challenged because of His disciples plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8).


At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."


Jesus shows them a precedent in what David did, and how his was even far greater a breach. Yet he was not called a sinner for doing so, because it was done in a time of need and God desired mercy more than a ritualistic observance of the Law. He then further points out that if anyone works on the Sabbath, the priests do, because the Law required double sacrifices on that day. From these examples I think we can see that there are many practical things we can learn concerning the ways of God from the historical books.


  1. Jesus' Proof of Life After Death and a Resurrection

After the Sadducees had tried to test Jesus with a sophistical question concerning the resurrection, which they rejected, Jesus used a few short words from the Pentateuch (the Sadducees doubted the prophets) to show that there is a hereafter (Mark 12:24-27).

Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong."


When God said, "I am" rather than "I was" He showed a continued relationship with the patriarchs who had passed on. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive to God though their bodies were buried. He is their God today as they even now adore Him in heaven awaiting their return with Christ. Christ shows us the importance of event the smallest phrases in Scripture by this example.


  1. Paul's use of the Scripture

Paul's use of Scripture is a study in itself (Christ's even more so), but I would like to look at a few examples. He uses the law of firstfruits to show that if the elect of the remnant of Israel are saved though Christ, then the believers in the Gentile nations will also be so (Rom. 11:16). He also uses the same law to show how Christ's resurrection implies our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20). This also proves our acceptance by God, since the firstfruits was accepted God has accepted the entire harvest to follow. This is the basis for Paul's often repeated phrase of "in Him" comes from. If Christ is the firstfruits than what happens to Him is credited to us.


Another interesting example, the way he uses a law concerning animal husbandry, to show that ministers can justly expect pecuniary benefits (1 Cor. 9:7-11).


Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?


He points out that if God was concerned that oxen were rewarded for their work, how much more should ministers of the Gospel be rewarded for theirs.


On a side note I might mention that I have used this verse often when reprimanded for sampling cookie dough I have been stirring. However, once when I quoted it in defense of someone else, it got ugly. I was the only male present and the female consensus was that I had insulted the person. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth and I had to beat a hasty retreat. I was only a little more fortunate then the sons of Sceva.


In all seriousness though, as we see how Christ and the apostles used Scripture we can see a glimpse of how rich a treasure Scripture is and how little we actually know even of what we are familiar with. With that I commend my readers to God and to the Word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among those that are sanctified. Amen.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Original Sin

We live in an age that prides itself on being “tolerant.” It is an age that will abide almost anything, except a man of convictions. It is an age that promotes license in the name of liberty. In this age Christians are often unwilling to state even plain gospel truths. I can think of a few evangelical preachers who when interviewed by unbelievers and asked if a non-Christian can go to heaven replied with words to the effect, that they didn’t think so, or that the person had no guarantee. I should also state that of those ministers at least one apologized to his evangelical brothers afterwards, but we can only hope that he sought forgiveness from the One whose doctrine he was ashamed of.
In bygone eras it was spoken against the doctrine of justification by faith that it pardons wicked people. In this age, we would rather God not be allowed to damn the wicked, but should pardon everyone freely and at no cost. This in spite of the contrast of their own behavior who are only too willing to at least professedly curse their fellow men for the most paltry of reasons, such as minor traffic violations, and any little thing that causes them inconvenience. Any inconvenience or even unintentional thwarting of our desires earns our avowed anger, but we will not allow the One who sits in heaven and who by right of creation has right of ownership any anger at our repeated and willful attempts to thwart Him. The funny thing about the world is that while in every age its objection might be different, its opposition will remain the same. The truth of God’s Word will prevail eventually. In eternity we will learn exactly how God’s ways were higher than our ways and His thoughts than ours. Until then we can always rest in knowing He will do right.
One of the reasons for the difficulty we can have in understanding why God would condemn an unbeliever, especially one who has not heard the gospel is because we lack an understanding of original sin. This results in our looking only at sinful actions and not dealing with the source of all those actions. Even as Christians we become angry with people because of their sins, but don’t realize that they sin because they are sinners and can do no better without a Saviour.
Unless we understand the depth of our sinfulness, we can never understand the depth of our salvation. Jesus said that unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, and then shows Himself to be referring to a spiritual birth (John 3:3-6). Paul wrote that if any man is in Christ he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Why is it necessary for us to be born again and by that birth to become a new creation? It is necessary because we are born with Adam’s sinful nature.
About a year ago I was doing some studying in Romans 5 and was wondering how God could in justice condemn men before the men had actually sinned. Yet we know that they were under the penalty because they all died, even those who did not sin against a specific divine precept as Adam did. I was somewhat unsettled by this thought, because I know God is just and yet I failed to see how one who has not actually committed a sin could be judged guilty, and yet clearly since death had power over them they were. How could God in justice hold us guilty for Adam’s fall? Then after some prayer it dawned on me, it had to do with natures.
Take a male Siamese fighting fish for example, let’s say that this particular one was a young one that had never shown any previous aggressive behavior, now let’s take another innocent male Siamese fighting fish and put him in the tank so they can become friends. What will happen, they will kill each other. Why? That is their nature. The fact that neither one has killed in the past does not change the fact that as Siamese fighting fish they will fight given the opportunity to do so. So in fact, many people who own Siamese fighting fish and own more than one keep them in separate tanks, even if the fish have never been in a fish fight before, because they know that if they were placed in the same tank they would fight. It would not be wrong to say that the behavior of the original Siamese fighting fish is imputed to his descendants. It is justly imputed, because as anyone who has one knows, the innocence would end the moment opportunity came. Likewise people do not place a young kitten in a canary cage with a canary inside, because even if the kitten has never before killed a canary it still has the canary-killing nature.
In the same way God justly imputes Adam’s sin to us, not because we have actually eaten forbidden fruit, but because being given that command we would also act the same way. Thus because Adam was worthy of death and we would do the same given the opportunity we are treated as worthy of death even before we have actually added our own transgression to the original one. It is this sin nature that keeps us out of heaven, because were we to go there as we are born, we would import discord, disunity and war there. God’s will would be done no better in heaven by unconverted men than it is done on earth by them. Some people think they can attain heaven by doing various good works and outward ceremonies, but that never deals with the root issue which is the sin nature. That is why Paul wrote, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). Only a new man can go to heaven, one with the nature of the second Adam. However when we are born we are born with the old Adam’s nature so how can we go to heaven?

The good news is that when we believe on Christ and in his death and resurrection the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto us, even as Adam’s sin was. Since Christ is a new creature we are viewed as having potential for the boundless goodness found in the Original. Adam’s sin ruined himself and resulted in countless sins of others following him, Christ’s righteousness not only overcame the guilt of Adam’s and all following multitudinous transgressions, but also opened up a way for multitudes of other righteous acts. Since we all have born the image of the earthly man, we also in Christ will bear the image of the heavenly. This is also why Peter tells us that we can be partakers of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4, because we are joined to Christ and from Him flows His good nature into us causing us to do through Him what we could never do in ourselves. Truly the free gift is far greater than the offense! Amen.