Friday, April 30, 2010

Feel the Passion

Deuteronomy 4:1-43 is a wonderful section describing God's mercy and grace to his people.  This morning while Josh and I were looking at verses 32-40 in our study, he commented on how Moses' awe and wonder comes off the page while reiterating how the Lord has worked so wondrously and faithfully.  Look at what is mentioned as Moses explains how God

1.   Took a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror
2.   Allowed the people to see his great fire, hear his words out of the midst of the fire, and live
3.   Let the Israelites hear his voice out of heaven to discipline them
4.   Loved their fathers and chose their offspring after them
5.   Brought them out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power
6.   Is driving out before them nations greater and mightier
7.   Is giving them the land for an inheritance

And he did it that they might "know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other."

As great as these works were by which Israel could look and remember, the Father did much more by giving his Son on the cross; that he might die and be raised again according to the Scriptures as provision for sin.  How much more we should hold fast to him who loved us!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Noah's Ark Found?

Here is a photo accompanying an article concerning the possible find of Noah's ark.  This is big news.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tell No One the Vision

More than once Jesus told people who saw or received the miraculous to not tell anyone about it. Origen, here, puts forth his own idea as to why the Lord asked that of Peter, James, and John after seeing the transfiguration.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”   Matthew 17:9

But after these things it is written that, when they heard the voice from the cloud bearing testimony to the Son, the three Apostles, not being able to bear the glory of the voice and power resting upon it, “fell on their face,” and besought God; for they were sore afraid at the supernatural sight, and the things which were spoken from the sight. But consider if you can also say this with reference to the details in the passage, that the disciples, having understood that the Son of God had been holding conference with Moses, and that it was He who said, “A man shall not see My face and live,” and taking further the testimony of God about Him, as not being able to endure the radiance of the Word, humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God; but, after the touch of the Word, lifting up their eyes they saw Jesus only and no other. . . . But after the dispensation in the mountain, when the disciples were coming down from the mountain in order that, when they had come to the multitude, they might serve the Son of God concerning the salvation of the people, Jesus commanded the disciples saying, “Tell the vision to no man until the Son of man rise from the dead.”  But that saying, “Tell the vision to no man,” is like that which was investigated in the passage above, when “He enjoined the disciples to tell no man that He was the Christ.”  Wherefore the things that were said at that passage may be useful to us also for the passage before us; since Jesus wishes also, in accordance with these, that the things of His glory should not be spoken of, before His glory after the passion; for those who heard, and in particular the multitudes, would have been injured when they saw Him crucified, who had been so glorified.  Wherefore since His being glorified in the resurrection was akin to His transfiguration, and to the vision of His face as the sun, on this account He wishes that these things should then be spoken of by the Apostles, when He rose from the dead.
Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XII, cap. 43

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Suffering for Righteousness' Sake

A friend and I will be picking up our study at 1 Peter 3:8 and considering this passage on suffering.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.  (1 Peter 3:13-17)

Now it so happens that I was reading a bit more from Arnobius and was struck by the following observations made concerning Christians in his day.
What say you, O ignorant ones, for whom we might well weep and be sad? . . . Do not even these proofs at least give you faith to believe, viz., that already, in so short and brief a time, the oaths of this vast army have spread abroad over all the earth? that already there is no nation so rude and fierce that it has not, changed by His love, subdued its fierceness, and with tranquility hitherto unknown, become mild in disposition? that men endowed with so great abilities—orators, critics, rhetoricians, lawyers, and physicians, those, too, who pry into the mysteries of philosophy—seek to learn these things, despising those in which but now they trusted? that slaves choose to be tortured by their masters as they please, wives to be divorced, children to be disinherited by their parents, rather than be unfaithful to Christ and cast off the oaths of the warfare of salvation? that although so terrible punishments have been denounced by you against those who follow the precepts of this religion, it increases even more, and a great host strives more boldly against all threats and the terrors which would keep it back, and is roused to zealous faith by the very attempt to hinder it? Do you indeed believe that these things happen idly and at random? that these feelings are adopted on being met with by chance? Is not this, then, sacred and divine? Or do you believe that, without God’s grace, their minds are so changed, that although murderous hooks and other tortures without number threaten, as we said, those who shall believe, they receive the grounds of faith with which they have become acquainted, as if carried away by some charm, and by an eager longing for all the virtues, and prefer the friendship of Christ to all that is in the world?
The Case Against the Pagans, Book II, cap. 5

New Testament Use of the Old Testament

I would like to direct your attention to a posting by Jason S at Pastoral Musings.  His thesis is that the NT use of the OT passages are used with the knowledge that each quote was intended by the original OT author to be a firm statement expecting the Christ/Messiah.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Self-Denial and Cross-Bearing

Origen's comments on the following verse stand for themselves.  Enjoy.
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."   Matthew 16:24
He shows by these words that, to will to come after Jesus and to follow Him, springs from no ordinary manly courage, and that no one who has not denied himself can come after Jesus.  And the man denies himself who wipes out by a striking revolution his own former life which had been spent in wickedness; as by way of illustration he who was once licentious denies his licentious self, having become self-controlled even abidingly.  But it is probable that some one may put the objection, whether as he denied himself so he also confesses himself, when he denied himself, the unjust, and confesses himself, the righteous one.  But, if Christ is righteousness, he who has received righteousness confesses not himself but Christ; so also he who has found wisdom, by the very possession of wisdom, confesses Christ.  And such a one indeed as, “with the heart believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth makes confession unto salvation,” and bears testimony to the works of Christ, as making confession by all these things of Christ before men, will be confessed by Him before His Father in heaven.  So also he who has not denied himself but denied the Christ will experience the saying, “I also will deny him.”   On this account let every thought and every purpose and every word and every action become a denial of ourselves, but a testimony about Christ and in Christ; for I am persuaded that every action of the perfect man is a testimony to Christ Jesus, and that abstinence from every sin is a denial of self, leading him after Christ.  And such a one is crucified with Christ, and taking up his own cross follows Him who for our sakes bears His own cross, according to that which is said in John: “They took Jesus therefore and put it on Him,” etc., down to the words, “Where they crucified Him.”
Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XII, cap. 24

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What's on Your Mind?: Being a Stumbling Block

The elect have a certain propensity for placing stumbling blocks in their own paths (Ezekiel 14:1-4)  and those of fellow believers (Ezekiel 44:12; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9).  It is embarrassing or convicting enough for God to point out what has gotten in the way of ourselves or others, but how awful if the Lord of glory turned to me and said, "You are a stumbling block to me" (Matt 16:23).  Ouch!  Yet that is what he did to Peter in front of the others.  Here are Origen's comments on the passage.
But if Peter, at that time because of the saying, “God be propitious to you, Lord, this shall not be unto you,” (Matt. 16:22) was called a stumbling-block by Jesus, as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men, what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God, and do not look to things unseen and eternal, but mind the things of man, and look to things seen and temporal, but that such still more would be stigmatized by Jesus as a stumbling-block to Him, and because stumbling-blocks to Him, as stumbling-blocks to His brethren also?  As in regard to them He says, “I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink,” so also He might say, “When I was running ye caused Me to stumble.”  Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men, since we ought in everything to mind the things of God.
Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XII, cap. 23
So what's on your mind today?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dealing with Family and Foe: Deuteronomy 2-3

Compare Deuteronomy 2:1-3:22 with Numbers 20:14-25:16 and some interesting things appear.  First, take a look at the sequence of events.

Deuteronomy Numbers
Approach to Edom
Approach to Moab
Approach to Ammon
Defeat of Heshbon
Defeat of Bashan
Contact with Edom
(Defeat of Arad)¹
Defeat of Heshbon
Defeat of Bashan
Contact with Moab

¹ Arad is noted for consistency of the text but is unnecessary for the argument.

Notice the differences.  Why do they exist?  Multiple theories have been brought forth, but the simplest seems to be that: (1) Numbers gives the
events in such a way that they point to Israel not remaining holy to the Lord.  God had been faithful these past decades.  He had interceded on their behalf in Balaam's life.  He had warned the nation to not take on the practices of other nations.  Yet in the face of all these, they fell into sin and had to be judged.  And (2) Deuteronomy establishes which areas were to be left alone because of familial ties (Edom, Moab, Ammon) versus which were identified for Israel to conquer and possess.  This makes sense in light of the preceding chapter which had revisited the failure to take the land of promise.

The Lord values family ties, so we should as well.  The command to Israel was to not contend with nations related to them but instead go out of their way to be respectable and just in all their dealings though they ended up being abused from each of the three nations.

Wicked family members can lead us into sin.  The fact that I am related to someone does not automatically allow me to assume that family or family member is looking out for my best interests.  Just the opposite may be the case.

Evil needs to be eradicated.  Whether on a personal or corporate level, sin and evil is warring against what all that is godly and must be checked.  For the Christian, this means:

Romans 8:12-13
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thoughts on Deuteronomy 1

In Deuteronomy 1-4, Moses recounts important episodes in the wilderness.  Chapter 1 is a look back at the disobedience at Kadesh-barnea resulting in the forty-year limbo between the exit from Egypt and entry into Canaan.  That momentous faux pas needed to be reinforced as an example of what not to do when entering the land this time.

What piqued my curiosity in this passage was Moses' insertion of elder selection back at Sinai.  Why mention it?  I think he wanted to make the definite point that the sin and consequence of previous non-entry was a direct result of the recognized leaders and not Moses or Aaron.  They had only themselves to blame.

Who were the spies? The leaders
Who gave a bad report? The leaders, save two
Who discouraged the people? The leaders
Who attempted to go into Canaan without the Lord? The leaders

Spiritual leadership is accountable for those they shepherd.  At whatever functional level the leader operates, he must be operating in accord with the God's revealed commands and precepts.  To do otherwise puts both the leader and the follower(s) at risk.  Something to remember then:

1 Peter 5:1-4
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outline of Deuteronomy

I had known of a structure in Deuteronomy but before now never considered what form it took.  The three commentaries I own focusing on this book all state that the layout is very similar to Suzerain covenants known among the Hittites.  Roughly, it looks like this:

    1. Preamble (1:1-1:5)
    2. Prologue and History (1:6-4:42)
    3. Stipulations
a.  General Stipulations (4:43-11:32)
b.  Specific Stipulations (12:1-26:15)
c.  Affirmation of Stipulations (26:16-26:19)
    4. Promised Outcome
a.  Curses for Disobedience (27:1-26)
b.  Blessings for Obedience (28:1-29:1)
    5. Confirming the Covenant (29:2-30:20)
    6. Implementing the Covenant (31:1-34:12)

This structure adds depth to the study.  We do not have here just a retelling of what had been given at Sinai but a formalized bond between parties.  This makes sense as there are only three people still living who were adults at the time that the Law was given—Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.  All the others had died in the wilderness.  Presumably, the Levites had been faithful in teaching the people during their 40 years of wandering, but now that the Hebrews were on the verge of entering, a restated covenant was presented with an expectation of formal agreement.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Origen on the Canaanite Woman's Request

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.  And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”  But he did not answer her a word.  And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  And her daughter was healed instantly.
Luke 15:21-28

The Canaanite woman, therefore, because of her race was not worthy even to receive an answer from Jesus, who acknowledged that He had not been sent by the Father for any other thing than to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,—a lost race of souls possessed of clear vision; but, because of her resolution and of having worshiped Jesus as Son of God, she obtains an answer, which reproaches her with baseness of birth and exhibits the measure of her worthiness, namely, that she was worthy of crumbs as the little dogs, but not of the loaves. But when she with intensified resolution, accepting the saying of Jesus, puts forth the claim to obtain crumbs even as a little dog, and acknowledges that the masters are of a nobler race, then she gets a second answer, which bears testimony to her faith as great, and a promise that it shall be done unto her as she wills . . . Now, the Canaanite woman, having come, worshiped Jesus as God, saying, “Lord, help me,” but He answered and said, “It is not possible to take the children’s bread and cast it to the little dogs.” But some one might inquire also into the meaning of this saying, was not possible according to right reason for the well-made loaf of the children to be given as food to the little dogs. But no such thing appears in the case of the power of Jesus, for of this it was possible both for the children and those called little dogs to partake. Consider, then, whether perhaps with reference to the saying, “It is not possible to take the bread of children,” we ought to say that, “He who emptied Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant,” brought a measure of power such as the world was capable of receiving, of which power also He was conscious that a certain quantity went forth from Him as is plain from the words, “Some one did touch Me, for I perceived that power had gone forth from Me.”¹ From this measure of power, then, He dispensed, giving a larger portion to those who were preeminent and who were called sons, but a smaller portion to those who were not such, as to the little dogs. But though these things were so, nevertheless where there was great faith, to her, who because of her base birth in Canaanite land was a little dog, He gave as to a child the bread of the children.
Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XI, cap. 17

¹ Luke 8:46

Monday, April 5, 2010

Origen on the Five Loaves and Two Fish

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?  John 6:9

And so long as these five loaves and two fishes were not carried by the disciples of Jesus, they did not increase or multiply, nor were they able to nourish more; but, when the Savior took them, and in the first placed looked up to heaven, with the rays of His eyes, as it were, drawing down from it power which was to be mingled with the loaves and the fishes which were about to feed the five thousand; and after this blessed the five loaves and the two fishes, increasing and multiplying them by the word and the blessing; and in the third place dividing and breaking He gave to the disciples that they might set them before the multitudes, then the loaves and the fishes were sufficient, so that all ate and were satisfied, and some portions of the loaves which had been blessed they were unable to eat.  For so much remained over to the multitudes, which was not according to the capacity of the multitudes but of the disciples who were able to take up that which remained over of the broken pieces, and to place it in baskets filled with that which remained over, which were in number so many as the tribes of Israel.
Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XI, cap. 2