Posted in Expository, Nature of Man, Old Testament

And Afterward (Reflections on Psalm 73:24)

The Psalmist’s plight is dire in chapter seventy-three. Even though “God is good to Israel” (v. 1, ESV), the writer’s “feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped” (v. 2). Spiritual catastrophe has come too close for comfort. How? The Psalmist has begun to envy the wicked (v. 3-12), who are “always at ease” and “increase in riches.” His thinking grows so skewed he begins to ponder that “in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13). Surveying the scene of prospering sinners is leading him toward the conclusion that serving God is not worth the effort.

Trying to figure out why the wicked are blessed “seemed to me a wearisome task” (v. 16), that is, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (v. 17). Thankfully, a more accurate perspective sets in. The writer realizes that the apparent success of evil is fleeting, and that God will “set them in slippery places” and “make them fall to ruin” (v. 18). The unrighteous will be “destroyed in a moment” disappearing swiftly as “a dream when one awakes” (v. 20).

Then the Psalmist gets brutally honest about his own bad behavior. He humbly confesses to God that “my soul was embittered” (v. 21), and that “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you” (v. 22). But, in spite of the author’s shortcomings, God is still holding onto his hand (v. 23). His salvation will be God’s doing, in spite of the writer’s painful flaws.

At this point the Psalmist pens a striking passage (v. 24-26):

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Compared to the New Testament (which is rife with discussions of the afterlife), Old Testament passages teaching the soul’s immortality seem few and far between (there are several scattered verses, but they will not be considered here). What does the Psalmist mean by asserting, “and afterward you will receive me to glory”? Since God is “in heaven,” and the Psalmist desires “nothing on earth” (v. 25), to be received “to glory” is an apparent reference to heaven. This is reinforced by the writer’s statement that “My flesh and my heart may fail” (v. 26)—evidently referring to the eventual death of his physical body. Nevertheless, after he has been guided with divine counsel (v. 24), and after his flesh fails (v. 26), he will be received “to glory” (v. 24) because God is “in heaven” and nothing remains “on earth” to be desired (v. 25). This hopeful outlook is possible only because, with flesh failing, “God is the strength of my heart…forever” (v. 26).

Could Psalm 73:24 be a bold Old Testament claim on the soul’s immortality and eternal destiny? On this Scripture Keil and Delitzsch comment that, even though the “heavenly triumph of the church” had not yet been foretold, faith in God “had already a transparent depth which penetrated beyond Hades into an eternal life…It is just this that is also the nerve of the proof of the resurrection of the dead which Jesus advances in opposition to the Sadducees (Matt. 22:32)” (Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5, pp. 493-494). Craig C. Broyles notes, “If verse 24 does point to some kind of resurrection, it is interesting to note how the writer arrived at this conclusion. He did so not by virtue of a supposed immortality of the soul but by virtue of God himself and the kind of relationship he establishes. Because ‘God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (v. 26), I shall therefore live on with God’” (New International Biblical Commentary on Psalms, pp. 304-305). It is worth observing that the Hebrew verb for “you will receive” in v. 24 is “identical to that found in Psalm 49:15 (‘But God will redeem my soul from the grave; he will surely take me to himself’) and Genesis 5:24 (‘Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away’), both of which seem to point to a divine act that transcends death” (ibid., p. 304). The Pulpit Commentary weighs in by quoting a professor who remarked about Psalm 73:24 that “the poet has that religious intuition which forms the kernel of the hope of immortality” (vol. VIII, p. 72).

The New Testament leaves Christians in no doubt about the afterlife, judgment, heaven and hell. But we need not think that people in Old Testament times had no clue about the soul. They had far less information than we, but God made sure they still had access to certain spiritual truths, including Psalm 73:24 and “the kernel of the hope of immortality.”

Posted in Expository, General, Old Testament

The Lord Sent a Lion

About 1100 B.C. the Philistines were enemies and subjugators of God’s people, and Israel had sadly grown accustomed to the sorry status quo (Judg. 15:11). His chosen people having charted a path to self-destruction by plunging headlong into Canaanite paganism, God had to take action to preserve Israel — in spite of themselves — and the bloodline through which would come the Messiah. So the Lord in his providence sought an opportunity for Israel to begin throwing off the yoke of Philistine oppression (Judg. 14:4). Deliverance came in the form of Samson, a colorful paradox of a judge: a Nazirite who routinely violated the vow; a man motivated by what pleased his eyes who had his eyes gouged out; a man of divinely given superhuman strength who melted like butter in the hands of scheming women; a man who prayed to God and then consorted with a prostitute; a man whose greatest victories over the enemy were private acts of murder and revenge; a national deliverer who was no national leader; a fighter fit to slaughter a thousand, but unable to resist a solitary Delilah.

Samson’s final blow to the Philistines came at the cost of his own life when, as a blind, humiliated prisoner he broke the two pillars of Dagon’s temple, bringing 3,000 pagans to a crashing, crushing death. God did, indeed, find a way to strike at his people’s enemy. How it transpired is a fascinating study of divine providence, as events are traced backwards in Judges chapters 14-16.

  • Samson demolished the Philistines’ temple because they brought him there as a prisoner (16:25).
  • Samson was taken prisoner because Delilah had his head shaved (16:19).
  • Delilah coaxed Samson into telling his secret because the Philistine leaders bribed her (16:5).
  • The Philistine leaders bribed Delilah because they hated Samson.
  • The Philistines hated Samson because he slaughtered 1,000 of them with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15).
  • Samson killed the 1,000 when the Philistines were coming to take him prisoner (15:14).
  • The Philistines were going to arrest Samson because he attacked them (15:8).
  • Samson attacked them because they burned his wife to death (15:6).
  • They burned his wife because Samson had burned their crops (15:5).
  • Samson burned the crops because his wife had been given to a Philistine (15:2).
  • Samson’s wife had been given away because Samson had left her at the wedding feast (14:20).
  • Samson left the wedding feast to slay 30 Philistines and take their garments (14:19).
  • Samson needed their garments because his 30 companions had solved his riddle (14:18).
  • The companions solved the riddle because Samson’s wife told them the answer (14:17).
  • Samson’s wife knew the riddle’s answer because she pressed him continually after she had been threatened with death by the companions (14:15).
  • The death threat came after Samson gave the companions an impossible riddle (14:14).
  • The riddle was impossible because it seems to have involved the supernatural: bees and honey found in a semi-fresh animal carcass that no one knew about but Samson (14:8).
  • The honey was in the lion’s carcass because Samson had recently killed it with his bare hands (14:6).
  • How did this chain of violent events begin? The Lord sent a lion (14:5).

True, scripture does not explicitly say that God caused the lion to attack Samson. But, in light of the facts, can there be any doubt that the unseen hand of Providence was pulling strings, bringing to pass events that, when coupled with the freely made choices of men, would culminate in the will of “the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines” (14:4)? God had to get the ball rolling, because Israel was not going to do it on her own.

Even today the Lord needs to spur his children on from time to time, perhaps in a direction they otherwise would never have taken. As we age, we may be able to look in retrospect at our lives and see watershed events which we afforded no special significance at the time. What things is God placing in our lives so that we can help bring about his will? Over that answer is drawn a veil which will remain until we get to heaven. In Samson’s case, the Lord sent a lion.

Posted in Expository, Old Testament

My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts

It is so very easy to repeat what we have heard without ever looking into what we have heard for ourselves. And a lot of the time, it really doesn’t matter all that much. But sometimes it might.

How many times have passages been quoted and then given a meaning that was readily accepted and never challenged. Of course, at the time the passage is quoted in our hearing, if we don’t look it up ourselves and read the context in which it appears, we likely tend to accept whatever meaning was assigned to it by the one we heard quote it.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah long ago wrote, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I’m quite sure that most of us recognize that passage and likely grew up hearing it quoted over and over again. And those of us who became preachers have quoted it often as suggestive of the idea that we can’t always know what the Lord wants or wills, and some things are beyond our comprehension because the Lord thinks on a higher plane than do we. In fact, it is a comforting thought to think that the Lord knows what is right and best even if in difficult circumstances wherein we find it impossible to know why something has occurred.

To be sure, there are passages that inform us of the truth that we do not always and cannot always know certain things because God has not revealed everything that is reveal-able (Deut. 29:29). He has only chosen to reveal certain things in His word and to make certain knowledge possible by means of his creation or world. God, in His word has revealed His expressed will. In providence, according to Scripture, is where God’s unexpressed will is located. We pray constantly for God’s unexpressed will in our lives to be done.

Romans 11:33-36 is a fascinating passage that, in its context, shows that in the historical development of the scheme of redemption, and His marvelous use of both Jew and Gentile, God demonstrated “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” Furthermore, He evidenced “how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!” Indeed, we do have passages that teach us the extraordinary elevation of the thoughts and ways of God in His providence.

But, what is being discussed in Isaiah 55 is that the lofty thoughts and ways of God were the very thoughts and ways that God’s people were supposed to have themselves! Isaiah in this passage is not discussing the fact of God’s thoughts and ways being so far above mankind that mankind just cannot understand the thoughts and ways of God. In this passage that is NOT what is being affirmed.

Look at the verse just before: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (v. 7). God’s people had become wicked and unrighteous. They had refused to make God’s thoughts their own thoughts, and they had replaced God’s ways with their own ways! They had a revealed law from God, but they had neglected it. They had prophets sent from God, but these they rejected. Instead of allowing God’s ways and thoughts to continue to be their own, they had substituted their own thoughts and ways for His, and now they were bound for captivity.

Obviously, not a lot of harm is done in misconstruing the meaning of Isaiah 55:8-9 because the usual but errant interpretation of it is a truth found elsewhere. But the text would, in its context, be of greater value in making the point divinely intended if we would allow the context to speak for itself. And as people who now are under the last will and testament of Jesus Christ, we had best be those people who make God’s thoughts our thoughts and God’s ways our ways.

Posted in Old Testament


By Weylan Deaver

Abel was the second person ever born, and the first victim of murder (see Gen. 4). A shepherd by trade, he died young at the hand of his older, wicked brother. Interestingly, Jesus includes Abel with the prophets (Luke 11:47-51). Abel is mentioned by name in only five chapters of the Bible, but what little is said of him speaks volumes to the kind of man he was.

The world of Abel contained four people. His parents were the extent of his family tree, and they could tell him firsthand stories of the Garden of Eden. There were no atheists, no agnostics, no idol worshipers, no false religions. The Flood of Noah’s day was still in the future. Dinosaurs roamed the earth and biological conditions made possible extraordinarily long life spans. With no Scripture yet given, God carried on personal conversations with people.

The worship of Abel is commended. When he brought an offering from his flock, God accepted it while simultaneously rejecting Cain’s plant offering. The reason is not immediately apparent, since the text does not state that Cain should have brought an animal offering. Suffice it to say, something was amiss in what Cain did. The New Testament affirms that Abel’s offering was made “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). Since faith results by hearing and trusting God’s word (Rom. 10:17), the implication is that God had, indeed, given Cain and Abel instructions on their offerings. Abel followed the instructions, thus making his offering “by faith,” whereas Cain did not. This principle has towering ramifications for our own day. As he did with Abel’s, God will accept our gifts to him when they are made by faith (i.e. informed by and carried out per God’s word). As he rejected Cain’s gifts, so will God reject today offerings and worship brought to him without following his revealed will.

The wounding of Abel is tragic testimony to anger grown so out of hand that Cain actually raised his hand against his brother and killed him. Prior to the crime, God had talked to Cain and tried to help him. God warned Cain of the nearness of sin if he failed to get his attitude straightened out. Cain would either rule over sin, or else be ruled by it. Sadly, and to his brother’s demise, he chose the latter. As the first human to ever die, Abel’s was the first spirit to ever enter Hades. And, he has been there awaiting judgment longer even than Adam and Eve. Though Abel’s death did not seem to weigh too heavily on Cain’s conscience, it was a serious offense to God. Much later, the apostle John will raise and answer the question of why Cain murdered Abel: “Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12, ESV).

The worthiness of Abel is evident wherever he is discussed. Inspiration even mentions his blood in the same sentence with the Savior’s: “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). Abel’s blood cried out for justice. Abel’s blood pointed back to the sin of Cain. Abel’s blood could not save. Jesus’ blood, on the other hand, heralded the message of redemption. Jesus’ blood pointed forward to salvation. Jesus’ blood could save. Whatever good could be said of Abel, better could be said of Christ. Abel died young, but he died right with God, which is all that matters. “And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4). And maybe — just maybe — that is why Jesus spoke of Abel in the same breath as the prophets.

Posted in Christian Living, Old Testament

The spies never said it

By Weylan Deaver

Perhaps a year or less after bringing Israel out of Egypt in miracle-saturated fashion, God has Moses send twelve tribal leaders to spy out the land of promise (Num. 13:1-2). The mission was not to see whether they could conquer the land (that should have been a foregone conclusion), but to see what the geography and its people were like (vv. 17-20). Nevertheless, ten of the twelve return and give a negative appraisal of the prospect of even taking the land (vv. 25-33). We know what they reported, but it is instructive to consider some things they never said.

The spies never said, “There is no God to help us.” Per divine definition, every atheist is a fool (Psa. 14:1), but you can be a fool without being an atheist. These were men who had witnessed the plagues in Egypt and who had walked across the Red Sea on dry land, all within their recent past. The Lord even asks, “how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Num. 14:11). The spies act like practical atheists, in that their minds are not influenced by God. They do not even mention God in their report. Do we ever, without verbally denying the Lord, end up practically denying him by living without his impact in our thoughts and deeds?

The spies never said, “God has not promised us this land.” We could be more sympathetic to their report, had God never explained his intention to give them the land. But Israel knew. They do not doubt God’s bringing them to the land; what they doubt is their ability to survive it. The people ask, “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?” and then suggest returning to Egypt as a better option (Num. 14:3). They do not see themselves belonging in Canaan. What of us? Jesus said, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, ESV). Are you comfortable in the kingdom? Do you see yourself belonging only there? Would you fight to stay?

The spies never said, “God has abandoned us, so we cannot conquer the land.” They had no evidence of divine abandonment. In fact, “the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud” in the previous chapter (Num. 12:5). The problem was not God’s distance; the problem was their doubt. Despite what the Bible says, do we sometimes act like we are alone? Do we live as though the future depends on our efforts, completely factoring out divine providence and promises? Without accusing God of not being here, do we still live like he is not going to help us?

The spies never said, “We do not believe what God told us.” But, that is exactly the spiritual crime for which God indicts them. “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:19). Unbelief makes people unable. We can fall into the same pit, our lack of faith robbing us of blessings God would like to bestow.

In truth, the spies did not have to make any of those statements to prove themselves unbelieving and, thus, unable to take the land. God sent a plague to kill the ten faithless spies (Num. 14:37), and banished the nation to forty years of wandering. Ironically, when God was there to make it happen, Israel did not believe she could enter Canaan. But, when God removed his help, Israel then decided it was the right time to go into Canaan, after all (Num. 14:39-45). A fool’s errand, and it did not work—Israel was defeated, humiliated, and still had to wander forty years. May God give us faith that conquers, instead of fear that quakes.

Posted in Christian Living, Expository, Old Testament


Anyone who would go into a pit and kill a lion has my high regard, which is why—hunter that I am—Benaiah has long held a special place for me. There are several Old Testament men named Benaiah, and all are more or less obscure. Our focus is on the one who served as captain over King David’s bodyguard. Consider some lessons from the account of him in 2 Samuel 23:20-23.

“And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen” (v. 20, ESV). Since his father, Jehoiada, was a priest, that makes Benaiah a Levite warrior, and he had 24,000 men under his command (cf. 1 Chron. 27:5). It is unclear what “ariels” are, but, if the Septuagint is correct, it appears Ariel was Moab’s king and that Benaiah killed his two sons. How there came to be a lion in a pit goes unstated. Suggestions include that the pit was dug as a trap (cf. Lockyer, All the Men of the Bible, p. 73), or that it was a cistern for drinking water into which the lion had fallen (cf. Bergen, New American Commentary, p. 471), or that the lion had been driven by the cold weather to make the dry tank his lair (cf. Smith, Pulpit Commentary, p. 571). Whatever the case, Benaiah—on a cold day, when fingers might be numb—descended into a confined area with a fearsome, deadly animal and slew it (without any high-powered rifle). He was “a doer of great deeds.” Are we? Great deeds in God’s sight do not have to be dangerous, or even big; they just have to be good (see Mark 9:41).

“And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear” (v. 21). Another account puts this Egyptian’s height at five cubits (1 Chron. 11:23), which, given an 18-inch cubit, would make him 7.5 feet tall! But a giant with a giant spear was not enough to intimidate Benaiah, who wrested it from the Egyptian and struck him therewith. What audacity! He did not even call for backup. What of us? Are we intimidated by the devil? Faithful Christians recognize that the One who is in us is stronger than the devil who wants us (cf. 1 John 4:4).

“These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men” (v. 22). David had a highly select group of about thirty men known for boundless courage and awesome accomplishment. The three highest are named earlier in the chapter (vv. 8, 9, 11). Benaiah, though not one of the three mightiest, did things that could not escape their notice. Think of that. Today, the greatest, mightiest folk in the world are the Lord’s saints. The world may pay us little attention, but, we ought to be living lives so spiritually courageous that other Christians cannot but take notice. Notoriety is never the goal; it is simply the inevitable outcome if we go where the world will not go, and do what the world will not do, all to God’s glory.

“He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard” (v. 23). Great as he was, that still could have been a problem had Benaiah been prideful, selfishly ambitious, power-hungry, narcissistic. But, instead of bemoaning that “he did not attain to the three,” Benaiah seems to have been content with what he was, and where that put him. What about us? Are we happy to do for God the work that we can in the place where we are? Or, is there dissatisfaction that we lack another’s talent, or that someone else seems to have the spotlight? There will always be others who are ahead of us in ability, and none of us should be seeking for renown. Thankfully, the kingdom of Christ is not a competition, and we need not suffer by comparing ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12; Phil. 4:11). What a man Benaiah was: neither lion, nor giant, nor enemy soldier could stop him, and his betters could not fail to be impressed. No wonder he was among David’s mighty men. Though few today have ever heard his name, the Lord’s church needs people like Benaiah.

Posted in Apologetics, Old Testament

Which Way the Shadow?

By Weylan Deaver

Hezekiah, king of Judah 700 years before the birth of Christ, received one day a most distressing message from Isaiah the prophet (2 Kings 20:1-11). The king had become deathly ill and the Lord sent his prophet to inform Hezekiah that he needed to make ready because death was imminent. Hearing that, the king wept bitterly and prayed to the Lord for mercy, speaking to God of the faithful life he had lived. God heard the prayer and saw the tears and sent Isaiah back to Hezekiah with news that the king would be healed, another fifteen years being added to his life.

The king then asked Isaiah what sign God would give to prove he would, indeed, be healed. God, through Isaiah, gave Hezekiah a choice, letting him pick his own sign from Heaven. Hezekiah could choose either that the shadow went forward ten steps, or that the shadow went backward ten steps on the sundial of Ahaz. In an age before clocks, this was a means of keeping time. The normal event was for the shadow to move forward as the day progressed. An obvious miracle would be required to move the shadow backward ten steps, and Hezekiah chose this for his sign (noting that this would be the more difficult of the two choices). In other words, God’s causing the shadow to move backward would give the appearance of time moving in reverse. Isaiah then prayed to God and the requested sign was given.

In reading this account, we usually focus on the miraculous nature of the second option—the sign that Hezekiah chose. But, have you ever considered that the first option would have been just as much an act of God as the second? As a day wears thin and shadows lengthen, it is, after all, God who controls the process. True, time moving in reverse would be a miracle. But, when time moves methodically forward, day in and day out, how many of us chalk it up to “Mother Nature”? In fact, there is no such thing as “Mother Nature.” Nor is nature itself either controlling events or propelling itself forward. Those ideas rob the true force—God—of glory he is due. Rather, the biblical concept is that God is running things, and very much so. Specifically, every element in the universe is currently being held together by none other than Christ himself (Colossians 1:17).

We may fail to recognize the Lord’s power in a raindrop on the cheek, blooming flowers in spring, the hoot of an owl, the tick of a clock, the cool of a breeze, or an evening shadow. But that is only because we are not looking at things through biblical lenses. Which way the shadow? In point of fact, either way a shadow moves is proof enough that God moves it. The shadow moving backward was a clear sign to Hezekiah’s eyes. But let us not forget that the shadow moving forward should be no less the working of God in our eyes today. What we perceive as “nature” is really the continuous product of divine supernatural activity, sustaining the world till the time God has chosen to bring all things to an end. In the meantime, perhaps we should sing with greater reflection the lyrics of Maltbie Babcock—

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

Posted in Christian Living, Old Testament

From Believer to Rebel

By Weylan Deaver

Having been mercifully delivered from Egyptian slavery, Israel hurriedly followed up with complaining at Rephidim for lack of water (Exodus 17:1-7). God instructed Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb, from which water would then flow. Moses obeyed. God sent water. Moses named the place “Massah” and “Meribah” after the people’s quarreling with and testing of the Lord.

Flash forward forty years. Israel has yet to enter Canaan, but the wilderness wandering is nearing its end. They are back at Kadesh (where the ten spies had given their negative report so many years ago). With a chance to make a better showing than their predecessors, the new generation of Israelites, instead, shows themselves cut from the same cantakerous cloth as their forebears (Numbers 20:1-13). They complain for lack of water. God instructs Moses to take the staff, but, this time, speak to the rock, after which water would flow. Instead of talking to the rock, Moses talks to the people and then strikes the rock. Twice. God still sends water, but accuses Moses of both disbelief (v. 12) and rebellion (v. 24).

The two scenarios, separated by four decades, were nearly identical, with Moses at the center of each. The people had not changed, but the directions God gave Moses had. If some of us do not think it matters much, maybe we should ask Moses. Consider three significant truths.

First, the same act can be obedience one time, but rebellion the next. When Moses struck the rock in Exodus 17:6, he was obedient. When Moses struck the rock in Numbers 20:11 he was rebellious. Incredible? Not if we are duly impressed that God means what he says. After all, God is not obligated, once having provided water, to provide it again in exactly the same way.

Second, historic divine precedent does not necessarily establish present divine approval. Think of it. When God accused Moses of rebellion at Kadesh, Moses could have replied, “Lord, I simply followed the instructions you gave me last time around.” Moses could claim divine precedent for his actions at Kadesh. After all, God had told him at Rephidim to strike the rock. But past instruction from God is not normative if it differs with present instruction from God. In his lifetime, regarding what to do about a rock, Moses received differing instructions from God. How much more, then, should we appreciate the difference that obtains between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

Third, God tested Israel and Moses, and God will test us. “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” (Deuteronomy 8:2, ESV). Part of the reason for divine instruction is to weed out those who refuse to keep it.

Consider a growing trend among some churches of Christ to use instrumental music during worship. No precedent can be found in the worship of the church during the first century. But, how many times is an appeal made to the Old Testament in an effort to establish divine precedent for musical instruments in New Testament worship (e.g. Psalm 150)? According to the rationale, we are supposed to think that, if God had it back then, then surely he would not object to having it today.

Yet, that is precisely where we can learn a lesson from Moses. Remember, the same act can be obedience one time, but rebellion the next. God told Israel he tested them to see whether or not they would actually keep his commandments. And remember, historic divine precedent does not necessarily establish present divine approval. The Old Testament has many elements which, were they brought into the church’s worship, would be sinful. If these are not legitimate lessons taught by what Moses did, then, pray tell, what can we possibly learn from the accounts (don’t forget Romans 15:4)?

Moses followed a God-given precedent at Kadesh when he struck the rock. The problem was, the old precedent from Rephidim (strike the rock) had been superceded by new instruction at Kadesh (speak to the rock). Failure to comply with the new made Moses–on that occasion–an unbelieving rebel. Question: What does it make Christians who refuse to abide solely by New Testament instruction? While the gospel of Christ does not tell us to worship by playing on any manmade musical instruments, it does tell us to speak to each other in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). Ponder that point. When he failed to simply speak to the rock, Moses was in rebellion. Perhaps many in Moses’ day would have considered it a non-issue whether Moses struck or spoke to a rock. Doubtless many today consider a piano in worship a non-issue. But the tenor of Scripture indicates otherwise. Nor is the Bible shy of reminding that “our God is a consuming fire,” into whose hands “it is a fearful thing to fall” (Hebrews 12:29; 10:31).

Posted in Old Testament

Edom Will Answer: Obadiah

By John Henson

History records the fall of Edom only about five years after Judah fell to the Babylonians.

Ensconced in their heights, Edom believed it had little reason to help Judah face the coming threat of Babylon. That Edom was related to Judah (since Jacob and Esau were brothers), produced little or no concern for the southern kingdom. They were unconcerned.

It is clear from the verses of Obadiah that God was displeased by Edom’s conduct. Because of Edom’s arrogance and apathy, they would give answer to God.

Obadiah wrote, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” (Obadiah 3 ESV). The pride of arrogant Edom had deceived it into thinking things that were not true.

The deception contributed to Edom’s second mistake: apathy. The word comes from two Greek words, “a,” a negative particle, meaning, “not;” and “pathos,” or “feeling.” So, the word means “not feeling.” Edom simply didn’t care the Babylonians were coming. Obadiah wrote, “On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them,” (Obadiah 11).

Apathy can cause dreadful problems. An example of this is the smoker who ignores a nagging cough until a chest x-ray proves the existence of advanced lung cancer. Apathy dismisses all concern. Edom should have keenly felt the dangers the Babylonians presented ― it was Babylon that had defeated Assyria, one of the most violent civilizations that had ever lived ― but Edom paid no heed.

How many people have been warned and encouraged to obey the gospel, but for a lifetime, have ignored the warnings? Apathy will result in almost as many lost souls as covetousness.

For its arrogance and apathy, Edom will give and answer to God. “For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head,” (Obadiah 15). Edom would be responsible for its conduct.

All are responsible for what they have done. God, through Obadiah, said Edom could expect to pay for its shortsightedness. So it is for all who refuse to obey the truth. Just because some attempt to evade responsibility doesn’t mean they will skate by unscathed. All will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).

God’s word is given to us so we may learn from the examples of others (Romans 15:9). We should learn from Obadiah, and from Edom, that arrogance and apathy carry a price and that an answer will be required one day.