Showing posts with label Deuteronomy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deuteronomy. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

“Well, you know, many roads lead up the mountain …”

So he said to me.

People say stuff like that all the time when they want to avoid facing God. “I can do it my way,” they say, hoping that saying it strongly enough will make it true. Or, they say, “Everybody’s got a piece of the truth, but nobody’s got it all,” like the story of the blind men and the elephant (if you know that little tale).

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Flipping the Switch

I was sixteen, I think, watching a young man in his twenties give his testimony.

It was one of those beauties so full of clich├ęs you might have been forgiven for mistaking it for the creative output of a team of Hollywood screenwriters or perhaps the lyrics to a Bryan Adams song. He had even been a sailor, if you can imagine. I mean, who goes to sea to act out these days? He’d tried the “broken cisterns”, as the old hymn goes, and “Ah, the waters failed.”

Except it seems they tasted pretty good to him at the time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Population and Prophetic Fulfillment

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is coming to the conclusion of his address to a new generation of Israelites on the brink of conquering Canaan.

On the one hand, his message is a prophecy of total failure. The curse will come upon Israel. God’s people will be driven out of their land to dwell among the nations of the world for generations. On the other hand, it is also a prophecy of guaranteed success. Repentance will bring restoration and prosperity the like of which Israel has never seen throughout its entire history.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

The Best Lessons

Back in 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory that human decision-making is based on a hierarchy of psychological needs, from the most basic physiological requirements — food, water, shelter, rest, reproduction — all the way up to the more sophisticated forms of self-actualization pursued by affluent moderns habituated to having all their ‘lower-tier’ desires met. You may be familiar with the concept.

We will not linger over the details of Maslow’s little flow-pyramid and the pursuit of normal human desires. What’s important about it for our purposes is the observation that identical circumstances can produce very different responses in different people depending on what is important to them. The exact same test can produce very different results in different subjects.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Foreigners and Citizens

The Law of Moses has much to say about how the people of God were to treat foreigners.

Though there is some overlap in the Hebrew terminology, context makes it clear foreigners were of two very different types. There was: (1) the person of foreign origin who resided among the people of God, often referred to as a sojourner; and (2) the true foreigner, whose place of residence was elsewhere.

The latter term is sometimes translated “alien” or “stranger”.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Times and Dates

The phrase “unto this day” or its equivalent occurs 92 times in scripture by my count, 86 times in Hebrew and six times in Greek. Well over a dozen Bible authors use it. When I was much younger and more solipsistic, I read it — don’t laugh — as if it meant up until the late twentieth century, as if “this day” meant the day I was reading it. It seemed rather cool to me that so many landmarks in Old Testament history could survive so long.

Later it dawned on me that of course it really means up until sometime between the first moment the writer put quill to papyrus and the moment he finished editing what he had written. No more, no less.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

From One End of Heaven

“He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

There are various schools of thought about what the Lord Jesus meant with this rather difficult statement. The phrase “from one end of heaven to the other” is admittedly an unusual one. A literal reading may lead us to think of people being plucked out of the skies all over the world and gathered to one place. For what reason, we wonder? And who exactly is this “elect” of which the Lord is speaking?

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (15)

In the first century it was said without exaggeration that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him.” If you were interested in what Moses had to say, you could find out all about it in any city among the nations. Judaism was not some obscure cult religion. Its influence on the world was inversely proportionate to the relative insignificance of the Jewish people.

For the most part, it was not the conduct of the Jews among the nations that gave the Law its broad appeal and drew Gentile proselytes to it. In fact, Jews were often disliked and not infrequently persecuted.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

The Examination Process

Not all tests are alike. Not all have exactly the same purpose or method.

Even God’s tests are not all designed to demonstrate exactly the same thing.

Some Old Testament examples may better demonstrate this.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Ideal and the Reality

“There will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess ...”

“There will never cease to be poor in the land.”

It is impossible to argue that the glaring contradiction between the quotes above can be explained away by assigning them to different dispensations (or covenants, if you prefer), by pointing out that they were written by different writers at different times for different audiences, or even (if we’re totally desperate to be done with the issue and silly enough to throw inspiration under the bus), by contending that one or another of them is mistaken.

None of the usual explanations work.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sons and Supplicants

“You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.”

Even today there exists a fair bit of confusion around the Mosaic prohibition against Israelite men — priests especially — shaving their foreheads, beards or temples. There are a variety of rabbinic views on the issue.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Taking Canaan by Degrees

“The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.”

For the believer, victory often comes in increments.

That goes against our natural instinct about how things should be, doesn’t it? After all, occupying enemy territory in the Christian life is not just desirable, it is morally imperative.

Monday, May 28, 2018

That Wacky Old Testament (11)

A hundred years ago the social safety net didn’t exist. The earliest U.S. government assistance program was conceived in 1910 and most of the rest were enacted post-1935.

Sure, there have always been rich parents that coddled their children through adulthood, handing them fully-operational businesses to destroy or trust funds to bleed dry. And there may even have been a certain number of less-well-off parents willing to sacrifice their meager savings on a dissolute youngster who stubbornly refused to pull his weight and bear his family responsibilities.

But beyond the family level, no institutions existed to provide for the welfare of society at large. There was no taxpayer-financed crutch available to help failed or unfortunate citizens get back on their feet.

Good thing times have changed. Or maybe not.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heights of Accommodation and the Depths of Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (9)

“The law of the Lord is perfect ...”

Not only perfect, but more desirable than gold and sweeter than a honeycomb. So says the word of God, and I believe it. But perhaps we ought to ask ourselves exactly what the Psalmist intended to convey with the word “perfect”. Because when people today examine what the law of Moses says on the subject of slavery, or the role of women, or animal sacrifices, they seem to find an awful lot to quibble about.

They would argue — quite forcefully, I might add — that the law of the Lord is far from perfect. Primitive, even.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Enemies Are By Themselves

A few years ago, an acquaintance in Northern Ontario was asked to take the funeral of a local man who had passed away unexpectedly. Nobody could say for sure whether the dead man did or didn’t know the Lord, so the speaker opted to give a clear gospel message.

When he was done, an older relative of the deceased, tears in his eyes, approached him to thank him for taking the funeral. To all appearances, this man was a secular success story; someone who, while apparently decent and moral, had shown little or no interest in the things of God for many years.

“I believe every word you just said,” he told the speaker. “I’ve wasted my life.”

Monday, August 08, 2016

Flipping the Switch

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Action, Meet Consequence

Do children bear the sins of the fathers or not? In one sense, absolutely.

Actions have consequences. My body and yours will not last forever because “in Adam all die”. The default mode of human existence is death, and every week, month and year on our march toward futility, decrepitude and (in some cases) eternal judgment drives home that reality.

Thanks, Adam. If it’s any consolation, I have no evidence from my own experience that I’d have done a better job as federal head of humanity.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (6)

Some subjects are a bit … er … delicate. Particularly when you happen to be male.

Still, when the word of God addresses any human issue, we are ill advised to affect sensibilities more tender than the writers of holy writ charged with the responsibility of recording the Divine Will for us in the first place.

So, notwithstanding the queasy feelings that attend any serious investigation of the subject matter, let’s take a crack at it. Less hardy souls may feel free to pass on this one without incurring the critical judgment of their peers.

Monday, July 25, 2016

That Wacky Old Testament (5)

Mothers have this thing about their sons. It’s natural, it’s powerful and it’s often entirely irrational.

Take, for instance, the mother of the Palestinian terrorist who killed an Israeli teen asleep in her own bed. Mom says her son was “a hero” who made her “proud”.

Okay, that’s a little extreme. But the mother of the Bataclan bomber who inadvertently self-detonated told reporters her son never meant to hurt anyone and may have been “stressed”.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blissful Incoherence

Work with me here: the secularist mindset prizes this life — and this life only — since it cannot reasonably contemplate any other.

Further, having dismissed notions of God, sin, righteousness and judgment, the worldview that begins from an evolutionary viewpoint is unconcerned with the moral quality of the lives it seeks to preserve. It only matters that life exists, and therefore the taking of it is always “wrong”. This despite a couple of glaring logical inconsistencies: (1) in a random universe with no Creator, nothing can be objectively immoral, only inconvenient or undesirable; and (2) many of the same folks who deplore capital punishment are perfectly fine with the taking of innocent life in and outside the womb.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cause to Celebrate

I’ve always been pretty laid back. There are generations of finely-tuned English restraint in my end of the gene pool, the most obvious result of which is that I tend to be more comfortable with fairly austere, reserved modes of praise.

But people were made to celebrate. Including me.

We’ve done it all through history, in good ways and bad. Celebration seems to be hardwired into the human race, Brits notwithstanding. Whatever doesn’t come out in church comes out anywhere near a football pitch. All cultures celebrate, though it may look vastly different from one cultural setting to another.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Fourth Option

People talk about God, and about what God wants from us. What they say may come from several places.

Sure, what we say can (1) originate with God. We hope it does. Peter says, “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God”. Amen, so be it.

But we know this is not always the case.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tefillin and Wonderbra

Sam the Eagle weighs in ...
God gave his word to man with the intention that it be used to address every moment of human existence in its every aspect.

To those who have never lived this exercise (and it is very much an exercise), that may sound a little tedious and even holier-than-thou. We’ve all met people who are “Jesus this, Jesus that” 24/7 and wondered what exactly they were trying to prove.

God meant, I believe, that we should come to think and live in fellowship with him at all times.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tender Sentiments and Easy Living

How delicate can we get?
God, we are reliably informed, is eternal. He is also unchanging.

Oh, things certainly happen where God dwells; events on a scale we can hardly imagine. Think of passages like “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord”, or “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” or, best of all, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”. Momentous events indeed.

Still, if it is possible to speak of a heavenly culture (or perhaps atmosphere), that culture must, like the unchanging character of God, be impervious to trends.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Three Songs of Moses

I’m not sure I can easily picture the Moses of this 1861 Ivan Kramskoy painting “Prayer of Moses” breaking into song.

Can you?

Some Bibles, including my ESV, give Exodus 15 the title “Song of Moses”. Technically this is true, because we read that Moses and the people of Israel sang the words that follow to Jehovah after the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptians. We don’t actually read that Moses was the one who wrote it, though most scholars assume it and it seems likely.

But there are three “songs” in scripture attributed to Moses, and he may well have written more.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

An Object Lesson Rejected: The Feast of Tabernacles

Illustration from Bible Pictures and
What They Teach Us
, Charles Foster, 1897
The Jewish historian Josephus referred to Tabernacles, or Sukkot, as “[a] feast very much observed among us”. From the time it was first instituted at Mount Sinai, this feast has held a unique place among the festivals of Israel. The details of its observance were given by God, its future significance was expounded by the prophets, and its spiritual substance was exemplified by Jesus during his brief life on earth.

Let’s consider the origins of the Feast of Tabernacles, its role in prophecy and finally its use by Christ as an object lesson to reveal to a darkened and spiritually thirsty nation the truth about himself.

Origins of the Feast

The Feast of Tabernacles was instituted by divine command, one of three major feasts in Israel’s annual cycle which required that every male in the nation appear before the Lord in Jerusalem. The last feast in the yearly series, it was held for seven days in the seventh month, from Tishri 15 to 21. This placed Sukkot in the pleasant weather of early autumn, after the completion of the harvest. Beginning with a day of rest, it was concluded by an eighth day, also a day of rest, featuring a closing assembly accompanied by the relevant sacrifices.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Slavery in the Old Testament [Part 2]

Since the accusation has been made that God endorses slavery, I began in yesterday’s post to examine the subject of slavery in Israel to ask whether God, in fact, endorsed it at all. Let’s continue with a second relevant principle to bear in mind.

Two Principles Worth Considering (continued)

As established yesterday, the fact that God tells his people to obey laws in general does not mean they are good laws or that he approves of them.

But this case is different. The objection may well be raised that the Mosaic Law is not like ‘laws in general’ in that it came directly from God, and said exactly what he wanted it to say.

However, even the Law of Moses did not perfectly represent God’s will, preference or desire for his people. This may initially sound a bit heretical, but God was not ‘ok’ with some parts of Israel’s Law, especially when they were slavishly and literally followed rather than used as a guideline to discern a higher, more loving intent. Those who merely followed the letter of the Law doing the minimum possible would inevitably fall short of God’s real purpose.

Principle #2: The Law did not represent God’s perfect will.

The Law in its written form (the ‘letter’) represented whatever diluted version of God’s will that his people might reasonably and generously be expected to follow, given that they were a mixture of believers and unbelievers characterized by stubbornness, selfishness and rebellion from Day 1. And even so, Joshua told the Israelites who promised to obey the law that they wouldn’t be able to keep it.