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Proverbs 22:6: A Positive Promise, Or A Threat?

June 29, 2012 3 comments

After getting sidetracked for a while with another book, I’ve returned to finish the last part of Dan Phillips’ God’s Wisdom in Proverbs book (reviewed previously here), including the lengthy section of appendices.  Appendix 3 discusses a rather interesting textual issue, from which I’ve learned that sometimes even when we study a verse in several good English translations, we don’t always have the correct meaning of the original Bible verse.

Proverbs 22:6 in all English translations (at least all the major and not so major ones I’ve checked), conveys a different meaning from the original Hebrew.  Here it is in the ESV:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

As Phillips points out, that verse has come to be seen as a promise for Christian parents, a verse cherished by many believers.  If the parents bring up the child in the right way, in a good Christian home, the child will grow up in that good way and become a believer.  Some parents even take this as a promise and thus a guarantee; others at least recognize that the Proverbs, including this one, are general principles and not guarantees, but they still interpret the verse in a positive way as expressed in English Bibles.  I have come across a few homeschool Christian parents (with children still fairly young) that indeed have expressed the first view (promise, guarantee) regarding God and their family; when questioned, they have reasoned that if the child turns out bad, the parent must have failed that child in some way.  Elsewhere in God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, Phillips also addresses that error, showing that Proverbs as well as the overall Bible sets blame sometimes on the parents, but sometimes on the wayward child.  After all, if the parents are 100% to blame for the child’s actions, then how could the law of Moses command that a rebellious adult child be stoned?  If parents were always at fault, surely the law would also stipulate that the parents be stoned.

The full chapter of material describes in more detail the actual Hebrew and a DJV-translation (Dan Phillips’ literal translation). In summary, the Hebrew text does not include the modifier of “should go,” and the referent for “way” is not stated but very likely is not “God’s way” but “his,” the child’s, way.  A very literal translation of the Hebrew is: Initiate for (with respect to) the child on the mouth of (according to) his way; even when he is old he will not turn from it. Understood this way, Proverbs 22:6 is really more of a threat of the bad way; a child brought up in his own way (of folly), will never depart from that way.

As I consider from overall principles of interpretation, we should not depend on any single verse for a particular doctrine.  As Spurgeon said so well, the ideas expressed in one place are found elsewhere in the Bible, so that our overall understanding does not rise or fall with a particular verse.  So here I note that my Bible software program, TheWord, cross-references Ephesians 6:4 as a similar  idea to the English-version of Proverbs 22:6:   Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Yet the point made in God’s Wisdom in Proverbs is well taken, that we really cannot use Proverbs 22:6 as either a guarantee or general principle regarding bringing up children in a Christian home.  As to why all the English versions have this incorrect translation, the sad but true reality is tradition, going back to the original KJV translation.  Even modern translators have some reluctance to go against the trend when a particular rendering is well known and popular.

I’ve recently been using Google’s Translate service, which appears fairly accurate for at least the Latin and Greek-based languages (though lacking in its ability to translate from Oriental languages to English), and a useful website which includes online Bible text in numerous languages.  From perusal of the foreign-language versions of Proverbs 22:6, the different renderings perhaps point to the history of translation into those various languages.  Interestingly enough, the Latin vulgate has a more accurate rendering.  Here is a sampling of the Google-translations of several foreign-language Bibles, that agree with the original Hebrew meaning:

  •  Train up a child in the way even when he is old he will not depart from it – Latin Vulgate
  • As you get used to a boy, so he does not like when he grows old. – German (Luther) into English
  • Raises the boy under the rule of his way even when he grows old he will not depart from the point. – French Darby
  • Train up a child in the way of his, he will not depart from it, and when old. – Russian
    Train up a child in the way of his, that he, as he is old, does not depart from it – Afrikaans
    Train up a child in the way he, even when old, they will not depart from it. — Hungarian

On the other hand, a few of the European languages follow the KJV example:  Portugese, Norwegian, Bulgarian and Albanian, for instance.

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The Song of Moses: Israel’s History and Several First Mentions

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History” series mainly looks at the book of Zechariah, with material similar to his previous Zechariah series.  However, the last message looks at the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, with an overall exposition and outline of this text and its panoramic look at the nation Israel throughout human history.

The Song of Moses has seven divisions:

  1. Exordium:  verses 1-3
  2. Theme:  verses 4-6
  3. Extol the goodness of God:   Verses 7-14
  4. Perversity of Israel toward God:  Verses 15-18
  5. Judgments of God:  verses 19-25
  6. Pleadings of Divine Mercy:  verses 26-33
  7. Apocalyptic Events:  interposition on the part of God, vindication of his nation, and atonement:  verses 34-43

In going through the different sections, several things are worth noting:

The two witnesses in the introduction are heaven and earth. (“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”)  These two witnesses are there from the beginning of Israel’s history, and will be there at the end.  The Old Testament uses similar language in other places, regarding the permanence and lasting of creation itself.  I think of Psalm 89:36-37, His offspring shall endure forever, histhrone as long asthe sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies,” and the promises in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31), which again appeal to the enduring creation.

The song of Moses contains several “first mention” doctrines: the first time a particular idea is mentioned in the word of God.  In the theme, verses 4-6, we see the first scripture reference to God as a rock.  All later references in scripture to God as the Rock refer back to this first passage.  Verse 39 has the first use of the expression “I am He,” an expression found later as especially in Isaiah.

Verse 14 makes reference to the blood of the grape: probably the source of the use of wine at the Lord’s table, the wine representative of blood.

The Song of Moses is quoted in the New Testament, especially the last section dealing with God’s vindication (verses 34-43).  Verse 35 contains the well-known words, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Paul quotes this in Romans 12:19, and Hebrews 10:30 references verses 35 and 36, “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again,  “The Lord will judge his people.”

Finally, verse 39 shows great hope, a hope found only in God.  the sequence is important: “I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal.”  The God with whom we must deal, does not “make alive and then kill.”  The Song of Moses is a wonderful text, showing Israel’s history along with application for us and our waywardness, as well as God’s Sovereignty, His Divine Plan and Purpose.  He will bring His people to Himself, punishing but then bringing redemption and salvation.

Christian Liberty: Should The Strong Always Yield to the Weak?

June 19, 2012 3 comments

Much has been said, and often, about Christian liberty.  In some cases it is misrepresented, or certain aspects of it are emphasized while other areas neglected.  Romans 14 and 15, and the S. Lewis Johnson Romans series, consider the proper balance.

Paul’s text presents both sides:  the strong Christian should not look down on the weaker brother who eats only vegetables, and the weak Christian should not despise the strong one who eats everything.  The strong Christian should also take care to not do anything that would cause the weaker brother to stumble or wound his conscience.  In normal situations, though, the strong believer recognizes that everything is of the Lord, that there are no other gods, and so has greater Christian liberty to eat meat and other things which might bother the conscience of a weaker believer.

Christian liberty (of course) refers to morally indifferent things, and not to things which are revealed in the scriptures as clearly wrong or unclean.  The tendency among many believers, though, is to overemphasize only the part about the stronger believer giving up his liberty so as not to injure the weaker brother.  However, as SLJ points out, the strong Christian should not always give up his liberty.  In the first place, all Christians are in the growing process, and the weaker Christians will (or at least should) grow and mature to become strong Christians.  That at least is the goal and the desired outcome.  More significantly, though, when the stronger Christians always give up their liberty, a dangerous situation results in which only the most narrow and “lowest common denominator” belief is set forth as representing true Christianity.  Then the outside world, unbelievers, see this very narrow interpretation – the view of the weakest Christian – as actually being true Christianity.  As Johnson observes:

At times, it is probably proper for us to indulge in our liberty, because after all, what the Bible teaches is important for us to understand.  The cause of Jesus Christ is never advanced by having every strong Christian in a congregation always and completely forego his rights, because what happens then is that the question is settled on the basis of the narrowest and the most prejudiced person in the congregation.  The person who is most narrow in his viewpoint and most prejudiced, it is his viewpoint that ultimately prevails.  … what eventually becomes involved in this is that the outside world then begins to think that a Christian is a person who, if in order to be a Christian, must give up this and must give up that and must give up the other thing, and the result is that our salvation by grace becomes confused with things that have to do with human works.  And thus we give a false picture of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus, I think, illustrates this in the way in which he treated the Sabbath.  It was a day.  And some observe the Sabbath very strictly and others observed it more leniently.  The Lord Jesus did not hesitate to do some things on the Sabbath days that offended the weaker consciences of some of the people in his day.

A few further thoughts … as understood from the context of Romans 14-15, and the similar texts in 1 Corinthians, Christian liberty also has nothing to do with the question of how we handle doctrine, the things revealed and taught in God’s word.  Yet I have seen the concept of “Christian liberty” taught, by the doctrinally shallow and weak, as an excuse for not being dogmatic and certain about what God’s word teaches.  Christian liberty is thus misconstrued to encompass the overall post-modern worldview and its attack on the clarity of God’s word, rather than those things which truly are indifferent.  By such distorted reasoning, certain doctrines, things set forth in God’s word, are equated with the morally indifferent issues of food and drink.  (I have in mind particularly the prophetic word, that which Peter even said we would do well to pay attention to, 2 Peter 1:19.) That error is compounded with imbalance: the idea that one group must always defer to the other; in their case, the ones that are certain about a particular doctrine must yield and “not cause division.”  Thus this twisted view attempts to justify continual biblical ignorance and spiritual babyhood, because after all, these are really things of indifference and those who dare to have an opinion about them are really the ones being divisive and causing trouble.

Another Horner Bible Reading Variation: 9 Lists Through the Bible in 109 days

June 16, 2012 Leave a comment

A follow-up from last month’s update concerning Bible genre reading. I recently switched over to the 8 list plan described there, and made slight modifications to make it a 9-list plan.  The main change this time is to have two separate New Testament lists of one chapter each, instead of two chapters going through all of Acts through Revelation.  One list reads through all the non-Paul NT books: Acts, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1-2-3 John, Jude, and Revelation, one chapter per day.  The other list is the Pauline epistles: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  The lists for Psalms and Proverbs have slight changes too:  Psalms and Ecclesiastes together, two chapters per day, then five days of Lamentations at one chapter per day, for 86 days through that list.  The Proverbs list, minus Lamentations, is now 85 days.  In the actual plan a few days’ readings are adjusted to one or two chapters in some cases, for handling of shorter or longer chapters along with the “lowest common multiple” list-realignment factor.

I’ve also experimented with different list orders, applying the alternating pattern (between New and Old Testament readings) with the wisdom books in the middle.  The nine list plan, with an extra New Testament list, gives more flexibility in list sequence:  start with the gospels, and end with one of the New Testament lists, but insert the other New Testament list in the middle.  Sequence is of course only a matter of personal preference.  Many people who start the Horner or similar reading plan at first just want to read the lists in actual sequence from Genesis to the end.  But alternating between the different genres, including NT versus OT genres, helps with the overall daily reading flow.

The nine lists:

  • Gospels (1 chapter/day):  89 days
  • Pentateuch (1-2 chapters/day):  109 days
  • Pauline Epistles (1 chapter/day): 87 days
  • History (2 chapters/day):  98 days
  • Prophets (2 chapters/day): 94 days
  • Psalms/Lamentations/Eccles (2 chapters/day):  86 days
  • Proverbs/Job/Song/Ruth (1 chapter/day):  85 days
  • Esther-to-Chronicles (1 chapter/day): 106 days
  • Acts-to-Revelation (non-Paul) (1 chapter/day): 83 days

The PDF reading list

The Man Who Was Saved By His Good Looks

June 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A great illustration, even better in that it comes from a true story, shared by S. Lewis Johnson in his series “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History”.

A farmer related this story to a preacher, of how he had been saved by his good looks – at three scripture verses expounded by a visiting preacher who borrowed his barn for some church meetings.

The first look:  Isaiah 45:22

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.

Next, Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Finally, at Titus 2:13

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

We look to God to be saved (Isaiah 45), and fix our eyes upon Jesus our redeemer.  And we look ahead to the blessed hope, the eager anticipation of our Lord’s Return.  Such a great thought of what is involved with each of us in our own salvation. It’s also a great picture of that glorious future day, referenced in Zechariah 12:10 when the people of Israel “shall look upon me whom they have pierced” and be brought to salvation.

The full story as related by S. Lewis Johnson:

Mr. Wildish told a story once of, it was recorded in a book of biblical illustrations about walking over the fields with an Englishman who was an old farmer, he said he was a fine man, had a cheerful face and twinkling eyes.  He was proud of his land, he kept pointing out the cows and crops, and suddenly, he turned to me and he said, “You know, I was saved by my good looks.”  And Mr. Wildish laughed and he said, “Well you’ve got to tell me how you were saved by your good looks.”  He said, “Well it was like this,” he said, “you know, you can see my farm and my cattle and everything else,” he said. “An evangelist came to town some years ago and asked if he could use my barn.  And I wasn’t using it at the time and so I agreed to let him use the barn, and after he had been using it for a few days my wife said to me, ‘Why don’t you go down and take a look and see what’s happening down in the barn, you haven’t been down there.'”  And so he thought, well I’ll go down there and look at the barn.  And so when he got down there, he went in. He said the barn was full of people; they were singing heartily.  As the singing finished the preacher gave out his first text as Isaiah chapter 45, verse 22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

He told Mr. Wildish that he talked about the cross, he talked about the blood that was shed, he caused me to look at Christ hanging on the cross, and caused me to understand what was transpired.  And he said, “I looked to Jesus on the cross and I proved for myself the truth of that saying, ‘Look unto me and be ye saved.'”  He said, “But then he turned to another verse and the next verse was Hebrews 12:2, ‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.'”  And so he pictured a risen savior, able to save unto the uttermost, those that come unto God by him.  And he said, “I’ll learn to look to Jesus on the throne for all of my daily needs in my Christian life.”  And finally the old man went on, “Before the preacher closed his talk that night he gave us one more wonderful verse in Titus 2:13, ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.'” And he said, “What a thrill it was to hear about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and I learned to look for the second coming of the Lord Jesus.”  When the farmer finished, Mr. Wildish said “I just put my arms around him and I said, ‘Bravo, that’s wonderful, now I understand how you were saved by your very good looks,’ looking into the face of Jesus and tasting of his great salvation.”

Romans 12: Observations from S. Lewis Johnson

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Continuing through Romans with S. Lewis Johnson, the twelfth chapter begins the section often referred to as the “practical” part.  Of course, as SLJ notes, it isn’t that “doctrine” isn’t practical.  All doctrine is practical.  Rather, this section, Romans 12-16, is the concrete part of doctrine, as distinct from the theoretical part, Romans 1-11.

In the Romans 12 messages Dr. Johnson emphasizes the difference between God’s decretive will of everything that happens, versus God’s preceptive will — that which is pleasing to God.  We don’t know God’s decretive will until after the event transpires. But we learn God’s preceptive will from studying His word.  SLJ also taught about God’s two wills in several other places, including some of his Old Testament series, as for instance in From Egypt to Canaan: Studies in the Exodus, Gideon, and The Life of Samson.

In reference to hospitality (Romans 12:13), we remember the historical setting of ancient Rome. They didn’t have national chain motels along the roads, and the inns were not pleasant places.  Johnson relates further interesting historical information, the custom of certain families/clans within Roman society to establish their own hospitality with another family. If a member of one family that lived in Rome wanted to visit Jerusalem, they could contact this other family that lived in Jerusalem.  Identification between the two clans would be provided through tokens, each family having a part of a broken object, and the individual’s identity verified by seeing that their broken piece fit to the other family’s matching part.

John Chrysostom observed a very good point regarding Romans 12:15 (Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep), that it is much easier for us, even as believers, to relate to others’ miseries and sympathize in those situations, than to rejoice with others in their good news.  How very true that is.  Envy gets in the way when we hear of the good things that happen to others, the things of which they rejoice.

Michael Vlach Conference Series: Our Fantastic Future

June 4, 2012 4 comments

Here’s a good recent lecture series, from Michael Vlach at the Parker Bible Church (Parker, CO) 2012 Men’s ConferenceOur Fantastic Future.  This conference series was held in April, and the four parts are available for listening to online or downloading in MP3 format.

From the first message, an introduction to eschatology:

The Old Testament predicted several things

  1. The seed of the woman who will conquer the serpent, and the future reversal of the curse: Genesis 3
  2. Abraham and the nation Israel to bring blessing to all the earth: Genesis 12
  3. Scattering and restoration of Israel: Deuteronomy 30:1-10
  4. The Suffering Servant AND the Reigning Messiah.  Isaiah 52-53; Zech. 14; 2 Samuel 7; Isaiah 9, 11, other passages regarding the reigning Messiah.
  5. Day of the Lord judgment upon the world: Isaiah 13, Zeph 1, Isaiah 24, Joel 2-3
  6. Tribulation and Rescue of Israel:  Jeremiah 30-33, Zech 12-14, Daniel 7, Daniel 9
  7. Coming Earthly Kingdom: Isaiah 11, 9, Zech 14 and others
  8. Inclusion of Gentiles alongside Israel as God’s people:   Gen. 12:3, Isaiah 19:24-25, Isaiah 61
  9. Coming Career and Defeat of AntiChrist:  Daniel 7 and 9.

Since Messiah’s coming has two phases to it, a First Coming and a Second Coming, we should expect that certain expectations of the Old Testament would be fulfilled with Jesus’ First Coming while others await His Second Coming.

Why We Should Study Eschatology

  1. So much of scripture deals with the topic. Christ thought it important
  2. Fulfilled prophecy is strong evidence for the truthfulness and supernatural nature of the Bible.  Great testimony to the inspiration of scripture
  3. Major sections of the NT discuss events still to come after the First Coming of Jesus:  Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, 1 Thess. 4-5, 2 Thess. 1-2, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 4-22.
  4. Christianity offers a comprehensive view of reality, a world-view, including what will take place in the future.  The Christian world view has four major aspects:
    • Creation
    • The Fall, Sin — the human problem
    • The Answer:  the God-man, His solution for mankind
    • Restoration of all things:  we know where things are headed.  Acts 3:21, Colossians 1:15-20.
  5. Studying Prophecy can wake us up and make us alert to what God is doing in the world. God IS working in our history including our own time.

Tips For Approaching Bible Prophecy

  1. Be consistent by interpreting prophetic passages as you would other parts of scripture; the hermeneutical approach.
  2. Avoid an approach that interprets most of the Bible literally and contextually, and then spiritualizes or allegorizes the prophetic sections.
  3. When scripture does use symbols in the context of prophecy, remember that there is a literal meaning behind the symbols.  Literal interpretation takes into account symbols and figures of speech.
  4. Understand that God’s purposes for the future include both spiritual AND physical elements.  Romans 8 — this creation being restored.
  5. God has plans for both individuals AND nations.
  6. Understand that the Two Comings of Christ means that certain OT prophecies were fulfilled at His first coming while other things await the Second Coming.
  7. Be familiar with the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  The New Testament includes at least 250 quotations from the Old Testament, references which supply more of the background.  Beyond the direct quotations, the New Testament also includes many more allusions to the Old Testament.