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Deuteronomy, God’s Sovereign Election and Man’s Responsibility

February 28, 2014 Leave a comment

My recent reading has included study on sections of Deuteronomy, as for instance this recent post, David Baron’s exposition of Deuteronomy 32, The Song of Moses.  The overall book of Deuteronomy also comes up in James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, with a good overview study of the book and its major themes including the great truths of God’s sovereign election and man’s responsibility.  A great summary of this point:

Israel is urged to choose life, to love Yahweh, to cleave fast to Him (30:19–20). They have a real choice, but their ‘chooser’ will always select sin because Yahweh has not given them the heart they need.  But they will make their choice, and they will be judged for the rightness or wrongness of the choice they make. The fact that Yahweh promises to change their ‘chooser’ by circumcising their hearts does not remove their responsibility for the choice they will make. Nor does it make Yahweh unjust if He chooses not to change their ‘chooser’, or if He chooses only to change the ‘choosers’ of those He chooses. People are responsible. And Yahweh is sovereign.

Through the Torah (the Mosaic law) the people of Israel are to know and love their God, and to understand how to live in a way pleasing to God.  A large portion of Deuteronomy can be seen as an expansion of and commentary upon the Ten Commandments.  Deuteronomy 5 recites the Ten Commandments, and chapters 6 through 25 explain:

Commandment Chapters in Deuteronomy Exposition
1. No other gods 6-11 Love and worship Yahweh
2. No idols 12-13 Central sanctuary and false
gods
3. Name 13–14 Holiness to Yahweh
4. Sabbath 14-16 periodic duties
5. Parents 16–18 Authority: judge, king,
priest, and prophet
6. Murder 19–22 Life and Law
7. Adultery 22-23 Regulations on sexuality
8. Theft 23-25 Property
9. False testimony 24-25 Truthfulness
10. Coveting 25 Unselfish levirate marriage

The last chapters of Deuteronomy, after this exposition of the ten commandments, address the root issue of human nature as in the specific case of the people of Israel.  Having been given every positive inducement to obey, and the warnings about not obeying, as Hamilton observes:  obedience would seem to be a reasonable consequence. Reason alone, however, does not govern the human heart. Sin never makes sense. In order to obey, one must have a circumcised heart. Circumcision of the heart, however, is not something one does to oneself. One must be given what one needs by Yahweh himself, and Moses declares to Israel that Yahweh has not given them the kind of heart they need (Deut. 29:3).

Israel in the Plan of God: Joseph as a Type of Christ

February 20, 2014 8 comments

Recently I’ve been enjoying David Baron’s Israel in the Plan of God, his exposition and commentary on several Old Testament passages (Deuteronomy 32, Psalms 105 and 106, and Isaiah 51) which relate to God and His dealings with the nation Israel.  I had read a few of Baron’s writings online, especially his work addressing the Ten Lost Tribes error.  In my current reading, I appreciate even more his writing style: easy and straightforward exposition of biblical passages, with so many interesting observations.  I highly recommend his writing, and now especially look forward to reading his lengthier commentary on the book of Zechariah after I complete this shorter collection (about 300 pages total, with commentary on four chapters from different books).

Psalm 105 and 106 are an interesting set of Psalms, as I have noticed in my regular re-readings through the Psalms:  both describe the early history of the nation, the first Psalm from the perspective of what God did for Israel, then the contrast in the next Psalm of the many ways in which Israel went astray and rejected their God.  Expositing Psalm 105 involves analysis of the lives of the patriarchs, including a close look at seven ways in which Joseph’s life parallels that of our Lord. In going through S. Lewis Johnson’s Genesis series several years ago (see this post from 2009).  I learned of several such correspondences between the two, some of which are again presented here, along with more detail from David Baron’s exposition:

1)      Joseph as the specially-beloved son of his father.  Christ:  This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

2)      Joseph, because he was beloved of Jacob (his father), was hated by his brethren.  And it was the unique and peculiar relation of our Lord Jesus also to His heavenly Father, and the fact that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity …  the chief reasons why He was hated of those who were “His own” brethren, but who, as the result of a long process of self-hardening, were estranged in their hearts from God, who they also claimed as their Father.

3)      They hated Joseph yet more because of his dreams and his words – dreams which we realize were divinely sent prophecy from God:  prophetic revelations of his future exaltation.  The parallel in Christ: one chief cause of the ever-growing opposition and hatred on the part of the Scribes and Pharisees to our Lord Jesus was His clear, full, conscious testimony concerning Himself.

4)      Joseph was not only hated by his brethren, but ill-treated and abused, sold into slavery.  Reference “Christ the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief,” who was sold for 30 shekels of silver, sold into abuse, ill-treatment and the ultimate shame of crucifixion.

5)      For many long years, after they handed him over into the hands of the Midianites, Joseph’s brethren—indeed, Jacob’s whole family—thought and spoke of him as dead. … And even so do the Jews think of Jesus. According to them He is dead.

6)      But while his brethren thought and spoke of Joseph as no more, he was not only alive, but greatly exalted among the Gentiles, as the “Support of Life,” or “Deliverer of the World” before whom all had to “bow the knee” in humble allegiance.  Baron notes also a few possible meanings of Joseph’s Egyptian name “Zaphenath-paneah”: “the support of life,” “deliverer of the world,” or even “the revealer of secrets.” Any of these possible meanings are significant for the role that Joseph played and his similarity to Christ.   Even so is it with our Lord Jesus. Despised and rejected and counted as dead among “His own” people, He is not only alive for evermore, but exalted and extolled, having a Name which is above every name—before whom hundreds of millions in the Gentile world “bow the knee” in humble worship, because He is indeed the true “Support of Life,” being Himself the “Living Bread” which came down from heaven, of which if any man eat he shall live for ever.

7)      The separation and estrangement between Joseph and his brethren did not last forever. In the extremity of their need they were again brought face to face with him, and though at first, while yet unknown to them, he spake and dealt “roughly” with them, so as to awaken their conscience and bring home to them the sense of guilt, his heart was all the time full of yearning love and compassion for them.   Here is a great foreshadowing of what is yet to take place between Christ and the nation Israel.  In the extremity of their need, in “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the Jewish people will yet be brought face to face with their long-rejected Messiah, and brokenheartedly confess “We are verily guilty concerning our brother”—Jesus—whom we handed over to the Romans to be crucified… And then Jesus will make Himself known to His brethren, and comfort them in their great sorrow, saying: I am Jesus, your Brother, whom you handed over to be crucified, and for so long thought to be dead; and now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, … for God sent Me before you to preserve life.”

The Song of Moses: David Baron on Deuteronomy 32

February 11, 2014 2 comments

I have mentioned David Baron a few times before, such as this post listing several of his works available online.  A Jewish Christian and classic premillennialist from the early 20th century (1855-1926), his writings include the topic of national Israel in its history and future, as well as interesting observations in the scriptures.  I’m currently reading David Baron’s “Israel in the Plan of God” (originally published as “The History of Israel—Its Spiritual Significance”), a good collection of his expositions on a few key scriptures about God’s relationship to Israel: Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 105, Psalm 106 and Isaiah 51.

Deuteronomy 32 is well known as the Song of Moses, a prophetic section that foretells Israel’s history in a broad view, from their early apostasy to the Last Days and God’s final work on behalf of Israel.  David Baron provides great instruction concerning the six strophes (themes) in the song, along with interesting details concerning apostate Israel in his day, including judgment events more known in his day (the 1920s, many years before the WWII Holocaust events that everyone today thinks of in reference to the Jewish nation).

S. Lewis Johnson taught a similar division of Deuteronomy 32 (see this previous post), though naming seven distinct parts (verses 1-3 as a separate ‘exordium’ followed by verses 4-6 as the theme).

The six strophes (themes):

1.  Verses 1-6:  The absolute perfection of God, His character

He is “the Rock” and His work is perfect. As noted in S. Lewis Johnson’s exposition of the text, this is the First Mention of God described as a Rock.

2.  Verses 7-14:  What God did for His people

It is Jehovah—the everlasting, self-existent God, Who, in his grace and condescension, has made Himself known to you by this covenant name as your Redeemer and Friend—that ye thus requite with ingratitude and rebellion.  Truly “a foolish and unwise” people! For it is not only criminal, but the height of folly, and equivalent to self-destruction, for man to depart from the living God; and the history of the Jews in apostasy has demonstrated to the full that it is not only an evil thing, but “a bitter thing,” to forsake Jehovah, the “Fountain of living waters,” and the only source of blessedness.

3.  Verses 15-18: What Israel did against God; their apostasy

But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked…  David Baron notes the character of the false gods, that they were 1) “strange” or “foreign,” without sympathy, the very opposite of Jehovah our Maker; and 2) abominations:   “whose worship was often associated not only with orgies of cruelty, but with unspeakable obscenities which had a very debasing effect on the worshippers”.  A key observation here:  “men always rise or sink to the level of the object of their adoration.” The worship of false gods, abominations, has the effect of making men themselves filthy and abominable.  This worship of demons also leads to superstition, and men tormented and haunted by evil spirits.

4.  Verses 19-25:  Judgment upon Israel

Here David Baron’s observations are so timely and relevant:  the peculiar sufferings and judgment upon the Jewish people, observed in his day in events in Russia and eastern Europe — still 20 years before the most well-known event to modern-day readers, the World War II Holocaust.  Baron includes eye-witness descriptions of then-recent killings of Jews, such as the 1923 account of Mr. Isaac Ochberg, a prominent and wealthy Jew from South Africa.

As well noted by David Baron:

the calamities and sufferings of Israel are due in the first instance to God’s retributive anger against His people on account of their sins and apostasies, and are in fulfillment of prophetic forecasts, predictions, and warning some of which were uttered at the very beginning of their national history. … The fact that the sufferings of the Jewish people are all foretold, and that they are due in the first instance to God’s anger against sin–especially the great national sin of the rejection of their Messiah, is no excuse for the Gentile nations for their cruelties and brutalities which they have perpetrated against them.

5.  Verses 26-33:  God’s mercy, and that His judgment is not forever.  The connection is here, too, between how God deals with Israel and how He deals with us individually.

Let us admire the marvelous grace of God and His perseverance with His sinful, rebellious people.  And remember that in His dealings with Israel, we have not only a display of the glorious attributes of His character through which we may learn to know Him more fully, but also a revelation of the principles of His dealings with us …. though Israel deserved that He should make an utter end of them, that “nevertheless for His great mercies’ sake He did not utterly consumer them, nor forsake them, because He is a great and merciful God,” we must humbly confess that the same is true of us also, and that if God had dealt with us after our sins, and rewarded us according to our iniquities, He would have cast us away from His presence.

6.  Verses 34-43:  Apocalyptic, looking at the last events yet in the future: deliverance for His people and judgments upon the enemies of God and of Israel.

the day when the “seals” shall be broken so that the iniquity which the nations have committed may be laid bare, and the successive judgments which have also been “laid up” in God’s treasuries be let loose, is “the day of vengeance of our God,” which synchronises with the commencement of the “year of His redeemed” when Israel’s Redeemer shall be manifested a second time, not as the meek and lowly one to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, but in His power and glory to execute judgments committed to Him by the Father.   …  And it is the extremity of Israel’s need which provokes God’s final interposition on their behalf.