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Online Christian Resources Available During Covid-19

March 26, 2020 Leave a comment

I’m still working full-time, though now from home, and church services are video recordings online.  As with everyone, I’m getting used to the “new normal” routine that we all are experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic.  One good thing to come out from this is the additional Christian online offerings, free or at discounted prices.  Challies’ blog has a good summary of many covid-19 “specials” for Christians.

I especially like the Ligonier offer: all Ligonier teachings series now free to stream through the Ligonier app (available through the end of June); I’m now listening to a series on Deuteronomy (Robert Godfrey).  Other interesting series that I’ve downloaded in the app, include church history (also from Robert Godfrey) and a 5 part one on Blessing and Praise: Benediction.

A few years ago I started listening to a detailed Deuteronomy sermon series that ended abruptly at the beginning of Deuteronomy 4, for reasons that became apparent in the national news several months later, and I had not since found any (other) Deuteronomy sermon series.  The Ligonier series, from the fall of 2019, is less in-depth but covers the major themes and outline of Deuteronomy: a few chapters at a time, in 21 lessons of about 23 minutes each.

A few points brought out in the early messages:

  • the chiastic structure of Deuteronomy regarding the first and last chapters, then the next set in and next-to-last set at end, and so on to the middle point.
  • Major themes include the importance of leadership, and warnings against idolatry and exhortations to be faithful.

Since churches are now streaming their services, this pandemic crisis also provides the opportunity to watch video services and sermons from many more churches (than previously available).  Many church small-groups are now using Zoom for video-conferencing, including a group I’ve joined that just started a bible study on the book of Ruth.  On that topic (study on Ruth), I highly recommend an 8-part series that Liam Goligher did several years ago at Tenth Presbyterian Church.  Whereas most online studies of Ruth are at most 4 sermons (one for each chapter), this one goes into more detail, including three sermons each for Ruth 1 and Ruth 2.

Finally, here is one (of several) good and timely articles about how to make the most of the Covid-19 crisis:  Ten Ways COVID-19 Can Work for Our Good.

 

James White, and Islamic Sharia Law Versus the Mosaic “Holiness Code”

February 7, 2017 2 comments

In a recent group discussion concerning James White’s conversation with a Muslim, it was stated by one person that some Christians (theonomists) are just as bad as Muslims with Sharia law, for wanting to impose the Mosaic law — “and I wouldn’t want to be under either system.”

I haven’t studied theonomy in detail, but to compare Sharia law to the Mosaic law is a very flawed idea, on several levels.  One very obvious difference here: has any theonomist or group of theonomists actually imposed Mosaic law, on any modern-day society?  But at a more basic level, this idea is an example of modern-day evangelical confusion regarding the role and purpose of the Old Testament law.  I also find it especially ironic that the same group that hosted James White for a discussion with a Muslim, is apparently quite unaware of James White’s own teaching and view on this very issue.  White’s sermon series “The Holiness Code for Today” (series available here), a recent series through the Levitical law, responded to this very mistaken idea – as he even said, an idea prevalent among unbelievers as well as many evangelicals – that the Mosaic law is some type of  “iron age, outdated morality only for the Jews”  (and now, even considered by some to be on the same level as Islamic sharia law).

As noted in a few recent blog posts (this one on Leviticus 19, also this one), James White explains (the historic Protestant view) that we recognize the overall moral precepts in God’s law, including the moral law as applied to the particular circumstance of the nation Israel as a nation of God’s people, a people in covenant with Yahweh.  The Mosaic law (Israel’s civil and ceremonial law) was not a harsh, obsolete code for an ancient Near Eastern civilization; it also was not a “covenant of works” requiring strict obedience to every precise point as a works method of salvation.  Mankind was always saved in the same way, by faith in God’s redemptive work, both before and after Calvary.  Yes, the Jews of the first century had turned the Mosaic code into a “works salvation” but that was not its purpose from the beginning, as is clear from many Old Testament texts, particularly passages in Deuteronomy and the Psalms.  Though it is true that some texts describe the Mosaic law as a burden, this view ignores the reality of the many scriptures that describe the Old Testament law in very positive terms.  The Mosaic law was instead a specific application of God’s unchanging moral law, to the situation of Israel as a nation, laws civil and ceremonial and meant to govern the people of God in their daily life.  Thus, the whole Bible stands together – there can be no excuse that in our day we don’t need to study the Old Testament; God’s moral law does not change, and we can benefit from study of the Mosaic code by considering, for each law, the moral precept behind the particular circumstance.

By contrast, here is sample of actual laws in the Sharia law system, a system that has actually been implemented in certain societies throughout history:

According to Sharia Law: (Basic Laws of Islam)

  • Theft is punishable by amputation of the right hand.
  • Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.
  • Criticizing Muhammad or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.
  • Criticizing or denying Allah, the god of Islam is punishable by death.
  • A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death.
  • A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
  • A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
  • A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.
  • A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.
  • A man can beat his wife for insubordination.
  • A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a woman needs her husband’s consent to divorce.
  • A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.
  • Testimonies of four male witnesses are required to prove rape against a woman.
  • A woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
  • A woman’s testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man’s.
  • A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits.
  • A woman cannot drive a car, as it leads to fitnah (upheaval).
  • A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
  • Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah – i.e., be “Halal”.
  • Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.

Just a sample list from among a huge body of law.

Seriously – where is the moral precept behind these Sharia laws?  Anyone who honestly studies the Mosaic law will recognize that it is not merely some ancient-age law code, and that it was nothing that should be compared to Sharia law.

In addition to White’s study, another good reference for understanding the Mosaic law is A.W. Pink’s The Divine CovenantsI do not agree with everything in Pink’s work, and especially in the Davidic and New Covenant section Pink went too far astray into the spiritualizing hermeneutic — but that is another topic.  However, the section on the Sinaiitic covenant is quite helpful, as here he considers the ideas of various commentators and responds with good scriptural arguments to the idea that the Mosaic covenant was a “works salvation” covenant.  For consideration here, an excerpt from this section that looks at the Mosaic law and the scriptures in great detail:

at this point we are faced with a formidable difficulty, namely, the remarkable diversity in the representation found in later Scripture respecting the tendency and bearing of the law on those who were subject to it. On the one hand, we find a class of passages which represent the law as coming expressly from Israel’s redeemer, conveying a benign aspect and aiming at happy results. Moses extolled the condition of Israel as, on this very account, surpassing that of all other people: “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”  Deut. 4:7, 8). The same sentiment is echoed in various forms in the Psalms. “He showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Ps. 147:19, 20). “Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165).

But on the other hand, there is another class of passages which appear to point in the very opposite direction. In these the law is represented as a source of trouble and terror—a bondage from which it is true liberty to escape. “The law worketh wrath” (Rom. 4:15); “the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). In 2 Corinthians 3:7, 9 the apostle speaks of the law as “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones,” and as “the ministration of condemnation.” Again, he declares, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (Gal. 3:10). “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal. 5:1-3).

Now it is very obvious that such diverse and antagonistic representations could not have been given of the law in the same respect, or with the same regard, to its direct and primary aim. We are obliged to believe that both these representations are true, being alike found in the volume of inspiration. Thus it is clear that Scripture requires us to contemplate the law from more than one point of view, and with regard to different uses and applications of it.

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).

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.

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.