Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

The 4th (and all the other) Commandments, and the Conscience

February 19, 2016 1 comment

Continuing in Tom Chantry’s Ten Commandments series, comes the issue of how morality is defined (reference this lesson).  One of the arguments put forth by some who deny that the 4th commandment is moral, comes from the reasoning that our idea of what’s right and wrong must be innate, the things that we knew even in our pre-Christian life. After all, someone will say, “even as a lost man I knew that murder was wrong, that stealing and adultery are wrong; but I didn’t innately know the 4th commandment (of setting aside one day out of seven unto the Lord) – therefore, this commandment must not really be part of the moral law.” But is this really so?

In any society, children do not innately know that stealing or lying is wrong, or that it’s a good thing to share with others—these things must be taught. Furthermore: many adults today (in our society as well as elsewhere in the world) do not “innately” understand the 1st or 2nd commandments either – the fact that there is one God, and that we should not bow down to an idol. The tenth commandment (do not covet) is also often not innately understood. The conscience is a wonderful gift from God–that which can convict us of sin. But it alone, apart from revelation, cannot inform us of what is right or wrong. In unsaved people, the conscience becomes hardened as the truth is suppressed. As Hodgins noted in the 1689 Confession series regarding the conscience, we need to “gospelize” our conscience, to educate and correctly inform it regarding right and wrong; reference here also such passages as 1 Corinthians 8: someone can think that they are sinning when they eat meat that was sacrificed to idols.

As Chantry pointed out in this post from last year, Americans of a few generations ago DID have a sense of doing wrong and violating the 4th commandment. The children’s historical fiction story “Johnny Tremaine,” written in the mid-20th century, even includes this conscience regarding the 4th commandment, in the actual plot of a Revolutionary War story.

If your awareness of Christian practice goes back more than one generation, you’ll have to admit that the Sabbath once pricked the conscience of men. We are all familiar with the now-despised “blue laws” which prohibited certain activities on Sunday. Yes, America was once a place in which work on Sunday was not only uncommon, but illegal. Did such a practice have any relationship to the conscience?

If you haven’t read Johnny Tremain you really should; only rarely does children’s literature reach such heights. What is fascinating, though, is that Esther Forbes, an unbeliever writing in mid-20th century Boston, so clearly recognized that even the impious in her own city just two centuries before had known the pangs of conscience when they broke the Sabbath. She actually turned that guilt into a major plot device!

We also know well the myth of the noble savage, versus what primitive civilizations – without the influence of Christianity – are actually like. This further makes the point that our ideas of morality, what our conscience thinks of as right and wrong, actually come from our society and what we are taught. It is actually societal standards, and not our own general ideas, that provide the basic understanding of morality to unbelievers.

As Christians, then, we are not to look to our own conscience, what we “innately” realize about right and wrong, but to study the word of God.  Biblical morality is the morality set forth by revelation from God, what is contained in the word of God.

Typology and Parallels Within the Old Testament: Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan

March 7, 2014 2 comments

Continuing through James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, I’m now reading the section on the former prophets.  Hamilton’s work brings out an interesting aspect of typology:  not merely the illustrations and pictures (types) concerning the correspondences between Old Testament persons, events, or institutions, and New Testament fulfillment.  Typology can also include correspondences between one Old Testament event and a later Old Testament event.  Herein we observe the central theme of scripture, repeated throughout the unfolding story of God’s work with the nation Israel:  God’s Glory as the ultimate purpose of His works, accomplished in Salvation through Judgment.

Considering the Old Testament “Prophets” section and its beginning chapter (Joshua), Hamilton observes several interesting parallels between the Exodus experience and the later conquest of Canaan:

1. Explicit comparison between the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus) and the later crossing of the River Jordan (Josh. 4:23)

2. The judgment of circumcision:  Moses’ sons in Exodus 4:24-26.  Then, the conquest generation in Joshua 5; Through the judgment of circumcision, the reproach of Egypt is rolled away (Joshua 5:9).

3. Angel of the Lord appearances of God: to Moses (the burning bush); then to Joshua in Joshua 5, the meeting with the Captain of the Host of Yahweh

Just as Moses drew near and inspected the burning bush, Joshua draws near the man with the drawn sword (5:13). Just as Moses was instructed to remove his sandals because of the holy ground, so Joshua is told to remove his (5:15). These historical correspondences connect the beginnings of the triumphant exodus to the beginnings of what is hereby guaranteed to be the triumphant conquest. There might be an escalation of significance in that whereas Moses was resistant to what Yahweh commanded him to do and is not said to have worshiped, Joshua not only does not question and object, as Moses did, but he worships (5:14)

4.  Likeness to Eden

This man with the drawn sword stands to the east of the land, at its entrance, creating an intriguing connection between the land Israel is crossing over to possess, and the land from which Adam and Eve were expelled.15 The way to Eden was guarded at the east by a cherubim with a flaming sword (Gen. 3:24). Similarly, Balaam likened the camp of Israel to a garden planted by Yahweh (Num. 24:6), and as he made his way to their camp, he met the angel of Yahweh, who had a drawn sword in his hand (Num. 22:22–35). With Yahweh in their midst, Israel has recaptured something of the Edenic experience. As they cross into the land, Israel moves in the direction of the reversal of the curse.

5.  Yahweh pursues His glory: He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus) to accomplish His purpose of the Exodus.  Then He hardens the hearts of the Canaanite kings of the land, to accomplish His purpose of bringing the people into the land, the conquest.

As well summarized, God’s purpose in these great events:

The typological connections between the exodus and conquest set forth in Joshua 4:23, where the crossing of the sea is compared to the crossing of the river, and 5:13–16, where, like Moses, Joshua unshods his feet on holy ground, join with other features in the text17 to indicate that Yahweh’s goal at the conquest is the same goal He had at the exodus. There He wanted all to know that He is Yahweh. He pursued His glory—the proclamation of His name—by saving Israel through the judgment of Egypt. At the conquest, Yahweh causes the inhabitants of the land to know that He is God (2:9–11), He makes Israel know that he is among them (3:10), and He makes the peoples of the land know His might (4:24). Just as Yahweh hardened the heart of Pharaoh to accomplish His purpose at the exodus, so He hardens the hearts of the kings of the land at the conquest (11:18, 20).18 Just as Yahweh demonstrated His glory at the exodus by saving Israel through the judgment of Egypt, He demonstrates His glory at the conquest by saving Israel through the judgment of the peoples of the land.

The Trail of the Serpent: Seven Attempts of Satan to Thwart God’s Divine Purpose

March 2, 2013 Comments off

Returning to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Systematic Theology” series, I’m now in the section dealing with angelology and anthropology.  In “The Trail of the Serpent in the Old Testament,” S. Lewis Johnson highlights the original protevangelium (first preaching of the gospel) in Genesis 3:15.

Then he lists the seven times when Satan attempted to thwart God’s purpose of the coming Redeemer.

1)  The murder of Abel by Cain (Genesis 4:1-7)

2)  The unnatural union between men and demons, the demonic intervention in the human race (Genesis 6:1-9)

3)  The attempt in Pharaoh’s time (Exodus 1)

4)  The attempt in Jehoram’s time (2 Chronicles 21), when Jehoram killed all his brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, followed by the divine judgment against Jehoram himself, that only one of his sons was left to him.

5)  The attempt in Athaliah’s time (2 Chronicles 22:10-12), when for six years Athaliah reigned instead of a king from the line of David.

6)  The attempt done through Haman in the book of Esther  (Esther 3 and following)

7)  The attempt in Herod’s time, at Christ’s birth (Matthew 2, note especially verses 4 and 7)

I like how SLJ described these as “attempts … in the time of (so-and-so)”, highlighting the fact that these were really Satanic attempts, not merely the actions of particular men.  The New Testament scriptures add additional information regarding some of the above attempts, as for instance 1 John 3:12 tells us that Cain was of the evil one.  Several other scriptures tell us of the unnatural relations between humans and angelic beings: Genesis 19 (where the men of Sodom desired to “know” the two angelic men in Lot’s house); reference also 1 Peter 3:19-20, 2 Peter 2:4-5, and Jude 6-7.

In the very next message, SLJ lists seven attempts of Satan in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  (Note here an overlap, that #7 above is also the first in this next list.)

1) The Birth of Christ (Matthew 2)

2) The Temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11)

3) Through the Controversies of the Religious Leaders with Christ (Reference John 8:33-45)

4)  Through the Controversy of Christ with His disciples  (Matthew 16:21-23), Christ’s response to Peter “Get behind me, Satan!”

5)  On the verge of the Cross (John 14:30-31):  The prince of this world comes…

6) Satan, Judas and Christ (John 13:2, 27)

7) Satan and the Cross (Hebrews 2:14-15; Col. 2:15; 1 John 3:8)

From Egypt to Canaan: Insights from a Study through Exodus and Numbers

January 7, 2010 Comments off

I’ve been enjoying going through S. Lewis Johnson’s “From Egypt to Canaan” series (from 1985).  This series started in Exodus, and then skips over some parts while focusing on various incidents in Exodus and Numbers, all related to the theme of the people in their wilderness wanderings.  I’m now more than halfway through, up to Numbers 20, and have learned a great deal.

One thing I’ve learned from this study is how to connect the Old Testament passages with the specific New Testament texts that relate back to the passage in question.  Now this is the way to truly interpret scripture, not by going beyond the text and speculating about other possible “allegorical” meanings, yet going beyond the actual Old Testament text to include the actual New Testament applications that relate to the text:  letting scripture interpret scripture.  Frequently in this study, SLJ refers to passages such as 1 Corinthians 10 and various chapters in Hebrews, where Paul and the writer of Hebrews specifically comment on the wilderness wanderings.

Now to several specific observations from this series:
The miracles in Exodus are never again discussed as being important, later in the Bible (because the people were in unbelief)  — until Revelation, which tells of the future judgements which are very similar to the ones done to Egypt.  Here too is a great answer to those who interpret the Bible with too much of a naturalistic bent.  Just as the judgements in Exodus were supernatural events performed by God, without any human agent, so too will be the judgments described in Revelation.  God will get all the glory there too, and He will not share it with man, even to such notions as ascribing the actual cause of the end-times judgments to human nuclear war.

The giving of the law — a very interesting point is brought out in Exodus 17.  The law was proposed before it was ever imposed.  Had the people of Israel recognized that they could not keep God’s law, the actual living under the Old Covenant would not have occurred, and the time until Christ’s First Coming could very well have been much sooner.  The people willingly accepted the terms of the Old Covenant, saying “we will do it,” which only showed their true heart condition, that they did not understand their own sinful nature.

A type is really just another word for an example, or an illustration.  S. Lewis Johnson often points this out, emphasizing that typology does not include other things that some people often think of when they think of a “type.”  SLJ also gives many examples of true typology — of the illustration and what it corresponds to — throughout this study.

Typology and the two incidents where Moses struck the rock
The first incident, in Exodus 17, has Moses using the rod to strike the rock.  The rod used is the one Moses used to strike the Nile and turn its waters to blood.  The striking of the rock here illustrates Christ as “our smitten rock,” the one punished with the rod, and suffers and sheds blood.

In the later incident in Numbers 20, Moses is told to use the rod that is before the Lord (Numbers 20:9), which indicates a different rod, the one belonging to Aaron that had just blossomed and brought forth almonds in the previous chapter.  Speaking to the rock suggests our going to the Lord with our needs.  Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for “rock” here is a different Hebrew word than in Exodus 17.  The Hebrew word for rock in Exodus 17 is a rock that is sharp.  The Hebrew word “rock” in Numbers 20 refers to elevation.  SLJ notes that often the words in Hebrew are used interchangeably, but thinks that this difference could be significant here — and further indication that the typology in Numbers 20 conveys the idea of Christ (the rock) elevated, and speaking to the rock illustrates our access to Christ, who has been exalted.

As S. Lewis Johnson observes:

If you turn back to Exodus chapter 17 and you were able to look at the Hebrew text at that point, you would find that the word for rock there is the word tswur.  That word is often associated with a sharp kind of rock, whereas the word that is used in chapter 20 of the Book of Numbers as the word cela and cela is the word that is often associated with elevation.  This distinction between these two words is not always observed.  That is the general sense of the two words and if that is true, it further supports the idea.  We not only have Moses told to speak to the rock, but we also have a different word for rock that suggests an elevated rock and of course the elevated rock would go very well with the idea of a high priest who is at the right hand of the Majesty on High.

Moses ruined the typology by striking the rock instead — an illustration that would suggest that Christ has to suffer more than once.  Yet this incident also shows God’s marvelous grace:  even when His people are disobedient, God still will bring forth the intended blessing, such as here where God still provided the people with  water.

Typology and the priesthood of Aaron
Numbers 20 also tells of Aaron’s death.  Here we see the flaw in the Aaronic priesthood — the high priest dies.  Yet Aaron as priest is an illustration, as he represents the function of the priesthood of Christ.  Melchizedek as a priest represents the person of Christ.

The Sin Unto Death
Numbers 13 and 14 tells of the tragic turning point at Kadesh Barnea, where the people refuse to go into the land.  The people finally reach a point where it is too late to repent, they must experience the judgment of 40 years in the wilderness.  It is very probable that out of the whole nation of Israel, there were more than just two saved people (Caleb and Joshua), yet they all reached a point where they experienced the final consequence of a sin that lead to their death in the wilderness.

S. Lewis Johnson here discusses the “sin unto death” spoken of by John in 1 John 5, pointing out that there is sin that leads to death, as distinguished from sin that does not lead to death.  1 Corinthians 11, and Acts 5, also describe situations where believers went too far and because of their sin they died.  As Johnson remarks, there are some Christians that are good for heaven, but not so good for earth — and so God takes them away, that they not bring further shame to God in their lives in this world.  The deaths of Moses and Aaron, as their punishment for disobedience in Numbers 17, is yet another example of the “sin unto death.”  Moses and Aaron too were forgiven of their sins, yet because of that sin they were not allowed to go into the promised land.  The daughters of Zelophehad also point out that their father did not take part in the rebellion of Korah, but died for his own sins — another example of distinction between the saved who nevertheless die because of their sins, as compared to the unsaved who died as a result of the rebellion of Korah.