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The Center of Biblical Theology: Including the Wisdom Books

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Going through James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, the central theme is obvious enough within the Law and Prophets: the Pentateuch, then Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings, and the major and minor prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, plus the twelve minor). As Hamilton observes, though, previous attempts to describe a central theme of biblical theology did not include the wisdom books.

So here, after considering the previous scholarship regarding a biblical center of theology and the commentators who could not “fit” a central theme throughout scripture that works with the wisdom books (especially Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment includes a good theme-study through the book of Psalms, along with interesting details concerning how we approach reading the wisdom books in their context within the Old Testament canon of the law and prophets.

The fear of God so prominent in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is informed by the holiness of Yahweh that breaks out against transgressors such as Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). The voice of wisdom that cries out from these books is not spouting philosophical speculation on right and wrong; it is the song of a holy siren, wooing readers to return to the Law (Torah) and the Prophets. For instance, Proverbs 29:18 proclaims, ‘Where there is no vision the people are let loose, but as for the one who keeps the law, blessed is he.’ The word rendered ‘vision’ is a term often used to describe the visions of the prophets…. Disregarding the visions of the prophets is like walking blindly toward a precipice, but the danger is not an abstract fall from an impersonal height. Rather, the danger lies in defiling the holy God by transgressing his boundaries. Yahweh is a God of justice, and “the ways of a man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and all his paths he observes” (Prov. 5:21). The fear of judgment leads to salvation.7

Hamilton includes many details concerning specific psalms within each section, within this overall summary approach to the Psalms and its five “books” (sections).

Psalm 1 and 2 set forth the two main points which are followed throughout the rest of book 1: emphasis on the Torah and the inward life (Psalm 1), along with focus on the Messiah King and the external threats and enemies to defeat (Psalm 2). The rest of book 1 (Psalms 1-41) centers on these points, highlighting the afflictions faced by the Messiah (in type: David), which are the sufferings through which he will enter his glory.

Book 2:  Psalms 42-72. Salvation comes through judgment to God’s glory, through the agency of the Messiah, son of David, king in Jerusalem.  This section occurs during the time period of 2 Samuel 7-10, the time of David’s power growing, through his conquering and expanding. Then comes David’s sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51) followed by more affliction and opposition.

Book 3:  Psalms 73-89.  These psalms concern the era of Solomon and the subsequent kings in the Davidic line. Here we have expressions of the hope of the world, intermingled with anticipations of judgment day. At the close of this section, judgment has fallen — but hope has not died.

Book 4:  Psalms 90-106. Here are expressions of faith while in exile.  This section has a “Moses dimension,” with Moses named 7 times in book 4; Moses is only mentioned once outside of this section. Hope grows stronger, and the future hope is built on the foundation of what God has done in history: from creation (Psalm 104), through the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph, then Moses and Exodus. (Psalms 105-106). The future hope is placed on Yahweh’s history of glorifying himself in salvation through judgment.

Book 5: Psalms 107-150. These psalms begin with the return from exile as already accomplished. This section especially features the eschatological triumph of Yahweh through the conquering Davidic king. The new exodus and return from exile begin through the agency of the Messiah.

 

 

Was Zechariah the Prophet Martyred?

August 4, 2011 2 comments

I’ve started S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series, and for additional study recently read MacArthur’s notes (MacArthur Bible Commentary) introduction.  One rather surprising item was MacArthur’s note that this Zechariah was martyred, since Jesus mentions Zechariah the son of Berechiah in Matthew 23.  I also remember from S. Lewis Johnson’s Matthew series, a brief mention of that passage and reference to the Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24.  In considering the overall history pre- and post-exile, MacArthur’s note just seemed odd, in that it basically says that there were two men with the same name Zechariah, and both were martyred in the very same manner.

I also consider the overall time periods: the idolatrous pre-exile period of King Joash, as contrasted with the attitude of the remnant in the days of the chapters in Ezra’s book along with parallel material in Haggai.  Haggai’s prophecies in 520 B.C., a few months before the prophecy of Zechariah, were received favorably and achieved the desired result: the people resumed and completed building the second temple.  Zechariah’s prophecy followed up a few months later, in 519 B.C., a favorable prophecy to encourage the remnant concerning the future, that God is still concerned about Israel and still has a great future for them.  Nothing in Zechariah’s prophecy, or in any of the other post-exilic writings, indicates that the post-exile people were still idolatrous and murderous in the manner of the earlier time.  Instead, only a relatively small number of them had returned (about 50,000 at the time of Haggai and Zechariah), and they were very conscious of their past sins, and more prone to discouragement, to build their own homes first.  All of the people faced persecution and opposition during this time, from the surrounding non-Jewish people: not exactly the time when Jews would be turning on their own prophets who were giving them a favorable message — and besides, the temple was only then being rebuilt, so how could Zechariah the prophet be killed in such a structure?  Yes, Stephen in Acts 7 declares to his generation “which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” and yet the post-exile period seems to be one of the rare exceptions, of prophets who gave messages that the people did respond to.  Before and after this period, the people were more secure in their location, not a small remnant oppressed by outsiders, and thus more inclined and able to persecute and kill the prophets.

But what of Jesus’ remark in Matthew 23:35, concerning “the blood of Abel.. to Zechariah the son of Berechiah”?  Some debate exists as to the actual names in the original manuscripts, and it is common enough to find Old Testament characters given more than one name, or even for generations to be skipped, such that the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles could easily have been a grandson of Jehoida.  Nothing in Jesus’ statement itself proves that this had to be Zechariah the prophet.

The reference to the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles makes much more sense when we also realize that the Jewish scriptures are  arranged differently than our Old Testament (see this link for the actual sequence), and 2 Chronicles (the full book of Chronicles actually) is the last book in the Jewish collection.  Thus, a reference to “Abel … to Zechariah” covers everything from the first book to the last book of the Jewish Bible: from Genesis to Chronicles, NOT Genesis to Malachi.

S. Lewis Johnson explained it thus, in his Matthew series:

Now let me say just a word about verse 35.  You’ll notice that our Lord looks back over the whole of the Old Testament, and beginning with Abel, the first of those murdered in the Bible, then on to Zacharias son of Barachias, slain between the temple and the altar (the account of which is given us in 2nd Chronicles).  And do you remember perhaps that in the Hebrew Old Testament the last book of the Bible is 2nd Chronicles?   For them the order of books is different from the order in our English text, so that what our Lord has done is to begin in the first of the murders in the book of Genesis and has ranged through the whole of the Scriptures, as he knew them, to the last of those that were murdered unrighteously, Zacharias son of Barachias, and has in a sense characterized the whole of the divine revelation up to that point as being a situation in which the righteous men were crucified by the religious men.  It’s a remarkable statement, a remarkable summary of the attitude of religious men, hypocritical men to the reality of the truth of the word of God.  We can then understand very easily how he should say, “Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”

By contrast, MacArthur’s sermon explanation (also in a Matthew series) doesn’t even mention these points, and just assumes it must be Zechariah the prophet, and that Jesus’s statement affirms that the people were always killing their prophets down to the more recent time period.

From a sampling of other commentaries I checked, John Gill’s is the most thorough on this overall question, and he notes several things including the problem of the historical time period, and agrees with S. Lewis Johnson’s view above.  An excerpt from John Gill here:

Others have been of opinion, that Zechariah the prophet is designed; and indeed, he is said to be the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, Zec 1:1 and the Jewish Targumist speaks of a Zechariah, the son of Iddo, as slain by the Jews in the temple. His words are these {a};

“as ye slew Zechariah, the son of Iddo, the high priest, and faithful prophet, in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord, on the day of atonement; because he reproved you, that ye might not do that evil which is before the Lord.”

And him the Jews make to be the same with Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, in Isa 8:2 and read Berechiah {b}: but the Targumist seems to confound Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, with him; for the prophet Zechariah was not an high priest, Joshua was high priest in his time; nor does it appear from any writings, that he was killed by the Jews; nor is it probable that they would be guilty of such a crime, just upon their return from captivity; and besides, he could not be slain in such a place, because the temple, and altar, were not yet built: it remains, that it must be Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, who was slain in the court of the house of the Lord,  2Ch 24:20 who, as Abel was the first, he is the last of the righteous men whose death is related in the Scriptures, and for whose blood vengeance was required, as for Abel’s. He was slain in the court of the house of the Lord; and so the Ethiopic version here renders it, in the midst of the holy house.
. . .
The chief objections to its being this Zechariah are, that the names do agree; the one being the son of Jehoiada, the other the son of Barachias; and the killing of him was eight hundred years before this time; when it might have been thought our Lord would have instanced in a later action: and this he speaks of, he ascribes to the men of that generation: to which may be replied, that as to the difference of names, the father of this Zechariah might have two names, which is no unusual thing; besides, these two names signify much the same thing; Jehoiada signifies praise the Lord, and Barachias bless the Lord; just as Eliakim and Jehoiakim, are names of the same person, and signify the same thing,  2Ch 36:4. Moreover, Jerom tells us, that in the Hebrew copy of this Gospel used by the Nazarenes, he found the name Jehoiada instead of Barachias: and as to the action being done so long ago, what has been suggested already may be an answer to it, that it was the last on record in the writings of the Old Testament; and that his blood, as Abel’s, is said to require vengeance: and Christ might the rather pitch upon this action, because it was committed on a very great and worthy man, and in the holy place, and by the body of the people, at the command of their king, and with their full approbation, and consent: and therefore, though this was not done by the individual persons in being in Christ’s time, yet by the same people; and so they are said to slay him, and his blood is required of them: and their horrible destruction was a punishment for that load of national guilt, which had been for many hundreds of years contracting, and heaping upon them.

The Questions That God Asks Us

May 17, 2011 1 comment

In our Christian life we all know the experience of people asking God questions, or asking questions about God and why things are the way they are.  But what about the times when God asks questions to people, such as individuals in the Bible?  I consider that here we see a few different categories of such questions.  In Job 38-41, for instance, God asks Job countless questions — rhetorical questions to show God’s sovereignty and to “put Job in his place” but not actually expecting specific answers.

Another category is that of probing questions, and we see examples of these in several places, including the dialogue in Genesis 3, God’s conversation with Elijah in 1 Kings 19, and in Jonah 4.  These are situations where God asks the person a question in an attempt to get the person to think and reason, to snap out of a sinful way of thinking.  Throughout these incidents we also see God’s loving patience with stubborn and sinful men, the manner of a parent trying to reason with a rebellious and wayward small child.

I remember reading through John MacArthur’s Genesis series a few years ago and how impressed I was with the depth that I’d never seen before, especially when I got to Genesis 3 and God’s approach to Adam.  MacArthur pointed out the loving approach God took; He knew that Adam had sinned and disobeyed, and could have instantly destroyed Adam — but He brought up the subject with questions, to get Adam to confess and return to fellowship:  “where are you, Adam?” and then “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  It was an opportunity for Adam to admit and talk about it, but of course we all know how Adam responded.

The prophets give us two situations rather similar to each other, of prophets who are out of the will of God.  Elijah was so fearful for his life that he ran away from Jezebel, but then told God he wanted to die.  In 1 Kings 19, verses 9 and 13, God confronts Elijah with the same simple question:  “what are you doing here, Elijah?”  When Elijah doesn’t “get it” the first time, God has to show himself to the prophet in His true power — not in the great events of wind, earthquake and fire, but in a still small voice.  The second time the question is asked, Elijah just repeats the same answer, and so God must also point out that Elijah is not the only one left.

Then God dealt with Jonah, a similarly stubborn prophet, with probing questions and another object lesson: the growth and subsequent demise of a plant that pleased Jonah.  As with Elijah, God asks him the question twice:  “Do you do well to be angry?” and later, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”  Like Elijah, Jonah persists in his stubbornness and fails to “get it” until God brings home the final lesson.  Jonah was even willing to die, he said, over the loss of the gourd:  something inanimate, uncreated by Jonah, unnourished by Jonah, and temporary.  How much more did God have concern over His animate, created, nourished and eternal souls (120,000 Ninevites).

The Bible gives us many other great examples of questions asked by God, as well as interesting conversations between Christ and people He interacted with.  Here I think of the interesting conversations with Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria in John 3 and 4, as well as His words to the Syro-Phoenician woman.  Another question in Matthew 19:17, to the rich young ruler (“Why do you call me good?”) was also designed to get the man thinking about why he was calling Jesus a “Good Master” but not thinking of Jesus as actually being God — though in this case the man did not respond and went away unsatisfied.  All of these incidents from the Bible, of course, are instructive to us as well.  Whenever we get into the same thoughts and attitudes as the prophets or the people Jesus encountered, we can remember these incidents and relate to the characters as people just like us — and take the same instruction from the words God directly told them.

Matching Good Quotes/Thoughts to Bible Verses

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Over the months of listening to good Bible teaching sermons, I have picked up several biblical ideas and quotes — from what the preacher, such as S. Lewis Johnson, says — though I can’t always match up the idea to a specific scriptural passage.  But recently I have come across particular verses, either during my Bible reading or from others’ comments, that jump out and clearly affirm these particular ideas.

One of these matters is the question of how much did people in Old Testament times understand.  As SLJ often pointed out, it really comes down to an individual level.  Just as in our day some believers have great knowledge and understanding while others do not, so in the Old Testament age many believers probably did not have that clear of an understanding, but some (at least a few) very likely did understand a great deal.  Added to this point from Dr. Johnson, I have recently considered something Matt Weymeyer pointed out in regards to Luke 24 and the disciples on the Emmaus road:  Jesus expected them to be able to understand the sequence (with just the OT and no NT revelation), of Christ’s suffering and his exaltation, and called them “dull” and “slow” for not getting it.

As a fellow blog-commenter on Pyromaniacs pointed out, 1 Peter 1:10-11 tells us that the prophets did understand:  … the prophets … searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  Sure enough, the sequence is there to make it clear that they at least did read their Bibles correctly and understood it.  They had to work harder, more diligently, but they could still find the answers in their Old Testament Bible.

The second matter comes from S. Lewis Johnson’s observations, from experience, regarding the cause of backsliding, or the type of person most likely to backslide.  I included the quote in this previous blog, during my study through Isaiah.  While reading through 2 Peter recently, 2 Peter 1:5-8 impressed upon me a strong connection with that very idea.  Notice especially verse 8, which fits so well with S. Lewis Johnson’s observations:  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the person who does not make every effort, who is not increasing, becomes ineffective and unfruitful.  Verse 9 then continues with the warning for those who lack these qualities.  Verse 10 reaffirms the importance of what was just said regarding our continuing to increase in these qualities:  for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

The Prophets of the Lord: Their Specialties

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

In my study through the minor prophets with S. Lewis Johnson, I’ve completed Hosea and now working through Joel.  One interesting thing I’ve come across is overview descriptions, or labels, for each of the prophets.  These follow the wording of:  “so-and-so is the prophet of blank.”  For instance, “Hosea is the prophet of unconditional love.”  Next, Joel is the prophet “of the Day of the Lord,” also “of Pentecost” and “of Repentance.”  Curious about this, I checked through other transcripts dealing with the Old Testament prophets (mostly from S. Lewis Johnson, but a few elsewhere), to come up with this good summary list for study of the OT prophets.  This list can be useful as a general outline for further study of each of the Old Testament prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi.

  • Elijah is the Prophet of Judgment and the Prophet of Fire
  • Isaiah is the Prophet of the Holy One of Israel
  • Jeremiah is the Prophet to the Nations
  • Ezekiel is the Prophet of Hope
  • Daniel is the Prophet of the Nation Israel, and the Prophet of The Times of the Gentiles
  • Hosea is the Prophet of Unconditional Love
  • Joel is the prophet of the Day of the Lord, the Prophet of Pentecost, and the Prophet of Repentance
  • Amos is the Prophet of Social Justice
  • Obadiah is the Prophet of Poetic Justice
  • Jonah is… well, a category by himself: the Parochial Prophet; or, the prophet who would not prophesy
  • Micah is the Prophet of Social Protest
  • Nahum is the Prophet of Nineveh’s Doom
  • Habakkuk is the Prophet of Faith
  • Zephaniah is the Prophet of Judgment, and the Prophet of Josiah’s Reformation
  • Haggai is the Prophet of the Return
  • Zechariah is the Prophet of Hope
  • Malachi is the Prophet of Reality

Finally we come, of course, to Jesus the Great Prophet:  the Prophet of the Prophets, and the Everlasting Prophet.

Hosea and Farming References in the Bible

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson often remarked that we who grew up in the city (instead of the farm), do not as fully appreciate some of the Bible’s illustrations and agricultural references.  The Bible is replete with agricultural images that the people of Israel would understand in a way that related to their everyday life.  The relatively few non-agricultural analogies come in the New Testament, mainly from Paul:  for instance, running the race, and constructing a building.  But for the most part, Jesus referenced the Old Testament pictures of farming, vineyards and sheep/shepherds.

Some interesting farm-specific pictures come forth in Hosea’s prophecy, and now I look at Hosea 10, the topic of one of S. Lewis Johnson’s messages in his Hosea series.

Verse 1 describes a “luxuriant vine.”  Israel is like that vine, one that keeps growing and growing but only for itself and not towards God.  Here SLJ described his own gardening experience with vines, and that he had recently observed this very thing with his own vines:  two vines next to each other, and one was just growing a lot, putting forth lots of vine and leaves, but very little fruit throughout it.  The vine right next to it was much smaller and had more grapes on it.

Verse 11 tells us that “Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh.”  Johnson, who also grew up in the city, had to look up this reference in the commentaries, to understand and explain that the threshing part of the animal’s work is fairly easy work as compared to other tasks.  Understanding that analogy, the implication is clear:  Israel had had it pretty easy up to this point, but soon God’s yoke of judgment would come:  no more threshing but more unpleasant work.

Verses 12 and 13 emphasize the overall crop process:  plowing, then reaping, then eating.  Again it’s something that should be obvious, but not as much so for us who get our food from the grocery store.  Verse 12 is a call for the people to “break up your fallow ground.”  Fallow ground is idle ground — land which not only brings forth lots of weeds and thorns (pretty obvious even for us who do simple gardening and lawncare), but also becomes harder, tougher, more difficult to break up with a plow.  Another application here is the fact, somewhat uncomfortable for us but nonetheless so, that the majority of believers “break up their fallow ground” in their younger days, when the ground (the soul) is not quite as hardened as in later years.  Again we recognize that yes, it is possible for older people to be saved, and many are, but the vast majority of Christians were saved before age 30.  How urgent the plea becomes:  now is “the time to seek the Lord, so that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”  I recall many Spurgeon sermons on this subject, as he urges people to not put off the day of salvation; you may think that you can repent and come later, but your heart may become more hardened by then and you lose that opportunity, to your eternal destruction.

Even in that phrase above comes another illustration from nature:  the Lord will “rain righteousness upon you,” a reference again to nature.  The rain breaks up the fallow ground to make plowing easier.  S. Lewis Johnson related this also to the account in 1 Kings 18, where the rain finally came to a land in drought for 3 years, and Ahab and the others had to hurry home before the chariot wheels would get stuck in the mud.

Verse 13 ends that section of the text, with the basic agricultural sequence:  you have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Isaiah’s Gospel: An Overview of Isaiah 40 – 66

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The book of Isaiah has often been likened to the full Bible itself, in that it has 66 books, of which the first 39 chapters form one unit (like the 39 books of the Old Testament) and the last 27 chapters (Isaiah 40 – 66) the second unit (like the 27 books of the New Testament).  In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, I’ve now reached the beginning of that second half.  S. Lewis Johnson offers some interesting observations concerning this section of Isaiah.

The first eleven verses of Isaiah 40 serve as a prologue, an outline, to these last 27 chapters of Isaiah.  Within that, the first two verses are “the prologue of the prologue.”  The 27 chapters can be divided into three sections of 9 chapters each, with the following major themes:

  • Chapters 40 – 48:  The end of the Babylonian captivity, yet future to Isaiah’s day
  • Chapters 49 – 57:  The expiation of the guilt of Israel, by the servant of Jehovah
  • Chapters 58 – 66:  The exaltation of Israel and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God

Isaiah 40 introduces the 27 chapters, and verse 2, in its three clauses, provides a summary outline of these three sets:
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended (Isaiah 40-48), that her iniquity is pardoned (Isaiah 49-57), that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 58-66).

Each of these sections ends with a similar thought, that there is no peace for the wicked.  Note the following verses, the last verse in each section:
Isaiah 48:22 — “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 57:21 —  “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 66:24 — (the same sentiment, though said differently) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me.     For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

The prologue in Isaiah 40 also features four “voices” from God:

  • The Voice of Redemption:  Isaiah 40:1-2
  • The Voice of Preparation:  Isaiah 40:3 — a verse fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist
  • The Voice of Perpetuation / or The Voice of the Permanence of the Word of God:  Isaiah 40:6
  • The Voice of Good News: Behold, your God!  — Isaiah 40:9-11

The last verses contain great words that remind me of that part of Handel’s Messiah, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,”  (click here for a Youtube sample), which includes the wonderful words of Isaiah’s gospel from Isaiah 40:9 —
Get you up to a high mountain …   lift up your voice with strength … lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

This is a great overview and guide to the rest of the book of Isaiah.  Watch for future updates as I continue the S. Lewis Johnson series through these chapters in Isaiah.

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Studying Isaiah, Understanding Prophecy and Good Theology

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

As I now work through a chapter-by-chapter Bible Study in Isaiah, with S. Lewis Johnson (up through Isaiah 8), the following words from Horatius Bonar concerning the prophets again come to mind:

To attach a general meaning to a whole chapter, as is frequently done, shows not only grievous irreverence for the Divine Word, but much misconception of the real nature of that language in which it is written. Yet such is often the practice of many expositors of prophecy. They will take up a chapter of Isaiah, and tell you that it refers to the future glory of the Christian Church; and that is the one idea which they gather from a whole chapter, or sometimes from a series of chapters. Their system does not admit of interpreting verse by verse and clause by clause, and affixing an exact and definite sense to each. Bring them to this test, and their system gives way. It looks fair and plausible enough, so long as they can persuade you that the whole chapter is one scene, out of which it is merely designed that one grand idea should be extracted; but bring it to the best of minute and precise interpretation, and its nakedness is at once discovered. Many prophecies become in this way a mere waste of words.  What might be expressed in one sentence, is beaten out over a whole chapter; nay, sometimes over a whole book.

These expositors think that there is nothing in prophecy, except that Jew and Gentile are all to be gathered in, and made one in Christ. Prophet after prophet is raised up, vision after vision is given, and yet nothing is declared but this one idea! Every chapter almost of Isaiah foretells something about the future glory of the world; and every chapter presents it to us in some new aspect, opening up new scenes, and pointing out new objects; but, according to the scheme of some, every chapter sets forth the same idea, reiterates the same objects, and depicts the same scenes. Is not this handling the Word of God deceitfully?

In teaching from Isaiah 6, S. Lewis Johnson brings out some important lessons concerning the value of good theology, as illustrated in Isaiah’s experience:  his sin,  cleansing, and commission.  Isaiah understood both sides of truth, the balance between two extremes.  On the one hand, we have total acceptance with God, yet we must also maintain a moment-by-moment relationship to God.

If we so stress our total acceptance with God that we forget the other, then we leave ourselves open to license.  If we so stress the necessity for this relationship moment by moment with God that we forget our acceptance with him, we come to the place where we are morbid, where we are unstable because we are not sure that we really are accepted with God.  That is the value of theology, because we do not go to extremes.  We know both sides of the truth.

SLJ spoke of a recent trend in his day (1968) towards emphasizing our total acceptance — without the need for daily confession of sin and repentance.  In my recent experience with Sovereign Grace, Reformed churches I have observed the opposite extreme of focus on the moment-by-moment relationship with God:  over-emphasis upon the need to confess our sins, remembering that we are creatures of wrath and God should have just stomped us out like a bug; and that God is still ticked off about the fall and Adam’s sin.  As SLJ said so well, such a view — that neglects teaching concerning our adoption, the great promises of the biblical covenants and God’s Divine Purpose — leaves us with overwhelming guilt and a lack of assurance concerning our acceptance before God.

One simple outline for Isaiah 6 is:  Woe, Lo, and Go.  The woe comes in verse 5, Isaiah’s sin, followed by “Lo” in verse 7 when Isaiah is cleansed, then “Go” in verse 8, Isaiah’s commission.

Another great excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson:

Now, I want you to notice that as Isaiah is cleansed he immediately hears the voice of the Lord.  One of the reasons we do not hear the voice of the Lord is because we have not bothered to be cleansed.  We have not cared for many others.  We have put our trust in Jesus Christ, and we know that our future is secure because of the cross and we like it that way and we do not really be want to be disturbed anymore.  We want to be sure that we are going to heaven and that is about as far as we want to go.  And furthermore, we even have some who say that it is hopeless to get beyond that.  It is hopeless to think about the growing in grace.  We do not want to become like the Pharisees and proud of our growth.  Of course not!  But our salvation is our means to grow.  We do not want to stay children all our lives, do we?  It is good to know the truth of the cross, that is where life begins — but that is the beginning of life.  It is not the end.

Bible Study: 2 Kings and Hosea

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

My recent readings in Old Testament History and Prophecy currently line up with a good time-sync:  2 Kings 14 through 16, and Hosea.  Just as I’ve been reading (2 Kings 14) about the beginning of King Uzziah of Judah, and the reign of Jeroboam II, the fourth in the line of Israel’s King Jehu, I notice the beginning verse of Hosea, “The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.”  Then, Hosea 1:4 mentions Jezreel, and upcoming judgment on the House of Jehu.  As I’ve been following along the last few days in 2 Kings, this too fits — in 2 Kings 10 Jehu became king, and God promised Jehu a dynasty to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30).  The next few chapters describe the reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoash/Joash — as well as the kings of Judah during this time.  By chapter 14 we’re up to the 4th generation of Jehu’s line, in Jeroboam II, and so Hosea ties in well with these chapters in 2 Kings.

The next day’s readings, 2 Kings 15 and 16, continue the lines of both Israel and Judah, with mention of Jotham and Ahaz, also mentioned in Hosea 1:1.  Interestingly, the 2 Kings text mentions several kings of Israel who followed Jeroboam II, who were contemporary with Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz — yet Hosea stops with the naming of Jeroboam; perhaps it simply wasn’t necessary to mention these lesser kings, having already established the time setting well enough.

Another interesting thing from 2 Kings 14 is verse 27 — But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.  Here we have another incident where God uses wicked men, unregenerate Jews, to save His people — again because of His own promise of what He will do for His people.  Here I think also of the story of Esther (reference Mark Hitchcock’s Study), another case where God in His providence clearly orchestrated events so as to save the Jews from destruction — again by the hand of unregenerate, unsaved Jews (Esther and Mordecai).

The book of Hosea continues a more in-depth look at the spiritual problems that 2 Kings only gives an overview of.  Several places in the 2 Kings text note, again and again, in reference to the southern kingdom Judah, that “The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.”  (2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4, 35; and 2 Kings 16:4  (spoken of King Ahaz), “He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.)  Israel is described in similarly repetitive terms, “did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”  (2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 15:9, 18, 24, 28.)  Hosea, describing the same time period, gives more detail concerning their deeds (as Hosea 4:13-14) — and yet the promise that God will restore them (Hosea 3:5).  In Hosea 4 God provides a contrast, telling the people of Judah (to whom Hosea wrote) not to follow in the way that Israel has gone (Hosea 4:15-19):

Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Beth-aven, and swear not, “As the Lord lives.”
Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?   Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone.
When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring; their rulers dearly love shame.   A wind has wrapped them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.