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Our family heirloom: A 1758 Dano-Norwegian Pulpit Book PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 March 2009 16:51

This article is dedicated to a much treasured, special, and old family hierloom of ours that is at my grandmother's house: a Dano-Norwegian pulpit book (which I believe to be a Protestant, probably Lutheran, Postil [or Postille] and "Søndag bog") written in archaic Danish that was published in 1758. It is interesting to note that this is older than the Declaration of Independance for those who are Americans! As can be seen from the picture that I took of the back page (shown at the bottom), the book was published (as I translate it) "at the expense of the Berlingske Arvingers Bogtrykkerie" (Berling Family Book Printingpress) in 1758, which I am almost positive is associated with the founders of Denmark's modern Berlingske Tidende Newspaper.

Click to see the full-sized photo

You might be wondering why a book that was read in, and passed down from, a Norwegian family (my grandmother's side of the family) would be written in Danish. The short answer is really a matter of historical reality in that Denmark ruled over Norway for roughly 300 years from around 1500 to 1800 A.D. and so many things were written in Danish during that period, and sometimes the mixed language that resulted (although they were rather similar to begin with) is referred to as Dano-Norwegian. Because of the book's age and the time period it was written in it is also written in an older script/typeface (called Fraktur script, a successor to Schwabacher script which is quite similar, or sometimes referred to as Gothic script) that for some letters may at first appear unfamiliar to the modern reader (such as the letters S, K, U, and V). See the image below that shows examples of the letters in Fraktur and Schwabacher typeface. 

It's not just my love of all things old and my interest in archaic languages that excites me about this book, but it is also because it is a large book (800+ pages) and appears to be a significant piece of Christian literature, with entire sermons and exegesis on Scripture passages attached to (to be read on) certain days like "the First Sunday in Advent", "Palm Sunday", "Passover Day", and "Three Kings Day" (a Christian holiday still observed in parts of Europe but not much in the U.S.). For example, if you look close enough at the top of the page in the high resolution photo to the right you will see written on the page, "Første Sondag i Advent", indicating that this particular sermon is to be read on the first Sunday in Advent. Additional pictures of the pages with the headings for each day are shown at the bottom of the page. It is most likely a Lutheran and/or Pietist sermon book, and bears similarities to early Lutheran Postils such as the Postils by Martin Luther and Johan Arndt, which had set readings for the congregation for all the major Sundays, religious observances, and holidays during the year. One could imagine that the book has received great use over its 250+ year existance in Scandinavian pulpits or private reading, and my grandmother remembers her father (from whom she recieved it) reading from the book often.This book is a true treasure of heritage, culture, and religion and is a wonderful witness of our own family's Norwegian Christian background.

Click to see the full-sized photo

This book truly fascinates me, and I have two main goals with my research on this book, all of it though aiming at ultimately grasping the true value of the book in order to be edified by it and to glorify God through what I discover: #1) Be able to read and understand it (and consequently be able to translate it), and #2) to find out who actually wrote the book! I can tell (from what little Norwegian/Danish I know) who published the book but not the name of any author per se, and over years of occasional research I have yeilded no definitive answers as to who the author might be. As can be seen from the picture of the back page there is a bibliography of Christian writers and their books, some dating back to the 1600s, and I tried to see if I could identify the author with one of those listed in the back. For a while I was getting very excited at the prospect of the author being Erik Pontoppidan - the Pietist Protestant Danish author, theologian, preacher, and historian - some of whose works are listed in the bibliography but I was unable to draw a direct connection. Perhaps the book, being sermon-like in nature, is simply a collection and collation of written works from all those authors listed in the back, which is just as exciting a possibility, making it a kind of "who's who" collection of great ministerial works of early Scandinavian Protestant figures and leaders in Europe.

The book itself opens with a short page-and-a-half prayer, "A little prayer, which each can read for themself", asking God to open the eyes and ears of the hearers of the message, and prepare their hearts to receive it, and also is a praise and blessing to God for His goodness, extolling His salvation and sovereignty, in a truly moving and powerful manner. Men spoke in a way back then, as is also so in the words of this prayer, that we do not often hear anymore. But the words here too may go down in history with the powerful words and convictions of other great men of God - and heroes in the faith - like George Whitefield, Charles Wesley, Johnathon Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon. The historical testimony of the Christian faith - from the growth of the early Church, to the proliferation of Scriptures in all languages, and the lives of great theologians, reformers, and martyrs - is one of the most amazing and exhilarating evidences and landmarks of God's activity in the history and hearts of man. There are few things that emotionally impact me more than hearing of the saga of that faith carried down through the ages by faithful men and women who sacrificed much, and stood with power and conviction in their beliefs, having a basic and fundamental faith in God and His word. This book, I hope and trust, can be added to the annals among the books and writings of Christian history and can be counted among "the great cloud of witnesses" giving testimony of the faith, and I hope it can benefit other Christians through an edifying testimony. So most of all I hope to glorify God with my research and study of this book, and I hope that I too can impact people with this research, and my passion in studying it, to spur them on to feel a keener sense of faith and glorify God through whatever may be of value from my studies.

Now, without further adieu, I have attempted to translate parts of the front page. Here are some pictures of the book, as well as a transliteration and an accompanying translation of the front page:

Click to see the full-sized photo

"En liden Bøn, som Eenhver kand læse for sig selv, før han begynder at læse eller høre Prædiken, som paaminder os om vor egen Uduelighed i vor Saligheds Sag: og om Guds store Magt, til at giøre os duelige til alt Godt. O! Allmægtige evige gode Gud, og barmhiergtige Fader, som randsager hierter [hjerter] og Ryrer, ja som den sande aandelige Pottemager og Skabere, veedst, hvad I Mennesket er. Du veedst at vi ikke, som af os selv, ere deulige at tænke noget godt som af os selv. Og derfor, af din store faderlige kierliged mod os arme Folk, haver givet os dit hellige of saliggiørende Ord, at det skal oplyse vore andelige formørkede Øyen og Forstand, at vi ved Loven, de hellige Ti Guds Bud, skulle see og forstaae, os at være Syndere, og skyldige til evig Siæls [sjæls] og Legems Piine. Og af Evangelio, I Troens Artikle, see og sinde Rad og Middel, mod Synden og den evige Død: Som er den egen faderlige urandsagelige kierlighed, som du os I din Søn Jesu Christo beviist haver, hvis Fortienneste [Fortjeneste] og Værdskyld vi os ved Troen, som din gode hellig Aand i os ved Ordet virker, skulle tilegne, og saa ved hannem have Magt at vorde Guds Børn, ja Arvinger til det evige Liv og Salighed. Du og, allerhiertekiereste himmelske Fader, vel veedst, at intet Menneske af egen Forstand, sig til Salighed, enddog hand et læser, eller hører læse, forstaae kand, eftersom dine Domme er en stor Afgrund, og derfor meget mindre, sig eller andre til Salighed, af sig selv der om tale kand, after som ingen af sig selv kand oplade sine Læber, at forkynde din Priis. Og eftersom han er intet, der planter eller vander. Og eftersom Guds Rige bestaaer ikke i Ord, inen I din Aands kraft, bede vi dig, o naadige Gud, som alleene haver den sande Nøgel til Skriftens rette Forstand, som og haver alle Folkes hierter [hjerter] I din goddommelige hand, og kand giøre [gjøre] af den døde Ford et levende Menneske, efter dit bilede, og af Steenhierter kand du giøre [gjøre] kiødhierter [kjødhjerter], ja den som end er død Synden, kand du giøre levende, I din Søn vor Herre Jesu Christo, at du [vilt?] udgyde din hellige og gode Aand over os, som kand krafteligen være… [second page] (…være) tilstede I Ordet, efter din faderlige Forjættelse, til at oplyse vor formørkede Forstand, at den rettelig forstaaer Skriften, og til at give os Mundens frimodelige Opladelse, til at forkynde Evangelii hemmelighed, din Sons Jesu Christi Fortieneste [Fortjeneste] og Værdskyld, og til at igiennembore os Ørene, og at salve vore aandelige Øyne, at de see din gudgommelige [guddommelige] Villie i Ordet, og at de, af de legemlige agte de aandelige os beredte gode Ting, og til at skrive din Lov I vore hierter [hjerter], og foreene dem med dig, at de frygte dit guddommelige Navn, og at fore vore aandelige Fødder, Tanker, Ord og Gierninger, paa Saligheds Veye [veje], paa det vi arme Mennesker maatte rives af Satans Lenker, vort eget fordervelige afvendt sind fra gud, og af hans aandelige Mørkheds Riige, vor Sinds Uforstandighed, saa vi retteligen kiende [kjende] og elske dit guddommelige Ord, for det sande aandelige Ord og Lys, som det og er, og krafteligen finde [sinde?] din hellige gode Aands Virkning og Besegling, paa din kiære [kjære] Søns Fortieneste [Fortjeneste] og Værdskyld, som kand krafteligen styrke os I Jesu Christo, og stadfæste os I all god Tale og gode Gierninger, og ogholde os med sin guddommelige hand, at intet Fald maa styrte os om, I hvor stort det komme kand, paa det, at vi til evig Tid maatte bevares iblant alle gode udvalde Engle, Folk og Tungemaal, din herlige Raade til Lov og Ære, og os dine arme Børn til evig Siæls [Sjæls] og Legems Beprydelse og Glæde. Amen."


Tentative translation into English

 A little prayer, which each can read for one's self, before he begins to read or hear the sermon [message/exhortation], which reminds us of our own incapability in the matter of our Salvation [Saligheds Sag]: and of God's great power to make us capable of all Good.

O!
Almighty, eternal, good God, and merciful Father who searches the heart and minds [lit. kidneys; Jeremiah
17:10], You who, as the true spiritual Potmaker and Creator know what is in man [John 2:25]. You know that we are not, by ourselves, capable of thinking anything good. And therefore, out of your great Fatherly love toward us impoverished people you have given that holy and saving Word, that it should illuminate our spiritually darkened eyes and intellect [our reason], that we, by the law – the holy Ten Commandments of God, should see and understand that we are sinners, and guilty unto eternal torment of soul and body. And from the Gospel, in the [Church’s doctrinal] faith articles, see the wise council and remedy to sin and eternal death: Which shows your own Fatherly, unsearchable love,by which you have established us in your Son Jesus Christ, whose merit and worth we by faith, as your good Holy Spirit works in us through the Word, should acquire, and thus by him have the power to become the children of God. Yes, even heirs of eternal life and salvation. And You (most beloved? Allerhiertekiereste all-heart-dear?) Heavenly Father surely know that no man can of his own understanding (intellect) understand unto salvation, even he that reads or hears read, because Your judgments are a great deep (abyss) (Psalm 36:6), and therefore much less can anyone, for oneself or others, (understand) unto salvation by themselves, that in speech (word) can(?), since no one by themselves can open their lips to proclaim Your praise (Psalm 51:15) , and because he who plants and he who waters is nothing (1 Cor. 3:7).

And because God's kingdom does not consist in words, but in Your Spirit's power, we pray thee, O merciful God - who has all the true keys (Nøgel?) to the correct understanding of Scripture and has all people’s hearts in Your divine hand, and who can make from dead earth a living man, according to Your image, and can from a stony heart make a heart of flesh, yes even the one who is dead in sin, you can make alive in your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ - that You will pour out Your Holy and Good Spirit upon us (Joel 2:28) which may be powerfully […second page…] present in the Word, for your Fatherly promise to enlighten our darkened understanding so that it rightly understands the Scriptures, and to give us boldness to open our mouth, to proclaim the Gospel secret of Your Son Jesus Christ’s merit and worth, and to open [pierce through] our ears, and to anoint our spiritual eyes that they see Your divine will in the Word, and that, of the body heed the spiritually good things prepared for us, and to write your law in our hearts, and unite them with you that they fear Your divine name, and to keep our spiritual food, thoughts, words and deeds on the ways of salvation, on that we poor people had to be snatched from Satan’s chains (bondage), from our own depraved and twisted mind, by God, and from his (Satan’s) spiritual kingdom of darkness and our foolish mind.

So then we rightly know and love Your divine word, the true spiritual Word and Light, which it is, and (find strength?) in your Holy Spirit’s good work and sealing, upon thy dear Son’s merit and worth, that it might greatly strengthen us in Jesus Christ, and uphold us in all good speech and good deeds, and keep us with his divine hand that no fall should overthrow us (no matter) how great it may get (become), in the fact that we forever must (will) be preserved amongst all good chosen (elected?) Angels, people and tongues, your glorious (wonderful) Council of Law and Honor, and ourselves your poor children of eternal soul and body’s adornment (beauty) and joy. Amen.

Here are some more pictures of the book:

 
For even more photos see this page.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 September 2016 13:53
 
Putting Faces with Names: Old & New Testament Scholars PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 January 2012 12:46

 
Putting Faces with Names

Sometimes it is nice to see the faces of the scholars that have such a big impact on biblical studies. Without connecting a face with a name we often tend to keep some abstract image and conception of the scholars in our minds which can sometimes be overblown or distorted, so it's nice sometimes to know that they are "men (and women) who are just like us" (James 5:17). That makes them more relatable and tangible instead of untouchable and aloof.

I have also been delighted to discover that communicating with such famous scholars is not altogether impossible for the common lay person. Even if you never get the chance to communicate with them in person most are quite willing to correspond with you via email, if you can find their email address (most of them are professors at universities - so the university faculty roster will often include their emails on their website). I have actually seen both of the scholars below in person. I was able to interact briefly, via asking a Q&A question on a microphone, with Ben Witherington after listening to an excellent lecture on the oral, inspired text of the Bible that he gave. I also had the privilege of having lunch with James Hoffmeier and learned that he is a down-to-earth, candid, and intelligent guy overall.

Without further ado:

-----------
Name: Ben Witherington III



Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

Publications:

The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible.
2008. Baylor University Press.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
With Darlene Hyatt.

2004. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The Brother of Jesus. The Dramatic Story and Meaning of the First Archaeological Link
to Jesus & His Family. With Hershel Shanks. 2003. Updated and expanded edition. San Francisco: Harper Publishing Company.

See full bibliography here.

Read more about Ben Witherington on his website here.

------------------------------------------------------
Name: James Hoffmeier



James K. Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern Archaeology at Trinity International University, Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Since 1994, Dr. Hoffmeier has directed the North Sinai Archaeological Project that is devoted to researching and studying Egypt’s frontier during the New Kingdom and how this area may relate to the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Publications:

Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (1999)

Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (2005)

The Archaeology of the Bible (2008) - Now I have a signed copy of this book!

Read more about Hoffmeier here and here.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 December 2013 23:07
 
Can perfection and free will coexist in Heaven? PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 March 2013 23:07


Recently I participated in a discussion on whether Heaven will indeed be perfect and without sin, and also what implications this has for free will in Heaven. One person in this discussion wrote:

To summarize: God creates a perfect world, humans choose to sin, and so the world is no longer perfect. Now let's jump to the common viewpoint that heaven is this place where everything is perfect - ultimately that there is no sin, and so no death, disease, etc. Essentially heaven is what we think existed in step one above. Now comes the BIG question that any rational mind should ask...

So how can God ensure heaven will always remain perfect without changing something fundamental from how things here on earth work (or are)? This leads me to think there can't possibly be free choice in heaven given our beliefs above; and if there isn't free choice there can't be love and what would be the point of worship (which apparently is a big thing in heaven)?

The first thing that I noticed here is the assumption that Heaven will be exactly like it was in the Garden of Eden after Creation, and thus the quandry and question then becomes "If heaven is no different than Eden then what assurance do we have of not falling again as Adam and Eve did?". I will return to this in just a moment but lets examine one of the responses to this question in the discussion.

The first response given was this:

The system is consistent if you assert one of the following:

1) There is a very real possibility (even probability) of evil and pain in heaven.
2) There is no free will and therefore no love or relationship in heaven.

I find that I differ with both of the assertions in this answer. Assertion #1 can be dealt with by clearing up the fact that nothing that has ever been on earth (not even Eden) can be compared to Heaven. Note that God called creation "good" but not "perfect". I would also add that Adam and Eve were not actually created "perfect" as we think of the the word. They were created innocent and initially free from sin, but were not perfect.

Assertion #2 on the other hand makes a false assumption that we will be captives of God's will in some sense, such that we will no longer be able to have free will and thus not be able to love God and choose to worship Him. Yet this latter assertion excludes any observation of how Christ is now in Heaven (perfect and yet has free will and loves the Father), which is relevant since we will also be "as He is" when we are with Him. My response in this discussion was as follows (slightly edited):

Concerning possibility #2, consider the following assertions:

A) God is in Heaven.
B) God is impervious to sin, He cannot sin, and cannot be tempted by it.
C) Christ was in the flesh but without sin - as Hebrews says.
D) Jesus has a glorified body in heaven right now which he obtained upon his resurrection.
E) 1 Corinthians 15 says that believers also shall obtain an incorruptible and glorified body upon their resurrection.
F) 1 John 3:2 states "We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is".

My conclusion is that it is entirely possible that in Heaven we may be like Christ, who cannot sin and has never sinned, and have perfect free will to love God and have a relationship with Him, just as the Son has a relationship with the Father now in Heaven.

Now, what I mean by referring to our "incorruptible" glorified body is that we will be incorruptible not simply in just some "material makeup" sense (which clearly is alluded to by Paul, in contrast to our corruptible physical bodies, in 1 Corinthians 15) but also incorruptible in a spiritual and moral sense as well. I believe that our whole BEING will be incorruptible. In a word "we will be as He is" (1 John 3:2): incorruptible like God yet maintaining our free will.

This in part addresses the question about whether Heaven will essentially be like it was in the garden. The answer is emphatically "NO". Read all of 1 Corinthians 15. Part of Paul's main point is to CONTRAST the existing creation with what we shall be like once glorified. Paul regards whatever form that glory will actually look like as "incomparable" to anything seen or even imagined here on earth. So no, things will be much better in heaven than even Adam and Eve ever had it before the Fall!

I believe that this argument takes into account all that God will do in us and yet preserves the volition of our will to love and worship God freely in eternity. And as a technical note it may indeed be rather the New Earth and not "Heaven" proper where we dwell with God after the ressurection, depending on how you understand Revelation. In fact even the Jews when refering to our future eternal state merely addressed that time as "in the resurrection" (Matthew 22:28, 30) rather than saying "in Heaven". In any case I just wanted to share my thoughts on this topic in case it might in some way be helpful to anyone else who may be asking the same questions about Heaven. I hope it provides good food for thought!

 

Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 11:07
 
The Affecting Force of Scriptures PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 10:49


The Scriptures have a powerful way of performing on all of its readers and hearers a spiritual diagnostic that reveals the state of men's hearts and souls. Thus the reactions and approaches of men to Scripture are driven by the state of their soul. Below are some quotations of great Christian men of the past whose astute observations about this truth are quite insightful and to-the-point on this matter. It may also help us to see that when men have occasional issues with accepting the words of the Scriptures (the Bible) that it cannot be something that is solely intellectually borne but is also something spiritually wrought. So we must realize that no one can come to a deeper, or even a 'sagacious' (scholarly), understanding of God's word unless they first plainly listen to Scripture and stop trying to out-maneuver the forcefullness of its message and its working upon the spirit and soul.

The only real argument against the Bible is an unholy life. When a man argues against the Word of God, follow him home, and see if you cannot discover the reason of his enmity to the Word of the Lord. It lies in some form of sin. He, whom God sends, cares nothing at all about human wisdom, so as to fawn upon it and flatter it; for he knows that ‘the world by wisdom knew not God,’ and that human wisdom is only another name for human folly.”
– Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892), Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England

I believe one main cause of objections to the Bible lies in its power over man’s conscience. The Book will speak for God, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. But all critics are not so open as the poor East-end lecturer, who, when asked by one of his hearers, ‘Why is all your criticism turned against the Bible instead of against Shakespeare or Homer? Why don’t you let the Bible alone?’ replied with English outspokenness, ‘Why don’t I let the Bible alone? Because the Bible will not let me alone.’ It ever has been a witness for God, and still will be, while men need a light in a dark place.”
– Andrew J. Jukes (1815-1901), Pastor of St. John’s Church, Hull, England (The Names of God, pgs. 225-226) 

Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself!
– Charles H. Spurgeon

"Many read the Bible the way a mouse tries to remove the cheese from a trap without getting caught."
Søren Kierkegaard

"Either the Bible will keep you away from sin, or sin will keep you away from the Bible."
C. S. Lewis

"St. John Chrysostom says that it is a great blessing from God that some parts of the Scriptures are clear while others are not. By means of the first we acquire faith and ardour and do not fall into disbelief and laziness because of our utter inability to grasp what is said. By means of the second we are roused to enquiry and effort, thus both strengthening our understanding and learning humility from the fact that everything is not intelligible to us."
- Peter of Damascus (The Philokia, Volume 3)

To the observations of Andrew Jukes and Charles Spurgeon (both contemporary English preachers) as well as C.S. Lewis above I would add my own quotation:

Those who do not believe the Bible claim that those who do are ignorant of the supposed ‘facts’ of science and history, to which I reply in turn that those who do not believe the Bible are ignorant of the state of their soul.” - Me

The latter reply, granted, is not exactly a direct answer to the former claim, but it is rather a counteraction of its accusation of 'ignorance' and the impetus from which such claims arise. Jesus in the Gospels on several occasions would answer someone according to what they needed to hear, not exactly according to what they had asked. So first we would be wise, overall, to examine ourselves and see if anything is keeping us from God and from hearing His Word rightly. We should not be trying to snatch only the pleasing parts from God's Word without applying the necessary self-judgment and repentance (snatching the cheese from the mousetrap). Because - God forbid! - conviction of the truth might be a deadly trap to our fleshly ways.

It is repulsive to the worldly-minded that to be a follower of Jesus is to be - blessed paradox that it is - a living martyr (a witness/testimony - Greek marturia). Such a one is someone who signs their death warrant the day they believe in Christ, dying daily to themselves and living through Christ. The Gospel then, as the Word of God which tells us how we should follow Jesus, is a stumbling block for our flesh. Now the analogy of the mouse and the cheese in the mousetrap is not perfect, as to portraying the method in which the Gospel calls to us, but it serves its purpose as pertains to those who approach the Gospel carnally.

Next then, if once we have examined ourselves and still yet find that we have questions about the Scriptures. we would do well to realize that "some parts of the Scriptures are clear while others are not" and some things require additional "enquiry and effort". That additional enquiry to gain understanding cannot be apart however from the illumination of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and especially "humility", because of, indeed it is true, "the fact that everything is not intelligible to us." The one who instead comes to the Bible, apart from God and saving belief, and pontificates theories and hypotheses about the Word of God, balks at the idea that not all things are intelligible about God's truths to their carnal mind, and that such truths are in fact hidden from those who profess to be wise (Romans 1:22). They remain 
confident within their academically clever frameworks of their position, apart from any examination of self or their own receptiveness to what Scriptures say. 

About such people the words of Spurgeon ring true: "that human wisdom is only another name for human folly". Nevertheless, to those who are humble enough to approach the Scripture with no pretense, it is yet still also true that a great portion of Scripture is abundantly clear to all men, such that those who hear may believe and "acquire faith" to "grasp what is said" and thus benefit in their understanding and practice of godliness. This abundant clearness also leaves men without excuse for neglecting to properly respond.

Most of all, we must remember that the Word of God is "living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Yes, doubting man; yes, mature believer; yes, you who are now hearing God's Word: the Word of God can judge your thoughts, desires, intentions, and also subconscious motivations, even penetrating to your very soul and spirit. It will with great effectiveness expose what is therein. For those who have sin in their heart, the Word of God is like salt in a wound and is like the stench of death (1 Corinthians 2:16). To such "sin will keep you away from the Bible". Nonetheless, God's Word will not return void. And His calling and persistent pressing through His Holy Spirit, in order to present the Word of truth to all people, will not "let you alone" or permit you to remain untouched.

Though you may rail against it, the Word of God still stands, as voidless and full of authority as when it went forth from God. However for those who feel that sting of death; and the agitation of the flesh in opposition to God's spiritual ways (for the two are perpetually contrary to one another); and the true "power over man's conscience" that the Scriptures wield; and then repent of that sin and believe in Jesus for salvation from sin and death: to them God's Word is "a light in a dark place" and they come to realize that it "ever has been a witness for God". And yes, to them it is even a "fragrance of life(1 Corinthians 2:16).

Neither God
's Spirit nor His Word will "let you alone" because His Spirit has come to "convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8), and only by receiving the Word in faith can anyone be saved from sin and judgment, hence, "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Do not resist the working of the Word on you, because it can save your soul from eternal death. As the Scripture wisely admonishes, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled" (Hebrews 3:15). Do not approach the Word with your intellect solely because you will ultimately be confounded and frustrated in your efforts to carnally apprehend the spiritual truths of Scripture. That approach can quickly lead some to disgust and tossing out the Scriptures, or even hostile opposition to Scripture and attempting to bring it down to the level that they themselves are at, in order to interpret it according to their own desires and inclinations.

For by God's wisdom and design the wisdom of man cannot attain to true spiritual understanding, and we are to rather realize that "not everything is intelligible to us". Yet in the confines of faith honest inquiry, examination, study, and searching for truth can indeed yield understanding and may even benefit the intellect. However in that case it would benefit one whose intellect and mind is possessed by Christ and is apprised of spiritual things through the Holy Spirit, by which one may know the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

So surely we must hear the Word of God, confront it (for surely it confronts us - even as an unchained lion as Spurgeon says), believe in it, and then also seek to be as the Bereans who examined Scripture carefully to test if the things that they heard were true. And we must never forget to "Test everything, and hold on to the good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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See also: Quotes about the Scriptures

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 April 2014 22:58
 
The Service of the Levites in God's Tabernacle & the Christian PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 25 November 2012 21:16

The Service of the Levites in God's Tabernacle & the Christian

Who says you cannot discover spiritual riches in the "hard to read" books of Leviticus and Numbers? Not I! In Numbers 4 I was reading recently God's instructions to Moses for how the Levites were to serve in the Tabernacle and carefully handle the holy items in the Tabernacle and the Tabernacle itself. After going through a list of families and censuses of those in the tribe of Levi that might make most people yawn and want to read something else, or brew a cup of coffee to endure, we read the real subject and purpose of the text here when it refers to them as "everyone who entered the service for work in the tabernacle of meeting" (4:42, ASV). This phrase "entered the service" today would evoke the imagery of military service, but here we see people not being recruited for national defense or war but rather for an office for one of the most humble but rewarding positions available: of serving God in the maintenance and concerns of the Tabernacle. This literally requires a servant, with a servant's heart, to carry out what may be considered by some to be very menial tasks, which were also described as carrying out "the work of service and the work of bearing burdens" (4:47) in the Tabernacle.

Yet this brings out a marvelous truth in that these simple men, the Levites, were God's chosen ones to serve Him in the highest and most holy of positions in orchestrating the proper worship of God for the entire nation. The needs of so many fell on so few, just as ultimately the needs and debt for the sins of the whole world fell on Jesus the one and only Son of God on our behalf, who was a servant to all! And yet one might be utterly mistaken what such a "high called" servant did and what holiness actually meant in practice: properly handling dishes, and bowls, and pans, and pitchers for pouring water (4:7); handling firepans, and forks, and shovels, and wash basins, and utensils of the altar (4:14); managing oil for the light, the sweet incense, the daily grain offering, and the anointing oil (4:16); and handling cloth, animal skins, and carrying poles for the vessels in the tabernacle, so that they were properly handled and adorned by "covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary" (4:15).

If you served in this holiest of callings you might respond to a question directed to you from an Israelite in the congregation like, "How do you serve in holiness to our God?" by saying something like this: "I handle the bowls and utensils in the Tabernacle of God". Bowls? Utensils? Yes! This service is just like the diversity in service in the body of Christ and while one part may seem more honorable than another being among the most humble of servants in the Body of Christ may in fact mean being among the most necessary, even if one is simply considered one who "serves tables" as a community service to others (Acts 6:2). Paul particularly says, "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor" (1 Corinthians 12:22).


I personally was struck by the simplicity and power of what the tasks of the Levites were in serving in the most holy place that could be found on earth, the Tabernacle of Yahweh. How simple and yet how necessary is the proper care of those things in God's house? So also we should be servants, serving happily and humbly without grumbling and complaining, and see our service to God in spirit and truth as an inward worship to God. Notice one final thing also that is fascinating in how this text from Numbers (that "hard to read book") so beautifully illustrates the spiritual principle of being children of God and how we are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession" (1 Peter 2:9). These all were Levites who were called, and the only ones allowed, to serve. Among all the tribes of Israel only the Levites were allowed to serve God in the Tabernacle. This means one could not simply enter God's presence in service to Him, though the common people could draw near to offer sacrifices, but one had to be born into the right family to gain that opportunity for position as an inheritance.

Similarly now that we have been saved out of the world and adopted into God's spiritual family as his sons and daughters we now have been given a new nature and with it a new inheritance, by which we may truly serve God as "a royal priesthood" and "a holy nation". And that is a privilege not to be taken for granted! God broke down the walls of separation between not only Jew and Gentile but also the wall of sin that separated us from Him. For that purpose He sent Jesus to act as redeemer (one who pays a redemption price) to allow us to come near to God.

Now that we are in God's presence how often do we 'sense' or acknowledge our holy calling? Was your first impression of what it meant to be holy that it meant serving tables or handling bowls and utensils in service to God?? And yet we are told "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23) and "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Always remember that you have a place in the family of God and that you are holy and called to His service (not military, but saintly service) at all times!

And to think I got all this from reading one of those "hard to read books" in the Bible. Dig into the Word and don't make excuses! God will make your understanding fruitful if your heart is right before Him and you are earnestly seeking the truth.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 08:59
 
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