Archives for posts with tag: esv

So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:9–10, ESV)

The Philistines take the occasion of Samuel offering a burnt offering to attack Israel.  Samuel’s correct and faith-filled response was to cry out to the Lord…and the Lord answered him.  The result was the first [and perhaps only] time when the Lord defends his people by thunder.

One can only imagine what kind of thunder this was to send the Philistines retreating in confusion and fear.  It must have been terrifying.

As we saw yesterday, God uses animals to accomplish his sovereign will.  Today we find that he also uses natural events; he harnesses them to bring about his design.  In this case, his plan was to fight for Israel using thunder to defeat the Philistines.  Needless to say, God succeeded.

Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9, ESV) God asks Job this question towards the end of the book of Job.  The answers to these questions are: no, and no. Only God can thunder like God.

We cannot say it enough, God is sovereign over all things and bends everything: animals, nature, time, people, events, to the control of his will.  Everything serves our sovereign God.  Everything.

And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. (1 Sam 6.11-12, ESV)

What strikes me about this story is that the writer of Samuel wants the reader to see what happened and feel what happened and understand what happened in the march of the milk cows.

The Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant and it has been a disaster and the Philistines know it. Whatever city into which the ark is placed, the population begins to experience terrible things. Very soon, they want nothing more than to be rid of the ark. After some hemming and hawing the Philistine leaders decide to send the ark back…if the milk cows will take the ark back of their own accord. Our verses record what happened. The milk cows go back straight down the main highway to Beth-Shemesh turning "neither to the right nor to the left."

The Philistine leaders do not become followers of Yahweh, but they understand that Yahweh would have his ark back, and he got it back.

Here is the faith lesson in these verses. God is sovereign over milk cows. They are nothing but dumb animals, but they must obey God's command just like everything else in this universe, and so they do obey his command and take the ark straight back to Israel, because even dumb animals are servants of Yahweh. He is sovereign over them.

If this is true for milk cows, then it's true for us as well. God is sovereign over our ways and the course of our life (Ps. 139.1-6).

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”” (Ruth 1:16–17, ESV)

Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.  If she travels back to Bethlehem she will in all likelihood not be married; they will live in poverty; they will spend the rest of their days struggling to survive as two widows with no means of support [husband or children].  Ruth fully understands this.  She is willingly entering into [what she thinks is] a life of suffering and deprivation.

In addition Ruth is turning away from her Moabite gods and fully embracing Yahweh, the God of the Israelites.  Is there any better description of this turning in all of the Scriptures than in Ruth’s simple words: Your God [shall be] my God? 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary comments here:

She chose life with Naomi over her family, her national identity, and her religious idolatry. In one of the most beautiful expressions of commitment in all the world’s literature she laced her future to that of Naomi. She confessed allegiance to the people of Israel (your people) and to the God of Israel (your God). Here was a stirring example of a complete break with the past. Like Abraham, Ruth decided to leave her ancestors’ idolatrous land to go to the land of promise. And Ruth did it without the encouragement of a promise. In fact she made her decision despite Naomi’s strenuous encouragement to do otherwise.

Ruth is an amazing woman and we haven’t yet learned how amazing since we’re only at the end of chapter one.  What looks like a choice of self-destruction into a life of deprivation…well, we shall see what God makes of it.

“The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea.
As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on,
it comes from the wilderness,
from a terrible land.”;esv

While this is an enigmatic start to an oracle, we assume from vs. 9 that it is against Babylon.  However, who the oracle is against is not so important for my purposes.  As I’ve read through Isaiah 13-21, I’ve been wondering, what is the purpose of all this?  Why does the Lord take pains to put all of these oracles against foreign nations into the book of Isaiah? The passage kind of drags along and is frankly difficult to read through because it seems so far removed both from our main focus, Israel, and obviously from our own 21st century culture.  Why does God spend so much time on this?

I’m wondering if God doesn’t include these oracles so that we understand that he is God of all the nations, whether or not those nations acknowledge it.  Babylon is under his authority and power; Edom is under his authority and power; Egypt, Ethiopia, and Syria are all under his power and he controls their destiny and prophecies their future.  If this is true, and it is, then God is God of the United States, and of Europe, and of Asia, and of Africa, and of Australia, and of South America, and of every nation, landmass, and ocean drop on the earth.

I have not a shred of doubt that none of the nations mentioned in Isaiah 13-21 and following cared in the least what the prophet of Israel’s God said about them. They should have because, unbeknownst to them, he created the earth and everything in it and all of it is under his sovereign power and authority.

Leave it to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and no worshipper of Yahweh, to put this truth the best:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4.34-35)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11, ESV)

The context of this verse is that God is forbidding the Israelites from eating the blood of animals.  One reason for this prohibition was that blood was used to make atonement for their lives. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says here:

(God has chosen sacrificial blood as the ransom price for a person’s life, so the life of a substitute is given up in death); therefore to refrain from eating blood is to show respect for its sacredness as a vehicle of atonement.

The Hebrew word that the ESV translates to make atonement is one of the most theologically important words in the Old Testament.  It signified something (animal blood) in place of something else (man’s own blood) for the forgiveness of sins.  The passage is clear here: it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

The point of all of this becomes strikingly clear in Christ Jesus and the writers of the New Testament, being Hebrew (except for Luke) and very familiar with Hebrew theology understood this well. Paul writes:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:7, ESV)

Without the rich symbolism of the blood of animals making atonement in Leviticus, this statement would make no sense at all.  No longer do we need animal blood to make atonement for our sins [which are many].  Our sins were paid once for all through Christ’s atoning death at the cross.  Or as the hymn writer put it:

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains:
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save:

Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” (Proverbs 19:16, ESV)

The emphasis here is on keeping the commandment(s) [of God]. If we keep God’s commandments, then we will keep our life.  The contrast is a little unexpected, we expect Solomon to write: he who despises the commandments will die. Indeed the New Living Translation implies exactly that, even though the text doesn’t say it:

Keep the commandments and keep your life; despising them leads to death.” (Proverbs 19:16, NLT)

The Hebrew word translated “ways” can mean “a path worn by constant walking.”  Understanding this really opens up Solomon’s saying for us.  The contrast to keeping God’s commandment is despising the path which leads in the correct direction.  We could put this in modern terms by saying we “do our own thing.” It naturally follows that keeping God’s commandment is the very thing that keeps us on the well worn path towards life.

The commandments of God are not burdens, they guard us on our way and ensure that we get to the destination that we desire all along: life in God.  The word that the ESV translates “keep” implies this very thing because it can also be translated “to guard.”  The Emphasized Bible translates this verse:

One who guardeth the commandment guardeth his life, He that is reckless in his ways shall die.” (Proverbs 19:16, EMPH)

We don’t obey God’s commandments in order to ensure his favor, we obey them to guard our lives from starting down a path that leads inevitably to death and separation from God.

Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God. (Exodus 23:14–17, ESV)

As I read this passage this morning I began to wonder, why did God want all the males of Israel to appear before him three times a year?  Why appear at all and if they did need to appear before the Lord, why three times?  Would one have done just as well?  What is wrong with two?  What is the purpose for appearing “before the Lord God?”

We actually get a hint at the answer in the verse which precedes these:

“Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” (Exodus 23:13, ESV)

This verse is sandwiched between God’s instructions concerning the Sabbath, both a weekly Sabbath where the people and their animals were supposed to rest, and a seven year Sabbath in which the land was supposed to rest.

The biblical writers often wrote in patterns in which the most important thing that they say is in the middle of the passage.  Here we have instructions concerning the Sabbath, followed by vs. 13, followed by instructions concerning the three times all the males were to appear before God each year.  We can see then, that Moses was emphasizing verse 13, this is the point that he really does not want the Israelites to miss:  [if we may paraphrase] “In all of your comings and goings as you live out your lives in the land that I promised you, do not even mention the names of other gods!”  This is a reiteration of the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me.

It’s verse 13 that helps us understand why God wanted the males of Israel to appear before him at all.  Remember that at this time there were no [or very few] written Scriptures at all and so faith in the Lord was passed on by teaching and word of mouth.  A man could not get up and pull a scroll from its place and read the book of Genesis.  In such a situation, it became all the more important to remind the people that they were God’s people and to remind them of God’s care and provision for them.  Thus the Israelite males were to appear before God to celebrate three feasts during the year: A feast which was in memory of what God had done at bringing them out of Egypt; a feast in which the first fruits of the coming year were celebrated; and a feast at the end of the year when all crops had been gathered in.  All of these feasts would remind Israel who was responsible for them and who gave them crops and the blessings of life.

Why three and not two or four?   We do not know; perhaps it was enough to continuously call the people back to remembrance of the Lord and not so much that it became a burden to perform.

What is the point of this passage for we who sit so far away from it both temporally and culturally?  Don’t. Forget. The Lord!  In our coming and going and in the business of life it is necessary for we forgetful humans to go back again and again into communion with the Lord so that we do not fall into idolatry which we are certainly prone to do.  Fortunately for us we have both the written Word of God and the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us.