Michael Boling – Jesus Upholding the Authority of Scripture (Matthew 5:17-20)

SermonOnTheMount

Matthew 5:17-20 – Complete Jewish Bible, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The Torah/Law is a much maligned and misunderstood term. Some teach the law was nailed to the cross. Many others are confused as to what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:17-20 as they have been taught for some time to distance themselves from the law. Are either approaches just mentioned in keeping with what Jesus is saying to us in Matthew 5:17-20?

The first item of note is the declaration by Jesus that He did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. In most translations this is stated as the “Law and the Prophets”, which is often the source of confusion. Given the popular teaching that we have been saved from the law or that the law is a burden and source of death to those who dare to follow it, it is no wonder Matthew 5:17-20 can be so confusing for some. The phrase “Torah (Law) and the Prophets” is a reference to the Old Testament. Jesus starts off by noting He did not come to do away with the front half of the Bible, meaning His arrival on the scene was not meant to overthrow or subvert the Old Testament.

Jesus continues explaining that He came to complete the Law and the Prophets. The word translated as fulfill is the Greek verb plēroō which has a variety of meanings depending on context. The appropriate meaning to be applied to Matthew 5:17 is that of “to fulfill, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment”. Jesus is the focus of the promise of redemption found throughout Scripture. As the promised Messiah, He is the locus of the movement of redemptive history. He came to do what we could not, namely to perfectly obey God’s commands and to serve as the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin.

A lot of ink gets spilled regarding the idea of complete. Some suggest this word means that all of the Old Testament Law becomes irrelevant as the cross ushered in a new era of grace. Such a position is difficult to support given that Jesus also notes in Matthew 5:18 something of great importance – “until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened.” Two important markers are noted by Jesus here with the first being heaven and earth passing away and the second that of everything happening that must happen. Last time I checked, the current heaven and earth has not yet passed away to be replaced with the redeemed creation promised to us.

The second marker refers to everything happening that must happen. Some believe this statement refers to the Cross given the idea that the Law was done away with there. In order to understand what Jesus is saying here, we need to look at how the rest of Scripture explains this point. The Apostle Paul in Romans 3:31 explains, “Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Scripture often makes the comparison between the wicked and the righteous with the wicked being those who pursue lawlessness and the righteous as those who embrace God’s commands. By definition, being without law is lawlessness. Since lawlessness is a hallmark of the wicked, as God’s people, we should be the one’s who love God’s Law and seek to abide by the teaching of Scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was so specific about the continued need for God’s commands in the life of the believer that He stated not a single yud (jot) or a stroke (tittle) will pass from the Torah until everything that must happen has happened. Martyn Lloyd-Jones aptly comments, “There is nothing smaller than these, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the smallest point in the smallest letter.”[1] This means not a single element of the Law and the Prophets will pass away until all is fulfilled, until we reach that point in salvation history when sin and death are dealt that eternal blow and we once again return to that which was lost in the beginning, eternity in the presence of God.

As we move along further in this passage, Jesus further defines the purpose of God’s law. He declares that whoever disobeys even the least of these mitzvot (God’s commands and precepts) and those who teach others to disobey will be called least in the Kingdom of God. Does this mean we are to obey every single one of the 613 commandments found in the Mosaic Law? Some look at this passage and make such an assumption resulting in the incorrect interpretation that somehow the Law must have been nailed to the cross. The truth of the matter is not all 613 commandments were for everyone. Many of these laws were related specifically to matters of the priesthood, some were for women, with many others geared directly for matters of that day and time. One reason Matthew 5:17-20 is misunderstood is because often times we fail to understand the broader storyline of Scripture and isolate this passage from the rest of the Scriptures.

Jesus notes the Law and the Prophets will not pass away, not even the smallest letter or word separation until everything has happened that must happen. We also know that apart from the Law there is nothing but lawlessness. So what is Jesus saying here in Matthew 5:17-20? He is noting the authority of God’s Word from beginning to end. Lloyd-Jones once again sheds salient light on this issue, noting:

“But above all, here is this pronouncement by the Son of God himself, in which he says that he has not come to supersede the Old Testament, the law and the prophets…He regarded it all as the Word of God and finally authoritative. And you and I, if we are to be true followers of Him and believers in Him, are to do the same. The moment you begin to question the authority of the Old Testament, you are of necessity questioning the authority of the Son of God himself, and you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty.”[2]

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day often added to the Word of God (the Law and the Prophets), elevating the traditions of man to a place of authority, furthermore, teaching those traditions as authoritative to the people. Thus their righteousness was based not on obedience to the commands of God, but an incorrect mixture of man-made tradition and God’s Word. It is no wonder Jesus chastised them for teaching something other than the Law and the Prophets.

The lesson that can be gleaned from Matthew 5:17-20 is that all of God’s Word remains valid as the source of authority. As Christians, we would do well to abide by His commands. Moreover, God’s Law is something to embrace as it defines for His people what it means to love God and to others. We continue to live in a sinful world. In order to understand what sin is all about and what living righteously means, we have to continually refer to the pages of Scripture as the gold standard. As noted by A. W. Pink, “Christ’s setting his seal upon the inviolable authority of the Law intimates its perfections: every part of it is needed by us, every sentence evidences its Divine authorship, every precept calls for our loving obedience.”[3]

References:
[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans, 1976), 162.
[2] Ibid., 164.
[3] A. W. Pink, Sermon on the Mount (Lafeyette: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 54.

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Michael Boling – Seeking the Face (Paniym) of God

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A recurring concept and for that matter a declaration found throughout Scripture is that of seeking after God and entering His presence. One vital element of what seeking God and entering His presence that I firmly believe many often overlook is what the Hebrew word paniym means and how it relates to what seeking God and being in His presence is all about. Before we do any analysis of paniym, let’s first take a look at various passages in the Old Testament that use this term in relation to seeking God or being in His presence.

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: (Genesis 19:27)

And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. (Exodus 16:9)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. (Psalm 5:8)

He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it. (Psalm 10:11)

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)

And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:17)

For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. (Jeremiah 21:10)

Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. (Micah 3:4)

The above passages represent a small sample of how paniym is used in the Old Testament as this word is used over 2100 times. So let’s define exactly what this word means when it comes to seeking the Lord and being in His presence, or for that matter, what it means for God to set His face for or against someone.

Strong’s Concordance defines the semantic range of paniym as being:

face, faces; presence, person; face (of seraphim or cherubim); face (of animals); face, surface (of ground); as adv of loc/temp; before and behind, toward, in front of, forward, formerly, from beforetime, before; in front of, before, to the front of, in the presence of, in the face of, at the face or front of, from the presence of, from before, from before the face of.

For the purposes of this study, we will be focusing on the definitions of face, presence, toward, in front of, in the presence of, in the face of, and from before.

One aspect of paniym that should be noted first is the root word from which it comes from, the Hebrew word panah. This particular word is a verb that literally means to turn toward or from or away. Right away we begin to see that paniym involves the active turning of God or humanity to or from the presence of each other. Ultimately, paniym is the active movement either toward or away from something or someone.

Keri Kent, in her book Deeper Into the Word: Old Testament: Reflections on 100 Words from the Old Testament, notes “In English, a shining face usually is an idiom for someone who is smiling or happy. In Hebrew, his expression means showing favor.”[1] Kent also notes how paniym is used in relation to the Table of Showbread that was in the Temple, commenting “this bread called the Bread of the Presence or in some versions of the Bible, the showbread, is in Hebrew lechem paniym or literally the bread of the face.”[2] Willem VanGemeren states that paniym or to seek the face of the Lord “was an expression of devotion, often attended by sacrifices or acts of loyalty.”[3]

With these definitions in place, we can begin to notice that paniym involves an active motion that is to be focused on God. When the creation is properly focused on God, the result is God’s favor being poured out on creation. Conversely, when the creation rejects God and turns their face and actions away from God, His favor is also turned away from the creation. Let’s look at some examples from the scriptures provided above as to how this process works to include the proper posture for the believer.

1. Creation turning to God with God’s favor bestowed on the creation:

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

In this passage, the Psalmist declares for the reader where fullness of joy can be found. It is important to notice that complete joy, the shalom that we seek as believers is found only in the paniym or the presence of the Lord. There is no other location whereby true joy can be obtained. It cannot be obtained in the fleeting things of this world for Jesus noted these things will be destroyed by moth and rust. Lasting joy is found only in the presence of God. Derek Kidner aptly notes “The joy and pleasures are presented as wholly satisfying (this is the force of fullness, from the same root as satisfied in 17:15) and endlessly varied, for they are found in both what He is and what He gives – joys of His face (the meaning of presence) and of His right hand.”[4]

Those who earnestly seek the face of God will be rewarded with the only thing of true lasting value, the fullness of joy that comes from seeking God knowing that the reward of seeking God is not just the gift of joy, but rather the pleasure and satisfaction of being in the paniym of God.

2. Creation turning away from God with God turning His paniym away from creation:

Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. (Micah 3:4)

Turning to the Minor Prophets, admittedly a book most of us scan over if we read it at all, we see an example of God hiding His paniym from His people. To have God’s face turned away from you meant that His blessings would cease. This was in accordance with the covenant God made with His people, the system if you will of blessings for obedience and faithfulness as well as cursing with these curses impacting both prosperity and blessing in a physical sense and more importantly, their relationship with God. The prophet Micah in this passage was declaring that since Israel had rejected God, His face would be turned from them. Notice also that even though the people would cry out to God, He would not hear Him for His paniym was turned away. Since their cries were merely due to their suffering resulting from their sinful behavior rather than crying out from a posture of repentance, God turned His paniym from them. As noted by scholar F. F. Bruce notes in regards to Micah 3:4, “Those who persistently have done evil must inevitably face the consequence of irrevocable alienation from God.”[5]

3. Proper posture for the believer:

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)

It is important to notice the flow of statements in this passage. It begins with the acknowledgement that God had made a command to His people to “seek His paniym.” Before moving on to the remainder of this passage, let’s first examine why God would make such a command. Is God somehow lonely or somehow needs His creation in order to be complete? The response to that question would be no. This begs the question as to why God created us. While that answer is to a large degree wrapped up in the grand mystery of an eternal God, Scripture does provide some answers. God desires relationship with His creation. It is not due to some lack in God’s character or attributes. This desire is derived from His great love for His creation. We see this played out in passages such as John 15:12 where Jesus declared “This is My commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

Rooted in the command to love one another is the reality that we do so because God loved us. Moreover, notice that in the beginning God communed or tabernacle with Adam and Eve. Sin marred that intimate relationship resulting in the need for redemption through the Messiah. That intimate relationship between the Creator and His creation, specifically those who are His bride, will one day be restored. All along the timeline of history, we see God acting within history to draw His people to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for the purpose relationship, eternal fellowship with God their Creator and the restoration of His creation being in His paniyn, His presence.

Now that we have established where the command to seek His paniym derives from and why it is important, we can then move to the final part of Psalm 27:8. In recognition of God’s command, the Psalmist declares quite simply yet profoundly, “my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” So was it that pounding muscle within his chest that said to the Psalmist, “seek His face”? The Hebrew word used for heart in this passage is leb which literally means the seat of your appetites, the seat of your emotions and passions. So the Psalmist is declaring that everything he is knows the importance of obeying God’s command to seek His face and in acknowledgement of that command, everything within him is focused on being obedient to that command.

Notice also what the Psalmist declares He will seek. Does he state he wants God’s blessings? Does he state he seeks God for something in return? The reason the Psalmist seeks God is simply because God declared the Psalmist was to seek God. It is a very simple command and obedience construct. Furthermore, what the Psalmist seeks is God’s paniym. Why does he seek God’s paniym? Remember back to our discussion of Psalm 16:11. It is in the paniym of God where fullness of joy can be found.

Artur Weiser notes concerning Psalm 27:8, specifically the Psalmist’s response to God’s command, “The poet certainly discerns God’s command in this word of God and is willing to act in obedience to it; but even more distinctly he can perceive the promise it contains, the invitation of the divine love as well as God’s readiness to be gracious to him, as he offers of his own free will to restore the relationship which had been broken through human guilt.”[6]

The seeking of God’s face should be a hallmark of those who are called to be His bride. This perhaps begs the question of how we should seek God’s face. Two important elements are the daily washing of our hearts and minds in the word of God through consistent purposeful Bible study and through a consistent posture of bowing before God in prayer. Seeking God’s face through His word and through prayer will result in a proper relationship with God, a proper perspective towards life, and the movement of the believer from being pĕthiy (foolish, simple, naïve) to being tamiym (mature, complete). It is only by going to that which is tamiym, namely the word of God that is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path that we also can be a bride that can overcome, endure, and run the race that is set before us.

The question lies before us each and every day. Will we do as the Psalmist did and act in obedience to God’s call for His people to seek His paniym? Is that the desire of your heart or is your treasure found somewhere other than where true shalom and fullness of joy is derived? May we strive as His bride to be a people who constantly seek His paniym. In doing so, we will be acting in obedience to God’s command and we will find ourselves rooted on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake with the result of God’s paniym being turned toward us as we turn our paniym towards Him. May we always have that proper posture in all we do for truly in the paniym of God is where life can be found.

References:

[1] Keri Kent, Deeper Into the Word: Old Testament: Reflections on 100 Words from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Willem VanGemeren. “Commentary on Psalms” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms through Song of Songs. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 247.

[4] Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1973), 103.

[5] F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 931.

[6] Artur Weiser, The Old Testament Library: The Psalms (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962), 252.

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Michael Boling – Exposition of John 11:35: Jesus Wept

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“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

As the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 is likely one that most, if not all Christians have memorized. Be honest now. When you were a child in Sunday School or VBS and you were asked to select just one verse in all of the Bible to memorize for a prize, this is probably the verse you selected. Beyond its brevity, I believe these two simple words express a profound truth, a veritable treasure trove of simplistic profundity if you will. In this post, I would like to explore what John 11:35 says about Jesus and his mission and why there is more to this passage than just Jesus feeling sad over the death of a friend.

First, let’s look at what the word “wept” means in this passage. It is the Greek verb dakryō which simply means “to weep or shed tears”. Interestingly, John 11:35 is the only time this particular verb is used in the New Testament. However, the word from which dakryō is derived, namely the Greek noun dakryon or tear(s) is found ten times in the New Testament. William Mounce, in his Reverse-Interlinear New Testament translates John 11:35 as “Jesus burst into tears.”[1]

With that as a foundation, we need to then examine the context of John 11:35 to take note of why Jesus burst forth into tears and along the way, we will also compare the response of Jesus to the emotional response from the other individuals in this event, namely Mary and Martha, the sisters of the deceased Lazarus.

Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha and friend of Jesus had died. Jesus had been made aware that Lazarus was sick and closing in on death with the hope He would come and heal Lazarus. However, Jesus tarried, refraining from immediately journeying from Jerusalem to Bethany to attend to His sick friend. We know from other miracles Jesus performed that He did not have to physically touch an individual in order to heal them. One simple word could result in anyone at any location on earth being healed by Jesus. Yet Jesus chose to not do anything at that time which begs the question as to why, especially since Lazarus was such a close friend. Jesus notes his reasoning in John 11:14-15, declaring “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

At first glance, this seems to be a rather nonchalant approach to a sad situation. Lazarus, friend of Jesus had died. Those who heard the words of Jesus recorded in John 11:14-15 must have been taken aback given the fact that not only did Jesus decide not to journey to Bethany to heal Lazarus or to at least comfort him as he lay dying, but upon the death of Lazarus, Jesus simply states that Lazarus is dead and He is glad that happened for their sakes. That is quite a statement to make and it surely left many scratching their heads as to what the overall intention and motive of Jesus was all about.

Next, we find Jesus embarking on the two day journey from Jerusalem to Bethany. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Martha, upon hearing of Jesus’ arrival, went out to meet Him, but Mary her sister stayed in the house. We find Martha declaring that if only Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died with Jesus providing a bit of a clue as to what His plans were in His statement “Lazarus will rise again.” Martha, seemingly clueless as to what Jesus was ultimately intending to do, responds with recognition that she did believe that in the resurrection, Lazarus would live again. Jesus responded to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live”, a pivotal verse for understanding what John 11:35 is really all about and something we will return to a bit later.

After observing Mary and those who were mourning the death of Lazarus weeping, we are told in verse 33, “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” Before we see how everything we have discussed thus far ties into John 11:35, we need to first look at the different word used for weeping in reference to Mary and the Jews who were there at the time. John uses the Greek verb klaiō which means “to mourn, weep, lament; of those who mourn for the dead.” This word is used 41 times in the New Testament, typically in conjunction with someone mourning for the dead as demonstrated in John 11 or those mourning over an event or a difficult situation.

We next need to examine two other important words which speak further to how Jesus felt about the death of Lazarus, that of “groaned” and “troubled” used in John 11:33. The word translated as “groaned” is the Greek verb embrimaomai which means “to charge with earnest admonition, sternly to charge, threatened to enjoin.” “Troubled” is the Greek verb tarassō which is defined as “to affect with great pain and sorrow.” So what we have is Jesus earnestly impacted with great pain and sorrow at the death of Lazarus. This means that Jesus was not devoid of passion and love for others as He took on human flesh. Jesus was saddened greatly by the physical death of Lazarus. In fact, this is why Jesus burst out in tears. Unfortunately, many tend to stop there simply believing the only reason Jesus was moved to tears was because He was saddened at the death of His friend. In reality, there is far more to the story.

As we dig a bit deeper, what needs to be noticed in the overall flow of this passage is the perspective taken by the different players in this drama. Mary, Martha, and those surrounding them mourned the fact that Lazarus had died. Even though Martha expressed a belief in the resurrection from the dead, her focus was on the immediate loss of her brother with little focus on what Jesus had declared in verse 25. Now we must not be too hard on Martha because many at that time were not aware of the mission Jesus would soon accomplish or what He was alluding to in verse 25, something we will now discuss as we move towards examining why Jesus wept in John 11:35.

We ask again why would Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? Was it just because He was saddened at the loss of a friend or was there a greater issue this entire event speaks to that must be examined? As we noted earlier in this post, a key verse to understanding what is taking place and why Jesus did not immediately heal Lazarus is found in John 11:25 where he declared “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” What a profound statement and one that speaks to the very reason Jesus came, namely to deal with the issue of sin and death. Jesus is the one promised way back in Genesis 3:15, the One who would bruise the head of the enemy. Why did God make that prophecy at that time? It demonstrated why there was a need for a Redeemer. Since the wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual death that impacts our relationship as the creation with our Creator, a Redeemer was needed to fix this problem. The reason why God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the fruit, dying they would die is because physical death would now be a process of life. Additionally, our spiritual relationship with God was impacted due to sin which again required a Redeemer to come to provide a solution to both issues.

The entire movement of Scripture points to Jesus, the Redeemer. At this point in the gospel account, Jesus was slowly but surely making His way to the cross, the truly pivotal point in all of history. Jesus could have either healed Lazarus when He was notified that Lazarus was sick or Jesus could have raised Lazarus from the dead without mentioning the fact that He is THE resurrection and the life. For Jesus, raising Lazarus was not really the point of the exercise. The point of raising Lazarus from the dead was to have the opportunity to relay the fact that physical death is a part of life due to sin. While Jesus raised Lazarus back to life, Lazarus would yet again succumb to the wages of sin which is death. The good news that is found throughout Scripture is that of redemption through the cross. Jesus notes that gospel message in his statement “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Death has no sting in the grand scheme of things for those who believe in the Redeemer because Jesus conquered death and the grave. As believers, we have the promise of the resurrection from the dead.

So why did Jesus weep? This still remains a bit of an unanswered question in our journey through John 11. We have already noted that Jesus demonstrated His compassion for Mary and Martha and the loss of their brother. This shows at least that Jesus was not some emotionless person who was not moved with compassion while He walked the earth. But why did Jesus weep? Was it just a feeling of sorrow at the death of a loved one? I think the Pulpit Commentary’s statement on this passage says it best:

“Jesus wept. The shortest verse, but one of the most suggestive in the entire Scripture. The great wrath against death is subdued now into tears of love, of sympathy, and of deep emotion. Jesus shed tears of sympathetic sorrow. This is in sacred and eternal refutation of the theory which deprives the incarnate Logos of St. John of human heart and spirit. These tears have been for all the ages a grand testimony to the fullness of his humanity, and also a Diving revelation of the very heart of God (see Isaiah 25:8).”[2]

For those not familiar with Isaiah 25:8, that passage states “He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.” We know that is the very thing that will ultimately take place when Christ returns. At the cross, the penalty of death was paid on our behalf and at the resurrection of Christ, the first fruits down payment, the promise of our future resurrection from the dead and eternal life was demonstrated. So John 11:35 really speaks to the very heart of who God is and what His plan has been from before the foundation of the world to deal with this sin and death problem. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word wept with those who weep. The Word died on a cross in order to reconcile sinful man and a holy God. The Word of God points to the Word who brings life and who conquered the grave so that we might live. The Word wept when Lazarus died because He knows the impact sin has on our relationship with Him. John 11:35, although the shortest verse in all of Scripture, speaks a truly profound message. God loves us so much that He gave His one and only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus wept. Who knew so much could be packed into such a small verse!

References:
[1] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11&version=MOUNCE
[2] http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/john/11.htm

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Michael Boling – Parenting 101: Dealing with Lying Lips

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices. (Col. 3:9)

YHWH detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (Prov. 12:22)

In the interest of transparency, I want to begin by stating as a child, I had a tendency to lie. Usually it was a string of lies sometimes carefully and at other times haphazardly thrown together in an effort to avoid trouble. Typically, the repercussions of those lies being found out was far worse than if I had simply told the truth at the outset. One thing was certain – the truth, regardless of how well my plan of deceit had been through out, was found out.

The temptation to lie, especially to share the incorrectly described “little white lie” is one I submit we all face. While we may have matured from our childhood days of lying about who broke the lamp in the living room, the urge to stretch truth resulting in falsehood remains a challenge for us all.

As a parent, the battle against lying lips has from time to time taken place in our home. We have a teenage daughter. With that time of life comes the temptation to lie, to go behind the back of those in authority, the desire to do what one wants, and the impulse to lie in order to cover up the tracks of the deception.

A recent occurrence of this deception resulted in a prime teaching moment for our daughter. I will not go into the details of what took place; however, let’s just say it involved the use of technology, the agreement that certain elements of technology would not be installed, the installation of said technology despite the established rules, and finally, the discovery of the deception and unraveling of the web of lies.

I remember what it was like as a child. The rules set down by parents seem like such a killjoy. What is the big deal with doing what they told me not to do, especially if it is just for a quick second? Nobody will be harmed by my actions in this one instance, right? Unfortunately, this line of thinking does not recognize the fact established in Scripture, namely that YHWH detests lying lips (Prov. 12:22) and lying is a work of the flesh, something we should be casting off and mortifying (Col. 3:9).

At its core, lying and deception is the oldest trick in the enemy’s playbook. Deception was part and parcel of what took place in the Garden of Eden. Did YHWH really say? Can’t I just divert off the path of righteousness just a couple of steps? It won’t harm anyone will it?

One could suggest the wrongdoing by our daughter in the grand scheme of harmful activities arguably does not rise to the level of being that monstrous. I would respond to such a suggestion that since YHWH detest lying lips, falsehood exists near or right at the top of that which we should also detest. While all sin should be abhorred, lying lips are repeatedly noted as an abomination to YHWH. Lying is like a giant snowball. It begins with a seemingly innocuous fib but ultimately keeps rolling into a giant landslide of destruction. In the case of our daughter, her actions of falsehood were akin to tossing a log onto an already burning fire.

We shared with our daughter how great a fire a lie can set ablaze. The second and third order consequences of lying are what is often forgotten when deception is embarked upon. Lying breaks the sacred bond of trust, something that takes a great deal of time to rebuild once destroyed. What we often think is no big deal and harmless is in reality rebellion against authority, in this case parental authority, and ultimately, it is rebellion against YHWH.

For parents out there who are also dealing with this issue in their home, be sure you set the example to your children by embracing a policy of honesty. Even those supposed “little white lies” should not be tolerated. Instruct your children in the importance of truth and the harm that occurs by deception. As the people of YHWH, we are to always tell the truth. YHWH detest lying lips and we should as well. Helping our children understand the importance of truth at the earliest age possible and addressing the urge and practice of lying with the power of Scripture is vital.

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Michael Boling – Don’t Drive By Those Biblical Towns

Arguably, there are three areas of Scripture that receive the biggest “skim-treatment” by believers. These areas are 1) genealogies, 2) anything from the last half of Exodus through Deuteronomy, and 3) the lists of towns annotated in the last few chapters of Joshua.

I have written in the past about why genealogies are important and I have also encouraged people to not skip the last half of Exodus through Deuteronomy. Today I would like to note why we should also avoid the temptation to skip over lists of towns and territories in order to move on to what we often believe to be the more important elements of the biblical text.

So why would a list of towns and territories provided to the tribes of Israel be of any importance? The basic premise behind why such an element is important is rooted in the fact that all things in Scripture are provided for a reason. There is no filler in Scripture. YHVH was not looking for something else to say to fill up a few more pages.

When we examine for instance Joshua 14-21, we are provided with the portion allotments to the tribes of Israel. Essentially, it is a list of towns and boundary markers for the portions of the land given by YHWH to each tribe. There are some towns that should bear some familiarity to the reader such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Others are admittedly quite a mouthful to try and pronounce, for instance Shahazim and Aznoth-tabor.
Unless one looks in the front or back of their study bible to find the map section or unless they Google these towns and boundary markers, this information is often treated as meaningless in the grand scope of the biblical narrative.

For anyone tempted to skim over this type of information, I want to draw your attention to two reasons to strongly avoid such a temptation.

1. This information speaks to future events in the biblical narrative regarding the history of Israel.

In Joshua 16:10 we are told, “But they did not drive out the Canaanites that were living in Gezer, so the Canaanites continued to live in the midst of Ephraim to this day, and became forced laborers.” Fast forward to the historical and prophetic books of the OT and you will quickly see the continued struggles Israel had with the Canaanites, Philistines, and others peoples who were not fully driven out during the initial period of the conquest of the Promised Land.

2. The division of the Promised Land among the tribes speaks to YHVH’s faithfulness to His promises.

We see in Joshua 21:43-45, the following statement:

“So YHVH gave to Israel the entire land that He had sworn to give to their fathers. They took possession and settled in it. Then YHVH gave them rest on all sides, just as He had sworn to their fathers. Not one man of all their enemies withstood them, for YHVH gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one good thing that YHVH had promised to the house of Israel failed. All came to pass.”

The eight seemingly boring and unimportant chapters in the latter half of Joshua reveal much more than the various tribes got some towns in which to live. These chapters outline YHVH’s faithfulness to His people. “Not one good thing that YHVH had promised to the house of Israel failed. All came to pass.” What an amazing statement.

If you are ever tempted to race over Joshua 14-21 or any other portions of Scripture with lists of towns, people, or events, don’t pass up these nuggets of Scripture. If you take the time to mine them, you will discover a bounty of valuable insight into the overall biblical narrative.

“All Scripture is inspired by YHWH and useful for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, and for training in righteousness, so that the person belonging to YHWH may be capable, fully equipped for every good deed.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

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Michael Boling – Rejoice in the Lord Always: Dealing with Anxiety

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Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

I remember back in school study feverishly for a math test. After nights of studying and despite having at least a slight bit of confidence that I knew the material and was thus read for the exam, nevertheless, that wave of test anxiety seemed more often than not to come crashing down upon me. As a result, my brain seemed to empty itself of all that I had crammed into it.

Who hasn’t had a case of the anxieties at some point in their life? I would submit we all fall prey to this pernicious enemy more than we realize. We may try to frame our anxiety as nothing more than being excited or nervous, but the reality is we are still all knotted up inside about something in the future, something seemingly beyond our control or ability to fully know the outcome of what will transpire.

Is being anxious about something always wrong given that Philippians 4:6 clearly calls believers to not be anxious for anything? Furthermore, how do we differentiate between excitement and anxiety? How do we tackle the urge to live in fear of the future or things we feel are out of our control? The answer to these questions I believe can be found in the Apostle Paul’s salient words to us in Philippians 4:4-7. In these four verses we can find the answers to dealing with anxiety, fear, and worry.

Ed Welch, in his excellent book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest notes that the topic of fear is mentioned over three hundred times in Scripture with God repeatedly commanding His people “Do not fear.” This means that anxiety is nothing new for the human race. The people of Israel quite often had much to fear. Think about what it must have been like to have been set free from bondage in Egypt only to be taken to an entirely new land. Notice how quickly the Israelites forgot about the miraculous things God had done for them in delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians. God had turned a river into blood, placed the land under complete darkness, and had split the waters for the people to cross through just to name a few of the miracles He performed on their behalf. Why then were they anxious? It was the fear of the unknown, the proclivity of humanity to forget the God they serve is the almighty Creator of the universe, the sovereign God who knows what He is doing. Just like the Israelites, when trouble comes our way or we encounter something difficult in life, we forget that God is always faithful to His people. There is nothing we will face in life that surprises God or is out of His sovereign control.

In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul begins by commanding us to rejoice in the Lord always. He follows that command with “again I say rejoice” just in case we missed the initial exhortation. Now rejoicing is not just limited to putting on a smiley face in an attempt to ward off anxiety. Neither is it some sort of mask we put on to try and convince ourselves that if we think we can we can do it. The Greek word used for rejoice is chairō, a verb that connotes the idea of rejoicing exceedingly, a pervasive attitude of celebration and utter joy.

This of course begs the question as to why we should rejoice. Paul wastes no time in explaining why we can rejoice – “The Lord is near.” Some translations say “The Lord is at hand” which I think better captures the reality of God’s faithfulness. He is always there, even when we feel as if we are going at it all alone and nobody, let alone God, is concerned with what we are dealing with in life. This nearness is a positional term declaring that God is right there by our side every minute of every single day. There is not ever a time when God is preoccupied with something else and is not concerned with what we are dealing with in our lives.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, this noting of the Lord’s nearness carries with it an eschatological element, namely the reality that one day Christ will return to fix this mess of a world in which we live. Homer Kent rightly comments “His (Paul’s) reference is to the Parousia (not just Christ’s continuing presence with believers). This seems clear from the context of the letter, where 3:20, 21 focused attention on the glorious prospect in view for believers at Christ’s return…The statement is a reminder that at his arrival the Judge will settle all differences and will bring the consummation that will make most of our human differences seem trifling.”[2] Thus Paul is reminding believers to set our minds not on the issues of the moment, but on the reality that redemption and restoration draws nigh.

Based on that eternal mindset, we can set worry, anxiety, and fear aside, knowing that God is both near and that Christ will indeed return. When the temptation to worry or to be anxious calls our name and it most certainly will, we can deal with those urges by going to God in prayer. In I Peter 5:7 we are commanded to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” This casting of anxiety on him is accomplished through prayer.

John Calvin once said this about the practice of prayer:

“The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections.”[3]

When we rejoice in the Lord always, acknowledging that He is always walking right beside us, and when we cast all our anxieties to Him in prayer and thanksgiving, the result is God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. What a wonderful promise! God’s peace is beyond our understanding meaning “God’s peace accomplishes far more than any human forethought or plan might devise.”[4] We can take comfort that when we hit the proverbial brick wall or when there comes a time in our life when all seems lost; God is firmly in control of the situation. When we come to Him in prayer, His peace will rain down on our lives, dispersing the muck and mire of anxiety, fear, and worry replacing it with hope and faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Let us look to the author and finisher of our faith, the sovereign God who is completely in control of every fabric of the universe, a God who cares for our every need. If you are suffering from anxiety today, cast that anxiety and worry at the feet of almighty God for He cares for you. Find rest in the promises He has provided in His word and set your eyes not on the worries of the moment, but on the reality that one day He will come again and the problems of this world will be no more.

References:

[1] Edward Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2008), 59.
[2] Homer A. Kent, Jr. “Commentary on Philippians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.11: Ephesians through Philemon. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 151.
[3] http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/P_Of_Prayer_John_Calvin.pdf
[4] Kent, 152.

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Michael Boling – It’s All in the Numbers

My goal this year is to read through the Bible chronologically. As with many, over the years the goal to read through Scripture often gets bogged down once the last half of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy appear on the reading schedule. Lots of information God provides on issues such as how He wanted sacrifices to be offered, details on the building of the tabernacle, and in Numbers….well, there is lots of counting going on.

It is quite easy to suddenly become a speed reader as your encounter these books. I admit it, I have tried to race through how many people belonged to the tribe of Dan and Naphtali and where God wanted all the tribes to position themselves once they made camp. After all, is that really salvation issue related material?

I am a firm believer that everything in Scripture is included for a reason. Nothing is unimportant. Our study of how many fighting men were counted for the tribe of Reuben will not impact our eternal standing with the Father. With that said, if we avoid the books and passages of Scripture we might feel as boring or unimportant, we are going to miss the details that form the greater message of what YHVH is showing us in His word.

If we take the nothing is unimportant approach to a book such as Numbers, we can note that God is involved in the details of His people. Numbers and counting represent specifics. We are often presented by some with the idea that YHVH created everything, set it into motion, and then kicked up His “heels” and let it ride, chips falling were they may. In Numbers, we find YHVH intimately involved in providing instructions on how He desires the tribes of Bnei-Yisrael (sons of Israel) to be positioned around the tabernacle.

The reason why He desired the counting to take place is an entirely different discussion and one worthy of study. At this point, I simply want to encourage you to read through all of Scripture. Do not avoid the familiar portions because you think you have read them a thousand times and there is nothing left to glean. Furthermore, do not avoid the more difficult or so-called unimportant sections, thinking you they are the realm of the “theologian/scholar” or they are not relevant.

Constantly remind yourself of the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; 17 thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.”

Yes that includes the book of Numbers so if you are currently starting that book as part of your yearly reading plan, avoid the temptation to speed read. Slow down, read what the Father has provided us, and meditate on every word. You will not regret reading, studying, and meditating on the fact there were 53,400 counted from the tribe of Naphtali.

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Michael Boling – Yeshua as the Bread of Life as Explicated in the Gospel of John

The bread of life discourse, outlined in John 6, immediately followed the feeding of the five thousand. In typical Johannine methodology, numerous Old Testament comparisons, in particular that of Moses and Yeshua, are presented as evidentiary proof to the Jews that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the giver of life. Jesus clearly identified himself as the bread of life, a figure of speech pregnant with meaning and purpose for not only the 1st century hearer, but for the modern seeker of eternal sustenance.

The Apostle John presents a magnificent theological interlude in his gospel account of the spiritual deliverance available to humanity through the person and work of Yeshua. The pericope of John 6 demonstrates that as manna provided physical salvation for the children of Israel, Jesus, as the bread of life, provides eternal life to those who place their trust in him.

MANNA AS THE FORESHADOWING OF YESHUA

When Yeshua presented himself as the bread of life, he clearly utilized a typology that was an essential element of the “most crucial book of the Pentateuch for Israel’s history and theology – the Book of Exodus.” This proclamation was in response to the crowd’s continual appeal for a sign as a demonstration of his power and authority. The perishable food that Yeshua had referred to in John 6:27 clearly referred to the manna provided to the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings. In contrast with this historical precedent which so permeated the teachings and beliefs of the Jewish people, Yeshua is presented as the source of imperishable food. Jesus is the manna from heaven sent by God to provide life for his people.

This was no small claim that was made by Yeshua due to the inherent messianic undertones subsumed within his “I am the bread of life” commentary. It was widely asserted in the Jewish beliefs of the period that Jeremiah had hidden a jar containing manna that he placed in the ark and the Messiah was expected to produce the hidden manna to the people of Israel thus revealing himself. Additionally, as denoted by William Barclay, rabbinic teaching averred that “as was the first redeemer so was the final redeemer; as the first redeemer caused the manna to fall from heaven, even so shall the second redeemer cause the manna to fall.”

The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand resulted not in sufficient evidentiary proof of Jesus superior status to that of Moses. Rather, the multitudes sought further evidence for the claim that Yeshua had made. Essentially, the Jews disregarded the loaves provided to them as an indication of manna from heaven as the provision had initiated itself from merely earthly loaves made from everyday ingredients. The manna which they sought was a “different thing and a real test.” As noted by F.F. Bruce, they rationalized among themselves, “let the second Moses vindicate his authority in a similar way – not by a once-for-all feeding but on a more lasting basis.”

In response to the disillusionment of the multitudes and their insistence of additional miraculous signs, Jesus first reminded the Jews that it was not Moses who provided them with the miraculous provision of sustenance in the form of manna, but rather it was a gift from God. Yeshua then explicated further the true meaning of the provision of manna to their forefathers. He saliently indicated that the manna was just a symbol of the bread of life given by God and was targeted merely at answering hunger; a physical need. The claim being made by Jesus in relation to the manna which the Jews sought from him is that Yeshua is the bread sent from heaven to provide a solution to the spiritual hunger which constantly hounds the soul of man. Calvin rightly avers that the “bread with which Moses fed their bellies was not true bread…the manna came down from the visible heaven, that is from the clouds; but not from the eternal kingdom of God from which life flows to us.” The manna provided to the children of Israel in the wilderness was a mere foreshadowing of what Yeshua, as the Messiah, can provide. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Lessons From the Garden: Why Did Cain and Abel Offer a Sacrifice to God?

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While not an event that took place in the Garden of Eden, the offering of a sacrifice to God by Cain and Abel has nevertheless been a topic of interest to me for some time. Given its potential connection to the Garden of Eden, exploring the possible reason why Cain and Abel brought their sacrifice to God will be included as part of the Lessons from the Garden study.

We are certainly familiar with the fact that Cain became angry that God rejected his sacrifice and instead favored what his brother Abel presented. Despite God warning Cain to deal with and control his anger, Cain lashed out at Abel and murdered him, thus resulting in the first murder in mankind’s history. That familiar story has been addressed by many, but I have always wondered why Cain and Abel brought a sacrifice to God in the first place. There does not seem to be a mandate provided in Scripture for man to bring a sacrifice to God and the events of Genesis 4 are a 1000 years or so prior to the mandates provided by God to Israel at Mt. Sinai, instructions that outlined the sacrificial system.

Let’s first look at the overall context and the passage where this event takes place:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:1-5)

Following their removal from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had children. It is assumed that Cain and Abel were the first two progeny. We are told that Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer. Verse 3 is arguably where we can begin to pick up some clues as to why Cain and Abel brought a sacrifice to God. We are told that “in the process of time” they brought their respective offerings to God. This is an interesting phrase. Looking at what the Hebrew words mean provides the idea of a conclusion to a period of time with process (qets) meaning “end” and time (yom) referring to a timeframe. What that period of time was, how long it was, or why the conclusion of that period of time led to Cain and Abel bringing a sacrifice are all valid questions that is seems we can only speculate upon.

Some Bible commentators suggest the basis for these offerings being presented is rooted in the relaying to their children by Adam and Eve of the sacrifice of an animal or animals by God to provide a covering. This lesson could very well have resulted in an offering being presented to God on a recurring basis (i.e. the process of time) as a remembrance of God’s provision. The offering that would be provided then was based on the fruit of their labors. In the case of Abel he brought the firstborn of his flock and in the case of Cain, he brought the produce of his labors as a farmer.

Other commentators suggest the reason for the offering of sacrifices was due to the relational aspect of man and his Creator. Sin had a major impact on this relationship with the perfection of relationship between man and God in the Garden being broken. Perhaps offering a sacrifice was a way to connect with God by offering something of value as a means of restoration. Reno, in his commentary on Genesis suggest “In this seeking, the economy of sacrifice – offering the fruits of human labor – bridges the distance between God and the now-remote creature”[1]. This is certainly a possibility as later prescriptions by God for sacrifices were intended to address sin with the telos being the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the ultimate means of restoration and redemption of relationship between God and man.

Both perspectives are certainly viable. There is some insight provided to us elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, Hebrews 11:4 notes, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Faith is the focus of why Adam’s sacrifice was deemed acceptable to God; however, faith in what exactly? The answer to that question and perhaps resolving some of the mystery as to why in the process of time they brought a sacrifice to God in the first place is rooted in what the faith of Abel was focused upon.

This returns us to the promise made by God in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This passage references the battle between the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman. The seed of the woman is of course the Messiah. The faith demonstrated by those mentioned in Hebrews 11 was focused on the coming of the Messiah. By faith in that promise, Abel presented his sacrifice. His sacrifice was better than that of his brother Cain due to it being offered in an understanding of the promise of the Messiah.

If we utilize faith in the promise God made in Genesis 3:15 as the basis for determining why Cain and Abel presented a sacrifice to God in the first place, the suggestion this was something passed down to them from Adam and Eve makes perfect sense. After all, God was speaking with Adam and Eve when the promise of Genesis 3:15 was provided and something that important, namely the solution to the problem of sin and the restoration of relationship would certainly have been passed down to succeeding generations. Perhaps as suggested by Adam Clarke, the process of time “means the Sabbath, on which Adam and his family undoubtedly offered oblations to God, as the Divine worship was certainly instituted, and no doubt the Sabbath properly observed in that family. This worship was, in its original institution, very simple. It appears to have consisted of two parts: 1. Thanksgiving to God as the author and dispenser of all the bounties of nature, and oblations indicative of that gratitude. 2. Piacular sacrifices to his justice and holiness, implying a conviction of their own sinfulness, confession of transgression, and faith in the promised Deliverer.”[2] For those not familiar with the word piacular, it means “making or requiring atonement”.

Putting all the pieces together, we can rightly state the sacrifice presented by Cain and Abel was to be a matter of faith in the coming of the Messiah, something passed down to them from Adam and Eve in remembrance of Genesis 3:15 as well as in remembrance of God’s provision and covering of the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Both remembrances point to the promises of restoration and redemption rooted in Genesis, which flow through Scripture, and which reach their finale when Christ returns. Scripture does not state a specific sacrificial prescription by God as this point in history, but we can make a strong case they were instituted as a recurring appointed time, on the Sabbath or otherwise, as a means by which to focus on the promise of the Messiah and what his coming would accomplish.

References:
[1] R. R. Reno, Genesis: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 97.
[2] http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/gen004.htm

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Michael Boling – Lessons from the Garden: God’s Covering of our Nakedness

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Over the past couple of weeks at a Bible Study I have been attending, we have been exploring some fundamental aspects of Scripture and theology in general. As a starting point, a necessary one I might add, the discussion has centered on Genesis 1-4 for it is in these first four chapters of Scripture that we can find the roots of the biblical message is all about regarding sin and redemption. While these chapters are arguably familiar to most believers, there are admittedly some elements and events we may not have taken much time to consider. Given that everything in Scripture is included and provided for a reason, it behooves us to not avoid looking at even the finest detail. One such detail or question that should be asked is why God notes that Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and why did Adam and Eve immediately look for a way to cover their nudity?

It was not until Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that the text notes “their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” We can rightly note that some type of revelation took place after they sinned. It was certainly not what they thought would happen based on what the serpent had declared to them. Instead of achieving godhood, they discovered their nakedness.

What exactly is nakedness? When we are naked, we are exposed. In terms of sexual intimacy, that act is accomplished by the husband and the wife (speaking of proper sexuality here), devoid of clothes. All is stripped bare resulting in a beautiful bond of intimacy. It is the complete opposite of what we find with Adam and Eve. They immediately covered themselves and hid from God. Sin did not result in the furthering of intimacy with their Creator. Conversely, what took place was the covering of intimacy, the first signs of the impact of sin on man’s relationship with God.

This means that prior to sin, being naked was simply not a big deal. It was only after sin that Adam and Eve discovered their nakedness, clothed themselves, and hid from God. Now we have little idea of what a pre-sin physical body was like given our only experience is post-sin and in a world marred by death and decay. Some have attempted to investigate what a pre-sin body might have looked like. One of the more interesting approaches has been that taken by Douglas Hamp who suggests that prior to sin, man may have had some sort of light covering. He suggest this is a possibility given the various references in Scripture to God’s people shining like the sun. One could argue those are just metaphors for the light of God shining through His people in the midst of the darkness of this world. With that said, Hamp also notes that our very DNA emits light. It is all very fascinating and I would recommend reading his article on this subject.

One biblical account of note is that of Moses spending a great deal of time with God on Mt. Sinai. We are told in Exodus 34:29, “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” In other words, the face of Moses emitted “rays of light”, which is the meaning of the Hebrew verb qaran used in this passage. If we think back to the fact that Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden and given this was not some figurative “walking” but rather God actually walking in “person” with Adam and Eve, one can only wonder what that was like, both relationally and physically. Perhaps communing with God resulted in some sort of light covering with that covering being from the very presence of God.

Whatever it was like, it ceased to exist once sin entered into the picture. Maybe this light covering concealed their nakedness. Maybe being naked was irrelevant and of no importance given Adam and Eve showed no signs of focusing on their nakedness until after they sinned. Regardless, we have to ask ourselves the honest question of why is this even worthy of discussion. Who really cares if they were naked or not, if they had some sort of light covering as a result of walking with God, or why they discovered they were naked and sewed some fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. What does it matter?

It is worth of examination first of all because of what we noted earlier, namely it is in Scripture so it must be of some importance. Sin caused something to be lost. What was lost was that intimate relationship, both physically and spiritually, between the Creator and mankind. God no longer physically walks with us and as a result of sin, we have become exposed in a way that Adam and Eve had not thought about when they partook of the forbidden tree. In reality, we have been trying to cover our nakedness and trying to figure out a way to get back to the Garden ever since that fateful day. More often than not, we attempt to cover our nakedness through our own efforts just as Adam and Even did when they realized they were naked. We fashion all manner of coverings, hoping it will bring us closer to God or what we claim to be god in our lives. I fact, all religions to some degree provide a means by which to get back to their version of the Garden.

In Scripture, we find that only an act of God can bring us back to the Garden. It is only God’s grace and mercy that can deal with our nakedness and exposure. While Adam and Eve fashioned themselves garments, they were wholly insufficient. God revealed His grace and mercy by shedding the blood of an innocent animal so they might be covered. This is a picture of the gospel. Man’s efforts cannot deal with their nakedness nor can our efforts get us back to that blissful state in the Garden. “God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) In this covering of Adam and Eve by God, we can see the message of redemption that finds its telos at the cross. It is through the sacrifice of Christ that we will find our way back to the Garden and that place of joyous intimacy when our nakedness is clothed with fine bright garments (Rev. 19:8).

In this seemingly unimportant aspect of nakedness and covering that took place after sin, we once again find the message of redemption and the focus of where redemption is found – through God’s grace and mercy and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. One day we will return to the Garden to live in eternal intimacy with God. I don’t know about you but I am definitely looking forward to that day.

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