The Bible Is Not A Scientific Textbook

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

If we are to properly understand the Bible, we should understand the purpose for which it was written. The purpose of the Bible is to tell us what we need to know in order to be reconciled to our Creator. The Bible was never intended to be used as a scientific textbook.

Certain believers and unbelievers alike suppose that God has revealed more in the account of Creation than He really has. The first chapter of Genesis is merely a very brief summary of what God did in creating our world and all the life in it. It doesn’t give us all of the details nor does it answer all of the questions. There are less than 800 words given as we  quickly move through that very first week, which forms  the background for what the rest of the Bible has to tell us.

The Bible’s account of Creation serves to set the stage upon which the story will unfold. It is not the story itself. Like the opening phrase, “In the beginning…God”, the fact that He “created the heaven and the earth” is stated without effort to convince or persuade. You either believe it or you do not.

I wonder what Moses himself would think about all of the people who viciously attack the words he wrote in Genesis because they do not line up with conventional “scientific” theories. Or how he would feel about those who stretch, bend, twist, and torture every last syllable in an effort to make them say something which they do not. I wonder if he ever imagined that so many people would get hung up on these first 800 words, debating and fighting over them the way that they do. Would he tell them that it was never the Lord’s intention to reveal to man all of the details of Creation, or would he simply shake his head in disbelief over the hardness of their hearts?

Obviously, the credibility of the Bible rests upon its complete accuracy. A Book that claims to be the very Word of God should, by definition, be inerrant. But to presume that lack of information means misinformation is a false conclusion. The Bible was given for every person regardless of  the time period they would live in or the culture that they would be born into. It was written in a way that would be understandable for the scholar and the uneducated alike. It’s intent is to tell of God’s Redemption of mankind, not to satisfy the intellectual musings of the modern man who has already rejected Him.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published July 3, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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The Bible Begins with God

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

The very first sentence of the Bible begins with “God.” Since He is the Subject of the entire Bible, it is only appropriate that He is the Subject of the opening statement.

In a day when there is much debate and controversy over whether or not God even exists, it is interesting to note that the Bible does not really attempt to provide any evidence to prove His existence. There is no argument presented to persuade the skeptic, no overwhelming logic offered to remove all doubt . The Word simply states, “In the beginning…..God.”

Where God came from and precisely when this “beginning” occurred, we are not told. We are simply told that at the very beginning, God was already there. Before the “Heaven and the earth” existed, God was there. This very first statement in the very first book of the Bible presents a choice that we all must make. Will we believe it or not? All of the other truths that the Word of God holds are predicated by this very first one: God IS. We must believe this truth before we can believe any of the others.

The fact that God exists stands as the gate through which we must go before we can enter into the Word of God. If we are uncertain about this, we can go no farther with any certainty.

“In the beginning….God”

Have you come to the place where you have settled this matter in your own heart, or are you still standing at the gate?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published July 1, 2009.]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Mephibosheth: A Portrait Of The Sinner

“Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Last time, we took a look at the great civil war between Israel and Judah with the armies of the House of Saul fighting against the armies of King David. I would like to look now at a single person from Saul’s family and the kindness that David the king showed him.

As Chapter 9 of Second Samuel opens, we find King David sitting on the throne of a united Israel and Judah with the civil war over and most of the other enemies of David conquered. He had moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, after capturing it from the Jebusites, and had defeated Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought into Jerusalem and, although God had decreed that it would be built during the reign of his son, Solomon, David had sought to begin construction of the Temple. God blessed David and promised that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16) and that the lovingkindness of the Lord would not depart from him as it had from Saul.

Success tests the character of the most virtuous of men and, in the words of the First Baron of Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But King David was a man “after God’s own heart” and we are repeatedly told throughout the narrative that he “showed kindness” to various people; a trait seldom found in rulers. Sitting upon his throne in Jerusalem, his mind not distracted by the demands of government nor the strategies of war, he reflects upon his late friend Jonathan, son of Saul, and he wonders if there is anyone left alive within Jonathan’s family to whom he may show kindness.

It turns out that there was a son of Jonathan still alive. We are first told about Mephibosheth back in Chapter 4 where we find him as a little five-year-old boy being rushed from his house by his nanny after hearing the news of the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-6). Urgently escaping as quickly as possible before the Philistines could finish off any surviving sons of the House of Saul, Mephibosheth fell and injured his feet, leaving him crippled (2 Sam. 4:4).

A Dead Dog Like Me

Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)

Within the relationship that develops between David and Mephibosheth, we find a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy to the sinner. When the two men first meet, King David offers Mephibosheth gifts and honors that are truly astounding to the son of Jonathan. A vain and prideful man might have been ungrateful, feeling that this was the least that the king who ruled where his own grandfather once had could do for him. But, no, Mephibosheth was neither vain nor proud. He prostrated himself before the king in humility and was keenly aware that this act of grace and mercy was unmerited.

Mephibosheth’s words echoed David’s own words to God when he marvelled in the Eighth Psalm,

“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Like the sinner who first comes to Christ, Mephibosheth was blown away by the mercy that the King was showing him. And as is for all who are humble at heart, he recognized who he was compared with who the king was and that he in no way deserved the kindness he was being shown. Remember Peter’s reaction when Jesus miraculously provided an overwhelming catch of fish where he himself was unable to bring in a single one. Falling before the Lord he shouted, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of God’s glory filling the Temple:

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 KJV)

The heart that is most receptive to the grace and mercy of God is the heart that acknowledges just how undeserving it is. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog” and the sinner, too, must recognize that he is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1).

For The Sake Of Jonathan

David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of who Mephibosheth was or what Mephibosheth had or had not done, but for the sake of Jonathan. God the Father shows mercy and grace to us, sinners, for the sake of Jesus. It is because of our relationship to Christ that we are invited to eat at the King’s table.

When David looked upon Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan and it was his love for Jonathan that compelled him to treat Mephibosheth with kindness and mercy. God the Father does love us, but it is our relationship to Jesus Christ that compels Him to show us grace and mercy. God loves all the people of the world (John 3:16), but He only shows grace and mercy to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.

It is noteworthy that David never mentions anything about the feet of Mephibosheth. His feet were broken, lame, and crippled just as we are broken, lame, and crippled by our sin.  God does not look upon the sinful flesh of those whom Christ has redeemed, but sees us through the lens of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Crippled feet did not exclude Mephibosheth from the king’s table, neither does sin exclude us. If we are in Christ, then that sin has been removed from us to be remembered no more (Psalm 103:12).

Verse 11 of Second Samuel 9 tells us that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as one of the king’s own sons. Passages such as Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 remind us  who are in Christ Jesus that we, too, have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. Like Mephibosheth, we will take our place at the table of the King with the same privileges and benefits of any other child of the King. One day, we will live in that place where our own King lives, the New Jerusalem, just as Mephibosheth moved to the city of David to be where he was. And God will show us great kindness and mercy for the sake of Jesus, not looking upon our sins and lame feet, but seeing us with the same love that He has for the Son.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Should Abner Die As A Fool Dies?

“And the king lamented for Abner, saying,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?” (2 Samuel 3:33)

These were the words of mourning that King David spoke concerning Abner after he was killed by Joab. Abner, the man who had placed the son of Saul, Ishbosheth, upon the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 2:8-9) had been an enemy of King David during a great civil war. David had become king over Judah and, by the direction of the Lord, had ruled from the city of Hebron (2 Sam. 2:1-2).

It had been God’s intention that David would rule over a united Israel and Judah (1 Sam. 16:1), yet Abner and many who had been loyal to Saul sought to continue the reign of the House of Saul by anointing his son as king. Seeking to resolve the issue and, hopefully, avoid an all-out war between the kingdoms, the two sides met at Gibeon to negotiate a solution. Abner, leader of the armies of Israel, suggested to Joab, leader of David’s army, that twelve champions from each side be appointed that day to fight each other with the end result determining which side would be victorious (2 Sam. 2:14-15).

Neither side prevailed and all twenty-four combatants lay dead at the end of the contest (v. 16). Without a clear victor, the total war which both sides had sought to avoid ensued immediately after with the armies of Judah dominating the enemies of King David. As the forces of Israel retreated, one of Joab’s brothers, Asahel, described as an exceptionally fast runner, pursued Abner, rapidly closing the distance between them (v. 19). Knowing that he clearly outmatched his pursuer and, not wishing to kill the brother of Joab, whom he clearly respected, Abner called out to Asahel imploring him to come no further.

If you must have more of the blood of your enemies, then take the life of one of my soldiers. But if you insist on continuing to follow me, I will have to kill you and I do not wish to do so“, Abner pleaded (v. 22). Asahel, however, would not be dissuaded. As Abner had stated, he really did not wish to kill Asahel because we are told he struck him in the stomach with the butt-end of his spear (v.23). Nevertheless, the spear handle pierced the young man’s belly, ending his life.

Joab and the armies of Judah continued their pursuit of Abner and his men until nightfall when both sides expressed their desire to end the pursuit (2 Sam. 2:26-29). The next day, both armies would return home, yet the war itself would be long and bitter (2 Sam. 3:1).

Abner grew more and more powerful during the civil war even as the armies of Israel lost ground and became weaker. Abner, it seems, did as he pleased even having an affair with one of King Ishbosheth’s father Saul’s former concubines (2 Sam. 3:7). When Ishbosheth challenged Abner over the matter, Abner became enraged and switched sides, offering himself into the service of King David.

After Abner joined the side of Judah and King David, he used his former position of power in Israel to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with the leaders in Ishbosheth’s kingdom and to advocate for the rule of David over a united kingdom. Joab, still bitter over the death of his brother Asahel, rebuked King David for trusting the former leader of Israel’s armies and accused Abner of being a spy (v. 24-25).

The Death Of Abner

What happened next is very interesting and worthy of our close consideration. Verses 26-29 read as follows:

“When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner.  May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” (2 Samuel 3:26-29)

Joab is clearly motivated by the desire for avenging his brother and kills Abner by striking him in the stomach; the same way in which Asahel had died by the hand of Abner. Yet while Asahel had been killed accidentally and in self-defense, the death of Abner was cold-blooded murder. Joab had lured Abner outside of the city of Hebron to the outer gate with the deception that he wished to speak with him in private. King David, clearly appalled by the deed, denounces the act and stresses the fact that he and his government were in no way complicit, even pronouncing a curse on Joab and his family. But his words over Abner are peculiar when he declares that he “died as a fool dies.” Why?

“But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood.” (Numbers 35:26-27)

Hebron was a City of Refuge under the Law of Moses (Joshua 21:13) where a person guilty of manslaughter was safe from retribution by those seeking to avenge the person they unintentionally killed. Within the walls of the Cities of Refuge, a person could not legally be killed in vengeance for blood accidentally spilled. But if they went outside the walls of those cities, then they were no longer protected.

Abner died as a fool dies because he left the safety and protection of Hebron and stepped out of the gate where Joab, though not morally justified, was legally justified in killing him. Even David, the king, had no legal recourse to hold Joab accountable for murdering Abner. Abner abandoned the place of safety and refuge and it cost him his life.

How many people today can it be said of that they will die as a fool dies because they do not enter into the safety and refuge of the Lord Jesus Christ? How many will perish unnecessarily because they refuse the protection of our Place of Refuge? What deception, what temptation, will lure us away from the safety of Salvation in Jesus?

Abner spoke the truth about God and God’s chosen king, David (2 Sam. 3:17-18), yet that failed to save him. Neither will religion and speaking the right words about God save us. Abner was a sinner with like passions as we have, but it wasn’t that sin that disqualified him from entering into and remaining in the Refuge provided. Sin does not bar our entry into the Salvation provided by Jesus Christ, no, sin is the impetus which makes refuge necessary.

There are those who stand just outside the gate of Refuge today, perhaps even some who will read this. Safety and protection lies so close at hand and they will not enter in and be protected. They might even attend church, read the Bible, and live their lives morally. But if they die apart from the Refuge of trusting in Jesus Christ for Salvation, they will die as a fool dies. 

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

All Scripture quotations in this article are taken from:

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Why Did God Command His People To Kill?

“Only in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the Lord your God has commanded you,” (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)

“The Bible story of Joshua’s destruction of Jericho, and the invasion of the Promised Land in general, is morally indistinguishable from Hitler’s invasion of Poland, or Saddam Hussein’s massacres of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. The Bible may be an arresting and poetic work of fiction, but it is not the sort of book you should give your children to form their morals.” (Richard Dawkins, from “The God Delusion”)

It has become fashionable in recent years among many outspoken atheists to call into question God’s morality. Since many verses may be found in the Old Testament of God engaging in “mass murder” and wholesale genocide, according to Bible skeptics, His own goodness and moral purity has come under fire as His actions are compared to the most evil, depraved tyrants the world has ever known.

Even for many Christians, verses such as the one quoted above from Deuteronomy are a source of bewilderment, discomfort, and downright embarrassment. How can the loving, forgiving, merciful Jesus of the New Testament have anything in common with the God of the Old Testament? And why does the God of the Old Testament seem so bloodthirsty at times?

Joshua’s Campaign Against Canaan

Although there are many Old Testament passages dealing with the nation of Israel engaging in war with other peoples, it seems that Joshua’s campaign against the residents of Canaan usually brings up the most objections; perhaps because the accounts are given so early on in the Bible. How is it that God could not only condone but order the Israelites to conquer so many different groups of innocent people? Not only that, He instructs them to utterly annihilate them, leaving “nothing alive that breathes.

The first myth to be addressed is the notion that these were innocent, peaceful people inhabiting Canaan. The next verse of the quote above from Deuteronomy 20 actually gives us our first clue about the answers to our questions:

“…so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:18, emphasis added)

If the Canaanites were doing “detestable” things, then they weren’t innocent. The sins in which these people were engaging are numerous and horrific. Deuteronomy 12:31 tells us that they, “burned their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

molochMoloch was a Canaanite idol to whom the inhabitants of the land, and later many of the Israelites who sought to emulate them, would sacrifice children. A bronze image of the deity with the head of a bull and the body of a man would be heated by fire and living infants and toddlers would be placed upon its outstretched arms to be burned to death in sacrifice.

Additionally, the Canaanites engaged in rampant sexual depravity. Homosexuality, incest, and bestiality were regularly practiced and were glorified in the stories of their gods. And while many of the Bible’s critics would not condemn homosexuality among consenting adults, the Canaanites did not confine themselves to such. As Genesis 19 tells us about the Canaanite city of Sodom, these people had no qualms about forcing others to have illicit sex with them.

Richard Dawkins’ comparison of what the Israelites did being on the same level morally as Hitler invading Poland or Saddam Hussein massacring Kurds simply does not hold up. The Poles and Kurds were slaughtered by evil dictators with their own greedy agendas while the Canaanites were under Divine judgment for unspeakable sins of the basest nature. Even the land itself was defiled by the Canaanite’s evil and God spoke of the land “vomiting out” the inhabitants (Leviticus 18:25). God was not conducting mass murder of innocent people to make room for another group to occupy the land. The Canaanites were being judged for their wickedness.

But Why The Children And The Animals?

One point of major contention exists over the fact that God ordered the Israelites to kill everyone. Nothing that breathed was to be left alive. We can assume that this included animals, young children, even babies. Surely animals and babies were innocent? Admittedly, this is a more sensitive area of the topic and calls, perhaps, for a greater deal of speculation. Robert M. Bowman, Jr. offers the following explanation in his article, “Joshua’s Conquest: Was It Justified?“:

First, after generations of the sort of moral degeneracy that characterized these peoples, it may be that even the smallest children were beyond civilizing. Apparently even they were abused and forced to participate in obscene conduct, such that they would have grown up psychologically and spiritually scarred-and perhaps threatened to perpetuate the cycle.

Second, the STDs and other infectious diseases that must have pervaded those cities may well have been carried by the smallest children, and if so, they may have posed a grave danger to the physical health of the Israelites. Imagine some of the nations today most ravaged by AIDS, but living more than three thousand years ago, with no access to even the most basic medical resources. It may be that infectious diseases were also ravaging the domestic animals in these cities, which would also explain why they were destroyed.

To paraphrase Dr. J. Vernon McGee, when you’re dealing with an extreme form of cancer you perform extreme surgery to remove all of it. You don’t leave a little bit of it behind to see whether or not it will end up like the other cancer. You get rid of it. Although we tend to be appalled by the notion of small children being lumped together with their parents because we want to give them a fair chance to grow up and make their own decisions, God, Who knows all things, is not limited by the same uncertainty that we are. He knows what they will eventually become if they are permitted to live.

Ultimately, the Israelites did not wipe out the entire population as they were instructed to and we only need to turn a few pages over to the Book of Judges to begin to see the devastating consequences of allowing the Canaanite civilization to survive. Even a future king of Israel, Ahaz, would one day practice the same despicable child sacrifice to Moloch that would see a revival because the influence of Canaanite culture was allowed to remain (2 Kings 16:2-3).

We know that God dealt fairly with the Canaanites and gave them every opportunity to repent and change their ways. Genesis 15:16 refers to God waiting to enact His judgment because the “iniquity of the Amorite was not yet complete.” What if the Canaanites, or even a single Canaanite had turned to God during this time? Well, we know at least one did. Joshua chapter 2 tells us of Rahab, a prostitute living in Jericho, who believed that God was with the Israelites. She asked for mercy when they attacked the city and she and her family were spared.

Thou Shalt Not Kill?

Finally, I would like to briefly look at the question of how God can instruct people in the Old Testament to kill or even how He can kill people Himself when the Ten Commandments say that we shall not kill (Exodus 20:13).

First of all, the commandment given prohibits the personal killing of one human being by another, or murder. The distinction is made in the Bible between a person acting in their own interests and taking the life of another and what we would call justifiable homicide. Genesis 9:6 says that whoever sheds man’s blood shall have his own blood shed by man. This is the first Biblical reference to capital punishment which is condoned in both the Old and New Testaments. Romans 13:4 speaks of civil rulers “bearing the sword on behalf of God” as avengers against evil-doers. Those in authority have the God-given responsibility to punish criminals and that includes executing murderers. But they do so on behalf of the justice of God and the laws of the land, not for their own gain and interests.

War can also be justifiable use of deadly force because one is acting on behalf of the nation in which he lives. Genesis 14 tells us of a war in which Abraham fought in order to liberate his nephew Lot who had been taken by force by the enemy.

We see many instructions given in the Old Testament also for capital punishment being carried out for various infractions, including spiritual ones. Exodus 22:18 is rendered in the King James Version with the commandment to not “suffer a witch to live.” A verse which has come under attack by critics repeatedly. Although a whole additional article would probably be necessary to sufficiently explain why this was a law under the Old Testament and not under the New, let me just briefly point out that many of the capital offenses mentioned in the Torah were specifically relevant to a certain people at a certain time and in a certain place. Ancient Israel was a Theocracy whose original “King” was God Himself. In order to prevent the Jewish people from devolving into the same condition as the Canaanites before them and to protect the lineage through which Jesus Christ would be born, extreme measures were called for. Like the cutting out cancer analogy we considered with regards to the Canaanites, God wanted to be sure that any steps toward idolatry and spiritual rebellion were nipped in the bud immediately.

Witchcraft and spiritual rebellion might seem like harmless enough sins to many modern skeptics, but they are a big deal to God. And as we read through the rest of the Old Testament and see the horrible consequences Israel faced for their idolatry, we see what a tragedy these things can result in. Today, we do not have a Theocracy ruled by the laws of God and thus we, as Christians, are not instructed to go around killing adulterers and those who practice witchcraft. We are instructed to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and sinful world.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Further Reading:

Evidence Unseen

North American Mission Board

Bible.org

 

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