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Tag Archives: Theology

El Shaddai

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

What a great contrast we have between the events of Chapters 16 and 17. Chapter 16 was all about the plans and schemes of Sarah and Abraham. Now, in Chapter 17, God tells Abraham what HE is going to do. Is this not the pattern that God so often lets unfold in our own lives? God tells us what He wants to do, we nod our heads in agreement — all the while thinking of what actions we ourselves shall perform in order that these things might come to pass. We “believe” God, yet we set about busying ourselves that we might validate His promise through our own actions. The Lord then patiently allows us to try things our own way and when we have come to the end of ourselves, after we have exhausted all of our own efforts and attempted all of our own methods, He graciously returns to meet us; fallen on our own faces (v. 3) and listening to His Words with an attentiveness and submission that only comes from the soul which knows its own limitations.

That the Lord is not given to the false sense of urgency which grips the impatient heart of man is punctuated by the span of time which stands silently between Genesis 16:16 and 17:1. Sarah and Abraham had felt that a decade was sufficient time to wait for God to make good His promise before taking up the cause themselves (16:3). Yet another 13 years transpire between these two chapters without so much as a single syllable of reassurance emitting from the mouth of God. There are times when we feel that the wait has been long enough and the season of our own comfort must surely be at hand, but the perfect timing of our Lord has yet to be realized; indeed, our wait has only just begun. When we become aware that it makes no difference what the duration is, that we have a God Who is never late nor early, then we learn what Abraham learned: God is “All-sufficient” for us in times of delay and times of deliverance.

God reveals Himself to Abraham in Genesis 17:1 as “God Almighty.” He declares that He is El Shaddai, the God in Whom is all-sufficiency. This revelation of God’s omnipotent attributes serves as a gentle rebuke against Abraham’s impetuosity. God graciously allows man to play a part in His Divine plan, but He does not need the assistance of man.  If we are willing to obey Him and wait on His timing, doing things in His way, then we reap the satisfaction that can only be derived from serving the purpose to which He has called us. God was “All-sufficient”, able to bring a living soul from the deadness and barrenness of Sarah’s womb. He was not limited in what He was able to perform by the “deadness” of Abraham and Sarah’s body. God did not need Hagar to bear the son of promise, nor would He permit her to do so. We have but to look at the repeated occurrences of the phrase “I will” coming from the mouth of God throughout this chapter to see that His covenant with Abraham was all about what He would do on Abraham’s behalf. He required faith from Abraham, He did not require him to bring about the promises through his own strength. His covenant with us, the New Covenant through Jesus Christ, requires the same.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 7, 2010]

[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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Who Is The “Angel Of The Lord?”

“And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.” (Genesis 16:7)

In Genesis Chapter 16, we are given the first instance in the Bible of the expression, “The angel of the Lord.” After Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, flees from her mistress, she encounters the “angel of the Lord” by a fountain of water in the desert between Canaan and Egypt. But the question is: Who exactly is this “angel of the Lord”, and what is his position? In order to answer this, let us consider a few things that we know about him from what the Bible tells us:

He Speaks With Authority

“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 16:9-10)

The first peculiarly striking aspect of the “angel of the Lord” is that he speaks with the authority of God Himself. Other “angels” appearing throughout Scripture do not speak with the authority that belongs to God alone but as those sent forth on His behalf. For example, In Genesis 19:13 the two angels who come to warn Lot to depart from Sodom before its destruction say:

“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.”

They plainly state that they have been sent by the Lord. They also make it clear that they are acting under strict orders to refrain from destroying the city of Sodom until Lot is safely out (Genesis 19:22). These two angels are acting under orders from God while the “angel of the Lord” states in Genesis 16:10, “I will multiply thy seed…” Whenever we read of any instances of other angels, that is, those not designated as THE angel of the Lord, speaking to people, they state what God has done, is doing, or will do, they do not talk about what they themselves are doing, and they are certainly not claiming to be able to do those things that God alone can do (such as giving many descendants to a person, such as is told to Hagar here).

He Is Worshiped

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed…And he said, Draw not nigh thither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:2, 5)

When we compare this to what the angel who showed John the events of the Book of Revelation, we read that the worship of angels is forbidden:

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9)

He Bears The Name Of God

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” (Exodus 23:20-21)

Others Identify Him As God

After the “angel of the Lord” speaks to Hagar, she responds:

“And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Genesis 16:13)

Later, when Jacob is referring to the “Angel of God” appearing to him in a dream, he says:

“And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said… I am the God of Bethel…” (Genesis 31:11,12a,13a)

He Identifies Himself As God

During Moses first encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” at the burning bush (Exodus 3), the “angel” tells Moses after commanding him to take off his shoes:

“…I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (v. 6)

In the Book of Judges, Manoah has an encounter with the “Angel of the Lord” and dares to ask the angel what his name is. The angel responds:

“And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18 ESV)

“Wonderful” is one of the names that Isaiah ascribes to the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6).

He Is No Longer Mentioned In The New Testament

It is noteworthy that the expression “The Angel of the Lord” is unique to the Old Testament and is not found as such in the New. The King James Version does occasionally designate angels as “the angel of the Lord” (e.g., Acts 5:19), but the use of the definite article (the) is inaccurate and the indefinite article (an) should appear, as is the case in most other translations. After the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, “THE Angel of the Lord” does not appear again in Scripture.

Summary

In light of all of these details, I believe that it is most fitting to conclude that the “Angel of the Lord” is none other than the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Son. There are many other intriguing factors to consider as we read the encounters of the “Angel of the Lord” with His people throughout the Old Testament. Lord willing, we shall look at these as we come to them.

***English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
*All other Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version (KJV)

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 5, 2010]

[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?“]

Abraham Believed God

“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

It is without any hyperbole that I say that the Fifteenth Chapter of Genesis is arguably the most pertinent chapter for the Christian in the Book of Genesis, possibly in the entire Old Testament. And the key verse to this key chapter is Verse 6, “And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” There is no other single verse in all of the Old Testament that so aptly illustrates God’s unchanging method for Salvation. Paul will directly quote this verse in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 4:3), and in his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:6). James will also quote it in his epistle (James 2:23). To say that this chapter of Genesis inaugurates a turning point in the relationship of Abraham to our Lord is a gross understatement, for it is what God does for him at this point that lays the foundation for everything else.

What we have in this chapter is nothing short of the attainment of Salvation by Abraham as his “belief” is counted as righteousness. God imputes righteousness to him on the basis of his faith. The very heart of Christian Theology, this is the summary statement of how God’s Grace works in the life of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. God attributes vicariously the righteousness that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ alone, to those who put their faith in Him. Neither in the Old Testament nor the New is Salvation secured by any other means. This has always been God’s method.

“And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof,” (Jeremiah 34:18)

The slaughter of the animals and the dividing of their carcasses recorded in Genesis 15:9-10 might seem peculiar to us, but what Abraham was actually doing was following the custom of the day for entering into a covenant or contract. As we see in Jeremiah 34:18, the way that a contract was ratified in those days was for the two parties to come together, slaughter a calf or a goat, divide the carcass in half, and then the two would walk between the parts. The vow was made that, “If I should break the terms of this covenant, then may I be cut asunder as this animal is.”  When God gives instructions to Abraham in verse 9 to prepare these animals, He is announcing His intent to enter into a covenant with him.

But something very strange happens to Abraham as he is waiting for the Lord to show up for the ceremony. A deep sleep falls upon him and a horror of great darkness (v.12). This is not a sleep that comes from being weary or a slumber that overtakes him as his wait becomes too long. This is the same type of unconscious state that the Lord put upon Adam when He took his rib to make Eve (Genesis 2:21). While he is asleep, God tells Abraham of the captivity that will come upon his descendants and their slavery in the land of Egypt. As soon as the sun sets, a smoking Furnace and a burning Lamp pass between the carcasses of the animals (15:17).

This entering into covenant between God and Abraham is still part of the illustration of Abraham’s Salvation that began in Verse 6. It is also an illustration of our own Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. As Abraham becomes paralyzed in the grips of a deep sleep, seeing the captivity of his sons and daughters in the land of Egypt; so, too, were we held paralyzed in the captivity of sin, until God delivered us from its clutches. Just as Abraham does not pass between the carcasses himself: announcing his end of the agreement, neither do we have anything to offer in our own Salvation Covenant with God. He did not pass through because he was not making any promise to God, this was an entirely one-sided transaction. God alone was making the promise to save Abraham, Abraham had nothing to offer on his part. Only God confirmed the Covenant, passing between the carcasses; His presence symbolized by the Furnace and the Lamp.

Abraham’s part in his own Salvation amounted to nothing more, nor anything less, than believing God. Abraham lay helpless as God secured for him the Salvation that he himself could not. God’s call to us is to put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation. Our part in the process of our own Salvation is the same as Abraham’s was, to believe God (John 6:29). He has not called us to walk between the carcasses, nor can we. He has not instructed us to promise anything to Him. We are to believe God, place our faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His righteousness will be imputed to us also.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published December 15, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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?“]

The Bible’s Prologue Concludes

Table of Nations

“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:9)

Starting at Genesis 11:10, there is a great shift of focus in the Bible from worldwide, universal events to localized, specific details in the lives of individuals. Up to this point, God has been dealing with mankind in general, no distinction has been made concerning race or ethnicity, but humanity only. Now, the Lord of Heaven will pluck from the tree that contains all the nations of the Earth a single branch with which He will deal directly. God will prune and cultivate this single branch, that is, the nation of Israel, with the purpose of preparing it to bear the Fruit that will come forth from it: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis cover the span of history from the very dawn of time until the first part of the life of Abraham. The narrative deals in eras and epochs and speaks of the human condition in general – giving very limited detail whatsoever – moving rapidly from one monumental incident to the next. These chapters, although they literally cover an immensely greater span of time than the entire rest of the Bible combined, are really simply a background given to familiarize the reader of Scripture with the setting against which the remainder of the Word of God will unfold. Even though the details and explanations are often minimal and meager, many of the most perplexing questions and dilemmas that have plagued the thoughts of man since the most ancient of times are summarily resolved within these first 11 chapters of Genesis. Where did man come from? Why are we here? Are we alone in the Universe? Why does there exist a universal yearning in the hearts of all men for spiritual fulfillment –  for a connection with our Creator – that seems so impossible to fulfill? What is it that has separated us from the One Who put us here in the first place?

Sin And Judgment

If we were pressed to arrive at a simple, recurring theme throughout these first 11 chapters of the Bible, we could summarize this theme as one of sin and judgment. Since Adam, I think that it would be very hard to find a single, honest individual who did not look at the world around them and conclude that something was very, very wrong. Whether they be men of faith or not, whether they be spiritual, philosophical, contemplative, or simply given to pure logic apart from emotion; most people realize that the world is not the way that it should be. Something has gone terribly wrong. Just about the time that another secular philosopher is ready to again advance the concept of the innate goodness of the heart of man, another catastrophic tragedy grips the headlines and leaves people shaking their heads and wondering what this world is coming to.

But the Bible makes it clear that there has always been evil in the heart of man, since the very beginning. From Adam and Eve’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, to Cain’s murder of Abel, to the people living in the time leading up to the Flood, to the denizens of Babel and their audacious Tower; the case is clearly made that the problem of man is his sin and it is his rebellion that separates him from God. If we learn nothing else from this portion of Scripture, we can be sure of one thing: God judges the sins of man.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)

The antediluvians fulfilled all the lusts of their flesh; Cain demonstrated the pride of life in his arrogant, self-reliant offering to God; and the early Mesopotamians at the Plain of Shinar catered to the lust of their eyes when they sought to construct the Tower of Babel. Man has been opposed to God since the very beginning. It is in this setting and against this background and with this understanding that we will now meet Abraham: the man of faith. From this point on, the Bible will deal primarily with individuals rather than global events. We have heretofore gazed at the entire world, as through a telescope; now we will look upon more specific locations, as through a microscope. The pace will also greatly slow down as the elapsed time between one chapter to the next will be measured by days, months, and, sometimes, years; rather than decades, centuries, and millenia.

We have been introduced to the human condition in these first chapters of Genesis with scarcely a brief glance at the remedy that God would eventually provide for the problem of man’s sin. Starting in Chapter 12, we will now see how God moved toward providing the break in the endless cycle of sin and judgment and how man can again be reconciled to his Creator.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 15, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[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?“]

What Does The Bible Say About The Death Penalty?

Gallows (Line Drawing By: Pearson Scott Foresman)

“Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”  (Genesis 9:5-6)

During the modern era, the application of capital punishment, for even the most heinous of crimes, has become very controversial in the industrialized nations of the world. It has been called “barbaric”, “inhumane”, “cruel”, and an antiquated relic of a less civilized era. There are those who object to the use of it under any circumstances: thinking of themselves as enlightened and sophisticated, while the proponents of the “death penalty” are vengeful and bloodthirsty.

Since even some sincere Christians are whole-heartedly opposed to the implementation of capital punishment, it is worthwhile to consider what the Word of God has to say on the matter. In the “Noahic Covenant”, God lays out some fundamental changes in how man is permitted and instructed to behave with regards to the taking of life. As we considered last time, man was now afforded the liberty to consume meat and , thus, take the lives of animals for food consumption. Additionally, man was also issued the responsibility of acting on behalf of the Lord Himself by executing capital punishment on those guilty of capital crimes: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”

In order to determine how this command applies to those living today or if it is even still valid at all, let us examine a few points of consideration in relation to it:

Since This Is Given In The Old Testament, Doesn’t The New Testament Override Or Even Revoke Its Implementation?

Many people either discount entirely or else severely “water-down” any and all commandments and instructions that appear in the Bible before Matthew 1:1. Obviously, a great many of the commandments that appear in the Law of Moses (contained in Exodus through Deuteronomy) were given specifically to the nation of Israel and are not in force for the believer today. Laws concerning the Tabernacle, Temple Sacrifice, Dietary Laws, the Ark of the Covenant, etc. have all been superseded by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must remember that the words which the Lord spoke to Noah and his sons occurred before the Law of Moses was given.  These edicts were not issued within the context of the Theocratic government of the nation of Israel, but were universally given to every living person on the Earth at the time. Although that was only eight people, verse 9 of Genesis 9 clarifies that God is speaking to them and to all of their seed after them. This would include everyone who would ever live after them.

Does The New Testament Give Any Support For Carrying On Capital Punishment?

“For [government authorities are] a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [they do] not bear the sword for nothing; for [they are] a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:4)

There is never a time in the New Testament when any apostle or even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would decry the “injustice” or “barbarism” of capital punishment. They never set about to enact social reform, they never preached about the evils of the criminal justice system. If anyone ever had a valid reason to object to the unfairness and injustice of criminal execution, the apostles Paul and Peter certainly did as they languished away in Roman prisons – awaiting their cruel fates. But they never protested the use of capital punishment itself, even though they were innocent men, guiltless of any crime worthy of death (as, of course, our Lord was too). In fact, Paul even tells the Roman governor Festus, as he lays out his defense against the charges made against him:

“If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die…” (Acts 25:11a)

No, Paul preached and lived the words that he penned in Romans 13:4. God is the One Who puts governmental authorities in power for the carrying out of justice. This includes capital punishment.

But What About The Teachings Of Jesus?

Many believers object to seemingly harsh penalties like capital punishment because of the Lord’s teachings about “turning the other cheek” or “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But the Lord was referring to personal behavior between individuals with these teachings. We are in no way supposed to enact a sort of “vigilante justice” and take matters into our own hands. Retribution and punishment belongs to God (Romans 12:19), not to the individual. But He has delegated some of this authority to governmental powers for the carrying out of justice. Capital punishment is to be employed by a society, as represented by their leaders, not by private lynchings.

Summary

It is the opinion of some that we demonstrate an enlightenment and civility as a society when we forgo the use of capital punishment. Modern sensibilities dictate, they say, that we must behave in a morally superior fashion than our ancestors. The Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” But is it morally acceptable to allow the most violent members in a society to kill without fear of reprisal? Without a very real fear of severe retribution, what would deter those without conscience from following their most base passions? Sadly, we are witnessing this very thing in many modern societies.

I am not writing this article as a political argument in favor of capital punishment. My interest, as always, is to share what the Word of God teaches. But if I may be at liberty to express my own opinion, I believe that it is abundantly evident that swift and appropriate punishment for crime serves as the greatest deterrent. This is not based on a sort of primal “bloodlust” or an extreme sense of vengeance, it is simply the realization that if a would-be murderer knows for a fact that he is going to forfeit his own life by taking another, he is going to think twice before doing it. It is terrible that the death penalty is ever necessary to be carried out, but as long as there are those who so degrade human life to the point that they believe they possess the right to terminate it at will, then it is a society’s God-given responsibility to act appropriately and protect the rest of its citizens from such wanton brutality. This is what I believe to be true and it is what the Word of God teaches here in Genesis 9.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 4, 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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