Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through the Word of God

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A well-worn Bible
We really stretched our spiritual muscles in our last exercise—Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Prayeras we learned how the Holy Spirit teaches us to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and how He uses those prayers to…

Make us One with the Father in His Person; and,
Make us One with the Father in His Purpose.

 Additionally, through these prayers He opens up an emotional “love-line” between God and us; creating a place where we are free to express our deepest feelings and concerns without censure; and where, as our spirits and hearts become united with God’s over time, we are able to absorb and share in the things which are nearest and dearest to His heart.

Prayer, however, isn’t the only tool that the Holy Spirit uses in the restoration of our souls; He also relies on the Word of God to instruct us on how to listen to God, and to discern His will.  In much the same way that the Spirit employs prayer to bring our hearts into one accord with the Father’s, He uses the Word to transform our minds from ones programmed for evil by the world, our flesh, and the devil, into ones which have been rewired for righteousness by God—that is, ones having been brought into alignment with the very mind of Christ. 

Mind Under Construction

Mind Under Construction

For some insight into this mind, we need look no further than Philippians 2:5-8, where the Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonishes us to…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient, to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

This sort of humble, selfless mindset certainly doesn’t resemble the ones we brought with us into our new relationships with God; rather, ours was more like the one described in Ephesians 4:17-18…

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 

To put it another way, while they were in their unregenerate states…

…our minds served no useful purpose as far as God and His kingdom were concerned;
…our mind’s ability to grasp or comprehend the Truth of the Gospel was clouded over;
…our minds were estranged from and even hostile to God;
…our minds were uneducated or untaught in the ways of God; all because…
…our hearts were rigidly firm in their will and purpose, and not easily penetrated by the Truth of God’s Word…

 …conditions which were due to the fact that…

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). 

All of this changed, however, when we were Born Again and the Holy Spirit moved in with us, beginning the transformation of our once darkened minds into ones filled with the light and life of Christ—and, ones in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God our Father.  A change as radical as this, though, isn’t something that takes place very quickly or easily.  It can only be brought about as we, who were previously uneducated and untaught in the ways of God, begin to learn…

Who God really is;
What His purposes are for mankind;
What His plans are for the earth; and,
The means He uses to see that these plans and purposes are achieved. 

Since this kind of information is not and has never been available to the minds of natural men, in order for us to obtain it, we must trust the Holy Spirit for its provision; for, it is He who…

…searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

And, it is these spiritual truths which He has made available to us is the Bible, the Spirit-inspired training manual on God and His Ways—and, the book also known to us as the Word of God.

Truth is


The Bible as the Word of God 

Although we often hear it spoken of as such, what do we really mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?  Well, in checking the dictionary for the meaning of the word “Word,” we find it formally defined as…

…a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning…[1]

…which is just a fancy way of saying that a word is the spoken or written representation of a person’s thoughts—a definition wholly consistent with the way it is used in John 1:1-4—where, the Word spoken of is a Person, who is none other than Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In this passage, the Greek term used for Word is logos which, roughly translated, means collected thought and wisdom and, in this case, refers to the collected thought and wisdom of God.  That is, in describing Jesus as the logos of God, John is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the collected thought and wisdom of God, who was spoken into the world, not only during its creation and throughout all human history, but also in His Incarnation—something which he makes clear later in John 1:14, where he tells us that…

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In essence, he is saying that everything God thought about truth, righteousness, holiness, love, compassion, humility, mercy, grace, integrity, strength, perseverance, selflessness, and so much more, was expressed to us in Jesus.  And, not only that, everything that God intended for mankind to be was manifested in the flesh for us by Jesus.  As the righteous and obedient Son who came to carry out His Father’s will on the earth, He was, is, and always will be the Divine Template for what a Child of God should be like; and, He will be the One against whom we will all be measured—that is, as we all…

…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15).

It is this Word, then—this collected thought and wisdom of God made visible to us in the Person of Jesus—that the Holy Spirit has scribed, or written down, in a book called the Bible.


What We Need to Know about the Bible

When we speak of the Bible, what we are actually referring to is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order—and, with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

Now, in order to add to our knowledge about and to enhance our study of the Bible, there are a few more things that we need to understand about it—the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written.  It is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done (Is. 46: 9-10)…

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Scribes at work on the Word

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live like Jesus—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The Bible is about Jesus

Some of the other things about it that we need to know are…

The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, toward this end, He purposefully incorporated things in His creation which He could use for His divine illustrations.

The Bible is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His Person is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; and, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, making His appearance in the flesh as the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types—and, as the physical manifestation to us of the collective thought and wisdom of God!  And, it is through His application of this thought and wisdom, which permeates every page of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is able to transform our minds from the carnal to the spiritual, to restore our souls to their original function as mediators, and to teach us how to…

…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Restoring the Mind and Emotions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2Instead of our usual musical selection, and to add to our understanding of the Bible we have been talking about, here is the video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Story,”  which is also available for viewing in our Video Vault…

 

 

 

[1] word. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/word (accessed: June 04, 2016).

Beginning Again

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When our last Vignette ended—that one being, Vignette #8 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story—it did so on a very high note.  That’s because Noah, his family, and his animal passengers had all emerged safely from the confines of the Ark; the vessel where they had been sequestered for the preceding 370 days, while the rest of the world perished in the Flood.  What made this event all the more memorable was the fact that as soon as these weary ocean-goers were on dry land again, the first thing they did was offer a sacrifice of worship and thanksgiving to God.  And, it was in response to this, that God…

  • Blessed Noah and his three sons;
  • Charged them with the responsibility of multiplying and repopulating the earth;
  • Instituted a new set of rules by which they were to live; and,
  • Promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood, no matter how sinful man might become in the future.

No doubt, these blessings, charges, instructions, and promises went a long way to reassure and encourage Noah and his family about their future; however, I am just not sure how far they went in minimizing the size of the task immediately confronting them—which was to begin life all over again in a new and a very different world.  To help us put the enormity of this task into perspective, let’s take a moment to consider some of the challenges that were waiting for Noah, the moment he was back on solid ground.

The Immediate Challenges Facing Noah

1. The Environmental One  

We begin with the Environmental Challenge because the drastic changes in the climate and in the landscape would have been the very first things that Noah and the others would have noticed when leaving the Ark.  Having left behind a world where there was a temperate year-round climate, and then stepping out of the Ark into the cold, brisk winds, swirling around in the upper levels of Mount Ararat, would certainly have been a novel experience for each of them—and one which must have sent chills through every one of Noah’s 601 year-old bones!

Plus, as they stood looking down from their lofty mountain perch on to the barren plane below—which, in its pre-flood existence would have been filled with people, trees, shrubs, and lots of green grass—they must have all shivered at the bleakness of  the scene which lay before them.  Just try to imagine what it must have been like for them as they stood there, scanning the landscape and, as far as their eyes could see, there were no sights or sounds of life anywhere!  (Although the Bible doesn’t mention this, there may very well have been both human and animal remains still lying around—that is, unless they had all been buried under layers of silt deposited during the Flood.)

If the Ararat mentioned here in Genesis, was part of the same mountain range which is located in the eastern part of present-day Turkey, perhaps the view that Noah beheld was similar to the one which can be seen of the region today.  If so, seeing how little there is to work with even now should help us have a better understanding of the enormous challenge that Noah was facing, as he set out to begin his life all over again in this less than inviting environment.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat Today

2. The Personal One

This, then, brings us to Noah’s Personal Challenge—which was, to try to find an answer to the question of “What do I do now?”  You see, before the Flood, although we don’t know if it was a house, a hut, or a tent, Noah did have a home; he also had an occupation—which was building the Ark; and, as a “preacher of righteousness,” he had a ministry, too.  Sadly though, following the Flood, he had none of these things to fall back on.  Instead, after a lifetime of faithfulness and obedience to God, Noah found himself homeless, jobless, and without any ministry prospects—and, just…

  • How was he supposed to build a home without any trees? Did they pack a tent or bring some extra lumber along?  Did they bring furniture with them, too?  Or, did they continue to live in the Ark for some time after the Flood?
  • How was he supposed to make a living?  With no other people to serve, or businesses or farms to run, how was he going to provide for his family?
  • Who was he supposed to preach to? The only people there were already “saved”!

Wow–what a midlife crisis this must have been for Noah!

3. The Societal One 

Although the first two challenges would have been more than enough to deal with by themselves, probably the most difficult one to meet would have been the third one, the Societal Challenge.  That’s because, at the time Noah and his family left the Ark, there was no society to speak of—except maybe, the remnants of the old-world one which they had brought along with them.  And, from what we can gather about that one, it was a society in which people didn’t eat animal meat; and, because there were no governmental structures in place during that time, it was one in which the people were accountable to no one but themselves.  Yet, here at the outset of their experience in the new world, God was instructing them to discard their previous ways of doing life and to replace them with a whole new societal structure…

  • One in which they, as the former preservers and protectors of animal life, would now begin preying on these same creatures for food; and,
  • One in which the human conscience would no longer be looked to as a means of curbing man’s sinful nature. Instead, God would be delegating authority to man—that is, to them and their descendants—to act on His behalf to insure that human life was protected and justice was properly meted out.

But, how do you go about creating a new type of society when there are only eight people in it?  I guess, the best way to do it is to put the head of each family in charge, and then make him responsible before God for the behavior of those within his immediate household—which, as it seems, is exactly the way it worked out.

The Long Term Challenges for Noah’s Descendants

Given all that they had to deal with upon their entry into this new world, it was probably just as well that Noah and his sons remained unaware of the massive global changes that appear to have taken place while they were in the Ark.  For, not only had the climate and the topical landscape undergone major transformations, but the geology and substructure of the earth seems to have changed so radically during this period that life on the planet would forever after be affected.  The most history-altering of these changes were…

  • The Continental Drift;
  • The Creation of Tectonic Plates;
  • The Development of Fossil Fuels; and,
  • The Formation of Other Fossils.

In order for us to gain a better understanding of these changes and their on-going impact on our lives today, let’s put our lab coats on and take a brief look at some of the science associated with them.

1. The Continental Drift 

Continental Drift

The Theory of Continental Drift

As you may recall, back in “But Noah…” we were introduced to the concept of the early earth’s land mass as being one supercontinent called Pangaea—a continent which subsequently broke up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  The US Geological Survey article that was quoted from at the time stated that…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…[but] it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener…

But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[1]

While an answer to this question wasn’t to be found at that time—at least, not one which would have been “acceptable” to the scientific minds of the day–one was eventually developed which would conform to their evolutionary mindset; a development explained by the Earth Observatory of Singapore in the following way…

The main idea of Wegener and others was that modern continents formed a single landmass in the past. This idea was supported by simple observations like the fact that South-American and African coastlines fit so well, or that we can find the same fossils in similar sedimentary rocks on both continents.

The theory needed an explanation for the continental drift, a kind of engine that would implement the motion of tectonic plates. The continental drift was strongly criticised during the first half of the 20th century, until WWII: during the war, the latest radar technology was used to map the seafloor. Rapidly, evidence pointing to seafloor spreading and effective plate motion was accumulated.

After the war, marine geology was developed…[and the] Plate tectonics theory was then widely accepted among scientists because it relied on hard evidence and could explain most of the modern geological structures (ocean basins, mountain ranges, rifts etc).[2]

Stuart E. Nevins elaborates on this in an article for the Institute for Creation Research

Twenty years ago geologists were certain that the data correlated perfectly with the then-reigning model of stationary continents. The handful of geologists who promoted the notion of continental drift were accused of indulging in pseudoscientific fancy. Today, the opinion is reversed. The theory of moving continents is now the ruling paradigm and those who question it are often referred to as stubborn or ignorant….[Today] The popular theory of drifting continents and oceans is called “plate tectonics.”[3]

2.The Creation of Tectonic Plates 

As previously stated, when the technology which could examine the ocean floor became available, it was soon discovered that the crust of the earth had, at some time in the past, been broken up into large plates.  It was also learned that these plates were and still are in the process of shifting.  However, in keeping with the evolutionary assumptions of the scientists, the theory they put forth “…supposes that [the] plates move very slowly—about 2-18 centimeters per year.  At this rate it would take 100 million years to form an ocean basin or mountain range.”[4]  But, is this consistent with what the Bible has anything to say about the matter?

Again, according to Mr. Nevins

The Bible framework for earth history makes no statement about continental splitting, so it is unnecessary and unwise to take a “Biblical” position on the question. When God created the land and sea, the waters were “gathered together unto one place” (Genesis 1:9), which may imply one large ocean and one large land mass.

If continental separation did occur, the only place within the Bible framework where it could fit would be during Noah’s Flood. The cause of Noah’s Flood is described in tectonic terms: “all the fountains of the great deep broken up” (Genesis 7:11). The Hebrew word for “broken up” is baga and is used in other Old Testament passages (Zechariah 14:4; Numbers 16:31) to refer to the geologic phenomena of faulting. The mechanism for retreat of the Flood waters is also associated with tectonics. Psalm 104:6, 7 describes the abating of the waters which stood above the mountains; the eighth verse properly translated says, “The mountains rose up; the valleys sank down.” It is interesting to note that the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), the resting place of the Ark after the 150th day of the Flood, are in a tectonically active region at the junction of three lithospheric plates.

If continental separation occurred during Noah’s Flood, a host of problems in the tectonic dilemma can be solved…The cause for the ancient breaking up of continents can be explained easily by the enormous catastrophic forces of Noah’s Flood which broke the lithosphere into moving plates which for a short time overcame the viscous drag of the earth’s mantle.[5]

3.The Development of Fossil Fuels 

Although the development of Fossil Fuels was not one of the immediately visible changes brought about by the Flood, it was such an important one that it would eventually become a major factor in the lives of Noah’s descendantsFor, as kids.britannica.com defines it…

 “…a fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years.” [6]

In other words, these are the fuels which are being used today to heat our homes, propel our vehicles, and keep all of our industries producing.  And, where did they come from?  According to Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, they most likely came from the living matter that was buried under layers of dirt and water at the time of the Flood…

Evolutionists speculate that hundreds of millions of years of slow processes must have been involved, but the details of such processes are very uncertain. Coal and oil can be produced in a matter of hours in modern laboratories under appropriate conditions of heat and pressure. Recent studies by creation scientists have proved that at least the great coal beds (and even diamond mines) contain modern radiocarbon, so must have been formed recently.

Although evolutionists ridicule the idea of a world-destroying hydraulic cataclysm in Noah’s day, that phenomenon really does provide the most reasonable explanation for all these phenomena. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).[7]

The Formation of Coal

How Coal is Formed

4.The Formation of Other Fossils 

As for the formation of Fossils themselves, Dr. John D. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, explains that they…

…are typically found in sedimentary rock, almost all of which were originally deposited as sediments by moving water. Subsequent processes hardened them into sedimentary rock, as overlying pressure squeezed the water out and the grains were cemented together. Often plants and animals were trapped, being buried in the sediments. As the sediments hardened into sedimentary rock, the dead things hardened into fossils…

The standard evolutionary view is that from time to time over the eons, a calm and placid sea covered what is now the continents. Over the millions of years of living and dying and coming and going the fossils were preserved as sediments slowly collected on the ocean bottom. But is there a better understanding? Let’s summarize.

Marine fossils are found in rock layers which give testimony to dynamic water processes having deposited them….Rather than demanding the conclusion of long ages of uniformity and evolution, the fossils speak of a time when the oceans fully destroyed the continents, employing catastrophic hydraulic and tectonic forces—a flood on a scale not witnessed today. Just such a flood was witnessed in yesteryear, however, and recorded for our edification in Genesis. It was the great Flood of Noah’s day.[8]

What This Means for Us Today 

During this rather lengthy “pause for critical analysis,” we have discussed a number of changes thought to have taken place during the Biblical Flood.  I say “thought to have taken place” because, of the ones we have mentioned, only two have been specifically addressed in scripture—those being, the addition of meat to man’s diet, and the delegation of authority from God to man to institute the earliest forms of human government.

As for the change in climate, which would have taken place once the vapor canopy had been removed at the onset of the Flood; and the change in landscape, which most likely occurred when the underground waters were released from their chambers, bringing about the creation of tectonic plates and the division of the land into continents—these are implied in several passages of scripture, particularly those found in the Creation Story and in those describing the mechanics of the Flood.  And, of course, the formation of fossils and the development of fossil fuels were changes which would have been unknown until long after the Bible was written.  However, the scientific sources cited in our analysis all seem to agree that these changes took place at some time in the past–they just don’t agree on when, where, and how long they took.

While we might be inclined to think a discussion of this nature, about an event as ancient as the Flood of Noah’s day, would have no bearing on our lives today, nothing could be farther from the truth.  For, as you can see from the following chart, each of the changes just mentioned has had a lasting impact on the world in which we live today…

Impact of the Flood

All of these changes should serve as a witness to our modern world, not only of mankind’s past judgment but also of the one to come.  For…

  • Our shortened lifespans;
  • The volatility of the planet on which we live;
  • The abuse and corruption of human government all around us;
  • The exploitation of the earth’s resources for personal profit; and,
  • The audacity of those who use God’s creation to justify a denial of His existence and the Truth of His Word…

…should be daily reminders to us that life is fragile and can be taken away at any given moment–something stated so succinctly in the following verses…

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is yet toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who can consider the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10-12)

[For] just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  (Matthew 16:27)

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the Ark, they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)

While the changes brought about by the Flood were many, there was still one that it failed to make–but, to find out what it was, we will have to wait until Vignette #9, which is just about to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2No matter how bleak things may have looked to Noah when he exited the Ark, as Michael Gungor reminds us, God was and still is in the business of making “Beautiful Things” out of dust…

[1] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspectivehttp://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[2] Earth Observatory of Singapore, Brief History of the Plate Tectonics Theory, http://www.earthobservatory.sg/faq-on-earth-sciences/brief-history-plate-tectonics-theory.

[3] Stuart E. Nevins, M.S. 1976. Continental Drift, Plate Tectonics, and the BibleActs & Facts. 5 (2).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://kids.britannica.com/search?query=fossil+fuels&ct=ebi&searchSubmit.x=0&searchSubmit.y=0.

[7] Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.  Evidence for Creation: Those Fossil Fuels. http://www.icr.org/article/6349/.

[8] John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2004. Where Are Fossils Found?. Acts & Facts. 33 (7).

 

But Noah…

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The Line of the Righteous from Adam to the FloodIn our recent critique of Vignette #5 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we spent quite a bit of time poking around in the first genealogy of the Bible, which is found in Genesis 5.  There, we discovered some valuable information concerning the line of righteous People who lived from the time of Adam to the time of Noah; the Patterns of life that began to develop during this period; and, the Precedents that were established by these godly people as they sought to live out their lives in a world of ever-increasing wickedness.  Our analysis ended with a brief introduction to Noah, the tenth in line from Adam, and the one whom his father, Lamech, predicted would “…give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

Since the name Noah means “rest”, it is likely that Lamech believed this son to be the long-awaited Redeemer; the one whom God promised to Eve that He would send.  And, that the “rest” he had in mind was one in which mankind’s bondage to sin and death would be ended, and earth’s sin-caused curse would be removed.  It is doubtful that a world-wide flood, wiping our nearly all of the earth’s inhabitants, was the kind of “rest” he had envisioned when he named his son as he did.

As for our exploration into the flood and its earth-altering consequences, before we can dive headlong into those turbulent waters, there are still at least three things that we need to take into consideration—that is, if we are going to understand why a disaster of this magnitude had become necessary in the first place.  For, it was these three factors, working in tandem, which helped to make the Antediluvian civilization such a dark and dangerous one that it had to be erased off the face of the map.  They are:

  • The Planet, in its pre-flood condition;
  • The Population, and the effects of its explosion on society; and,
  • The Powers and their influence on life during this era.
Early Concept of Cosmos

The Ancient Concept of the Cosmos

The Planet

Although the Bible doesn’t give us much in the way of specifics about the physical conditions of the earth before the flood, it does give us enough clues to lead us to believe that it must have been a vastly different place than the earth that we are familiar with today.  Of course, the one we know is still the same size, same shape, and in the same position in its orbit around the sun that it has always been; but, from what we can gather from the Biblical clues, and from recent scientific findings, it is likely that both today’s climate and the earth’s topography are completely different from that of the original earth.

As for changes in its climate, these would seem to be attributable to differences in the distribution and storage of the earth’s waters.  Back in Genesis 1:1, 1:7, and 1:9, while studying the Creation Story, we learned that…

  • The earth started out as a formless mass of waters—meaning that there was water, water everywhere, but where was it to go?  Therefore…
  • God separated the waters by making an “expanse” (a firmament, or “thin stretched-out space”) and inserting it between the waters, and then calling this expanse “Heaven”—meaning that part of the waters were stored above earth, with these most likely being in the form of water vapor; and,
  • God gathered the waters under the expanse together in one place and commanded dry land to come forth out of the waters; calling the dry land “Earth” and the gathered waters “Seas”—meaning that the rest of the waters were contained either around the land or beneath it in underground “chambers” or rivers.

So, what effect might this pre-flood arrangement of waters have had on the climate?  Well, a layer of water vapor situated above the earth’s atmosphere and acting as a layer of insulation between it and the sun…

  • Would have provided the earth with nearly uniform temperatures everywhere;
  • These uniform temperatures would have limited the movement of air, thus preventing windstorms of any kind;
  • Without any air circulating, dust particles from the earth would not have been moved to the upper atmosphere, thus eliminating the condensation which would have resulted in precipitation;
  • In lieu of precipitation, the moisture on the earth would have been provided regularly, rather than intermittently, by dew or ground fog—something confirmed in Genesis 2:5-6 with these words… “…for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land…and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole surface of the ground”;
  • This regular misting of the earth, in conjunction with the uniformly warm temperatures, would have contributed to the world-wide growth of abundant and rich vegetation; and,
  • A vapor shield surrounding the earth would have led to an increase in the atmospheric pressure which, according to some modern research, could have resulted in an increase in health and longevity.[1]
pangaea (2)

The Super Continent of Pangaea

When it comes to the topographical differences in the earth, it is now believed that the land mass of the early earth was formed into one super continent called Pangaea, rather than being broken up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  According to the US Geological Survey, although…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener.

Wegener’s theory was based in part on what appeared to him to be the remarkable fit of the South American and African continents, first noted by Abraham Ortelius three centuries earlier. Wegener was also intrigued by the occurrences of unusual geologic structures and of plant and animal fossils found on the matching coastlines of South America and Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. He reasoned that it was physically impossible for most of these organisms to have swum or have been transported across the vast oceans. To him, the presence of identical fossil species along the coastal parts of Africa and South America was the most compelling evidence that the two continents were once joined.

…But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[2] 

What forces indeed!  As for a reason why God may have decided on one super continent for the early earth, just think how much easier it would have been, with all of the earth’s land surfaces joined together, for the descendants of Adam to fulfill the commission that God had given him to…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).

And, as they did this, it wouldn’t have taken long for…

…the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

But, as we shall see, while the people of this period succeeded in fulfilling God’s command to “multiply and fill the earth,” the vast majority of them failed miserably at doing it in a way which would bring any kind of glory to God.

The Population 

When we get to this part of the Bible—that is, to the story of Noah and the Flood—I believe there is a tendency on our parts to think that the population of the earth at the time must have been a relatively small one.  Perhaps, this is because, having only read five chapters and having only been introduced to a fairly small group of people so far, we get the impression that not a lot of time has passed and that not much has happened in the course of these five chapters.  But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Using the figures given to us in Genesis 5, when we total up the years from the beginning of Adam’s life to the birth of Noah, we learn that 1,056 years had elapsed.  Then, by adding the 600 years that Noah lived before the flood to that number, we find that men and women had been living—and multiplying—on the earth for at least 1,656 years.  This is a lot of time for populations to expand and for cultures to shift and deteriorate.  For example, just think how much our world has changed in the past 1,056 or 1,656 years, respectively.  If we subtract the former figure from 2015, we would find ourselves in the year 959 AD, and by doing the same to the latter figure, we would be taken back to the year 359 AD—and, without a doubt, a lot of change has taken place in our world since either one of these dates, hasn’t it?

Take the population, for instance.  In the same length of time that passed between Adam and the birth of Noah, the population of our present world grew from an estimated 300 million to over 7 billion; while the population from 359 AD to today has increased from an estimated 198 million to well past the same 7 billion mark[3].  This is all the more remarkable when you consider that this increase was produced by men and women who were living greatly reduced life spans and having considerably fewer children than those who were alive during the years preceding the flood.  As for the population at the time of the flood, if I had to wager a guess as to its size, I think a very conservative estimate would put that at a minimum of 2 billion—which is to say, 2,000,000,000 people!  How did I arrive at that figure?

Well, by going back to the genealogy listed in Genesis 5, I learned that in addition to each of the sons listed there, the fathers were said to have “had other sons and daughters.”  Although no numbers were recorded for us, given that the average life span for these men was about 850 years, it stands to reason that the number of their offspring would have been considerable (for, as noted by the Jewish historian, Josephus, “The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters.”)[4]  With this in mind, it doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination to suppose that Adam and Eve could have had at least ten sons and ten daughters, who would have made up the first set of ten couples.  If each of these couples had at least ten sons and ten daughters, who would, in turn, have another ten sons and ten daughters, etc.—at the end of ten generations (and not allowing for any deaths), this would have produced a population of 2,000,000,000 people.  Roughly speaking, this would be about the same as today’s total population of China added to about half of the population of India—and, no matter how you look at it, that is a lot of people!

The Powers 

Now, in order to put these things into perspective, let’s try to imagine what our world would be like today if all of the people in China and half of the people in India were living together, spread out over a single land mass.  Given its temperate climate and regulated underground hydraulic system, this land would be one that was filled with lush green vegetation, and one where hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes were unknown events.   Something else that would be unknown is any kind of institutional structure, such as governments, laws, police, armies, churches, or schools, to dictate codes of conduct or to help control the actions of the people.  In fact, there would only be three forces around with the power to influence human behavior, and these would be the Power of God, the Power of the Human Conscience, and the Power of Demonic Spirits.  However, because most of these people would eventually choose to reject God and go through life on their own terms, His power is something that would no longer be available to them; and, as for their consciences, due to their continuous sinning, these would become so seared that they would be rendered useless as a means of curbing their actions.  This, then, would leave them open and vulnerable to any kind of influence or interference that the demonic spirits might throw at them which, from what we can gather from Genesis 6:1,2,4 could have included demon possession or sexual cohabitation…

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… and…when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

So, the picture that we’re presented with here is one in which at least 2,000,000,000 people with fallen human natures—having denied God and His power, and whose consciences are so calloused that they no longer know the difference between right and wrong—are running around doing whatever they please—and, whatever the demonic forces at work in the world want them to do.  What a bleak and seemingly hopeless picture of humanity this is—and yet, this is what life would have been like in the years leading up to the Flood.  Is it any wonder that when…

…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…

That…

…the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart?

Or, that He would say…

…‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…for I am sorry that I have made them’?  (Gen. 5-7)

At this low point in our Story, it would seem that all is lost, and humanity is a goner—but fortunately for us, this is not the case.  For, it was into this very dark and doomed world that God shined one wonderful ray of redemptive light when He recorded…

But Noah… found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8)…

…an acknowledgement which lets us know that it is now time our next Vignette–Vignette #6 to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As Phillips Craig and Dean remind us, God’s Grace is still an amazing thing…

 

 

[1] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (San Diego, California:  Creation-Life Publishers, 1976) p.60.

[2] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspective, http://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[3] US Census Bureau, Historical Estimates of World Population, https://www.census.gov, (December 19, 2013).

[4] Josephus, The Works of Josephus, as translated by William Whiston (Lynn, Mass.:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1981) p. 27.

The Capstone of God’s Creation

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As we wait for the curtains to re-open for Vignette #2, here at Stage #1 of God’s One Big Story, let’s take a moment to recall where we were in the Story when these very same curtains were closed so abruptly on Vignette #1—The Creation of the World.  At the time, we had just witnessed the most astounding display of power, wisdom, order, and creativity ever, as God in three Persons created, out of nothing, the cosmos and everything in it—everything, that is, except the human life which had been His ultimate objective from eternity past.  It was at this pivotal moment, when everything else in God’s created order was in place, that a light shone on the Stage and God, in His Tri-unity, announced plans for the imminent creation of a Capstone—that is, a crowning achievement, point, element, or event, for all of His work, by saying…

…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
(Gen. 1:26)

It was with this pronouncement that the curtains closed temporarily on the Creation Story; leaving us somewhat bewildered and confused as to why the Story would come to a screeching halt right at this particular point.  The reason for this seemingly inconvenient and unnecessary delay will become clearer to us, though, if we think back to Here at Last, at Stage #1…, where we were, for the sake of improving our scriptural navigation skills, introduced to the concept of Surfing our way through Genesis.  As we learned then, Surfing through Scripture is very much like going to a website and then clicking on one link after another, until we finally get to the information we are looking for—which, in this instance, means going to Genesis 1, and looking for the most important piece of information contained there.  This information, in verse form, will then provide us with the link needed to connect us with the action that will be taking place in next chapter.   In Chapter 1, this connecting link is found in verse 27, the Creation of Man—the very place where the curtains closed on us before.

You see, quite often when people are reading through Genesis 1 and 2, they make the mistake of thinking that there are two separate Creation Stories being recounted when, in fact, the Story that is being presented in Chapter 1 is an overview, a big picture, or a master shot of this one particular scene—while that which is taking place in Chapter 2 is the close-up of the very same scene. This is exactly where we find ourselves now, as Vignette #2 begins—we are flashing forward to view the close-up of the Creation of Man, the Capstone on all of God’s Creation! 

So, with the lights in the theatre dimmed again, and with the curtains parting once more, here is the paradisaical setting that we find on the Stage before us…

Paradise1a

The Paradise of the Early Earth

The pristine beauty of this scene serves up a such a visual feast that it is almost too much for our eyes to fully savor; and yet, almost immediately after the curtains part, our other senses are pushed to the brink of overload as the sound of a heavenly choir, somewhere off-stage, begins singing praises to God for bringing all of this splendor into existence.  Suddenly, we are so overcome by all of the majestic sights and sounds we are experiencing, that we find ourselves singing along with them…

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!
(
Psalm 57: 5, 10-11) 

[For] The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
(Psalm 19: 1-4)
 

Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!  For he commanded and they were created.  And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps…mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.
(Psalm 148: 1-6, 7,9,10,13)
 

[For] Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
(Revelation 4:11)

Enraptured as we all are in the wonder and worship of the moment, not one of us is giving a single thought to what things looked like just six days prior to this; and yet, it is to very these things that the off-stage Narrator now redirects us, as he summarizes the events leading up to this all-important moment…

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens…[in that day] when no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground …(Gen. 2:4-6)

As soon as these words are spoken, the bright light we had seen previously in Vignette #1 reappears, and begins shining again on the same insignificant looking piece of ground that it had illuminated before.  With our attention now riveted on this spot, we hear the Narrator describe that action that is taking place on the Stage, when he says…

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature [soul].  And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.  The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  (Gen. 2:7-9)

Our Narrator pauses for a moment in an effort to give us with a little more information about the richness and expansiveness of this Garden, by telling us that…

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.  The name of the first is the Pishon.  It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is the Gihon.  It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush.  And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria.  And the fourth river is the Euphrates.  (Gen. 2: 10-14) 

…before returning to the action of the Story, where we learn that…

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  (Gen. 2:15-17) 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  (Gen. 2:18)

Adam in the Garden of Eden1a

Adam Surveying His Dominion

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him (Gen. 2:19-20). 

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of Man.”  Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and the woman were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen.2:21-25). 

With this, we now flash back to what we heard from behind the curtain at the end of Vignette #1, as our Narrator then announced…

Adam and Eve1

“It is not good that man should be alone…”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth…Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.  (Gen. 1:27-30) 

Satisfied that this, the Capstone of His Creation, is not just good but very good, God brings His work on this sixth day of Creation to an end.  With the heavens and the earth thus completed…

…on the seventh day, God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.  (Gen. 2:1-3) 

As the curtain closes on Vignette #2, we are once again treated to the sound of the heavenly choir as it praises God…

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is you name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens…
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the star, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8)

Garden of Eden1a

“…And it was very good.”

And to this, all that we can add is…Amen!

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Let’s continue the worship of our Wonderful Creator with Susan Boyle’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art”

 

 

 

More about the Bible… from Booth #1

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Bible and Candle

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Ps. 119:105

I hope everyone has taken the time to look over the Bible brochure available here at Booth #1, in the Welcome Center of the Word While the veteran believers or long-time church members among us—those who are traveling in Group #1—might consider the information contained in it to be more than adequate to meet their needs, those traveling with us in Groups #2 and #3 who have little or no knowledge of or background in the Bible, might prefer to receive a little more instruction as to what the Bible is all about.  So, in an effort to address the needs of these last two groups, we’re going to take a few minutes for a more expanded explanation of the Book through which we will soon be traveling.

Toward that end, the first thing we need to do is pause for a DOT—or a definition terms.  For our purposes, we will define the Bible as the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order, and with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

The Torah

The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings

Now, in order to further enhance all of our future study, there are several other things that we need to understand about the Bible—with the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written; it is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book, but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it and to heed it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way that I know of to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

“…I the Lord do not change…” (Mal. 3:6), and “…I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…” (Is. 46: 9-10)

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine “inspiration,” or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Inspired Scribes

God’s Inspired Scribes

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was

“… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

“…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live godly—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him in the way that He has prescribed.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The next thing that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we can also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

Something else that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, in order to do this, He has purposefully incorporated things in His creation that He could use for His divine illustrations.  We will learn much more about all of these as we go along.

Finally, the most important thing that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of who He is is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; plus, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, however, He is seen overtly or openly, as He makes His appearance in the flesh to become the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types.

Wow, when we think about all that the Bible is, it strikes me as a wonder that we haven’t made its study the highest priority in our lives.  Just think about it for a moment:

  • If the Bible is the best resource for teaching us that which is truly moral, then why isn’t it the first book that we teach to our children? 
  • If the Bible teaches us about what love is all about, and how we can love one another better, then why isn’t the Bible at the center of every home, marriage, or personal relationship? 
  • And, if the Bible provides us with indisputable rules for success and prosperity, then why isn’t the Bible the operating manual for every kind of enterprise, be it business, education, government, entertainment, or science?

In other words, if the Bible is all that it is cracked up to be, then why aren’t we reading and studying it every chance we can get?

 

Bible

The Wonderful Word of God

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Join with the Gaithers as they sing about God’s “Wonderful Words of Life…”

 

Image of scribes courtesy of http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/.

A Detour Around the Trees

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Although I had planned on using our time together today to try and answer some of the questions that were raised at the end our last visit—questions as to why God would choose to use trees to tell His story of redemption—it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.  The reason is, every time I have tried to organize my thoughts on the subject, it was as if somebody put my brain on “automatic scramble;” and, after being hit with the equivalent of a mental brickbat, not just once but many times, I decided that it would be to my advantage to go with whatever alternative the Lord decided to give me.  This seems to be that alternative—a reflection that I am calling “A Detour Around the Trees”—for all of the obvious reasons.

This detour originally began as a status update for my Facebook page, however, it never made it that far.  For whatever reason, while I was working on this, I didn’t experience the “brain scramble” that I did with the other work. As a result, this update just kept on growing until eventually it looked more like a reflection rather than an update–so that is what I decided to make it.

It was always my intention, once this blog was up and running, to use one of our visits to explain why I had chosen “His Truth, My Voice:  The Reflections of a Reluctant Prophet” as the name for my blog.  But, even though we have been meeting together, on average, once a week for the past five months, it is something that remained unattended to.  I thought that since some of you may have been curious about my choice of names, this would be a good time to offer an explanation for it—plus, it will give my brain something of a break, too.  So, let’s get started by first explaining the “reluctant prophet” part of the name.

This originated many years ago, when I was trying to get a new singles’ Sunday school class started at my church; a class specifically designed for more in-depth Bible study than what was currently being offered.  When I proposed the class to the powers-that-were, though, I was told by the minister of education that I would not be allowed to teach the class because I was a woman who would be teaching adult men.   He explained to me that there were only two other women in the church at the time who were teaching adult men, but it was okay for them because they were married and their husbands were “visible presences” in the church.   When I replied that, as a single woman, I considered Christ to be my husband until He gave me one in the flesh, and that I certainly hoped He was a visible presence in the church, the minister didn’t know quite how to respond—other than to say that he still didn’t want me to teach.

What, me a prophet?

I Don’t Think So…

Interestingly enough, about this same time, I was asked to be the guest teacher in a men’s Sunday school class at another church about a hundred miles away. Obviously, this church didn’t have the same concerns about me teaching men that my home church did.  Naturally, none of this made any sense to me, so while I was out walking one day, asking the Lord what I should do about both situations, He spoke to me, saying, “You need to resolve this issue because I am going to make you a prophet…”

Since that was the last thing I expected to hear, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first thing out of my mouth was, “But I don’t want to be a prophet, I want everyone to like me.  Besides, I have read ‘The Book’ and I know what the ‘people of God’ have done to the prophets of God in the past–plus, I am really not up for being drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, beheaded, or boiled in hot oil.  So, what is ‘Plan B’?”  Although I waited and waited for Him to respond, no answer came.

More time went by and when no “Plan B” was forthcoming, I decided to go back to God in an effort to try and negotiate a better deal for myself.  “Okay, I get it—there is no ‘Plan B’.  But, if You are really determined to go ahead with this ‘Plan A’ thing, at least let’s define our terms; that way I will know exactly what You will be expecting of me as your ‘prophet.’  According to my definition of the term, however, I just don’t see how I could possibly be qualified to be one.  I don’t foretell the future, I don’t give personal words to people, and there isn’t a preacher that I know of who would move over and let me preach the Word from his pulpit.  So, what do You mean when you use the term ‘prophet’?”

After a short pause, all I heard Him say was, “Think about it.” (Mind you, He has told me that on more than one occasion and I really don’t like to hear it because, as far as I am concerned,  it requires just a little too much effort and thought on my part, if you know what I mean.)

Hmmm…think about it, huh?  Well, the thought that came to my mind right away was of the three offices that were mentioned in the Old Testament:  those of prophet, priest, and king.  And, as I began to think about them, I realized immediately that I could eliminate any consideration of the duties of king because gender alone would exclude me from that office.  As for the office of priest, I was aware that it was to be filled by someone who would represent the people before God; someone who would bring sacrifices, prayers, and petitions before Him on their behalf.  Of course, being a Christian meant that I was already a member of the priesthood of believers, so I couldn’t see how I would have to concern myself with that office either.

Thinking Cap

This is too much like work!

With this process of elimination speeding things along, all that was left for me to consider was the office of the prophet.  I knew that this office was going to be different from the others because both of those were intended to be hereditary ones.  The office of prophet, however, was to be occupied on an as-needed basis by the person chosen by God to be His representative before the people; as such, he would be charged with the task of delivering God’s Words to the people,  so that they could come to understand His thoughts, positions, or attitudes concerning any given subject or situation.

As I thought about all of this, suddenly the bells went off—ding, ding, ding—and the light bulb came on—blinkie, blinkie, and I said, “OK, Lord, I’ve got it.  As Your prophet, what You want me to do is to take Your Word to people, and use it to explain to them who You are, and what You want from and for them.  I can do that—in fact, I have been doing that for years!  No problem.”

Thankfully, I did not have to work so hard or think quite so much when it came to the reason for the “His Truth, My Voice” part.  That’s because those words came to me directly from the Lord, in two messages given on two separate occasions.  In a word given to me by the Lord on June 26, 2008, He said,

“Use the voice that I have given you…age is not an issue, appearance is not an issue…the truth is the issue—make that your focus.  Remember, My Truth is your voice.”

And later, in a word given to me on July 28, 2009, He said,

“Remember:  My Word is My Truth, and My Truth is Your Voice.”

His instructions couldn’t have been any clearer so, for once, He didn’t get any back-talk from me—something which certainly must have come as a welcome change!

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Selah, with “Press On.”