Lecture 4: The Theme of the Old Testament
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Discusses a possible theme that runs throughout the Old Testament. Also discusses the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of God's knowledge of the future.
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: The Theme of the Old Testament
Samuel asked a question, do you have the same description of what the Old Testament does that would anyway approximate say John’s statement, you know John makes a statement in chapter 20 verses 30-31.
In many other things, Jesus did that aren’t written in this book but I’ve written this that you might have life, that you might believe in Him and have life in His Name. If I weren’t, I mean I’d be happy to do it either now or later. But if I were to say okay, a chronological [phonetics] theology of scripture, where would you start? If I started with Genesis and on, I would eventually come to what I think are the strongest statements about scripture maybe in the Bible, but at least the Old Testament. We looked at what the New Testament said about itself, you know all scripture. But if I were to do that with the Old Testament, the two major text would be Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.
In Psalm 19:1-6 you have what we typically call general revelation. That is God revealing Himself in the created world. Certainly Romans 1 makes similar point. But then Psalm 19:7-14, the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. So far we’ve been given a variety of genres of literate [phonetics] types that you find in the Bible, law, testimony which I think is narrative description.
Precepts, being case laws, if you do this then this will occur. Commandments of the Lord, then probably in the wisdom is the fear of the Lord is clean and enduring forever. The judgements of the Lord are true. They are righteous altogether. So in those verses you have a type of literature found in scripture. Then what it does. I’m sorry, type assessment value.
Law of the Lord, perfect. What’s it do? Restores the soul. Testimonies of the Lord, pure or certain. They will make wise the simple. In other words, when Paul talked about the Book of Numbers, which I think it was a testimony. In other words, a narrative. He said these things are written for our examples. Basically he said some negative examples so we won’t sin as they’re sinned.
Commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever. Then it goes on, verse ten, they are more desirable then gold, yea, and much fine gold. Verse 11 by them Your servant is warned, in keeping them there is great reward. Verse 12 who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. It goes on to include with that great prayer. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Having done the law and the prophets of the writings, we want to come up with this statement about scripture. And Psalm 119 as you know the longest chapter in the Bible, the 176 verses about the worth of God’s Word and what it does for the individual who lives by it.
So I won’t take time to do all 176 verses. But I can say about the Word of God, there is a place that gives a strong summary in a manner similar said in fact. If you lay Psalm 19 and II Timothy 3:16 side by side, you have to wonder if Paul doesn’t have Psalm 19 in mind because he’s saying the Bible is God breathed. In other words, he talks about the scripture, its quality and then its usefulness and profitable for doctrine and for correction. Same sort of formula you get in Psalm 19. So as I said, I think this and other text, I would begin having studied the Old Testament with presupposition of this being God’s Word written and finding evidence of that in the Psalms themselves. Going back to the Prophets, you could do similar work, way back then even in Deuteronomy where in chapter 32, Moses says to the people, the text in 31 says Moses wrote down the law. In Deuteronomy 32, Moses said these are not idle words to you, this is your life, in 32:47.
So he wasn’t just talking about oral Word of God or oral tradition. They are committing these words to writing already. How important are these words coming out of the Pentateuch. You know Joshua one, how is Joshua to be successful in his path? By meditating day and night on the law of Moses. You get to the later on, First Kings two, how does David tell Solomon to succeed as a king by meditating on the law of Moses. He uses that phrase. So in the law itself, these words are your life. In the former prophets beginning with Joshua one, meditate on this law, the writings we looked at first, Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.
If I go to the Gospels, what does Jesus say about the scriptures. He says in John 5:39 that they are about Him. Search the scriptures that Moses wrote of Me. Chapter 17 in verse 17, He prays with the disciples, keep them in Thy Word. Thy Word is truth. I read King James on it, didn’t I. It’s shown on the background there. So the Gospels call the written Word that Moses wrote about Me, Jesus says, these words are truth. Paul, we’ve already looked at. And certainly if the quotations of the scriptures as authority mean a whole lot, then a book like Hebrews, though it never says necessarily the Bible is pure, that enlightens the eyes, that the Bible is God breathed or whatever. This one quotation after another, it’s expounding the Word in the same thing onto Revelation. So I supposed one of the reasons I don’t start with a theology of the Word is because it’s not the first thing the Bible says about itself. So you know you make a decision. It’s not the first thing the Bible says about itself, but it is a primary question. Why would we study the Bible and what does it say about itself? It speaks of itself in the highest terms of purity, surety, etc. On down to the New Testament, truth and God breathed. This is why, you know I say, I’m, my personal beliefs is best expounded in much thoroughly in God Revelation Authority volume four. That doesn’t mean I don’t have respect for people who disagree with me, and I hope I’ve shown you in my survey of scholarship. Though I would disagree with certain ones of these fundamentally, does not mean I have nothing to learn or show no value, see no value in people who disagree with me. By the time the Psalmist writes, he’s certain that if you come to Genesis 1:1 and start with creation, you will find a perfect, sure and valuable and enlightening word. Now when you come to Genesis one and two, there are a lot of summaries you can draw, though I know that the Bible itself is perfect and pure and God breathed, I don’t claim that from my, my own theological summary. You might make a better one. So what I offer is, is certainly my own findings and I am, am willing to discuss them. I suppose in recent times, few passages of scripture, like to refer to something I’m working on now, I suppose few passages of scripture have generate as much heated discussions Genesis one and two. So on the one side, if you want kind of the, the boundaries of the discussion. On the one hand, you have naturalistic evolutionists. Was it Carl Sagan who said, the Universe is all there is, and all there that will ever be? That’s pretty strong statement of a naturalistic evolutionist. And on the other hand, you would have young Earth six day literal creationist. I mean that would be the opposite camp, wouldn’t it? And in between those two camps stood theistic evolutionist, framework theory, proponents, non-young Earth literal six day creationist, and others. Basically what these folks are discussing are, where did the world come from? How long has it been here? And in what form? Of course, these aren’t irrelevant discussions, you know, what little television I’ve seen recently. Yesterday it was announced that the T. rex dinosaur had a cousin who only ate plants. Body’s big, body’s fearsome, thank goodness, only ate plant. 90 million years ago is the date.Why not 85, I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know science really, but I’ve always been struck by how they toss this. Sometimes science is seen to toss around numbers and dates the way some politicians toss around numbers. There’s one famous politician said, you know few more billion dollars and we’ll be talking about real money here. So these are issues that are important partly because I’m not qualified to discuss science. I don’t mean that because I’m a theologian. I know theologians who have science degrees. But I’m not going to pretend with my C minus work literally in high school, in biology and C work, all had C in college. Don’t know a whole lot about biology, and I know nothing of chemistry. I’m not proud of that anymore than I’m proud that I don’t play a musical instrument.Again, I take no pride in that, but I’m not, I’m not going to kid a group of people into thinking that I know something I don’t, at least not this time. But there’s been a lot of games made I think. I think this dialogue though it has been in many ways at time striding, at other times. I mean I was involved in a panel discussion once in the University of Idaho [phonetics]. I just tried to say to him, you don’t understand a Christian because we believe in integration of faith and learning.
We can’t leave God out of any discussion really and feel like we’ve had a whole discussion, whether that’s science or history or theology or what it is, English lit. whatever. Well, I see it’s unacceptable to some people. But to others they say, well, sure. I mean we see that. But there has been a lot of discussion about Creation theology lately as well. And there has been some gains there. The discussion continues that a new anthology 2,000 really a God that creates. And a lot of contributors but all on Creation theology, Leo Perdue has recently written about wisdom in creation. Creation in theology is getting air time. So I’m not, I’m not going to try to cover all the variety of disputes of Genesis one and two. I just encourage you to read Dr. Matthew’s Commentary and then ask him any questions along these lines. But I want to talk about creation along the following lines. Genesis one and two, I think stress God’s person in creation, who God is and how He acts? What he does? So when you come to Genesis, you’re going to find the beginning points of some important themes such as God’s personal involvement with human beings. God is personally involved with people. He doesn’t just make them, but He’s involved with them. God is sovereign. God is powerful. God is the One giving standards in Genesis one and two. And if we creep forward to Genesis three, God is the One who is wiling to forgive erring human beings. All of this is the beginning. In fact, God is the only Creator, in the case that he’s the only God. I want to say right from the beginning, that believing what the Bible says, obviously requires faith.
And the Church has long confessed the fact that God is the Creator as a key article of faith. The Apostles’ Creed carved up in the chapel, I think here. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. The Nicene Creed, I believe in God and it goes on to say, He is the Creator of all things seen and unseen, right? I don’t have the Nicene Creed memorized but that phrase is firmly right. And were the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed written today, we might include more data, more statements of faith because it was radical enough at that point to say He was the Creator of all things seen and unseen. But this is a statement of faith. You must receive these things through the normal reception of of thought and reason and believe them by faith. So two different sorts of theologians, Carl Henry and Karl Barth say the following, Henry asserts the question of the ultimate source of the Universe brings human experience and reasoning to a standstill. How we got here? It brings our reasoning to a standstill.
And he says, only revelation from above can overcome this standstill. In other words, if we don’t have revelation, we are a bit in a muddle as to how we got here and why we’re here? And Henry argued that God has revealed how we got here and why we’re here. Karl Barth argues that the doctrine of the Creation, no less than the remaining content of Christian confession is an article of faith and must be believed by those who accept God’s revelation. Barth, though he believes revelation got here differently than Henry does. They disagree on certain things qualitatively but both conclude that Hebrews 11:3 summarizes the necessity for faith. Remember Hebrews 11:3, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. God made it out of things that are not visible by His Word. So one thing that we must keep in mind is that Creation itself is a confessional faith based doctrine like all the rest.
And that it’s fundamental to your faith and commitments as the Bible unfolds. Because eventually, so this again just give me Jesus well, John one is going to claim, that all things came into being through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. And Paul’s going to confess in Colossians one that in Him all things were made and in Him all things hold together. We cannot bypass creation theology if we want to be Christians. So kind of with these things in mind, you come to Genesis one and two, and say, what does it teach us? What does it teach us? As I said, I think it emphasizes that God and His person, quotation from Kid Matthews [phonetics], Genesis one and two teaches God is not merely an idea.
He is Eternal Being who we can know and experience personally. Now once we understand, let’s first things first. Once we understand the importance of God’s person, we can input human beings into proper perspective. In his interpretation commentary, Walther Bugermon [phonetics] says Genesis one and two stresses the Creator created creation.
Now we started. Stresses with the Creator created creation. And he says, if we get the subject, the verb or the object out of order, that’s where trouble starts. Just start flipping those three ideas. Creator created creation. Take the Creator created out, you’ve got a problem. If you make the object, the creation the subject of that sentence, you’ve got problems. So I mean it’s a simple but deep insight. And I think Matthews is exactly right too. What do you learn about God’s person? Genesis 1:1 in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. According to this verse, the Lord is the sole source and cause of things seen and unseen. Sole source, sole cause. What’s the source of all things? God, in the beginning God created them. He made them happen and they came from Him. And He is directly and personally involved in creation. That’s important but it’s also important to see He is not the same thing as creation. He’s not part of it. The Creator created creation. Cause a lot of theology tries to tie God to the world, that somehow He gains His existence from the world, or He is evolving with and like the world, process theology. But the biblical evidence would be that God though actively intimately involved with creation is not dependent upon creation, nor the same as creation. To say that God is other than creation is not to say He’s not involved with creation. But let’s not tie God to the world.
So God is the source, cause of creation, yet is other than creation. Let us also notice in verse 1:1 that God is acting alone. There’s only one God operative, operating here. Now this separates the Genesis account from virtually all other, maybe one exception in Egyptian writings but virtually all other ancient near eastern accounts. All of which have multiple gods involved in creation. And if you’re a polytheist, that’s what you would need to believe. But here is one God acting unaided by other deities, created the heavens and the earth. But even though God is unique and acting alone, He is not alone because verse two says, a Spirit of Himself yet separate from Himself is hovering over the waters. I think Josh was asking yesterday about you know, a notion of theology of the Spirit in the Old Testament, you get all the way to the second verse but you would have to deal with that subject. The Lord is working personally in creation through His Spirit. The earth is formless and void but the Spirit of God is moving over the face of the waters hovering. It is possible for Spirit to remain wind, you heard this woah, wind or spirit. But there are several text, you know the Karl and Delitzsch commentary series, Karl correctly comments, I think that the Spirit is quote, the creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life and he said, that’s true in several passages including several Psalms. S. R. Driver [phonetics] adds the chaos verse two is not left in hopelessness. Even before God speaks, the Spirit of God with Its life giving energy is brooding over the waters like a bird on its nest. I like that emphasis.
Even before God speaks, the Spirit is prepared to act. Then God will speak. I do not believe the Spirit of God would indicate two gods here, because again the Spirit is of this God. We are talking about two parts or two persons of the same God acting purposefully in creation.
This is not obviously a full blown doctrine of the Trinity by any means, but it is a beginning point. How many speak of God and the Spirit of God intelligently? Well the scriptures begin to unfold. We begin to see a problem with doing canonical theology in Genesis. There is a sense in which you can do all of theology starting with Genesis and working the whole of it out of Genesis.
I happen to think if not the weakest chapter in my book, Genesis is one of them because it’s hard to decide how many connections to make from Genesis to the rest of the scripture. But God is solitary. He is unique. He is the source. He is the cause. And He operates in concert with His Spirit of Himself in verse two. In verse three, God speaks.
God said, let there be light and there was light. Notice that God speaks and communicates. As Francis Xavier wrote He is there and He is not silent. He reveals Himself. God not only creates, He communicates. And notice the power of His Word. He says, let there be light and there is light. And on down the line, when God speaks, things happen. Human words are given extraordinary emphasis in power in the Old Testament. They have a life of their own, much less the Divine Word. If the human word has power, how much more power would a Divine Word have? He communicates and He creates. And notice that the word for create that’s in verse one, ‘bara', God is the only subject of that verb in the Old Testament. Both God and human beings can make things. ‘Asa’, that means, you know I can take the stuff. That’s one of the fun things of watching Apollo 13 you know the movie, where you know you got this crippled spaceship up there and they only have so many things on the ship. And I like this one part where they give some engineer the stuff that the guys in the ship have, and say this is what they need. Make this out of this stuff and show once that how it is that Cuban mechanics keep that old, old, old American cars running. Some make a vendor out of card board and some make a fuel pump out of a lawn sprinkler. This is extraordinary stuff. So human beings can ‘asa’ nearly anything, but they cannot ‘bara’ anything. Only God can create. So you get to a text, you know it’s what said eventually said, you get to a text like Psalm 51 that says create in me a clean heart, oh God. Only God can do that thing. So God creates, but notice already even in verse three to five, He is assessing.
He names, He has the power to name things. And God saw the light was good. We prefer God to assess and say it is good. However, we will find out in biblical theology, He can also assess in another manner, can He? So by chapter six, and God saw the intention of the human heart was only evil always.
That God assesses. We see in the reading we did for today in the Psalms, God is the Creator and He is the Judge. That’s another way of saying, a judge assesses the situation, right? And puts out either penalties or blessings. So I would also say in verse three and four, don’t you have an ordered intelligence? Things are in an orderly fashion here. And they seem to be created with some purpose. Orderly how? One thing follow another, one day following another. And so one thing you can say about this brief account of Creation is that you can say it’s ordered and intelligent. This doesn’t mean there’s scientific questions even someone like me can ask and not have answers, sure.
I don’t know how bright the light was. I don’t know how hot the water was. That about exhaust my knowledge. But I mean you know you could ask certain questions. They are also theological questions you can ask that are not fully answered in this text, but that does not take away from the fact that you have an ordered intelligent statement here that is also theologically ordered and intelligent. It may not answer every question you want but it does specific questions like did the world just happen?
Or did God do it on purpose? Was the world created in some specific organized fashion or not? Notice that God possesses all the power there is to possess here. And that the only word used for what God makes is good. We look around and even on the best days, everything is not good.
But we are not yet to Genesis three yet, are we? God possesses all power for good. Now that you come to chapter one verses 26-31, we find that God is not only personally involved with Creation as a whole. He is going to make man and woman in His Image, blessed them and commanded them to care for the earth. This is a crucial point. We were talking about this after class yesterday. Genesis 1:26 is a crucial point for the rest of the Bible’s view of individuals, communities and of justice, etc. 1:26 God said, let Us make man in Our Image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps. God created Adam in His Image. In the Image of God He created him, male and female, He created them. God bless them and said be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. We go on to 31. So the charter of the human race is responsibilities and privileges are found in Genesis 1:26-31. But those privileges and responsibilities begin with the fact that unlike anything else we’ve seen in the first 25 verses, human begins alone are made in God’s Image. Animals aren’t made in God’s Image. Plants aren’t made in God’s Image. Planet’s aren’t made in God’s Image. Human begins are. And as the text unfolds, only human beings can relate to God through spoken communication, right? Only human beings receive God’s personal blessing and God’s personal specific command to be stewards of the earth, to take care of it. Now then, on the one hand we can say, my what privileges. For instance, Karl Barth comments, it is in consequence of their Divine likeness that man are distinguished from all other creatures with autonomous life.
They are distinguished by a superior position by higher dignity and might and by greater power of disposal and control. So human beings have more power privileges, but they have more responsibilities. In this God who creates volume by Marshall Willfong [phonetics] notes that if humankind is to carry out the task of dominion as God’s representatives on earth, then the exercise of human dominion should imitate God’s own dominion over creation, and should have as its goal, the fulfillment of God’s good purpose for creation. Exploitation of animals on the earth is not appropriate. Autonomous dominion that ignores or seeks to overthrow God’s ultimate dominos over creation is not appropriate. I would add to that what many have added, if we take this seriously, what reason do we have to be fair with all human beings regardless of gender, or race or location? Equality before God is based on the fact that human beings are made in God’s Image. In my view, any other basis for feminist [phonetics] can falter. Any other basis for equality and kindness can falter because let’s face it.
If you tell a child, be nice to kids at school, or they may not be nice to you. Self interest is involved. It’s not so bad. And there is a sense in which there is little self interest in saying, do to others what you’d have them do to you. There’s something positive in that. But ultimately if you say, why should I treat person X with dignity? Because they are made in God’s Image. Though I forget the text, I’m sorry, say when I get to Proverbs I read, those who despise the poor, despise the one who made them. Well Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46, what’s His principle for saying, if you didn’t visit Me, or clothe Me. In other words, when did we see you and we didn’t do that, when we did or did not do it for the least of these My brothers. The principle of human beings made in God’s Image is important throughout scripture. And it begins with Creation theology. And I think if I were going into biblical ethics which I’m probably not, I would begin with Genesis 1:26-31 and just simply ask. I’ve asked a simple question as many manifestation and different. What does it mean in scripture to treat people as if they are made in the Image of God? What would that mean? What would that look like? What would a community founded on that principle look like? Well I think in many cases, we see that in scripture. What would it look like? Justice, and fairness, and kindness based on this principle, and human responsibilities and privilege. Now I want to keep those in tangent [phonetics] because it’s true. It is true as any decent farmer would now, if you abuse the land long enough, it won’t serve you well. If you mistreat animals, they won’t grow. I mean there’s the whole host of things, basically you would understand. So I want to see our responsibilities not to rape the earth and not, but I also want to understand that human beings have the privilege of being made in God’s Image, so that my dog, my pug is not my equal. I once said in seminary class, ask seriously and after that became a two year joke, do dogs go to heaven? I said based on what would they go? They are not made in God’s Image. They are not moral beings. If my dog disobeys me, it is hardly a moral fault. The best I can tell. Seems that way to me. And this pug is interesting because they can know exactly what you want and not do it, more so than other dogs I’ve seen, who are more eager to please. Pugs are eager to be your equal. They are not necessary eager to please. And I used to think cats are very independent. Now I just don’t think they know much of anything. But when it’s all said and done, though animals are not to be mistreated by the stewards of Creation, let’s not forget that they are not people.
And you can work the implications of that out. Now what else does God do here? He starts as early having made human beings in chapter two verses one to three, as a personal God, He starts saying example for them. Now as He starts instructing human beings right after He has them. Someone once asked me how do you, I just have the one child, maybe retired and defeated.
I don’t know. But I just have the one child, and some people think she’s a good person that I have something to do with this. They say, when did you start training her to do this and so on? And I thought for a minute and I said, I think when we brought her home, actually in that case, very early on. And it’s very much like this here. The seventh day is a day of example where God rests and makes holy a day of rest.
If we want to set aside the Sabbath principle, you got to go farther back than the Ten Commandments. You got to go back to Creation. And the older I get, the more I say, not do I have to keep the Sabbath, but when is the Sabbath coming. I have one day in seven the Bible says so. And for ministers, you mean it’s almost you get the pragmatics pretty soon. You better be some day besides Sunday, because even though in particularly the reformed traditions say, you can do good works on Sabbath and that the Calvin talked about preaching, teachings a good work. You’re not breaking the Sabbath if you do. But does not mean it’s a healthy thing nor even a Godly thing to do, to work seven days a week. There must be some Sabbath that gets to be, so that Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Which means you get it out [phonetics] of Sabbath but you’re not supposed to be its servant. That’s what’s God is driving at here. Yeah you can slap enough rules and regulations, it’s just one more job to do. But He says the Sabbath is given to you as a gift. So I embrace this. So God sets the example and then as He begins to put people to work doing what He commanded them to do in Genesis 1:26-31 puts some in their place that we are supposed to work and keep being stewards. Notice another important point in chapter two verses 15-17, God is the one who sets standards for human beings. He says to them, now you may eat of anything except for the tree, these trees. I think this shows not only that He is the one who gives standards but that He is concern about human beings.
He wants them to be sustain, but He also wants to have an ongoing relationship with them. And He walks with them and allows them total freedom with one exception, you may not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And breaking this command will mean death. So the man and woman may not do as they please maintaining a good relationship with the Creator, right? Reformed theology talks somewhat about this being a covenant of works, which I don’t believe is true. The fact is to abide by this prohibition they have to trust the Creator’s Word. Whether they are going to believe this command or not when Genesis three comes up. What of they do? The woman knows what God has said. She hears what the serpent says. She believes what the serpent says, and apparently her husband does as well because he also eats. John Milton’s noticed [phonetics] reconstruction notwithstanding. Faith is required, so they entered into a faith based agreement with God. Keeping the commandment is no meritorious work, cause they wouldn’t even know they were in danger unless God had told them. What merit could you have when you’re totally ignorant of something? You know meritorious work in believing God ever.
I don’t like the terminology of covert [phonetics] works but the situation comes unraveled in Genesis three. Daniel Fuller writes in his book the unity of the Bible, excellent volume. By disbelieving in God’s mercy even Adam utterly scorned His Glory, whose apex is his disposition to be merciful benevolent and to tell them how they may be protected.
There are many consequences to their lack of faith as a sin. The personal consequences that their relationship which according to Genesis 2:25 was naked, not ashamed. There is absolutely no barriers between them. I have often heard going up hear these things, Adam and Eve, they were good looking. Adam was buffing. And Eve was really attractive. For all I know, they were throughly ugly persons. It did not matter and there’s a difference. It’s hardly a virtue, it’s just a matter of intelligence to say someone is or maybe personal taste to say somebody is attractive. But for that not to matter is a whole separate issue. It didn’t matter in Genesis two whatever they looked like. It isn’t stated, it didn’t matter. They were naked not ashamed.
But the personal relationship is now at a strain. Their relationship with God more importantly is at a strain. Genesis 3:15 which is related, is a related thing to Creation and Fall is that either one always triumph. There’s someone coming from the woman who will crush the serpent’s head. This is hardly a full blown doctrine of the Messiah but it start. We’ll be talking about that on Day six and seven or something. But God has set standards.
And they have broken them. God has provided for them. He has initiated relationship with them, and yet there has been sin. So we’ve said a variety of things, God is the only God. He is the source and the cause of Creation. His Spirit operates separately from Himself at times. He is the Creator. He speaks, He communicates, He assesses.
His is an ordered intelligence. He relates to human beings. He creates them in His Image. He sets examples for them. He initiates relationships with them. He sets standards for them. And in Genesis three, forgives them. So you kind of have many theology of the scriptures here. All these flowing from the fact that God is the Creator. No wonder at the end that is it, Psalm 95 and Psalm 100 that both say, Bow down and worship the Lord for He is the Maker and not we ourselves. And so whatever fault one could find, it would be hard to find with God unless you say He created a world in which sin was a possibility. And I think those who have in a variety of different ways, and formats and whatever, those who have said, there is something necessary, it is necessary for that possibility to exist for relationship to exist. In other words, for a true and deep relationship to exist there has to be the possibility for someone of rejecting that relationship. It’s another way of saying, all relationships are by grace.
We cannot make someone love you. But the fact that that is true somehow enriches a relationship that is done by choice, right? I don’t know. I can’t begin to answer all the issues of evil and suffering. The Bible is clear that God did not create evil. He did create a world in which though that choice was possible.
But there is something about that choice being possible that makes the relationship what it is. And I know we really kind of stepped into a land mine there but the fact is human beings was offered by grace. I don’t think sin is always necessary for grace to be in. Cause to me, grace is someone extending a kindness that is not required. And God extends the kindness of His company and enter a relationship with him in the garden when He doesn’t need people. He existed before the world did, right? In the beginning, God, He was already there. There is no evidence in scripture that unless He had made the world, He would have been in trouble, somehow. So He by grace has His relationship with people. And they sinned against that grace and needed further grace for the forgiveness of their sin. So we learn a bit about God’s Person that flows from the fact that He is the Creator. And the next step would be to work with some of these same principles in Isaiah 40-48, some parts at least.
And because this is so foundational for what we’ll do for the rest of the day and part of tomorrow, maybe there are other items that you want to add to the list, I would end up with summary there of God with about 15 parts all of which could be vital to the whole of biblical theology and to your Christian life. If someone ever wondered why would God send Jesus to have relationship with us? God has been working for relationship with human beings since Genesis 1:26-31. Any points of agreement or disagreement here? We’re going to discuss that more in the next section, Isaiah 40-48 because it is a more relevant place. But the openness of God as articulated.
First of all, we start with process theology. It’s differently openness of God. Process theology says God is in someway dependent and connected to His own Creation and that He is developing and getting greater as time goes on. So if you’re going to talk, usually the issue starts with evil and suffering. How do we explain evil and suffering? Well process theologians say, well God cannot yet come up with an antidote for certain illnesses for instance.
But He’s been able to overcome some that used to. Now God is getting greater. He’s more knowledgeable today than He ever was. He’s learning and growing and evolving and gratefully at a faster rate than we are. And He is connected to His Creation. Now openness of God, people as we used to describe it, first of all believe that God is the Creator. They believe that He knows some future events both by intuition experience that we don’t have, that He has fixed some future events and that they are unchangeable. But that He is open to a variety of possibilities, so that human freedom can occur. They would believe that if God knows every future contingent event, if He knows them, He has caused them and you are not free. So that though God has forth a day for Jesus to return, to use personal example from yesterday, Lake [phonetics] said, you know not merit but taken application. A friend of mine says her life verse now if any man will come let him. God may not know how that’s going to turn out. To give you complete freedom, He may not know how that turns out. That would be the openness type [phonetics] of person. To give you freedom, what I want to do now is critique, it’s not critiquing. We’re going to get to that, it’s an important issue in current theology.
And a lot of people, it makes sense to them. Why didn’t God do something about thing X? He really liked to but in order for us to be free, He’s got to let it go. Or you know well, I guess He doesn’t. It makes sense to me that God’s unable at this point in time to do something but as time goes on. I mean it makes sense to a variety, to a variety of people. Yes ma’am.
That’s right and even whether you made a good choice, we’ll make a good choice or not, right, right, that’s correct. See at first glance, you think this is Calvinism versus Arminianism thing. That’s what a lot of people, or theological littered first thing they say is, well, there we go again, no. Wesley, read his 1788 sermons, Wesley of course believed that God knew everything, the end from the beginning.
Every that was going to happen or ever would. But that because He sees them in a moment of time, He is not necessarily causing them. So it’s not a traditional Arminian view or Wesleyan view. Some Arminians and Wesleys don’t want to be lumped together. To say that God somehow for you to be free and totally free, they would not argue that God, the fact that God knows everything means He causes them.
Now but the issue is on nations [phonetics] and the kind of a joking way, maybe it’s a water gate thing for when I was a kid. What did the President know and when did he know it is the questions asked about God. What does God know? And when does He know it? And why does He need to know it? And if He knows it, are you free? I would argue since the openness of God people do believe some things are fixed and final, I have to have reason why other things are not. Well they say, they are more important, are they?
How important is her five choices over here she just talked about? That’s fairly significant to her. And if we believe what the Bible teaches about a connected human race, I’d said fairly important to some of the rest of us too, whether are aware of it currently or not. Oh well, it started here. But the question is if I’m going to answer an openness of God person, I will start with Creation theology.
Does not the Creator know everything including, now they agree that He knows everything going on now. I would say, He knew. He knew that they had sinned and all these other things. He knows the heart. He knows everything going on now. He’s fully aware now and He’s fixed some things in the future but some of these other things are open.
Well and I think I’m trying not to say too much from Genesis chapter one and two. I mean you can run with these things but again this is what we know now. What does Isaiah make? Just at the very beginning of Creation theology. Isaiah 40 one of the text that is ever used by Christians that are in the Old Testament, starts with comfort My people. There are two reasons they need comfort in Isaiah one is the country has just been shot to bits by the Assyrians. According to chapters 36-39, there has been Assyrian invasion. According to ancient history, every city in Judah, 53 in all, were captured, looted, plundered, people murdered and paled, burned in oil, tortured The Assyrians made artwork of it. And there’s even one of what happened in Judah at this time. The Lachish inscription, the Lachish reliefs that are in all [phonetics] in the British Museum, replicas in Jerusalem.
But it’s really interesting. It’s what I was watching last night a bit on the History Channel. The Nazis filmed all sorts of atrocities that they themselves were doing, extraordinary. So the Assyrians had just sacked 53 cities. Jerusalem had been laid under siege and had barely escaped. That was one reason they needed comfort.
Second reason they needed comfort was God had predicted through Isaiah at the end of chapter 39 that long term, Babylon would come and capture Jerusalem and Judah. The short term problem was we just went through a horrible devastating nation numbing war that we lost. We were never in the game and it took a Divine miracle to free us even in Jerusalem. That’s one thing.
And that in the future, that miracle won’t occur. There’s coming a time when the same thing will happen, only Jerusalem will fall too. So comfort my people. Tell them short term, long term, their sin has been forgiven. But based on what theology because these people are weary and tired, so they say things like, verse six, a voice says, call out. Then he said, what shall I call out? All flesh is grass.
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows on it. Surely the people are nothing but grass. On a hot day in Alabama, without watering, without a breeze, that’s what people are like. Now sounds like my grandmother could have said that. I have two grandmothers, one totally optimistic and kind, happy everyday, and the other one who really understood the human race.
That’s what people are, we’re here a little while, gone, that’s it. The grass withers, the flower fades but the Word of our God stands forever. And here comes the Word of God. Proclaim this, God’s going to carry His people, verse 11, like a shepherd tenders flock. This is [phonetics] the Creation theology. Verse 12, who’s measured out the waters in the hollow of His Hand?
Who’s marked off the heavens by the span? Who’s calculated the dust of the earth by the measure? There’s got to be a bigger way to that. That’s kind of like an artisan, somebody making a, you know an item. Thinks [phonetics] God in the shop making oil. But He is the Creator. Now to Him, verse 15, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, they are like the speck of dust on the scales.
So verse 18, how are you going to compare God to. If these things are true, can you compare God to an idol? See the people and options. Should we worship the God of the scriptures? Should we worship the gods of the Assyrians since the Assyrians are so powerful? Should we worship the gods of Egypt since Egypt has avoided the power of gods of the Assyrians? Should we worship the gods of Babylonians, after all they seem to be the winners in the future?
Now Isaiah says, you can compare God to an idol. He is the Creator. He’s all there is. He is God and there is no other. No, there is no one like Him. There is no other. This is out of Creation theology. And so it says the One who sits above the circle of the earth. The Creator, the Sustainer of the world, He rules rulers. Verse 23, He reduces rulers to nothing. He makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown and He takes kids [phonetics] so are you afraid of the Assyrians? Are you afraid of the Egyptians? Are you afraid of the bishop? Are you afraid of the deacons? Are you afraid of the elders? Who are you afraid of? God made them all. God rules them all. They are all accountable to God whether they know it or not because the Creator is also the Assessor, remember?
And the One who can sustain the world, verse 26, He created the stars and put them all out there, kept track of them all. Do you think He hasn’t kept track of you? So with all that Creation theology in mind, he says the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, has not become weary or tired. And He gives strength to the weary.
The Creator who made you can give you strength. Therefore though youths grow tired and weary, and vigorous young men stumble badly. Now we get the verse everyone remembers. Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, mount up with wings like eagles, run and not get weary, walk and not faint. When you first hear that, those that wait upon the Lord shall lets you take rest for a while. The Lord will empower you again, no. We’re talking about the Creator of all heavens and earth giving you some of His strength. So what does Isaiah 40 use Creation theology to do? What is Isaiah 40 trying to do for the hearers and the readers in simple term? Comfort, establish faith, to assure them of His presence, His Love and their place in His Life.
So Creation theology is here put to use to try to help people know who God is take faith in Him and take comfort in the midst of a horrible situation, that long term is not going to get better. Now I emphasize that because sometimes God talks about delivering people from a situation. Other times, He talks about sustaining them in a situation.
We all prefer the former, do we not? We just do. We want to be delivered but sometimes that is not what’s going to occur, at least not soon. And so God, we would, yes, want God to sustain. Now as this text go on, particularly God says chapter 43 verse one, just a couple of minutes we got left.
God says they’ve suffer greatly. And He says He has punished them. Chapter 43 verse one, but now says the Lord, your Creator, o Jacob and He who formed you, o Israel, do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have made you. I have formed you. I have now redeemed you and called you by name, Creation theology. Making, naming, purposing [phonetics].
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. The One who made you is not going to forsake you, abandon you. The last day of class and so we are going to talk about theology. What happens when you suffer and feels like you’ve been abandoned? But understanding cause I have not abandoned you, I, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior I’m with you. So again the Creator.
Now another thing He is not just now trying to, to assure them. In chapter 43 verse ten, He wants to protect them from false theology that will being them no hope. Verse ten, you are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. There’s no God out there but Me.
I, even I am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me. Even from eternity I am He. So God is trying to reassure them through the theology of Creation and through the notion that there is no other God. See in biblical theology, it is not a kindness to let people continue to believe in false god. If there is no hope in those gods, it is not a kindness to continue, or to do nothing about idolatry. I think I will leave you with and this will maybe sack [phonetics] away and tomorrow we talk about some of the ideas of openness of God. God says, let Me prove to you that I am the God and there is no other. I’m about to declare the future to you. In Bruce Ware’s recent book, God’s lesser glory, which is a critique of openness of God theology.
He makes a big point about Isaiah 40-48 rightfully so. There are some other text that ought to be handled as well. But he says that in Isaiah 40-48, in the midst of all this Creation theology having said that God is the Creator, He’s the Savior, there’s no other, He says, let Me prove this to you. I want to tell you the future. Go find an idol that will tell you the future. But in Isaiah, the argument is geared to make in sure people don’t believe in idols, or in other gods, or in other religions.
So it’s not a one for one correspondence. But you say, okay. One of the things the Bible does is to predict future contingent events. For instance, Cyrus, he was eighth centuries Isaiah, I think it is. You have Cyrus in the future, not even born yet. You have a similar text in I Kings 13, before Josiah’s born, the text says, God predicted that a king named Josiah would come here and do such and such to this altar. I want to suggest to you that are several future contingent events that God is taking into account. At the very least, Josiah’s parents getting together, having a baby and naming him Josiah. There are some future contingent events involved in that, or when Cyrus has been born.
Or even if you take a later date for Isaiah, the future contingent event is that Cyrus would deliver the people. That he would care enough about Israel to do it, that he would defeat the Babylonians, that he would set them free, that there would be a decree of Cyrus all sorts of political and personal future contingent events. Now the Bible, no place that I know says, well God knows all future contingent events and this means doesn’t so.
But over and over again, He predicts or knows future contingent events, such as who people are going to marry and what sort of child they are going to have, and these certain events. It’s a little bit like in the New Testament. Now Jesus never stands up and says, hey I am God. One derives that from all the things that would lead you to that conclusion. I would say the same thing about God knowing all future events. So we are going to be left with a mystery, how God’s knowledge of those dictated doesn’t dictate the outcome. And I think until Jesus comes, Wesleyans and Calvinists will discuss how that is the case. I think it’s an important discussion because human responsibilities is involved. So I see it’s an important discussion. But whatever you decide, I don’t think God’s lack of knowledge is going to help at all. So that God knows these future contingent events and part of the evidence He gives that you should trust Him and not in an idols but He does know these things. So, we’ll kind of leave with that, but Creation theology, Isaiah flows from Creation theology to God being the Judge and Comforter and also the One who knows all things, directly out of Creation theology. So I wouldn’t make that point, you know you asked that question, I wouldn’t give the answer I gave right now form Genesis one and two, but I would say as you come to Isaiah, and Isaiah appropriates Creation theology. Isaiah makes that point. Now by the way, if by God never changes, you mean God is dull and interesting and has no character, no flavor, I certainly don’t believe that.
I would argue God doesn’t change because He doesn’t need to change. He’s inherently perfect. And that’s very difficult for me to describe. Because I hope to come to love You Lord more but so far I see no inherently perfect people, and I’m certainly not. Why can I only conceive a change? Because I need to change. What if there is a being described in the scripture who doesn’t need to change because he is infinitely and inherently, perfectly, but among other things mean he’s infinitely interesting? So we’ll pick up that and finish some stuff on Creation and begin the days we are going to do on God’s law. I appreciate your help today and do interrupt me when you need to. Thanks a lot. See you bright and early tomorrow.
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