Lecture 9: The God of History - Part 1
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: The God of History - Part 1
I want to conclude the discussion of the, the law with questions or comments you’ll have in a moment but I felt like we had barely mentioned a few hermeneutical principles that would help answer the question for people what remains of the law. If they’re fairly negative, or weary, or something they say, “How much of this do we have to keep?” This might help to answer. If they’re enthusiastic, and buoyant, and gung-ho, and say, “How much of this do we get to do,” perhaps this would also help.
But some hermeneutical principles, these are not perfect because the Bible does not give us a list. Here are five ways you will know that the Old Testament should be taken seriously today. We do have some specific statements in scripture but we also have to draw some principles. Because of this, we must be humble in our approach and do the best we can and know that someone else’s wisdom may supplement ours, or improve on it, or absolutely blast out to the water parts of it.
We’ll, I’ll do the best we can. We can follow-up with questions there. I attempted at least a bit with God’s holiness but an adequate job when we talked about Leviticus and when we were talking about the law being given by a Holy God who is already in relationship with these people, giving them a law that would give evidence that they belong to him and that they’re a kingdom of peace, a holy nation ready to serve him.
So the covenant keeping would be a witness of a relationship they have with God that would indeed impress the other nations. But [inaudible] hermeneutics we had started with this but at least we can say principle number one, if the new testament explicitly sets aside a part of the Old Testament, then we would consider it not relevant as far as keeping the code. It might be relevant to give us a principle about God or about life.
Mark 7:19, the text declares all foods clean. Sets it straight-forward parenthetical statement. Some think it’s an addition to the text, but I think it’s the best evidence is that it’s not thus Jesus declared all foods clean. The kind of nice, crisp statement we like to have when we’re asking a question. If you want to eat pork, may you do so. Jesus declared all foods clean. Armadillos, opossums, as you wish, Jesus declared all foods clean.
That does not mean that God commanded us to eat all foods but as the New Testament unfolds it’s pretty clear that in more than one place, it is evident that food laws are not supposed to be an issue when Christians are doing their work. Food laws are not supposed to be an issue.
So, that’s one and note there’s a hermeneutical principle different than if the New Testament doesn’t repeat it, we don’t have to do it. It’s very different than to say there must be an explicit statement to the contrary for us not to set it aside. Now, despite what some people would think of the Old Testament, this is a, an amazingly small amount of text, isn’t it?
Not a great deal of material on that because a lot of the sermons about people who deal with Old Testament laws are about the Pharisees. And you can get quite a grocery list of Pharisaical rules and regulations and it often talked about the food laws and, and people if they know anything about current Orthodox Judaism, they would know that there were things Jewish folks will or will not eat who are in that tradition.
So, they get the idea that there must be some huge section on what you can eat and what you can’t. It’s a pretty small segment. Nonetheless, there it is. A second principle, if the life and ministry of Jesus directly sets aside material, then this would be or replaces it. That’s the other issue. Set aside makes it sound like we’re not going to use it anymore. Replaces it, or fulfills it, or takes it up into himself indicates that there was a past for this material and there is a present for it in Christ.
So it wasn’t like Jesus said, “Well, forget that.” It simply was taken up into His own work. And again, it’s helpful to have Biblical testimony at this point so that when you’re reading a text well, even the Old Testament, the indications in the future there’ll be a new covenant, which indicates there will be new principles. So the Old Testament itself begins to give you the clue that something new will happen.
When you get to the book of Hebrews, there are some explicit statements all under the theme that Christ is greater and it is important for us to see, in my view, but the text teaches that Christ is greater than something God Himself administered, something that was great. Christ was greater than something great. In America there’s a linguistic tendency to say if something is better to assume something is wrong with the other thing.
If you say, “My new car is better than the old one.” You often have people ask you, “What was wrong with the old one? Did it break down a lot on you?” Now you could’ve said, “I had the best Ford in the world. Now I have the best Buick in the world or the best Jaguar in the world,” or whatever car hierarchy you’ve got in your mind, or God forbid something happens to you and your spouse marries and says the following, “This is a better marriage than the last one.”
The assumption is often, “Okay, was this person bad to you? Were they this, that, and the other?” No, you might say, “No, they were perfectly fine, really good people but this is just better.” So we have to learn to think that something can be greater than something great. I honestly believe sometimes the things are very simple. I honestly believe that when you tell some folks that Christ is better than the old covenant, all of a sudden, at least in American [inaudible], the old must be really bad.
Of course to call something old in American culture is typically not good anyway. Now I noticed in Singapore and some other cultures I’ve been around, they thought old was a good thing, oh, time-tested, long-term, stability, stuff like that. I mean it just had a whole different phrase to it. So Christ is greater than, according to Hebrews 7, greater than the Old Testament priesthood that He is the high priest and there is no need for a high priest now.
Now I don’t say that to make any kind of ecclesiastical comment. That isn’t the goal of my statement. You can figure out what this would mean. But in chapter 7 is Christ is a greater high priest who according to Hebrews 8 has a greater ministry and some comparisons, just pick the best high priest ever, the most godly one. The one that loved, they would still have to go into the holy of holies annually to do what?
First of all, make sacrifice for their own sins. Christ says no need to do that. So you can take the best priest ever, cannot measure up to Jesus. Christ also, out of this text, also notes that even the-the greatest high priest ever, the most wonderful would have to offer these sacrifices for the people annually. Now as we know that’s not too bad. There are some annual renewals we don’t like, licensing our car, updating our insurance, doing this or that that.
We really don’t enjoy certain annual things but the facts are an annual renewal is not a bad thing. It’s not so bad. But it is greater if it is once for all in the sacrifice and Christ is greater in that manner. In that whatever we mean by the Lord’s Supper, whatever we would mean by Eucharist, whatever we would mean by communion, we would not mean that Christ is being re-sacrificed.
The sacrifice is made once for all and there is no need for another. So, He is greater than the sacrifice and then replaces him if He replaces the day of atonement, which is the once a year sacrifice which they are all [inaudible] under, the all the sacrifices are brought together, their historical continuity runs, into Christ and stays in Him forever. Any sacrifice that was ever needed to made, we talked about class a little bit yesterday that indeed Christ who was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world was always the basis for any kind of sacrifice whether or not, I would say, whether or not the people who were following God’s word were aware of that fully or not.
So, Christ is a better ministry. He was made a better sacrifice. He is a better priest according to Hebrews 8, therefore he is the maker of a better covenant. Citing Romans 31, the new covenant passage reminding the Hebrews that what was wrong with the old covenant was the people wouldn’t keep it. Human rebellion was a problem. So, Christ is the mediator of a better covenant because he has a better ministry, a better sacrifice, therefore when we look to this principle and on down into chapter 10, which talks about Christ being the sacrifice, it being a finished sacrifice, etc., what Hebrews seems to be saying is the reason we would not offer sacrifices now, we would not have a high priest now, we would not enter into the holy of holies now to offer these things is because of the work of Christ.
And we have explicit testimony of that fact. What about Passover? Christ transforms Passover into the Lord’s Supper as we see. Does that mean Passover is set aside? Again, language like that in-in one way yes, but in another way we’re saying again, no, its journey flows into the life and work of Christ is transformed by it and continues in that new form.
But notice that when I saw it is the work of Christ and that we have evidence in the scripture. That parts of the scripture therefore are-are no longer, we no longer offer sacrifice, Leviticus 1 through 7 because the sacrifice has been offered. We don’t have the kind of priesthood that’s in Leviticus 8 through 10, or if we really want to be specific, Exodus 29. We have the high priest because you have a new high priest but then I’ve had some students say, “Well, for some reason the Sabbath really bugs people.”
I think it goes back to when we were children and we say we don’t want to take our nap. “You can’t make me take my nap.” We want to run our own time. From the time we’re little bitty we seem to understand that our life consists of a time that we have and we want to run it. Well, fair enough, but I’ve had students say, “Well, so then the same thing, Christ is our Sabbath. He is our rest, isn’t he? So we don’t need the Sabbath.”
I, without explicit Biblical testimony along those lines about it, therefore there not being the need for the Sabbath barring some kind of more explicit connection, though Christ did, we do rest in Him. The problem is Christ is everything then. Christ is our wisdom so we don’t need to think. We can take that to extreme but the Bible, in this case as far as Christ being the sacrifice, being the priest, being the sanctuary even, you have straightforward statements of that.
A third principle, which is already beginning to get more difficult. We’re kind of going a bit in descending order toward more principle, more wisdom-based and we have to start being more humble even about what we know than usual. Point three is there are some laws that seem to be specifically related to Israel as a national political entity that are not prerogatives given to the church or to any other society. Now here comes the difficulty. So you say, “Okay, what do you mean?” Well, like we said a day or two ago, the church does not have the right under God even if it believes sin X deserves punishment of X.
And I’m talking about church discipline here. I’m saying somebody steals, or kills, or something. We do not have the right to carry out the punishment. That authority is not given to the church. So you have to ask, well I remember a few years ago when a person fairly calmly killed an abortion doctor and said that, “This is God’s Law carrying out God’s punishment for the sin against God’s Law.”
Even if you granted the premise, you cannot grant the action. It is not given to that person by God to carry out an execution for the government. Romans 13 would be key here, but already you begin to say, “Okay, well what about other things?” Even if we grant that one at what point do you say, “This legislation?” Here’s the difficulty because every, whether you’re talking about Baptist, Presbyterians, Anglicans, the Methodist, or anybody else, [inaudible] whoever you’ve got in the room, bottom line is every group is going to say something, if they say anything, about continuing the moral principles of the Law, right?
But, virtually all of those would say the penalties of some of those laws associated with them might either be more than we would give or a maximum sentence and not necessary pending on the Old Testament context. So, the question then would come, and this is where we have to be humble. We have to do some work and we might as well admit it and get on with it, if you say the penalty doesn’t belong to the Church, can the Church also have the right to argue for the principle itself?
Am I making myself clear? If you say it’s not up to you to say someone could be put to death for thing X or punished in this way for thing X, how is it that you can also say that we know that it remains relevant that thing X is wrong? And again, it most often comes up with whatever hot button issue the church is talking about so that a discussion like this on the, and again, it’s just what I’ve heard a lot. It’s not one that fascinates me really, but the issue of homosexuality.
But somebody will say, “Yes, we think is wrong.” Oh, well would you stone them then? Or we think thing X is pedophilia. Well, would you stone them then? Then it just kind of depends on who you are as to your answer. You know, you might argue, “No, I would wish for something swifter,” or you’d say, “Well, I don’t know.” But you see the problem, right?
It’s pretty easy for us to say, “Okay, we’re not a theocracy setup with a divinely appointed king.” And if we understand the Bible correctly, that’s not going to exist again until Christ comes. So that one you can see and you can see it Biblically, but some of the principles and even ones that it seems like the New Testament seems to say we know these things are wrong and we don’t want them in the Church and we will take action in the Church even to exclude a person, Corinthians I.
Really only a couple three passages on church discipline in the New Testament but one of them you hear is an individual that it’s either committing incest with his mother or more likely married to his step-mother, something like that and Paul says, “Take action.” Paul talks about turning someone over to Satan so they won’t sin, which is a pretty serious comment to make.
But, so the New Testament says we know that things are right and wrong. We don’t want them in the Church and we will take both loving and whatever action it takes. I think we ought to note how Paul says in Corinthians II you take this person back once they’ve repented. That’s interesting, but it doesn’t talk about how, this is what I was saying yesterday, it does not talk about in what manner that we would advocate, pursue, or push for these principles in a government.
If someone says that shouldn’t be done? I don’t agree with that. I think that-that leads us to principles, and wisdom, and other Christian attitudes and characteristics. And I’m certain it’s one thing to hold this discussion point in the United States, which does not have a-an identified, an official state religion as opposed to a country where Christianity would be the established religion to say nothing of what it would be like to be a Christian say in-in an Islamic country or something else.
So I understand that our perspective on this and our interest would change from culture to culture. I do know the principle is true that if a law is [inaudible] to Israel’s theocracy, whether it’s a Davidic king, I don’t think America, whatever America is going to be held responsible for or Kenya’s going to be held responsible for. I don’t think it’s going to be held responsible under God for not having a Davidic king.
That’s one I think we’re going to get a free-pass on. That one we could see but there are other that are tougher to see and that’s what I’m trying to say. We could discuss that more as-as necessary but just in general what I would say is the more text that deal with this with a specific issue of morality in the whole of the cannon. I mean if you have a moral issue that’s a concern of the law, prophet’s writings, Gospels, Paul, and Revelation, and there are vice lists from A to Z in the Bible.
Then in that case I think you’re on firmer ground saying, “You know, it’s not just the Old Testament. It’s not just the law, this is a consuming interest.” The closer you can come to that, the more you’re on firmer ground to say, “Listen, there’s a completely Biblical principle,” or the more you can attach it to other things. For instance, if we know that adultery, and rape, and this sort of thing is wrong, we would have some idea that the pedophilia laws in Leviticus are connected.
It seems the day of the Lord has come outside. There’s a day of darkness and not of light. I want you to know that you have to be either in real need of an umbrella or really secure in your manhood to carry this. I used to think real men didn’t carry an umbrella. Then I realized real men got wet. I think Sabbath keeping is required in both Testaments.
Doctor House: I can continue to work with that one. The issue is Jesus never sets the Sabbath aside, does he? In fact, that it’s a gift from God to you. The other problem with Sabbath is it’s not even one of the 10 commandments. It’s in the fabric of creation. God set is aside on the seventh day. And of course, the early church adhered to the Sabbath because in most cases they were trying to stay within the Synagogue.
They were not trying to leave Judaism. They were driven, or at least the synagogues. They were driven from it. It’s pretty clear that early on they had hopes of the synagogues and their people accepting Christ as Savior and to be able to continue on. There is no explicit statement in the scriptures that the Sabbath is replaced by the Lord’s Day. However, I must begin to work with principles and wisdom.
That’s all I can do. I’m happy for the Lord’s Day to replace the Sabbath. I’m happy for that to be the case. I think it is the most logical thing. However, there are cultures where that doesn’t make, if the Lord’s Day means Sunday, it didn’t make much sense to me when I saw the, man it was Anglicans as a matter of act, the Anglican Church in Amman, Jordan always had very limited and tiny attendance on Sunday because it was a work day in Jordan.
Friday and Saturday were the days off because it was an Islamic country. Did not make much sense to me, well, I mean they would argue, “We’re going to hold out for the Lord’s Day as opposed to that but it didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me to have your church services on a time when you knew most of your people could not come.
I would have to again talk about principles and wisdom and do the best I could. And for ministers for whom Sunday is not a day of rest if they carry out their duties. I think then it makes sense to say they would have to have a different day of rest. And make no mistake out it. The Sabbath simply means ceasing and rest. They did worship in some cases on Sabbath day but there is no indication that the word Sabbath itself means worship.
It does mean in every sense of the word rest and that’s I think Jesus basically said, “Sabbath was given to man for man,” not man for the Sabbath. In other words here’s a gift of rest and on the seventh day God rested and sanctified, make holy, that day. The principle to me is one day in seven. I think the Lord’s Day is the most likely day for Christians. But you see, that’s not even true in the United States anymore. That’s a day when a lot of people go to Church, but it’s been a long time. I mean it’s been within my memory, but there’s no effort amongst merchants, and factories, and all of this to keep people from working on Sunday.
Again, in the United States we will have several people who if they were to keep their jobs and that may be in issue you want to discuss with them if they’re to keep their jobs they must work on Sunday. Interestingly enough, so are, that’s true with most pastors. If they want to keep their job then just work on Sunday. But you have every right to a day of rest and that’s where people start the argument, “You know, well what’s rest to me might not be rest to you.”
I don’t know how to define rest for other people but it is, notice in-in the Old Testament the principle is everybody gets a rest. There is not a day of rest for some family members and not for others. It’s even a day of rest for the animals. The principle seems to be that a rest, an animal with one day rest in seven, a human being with a rest one day in seven has received an important gift.
So in my opinion I can be wrong. I don’t, the New Testament shows the people worshipping on the Sabbath, the-the Saturday. It talks about meeting on the Lord’s Day. It makes no explicit statement about one replacing the other. So the principle I would work on is it is one day in seven and that God would give us as much wisdom and help as we could to keep that within the context of which we live and only wisdom and the Lord’s leading could dictate to you, “I should give up this job if it’s going to require seven days a week of work, or Sunday, or whatever else.” I think you have to take council and do the best you can.
I guess one of my concerns is for people like all of you, or most of you at least, that if we stick with a Sunday only principle, it leaves the minister exhausted and the musician, oh I use minister period, senior pastor, the however that goes, but all the elders, the preaching elder, the music elder, the, the, um, organizational elder, and a whole lot of your lay people
Doctor House: I just have to say that in some of the really active churches, the wisdom I would have on it is I have to say to my most dedicated lay people the same thing I say to-to paid ministers, “Sunday doesn’t seem to be a day of rest if you’re volunteer activity is as full and it is the Lord’s work but it’s full and well, exhausting is too strong of a work, but it takes exertion. Strenuous, that’s the word.
I would urge anybody who is working for the Lord under those circumstances, and I would urge other ministers to say you need a day of rest. In fact, the Lord really commands you to and so I, this is always interesting with college students, they get into the Sabbath principle. They can see they’re running themselves into the ground or something. It’s nice to be literalistic at times. The Old Testament view is the day start, tomorrow starts tonight, right?
Which makes sense to the student. So there have been times in my life when I did something like sundown Friday to sundown Saturday when I was very active in ministry. It gave you a 24 hour period. It kept, but it gave you relaxation, rest. But I say the same thing to the people and I have to say it and maybe I present it wrong, but I remember being shocked that-that during a lay conference once and the notion that God would indicate that rest is a part of the cycle written. It made them angry because a lot of what people call recreation is just more strenuous activity. It isn’t rest. “So, you can’t tell me it’s not rest to be in three softball leagues?” Yeah, I can just about tell you that. I mean I’m not against softball leagues. You may like softball. That’s just fine but you have to ask about rest, “Does it help me love the Lord more with my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Does it make me easier to live with? Does it make me a better Christian?” Well if not then I’ve got to wonder about your rest. The other it has to do with your witness to the world of one reason I’ve been reluctant to say replace, I’m not speaking for anybody but myself, but reluctant to place Saturday evening worship for Sunday in my own church attendances. I don’t know that my neighbors know that. If they see your car parked in front of the house on Sunday they just don’t think you go to church.
You can take time to explain it to them. You can invite them to your service or something. Maybe that’s too much. I’m also concerned when people say, “I love the 8:00 service because I can get it over with, and go home, and get on with the day.” That’s a bit telling, but again, in your active church you’ve got to remember I’ve been living up North way too long. There’s not a church in our community that has Sunday night church, not one. Now I-I’ve just moved so that’s changed, but-but where I live near Pittsburgh, there’s not a Sunday night service anywhere.
But as I recall it, if you’re a lay volunteer and on Wednesday night you’re doing something for the Lord in His church and then Sunday comes and you’re teaching Sunday school, or working, or doing the nursery, or doing whatever else, or you’re a choir member, or you’re working with the youth, or you’re doing, doing, doing, then you’re pretty much in the category of a paid minister as far as your lack of rest goes. Frankly, in the ministry often I have just said, “Sunday is not a day of rest. It’s a day of work. I will treat it as such and will not disappoint myself with the notion that I didn’t have my day of rest.”
But I’d be very disappointed if the other day that I picked wasn’t. Now, in the ministry of course, even that can get derailed because you’re on 24-hour call, really. And if a day off is three days from now as you know and somebody has the nerve to die there will be a funeral. And it’s not good form to skip it. But that’s again what I mean. I mean it-it’s a good example of where you say, you know, you may end up saying, “This guy is just waffling. He’s afraid to put rules down.” I’m happy to put down rules where I have something explicit or when the principle gets, the Sabbath principle is not an option to me. The carrying out of it I have some explicit instructions. I have some other issues that force me to use principles of wisdom. That’s where I think we have to be.
Those are just three basics. We could add to them. But questions or comments now about the law, and its makeup, and its purposes, its-it’s the reflection on it in the New Testament? Hermeneutical questions I’m happy to-to have some discussion or question but I suppose one of the hot spots in Christian discussion from now on is going to be the role of law, standards, whatever in-in Christianity.
If a church has gotten far enough away from God’s standards, the distances to how far they’ve gotten away will be the measure of how difficult it will be to get holiness, and justness, and fairness back into it. Lest we think that the law only begins in Exodus, let’s remember as we’ve said, Sabbath principle goes way back to creation in Genesis 2:1-3. The basis of treating one another with fairness and kindness go back to Genesis 1:26-31.
So the creation principles begin in Genesis and really when you get to Exodus, you’re expected to have already had that material in Genesis in mind and in hand. Keep the big-picture context in mind so that we won’t make errors when we look at a specific context.
Doctor House: How is it tied to creation? Help me there. The life is in the blood, is-is for sure.
Doctor House: I honestly don’t recall. I’m not disputing what you’re saying. I honestly don’t recall it. That’s my problem. It is in my view in the food laws for sure.
Audience: But it would be covered there.
Doctor House: If that is the place where it begins, yeah. Maybe it’s in the Noah covenant because it takes about killing animals and things. So that may be what you’re thinking of but I always took those to be part of the food law and would be if you want blood.
Audience: One thing about when you eat a steak like, eat a steak rare.
Doctor House: Oh but that’s not, they would say if you eat a steak rare, you’ve still drained the blood out of the animal before they gave you that slice of meat, trust me.
Audience: I don’t really know.
Doctor House: Oh yeah. I’m telling you, they have. So you’d be safe on that one. Even if you had a scruple about it, you’d still be safe.
Doctor House: Bill is good to go, yeah, he’s…
Doctor House: That’s right, I mean, uh, yeah, that, you’d be safe there, same thing with poultry, same thing with…Yeah, he’s trying to get back before the law is his point.
Audience: Not a big deal, I’m not trying to…
Doctor House: You’re trying to get back before the law but again, if-if you were worried, you’d kosher on the pigs. All right, I want to take up the theme, and this is one that’s already been running through from creation, from God setting standards, from God delivering Israel from bondage. We have already been introduced to the notion that God rules history. With the question of openness of God and-and open theism questions, we’ve already been introduced to the some of the debates about to what extent God rules history.
I want us to follow along God ruling history. I’m going to see if this works to be honest with you. If not, it’ll be over in a little while and you’ll have a break in-between, but I’d like to use God’s statements about the land as kind of a vehicle for discussing God’s ruling of history. Genesis 12:1-9 as I think many of you would know is a absolutely Seminole passage in Old Testament theology. We’ve referred to it a time or two before. It’s going to be prominent in messianic theology, also prominent here. It is God’s promises to Abraham.
And I’m going to use Abraham all the way through if it’s all right with you. I know there’s a name change and that sort of thing or-or if I go back to an Abram and Abraham I’m not trying to make any point. Some days I wonder if I’m trying to make any point anyway, but to start with Abraham. And these promises virtually encapsulate the rest of the scripture. In fact, [inaudible], their Old Testament [inaudible] said, “There are two sections of scripture, Genesis 12:1-9 and the rest of it,” because the promises made to Abraham here are extraordinary.
We know that God has already mentioned, the text has already mentioned in 11:26-32, Abram. It seems that God already has a prior relationship with Abraham. The Lord said, “Abram, go forth from your country, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land I will show you.” And of course Hebrews 11 makes much of this faith journey. “I will make you into a great nation,” promise one. But the text has already said to that he has no children because his wife is unable to conceive. He will become a great nation. In other words, he is promised descendants. God say, “I will bless you. I’ll make your name great.” He’s promised renown. Descendants and renown so long, so far.
Third, you shall be a blessing. That’s kind of a general statement that’s going to be heightened as we go. So, so far, great nation, [inaudible] descendants. “I will bless you and make your name great, renowned, and you shall, you’ll be a blessing.” In other words, you’ll be a blessing to others. Third and fourth, “I’ll bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you.” He’s promising protection, really. And fifth, “In you, all the families of the Earth will be blessed.”
So, descendants, renowned, that he will be a blessing, protection, and finally, that all families of the Earth will be blessed. The creator is saying through this one person’s family, all families will be blesses, all nations. When you get to verse 7, yet a sixth promise. Abraham comes to the land of the Canaanites, the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”
That one single phrase causes much controversy as I suppose as any in the Bible. “To your descendants I will give this land so he built an alter there to the Lord who appeared to him.” Now for God to make these promises to Abraham that all families of the Earth would be blessed through him and that we was going to give the land of the Canaanites to Abraham indicates already that God must be able to rule history. He must be able to either effect these promises or know that they’re going to happen that Abraham is going to have descendants.
As anyone who’s had children knows, there are several contingent events, some more basic than others that must come into play for there to be descendants. When my grandfather died, he was a great-great-great-grandfather. As he said, you have to live a long time and unfortunately be helped by immorality for this to occur.
But, not all the descendants has been married when their children were born, but he was a great-great-great-grandfather. For that to occur, there had to be a lot of contingent events. For there to be descendants, God has to know and/or determine the future but he must be the Lord of history for this to happen. For all families of the
Earth to be blessed through Abraham is the same sort of situation. For God to give Abraham the land must mean he has something in mind not only for Abraham but for the Canaanites and it could either be for good or for judgment, blessing or calamity, one or the other.
Why didn’t God just give Abraham the land now? By the time you get to Joshua, people are going to ask some questions about the method of conquest, etc. An often forgotten passage is the next one that I think is on the board 15:12-16. Abraham has to wait for the fulfillment of all of these promises. I guess he becomes a blessing right away but all nations are not blessed through him anytime soon because there’s not a descendant any time soon. Renowned comes sooner than these probably but he has to wait for these promises.
And indeed, as Hebrew says, he lives in the land of promise that belongs to him as if it doesn’t belong to him. He’s a stranger in his own land but 15, after this primary text, he believed in the Lord and God reckoned him his righteousness, counted him to righteousness. Verse 7, I’m the Lord who brought you out of [inaudible] to give you this land to possess it.
Here’s the land promise again. During the covenant ratification ceremony, which is what’s going on in the next few verses, verse 12, “When the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Abram and behold terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, ‘know for certain that you’re descendants,’” we’re back to that promise. Abraham was furious about not having a descendant. In the first part of the chapter God tells him he’s going to have it and God be, he believes God. Now God says, “As to you seed, or your descendants, they will be strangers in a land that is not theirs will they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years.”
The God who knows and rules history knows this to be a fact, so before it ever occurs, before anybody has done anything good or bad to borrow from another test, this is, this is stated. Verse 14, “But afterwards, I will judge the nation whom they will serve and afterwards they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your followers in peace. You’ll be buried in a good, old age. Then in the fourth generation, they will return here,” and this is an interesting phrase, “For the inequity of the Amorite,” who are the inhabitants of the land, Amorites, Canaanites, “is not yet complete.”
Why is God waiting? Why will Israel be in bondage all those years? For the inequity of the Amorite is not yet complete. Another way of saying it is God is giving the Amorites time. He knows that their sins will be such that in 400 years after this long period of time that God knows he will judge them by giving Israel the land. But it’s important for us to see at this point that the God who rules history is giving the land to Israel but when he gives it to them it comes as a punishment for the people who have sinned greatly in the land.
This is important because we need to understand that Israel’s conquest was not just a blessing to them, but was a judgment on the inhabitations of the land. And if you read a text like Leviticus 18 where we were discussing yesterday about laws about sexuality, etc., that whole passage is prefaced by, “You shall not do what the people did in Egypt and are doing in the land where you’re going.”
In other words, these practices that are denied Israel whether it be all these sorts of misconduct, whether it’s homosexuality, or promiscuity, or pedophilia, or bestiality, these are things going on in Canaan at the time though we need to understand that.
It’s important then to see that the same thing really happens to Israel later, right? They had the land. They sinned in the land and as a promise to Babylon, God had Babylon, positive for Babylon, gave Babylon victory. Negative for Israel as a judgment. Very interesting how God works because what is positive to one can be negative to another. What can be a reward to one can be a punishment to another. God can keep everybody’s interest in mind. So, if you’re saying was Israel in some way privileged over the Amorite, over the Canaanite, at that point in time it looks like it but as time unfolds we see they’re treated the same, really.
They are driven off the land because of their sin. Another thing related to sin is this-this is my read on it. We can dispute it. Why is Israel in bondage these 400 years? Text doesn’t say it to some punishment to them. Part of their suffering and the length of it is to give the Amorites time for their sins to be complete. Another way to put it, for them to see the error of their ways to turn to God, whatever. And if you say, “Well, how in the world would they have done that?” Well, explain how Rahab did.
Rahab heard who God was, heard what God had done and turns to the living God. You say, “Oh, well she was just scared.” The rest of them weren’t scared enough. So it was possible. And I don’t know, maybe there were others. It doesn’t tell us everything that ever happened to everybody. But it was possible because it was possible for Rahab.
So remember then that the scriptures indicate that sometimes suffering goes on on behalf of others. I think it’s a key concept because I think all suffering has the potential to be redemptive for someone else, for ourselves somehow. And often times if we can see that we’re enduring pain now so that someone else’s opportunity might be there. I don’t know if it makes it any easier to endure or not, but it helps it be more sensible.
Yes, we can suffer for our own sins. Yes, we can suffer directly for the sins of others so that the Pharaoh is oppressing the Israelites. There’s no doubt about it. But, there’s this other component that while Israel is suffering, God is giving the Amorites time and their sins are completed. So we know from Genesis 15 that if for argument’s sake we give Abraham a date of about 2,000 BC, we know and if you give the conquest either again late 15th century, early 13th century, whichever you think is the best read, God is ruling history from a distance of anywhere from what, five, six, seventh centuries.
Now, text does now say that therefore this indicates that God rules all of human history but again, if w-we have to say if God is ruling at 600, 700, 800 years out, he’s probably in charge of all human history. That might be a reasonable deduction. And we already saw in Isiah that God was ruling history. And so God’s very giving of the land affects Abraham, and his descendants, Israel. It affects the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Parosites, the other -ites that are in the land.
It affects Egypt and their treatment of Israel and by the way, their chance to see who God is. One thing is the plagues, the plagues against Egypt are a judgment but they’re also a testimony of who the Lord is. Although it’s impossible to know for sure how many, if any, Egyptians went with Israel, the text does tell us that when they went out of Egypt they went out a mixed multitude. They were not all Israelites.
Caleb wasn’t an Israelite by race. He was a Kenizzite. So from the very beginning, Abraham was going to be a blessing to the nations. For this to be true, God must be a ruler of history. And we can ask more questions such as in what manner but there are so many future events that would have to be known and managed for these things to happen from this distance that it’s an extraordinary statement of God’s ruling power. So, the land promise starts here. I’ll just do Genesis 46 in passing a bit, Genesis 46, Jacob, the patriarch, 12 sons, the beginning points of the 12 tribes of Israel, one daughter, Dinah, whose beauty was the beginning point of a great strife in one text.
By the way, I used to hear people say all that can’t be literal family, 12 sons and a daughter. Then I taught with Dan Block at Southern Seminary. Dan has 11 brothers and a sister. It’s kind of extraordinary talking to him. He says, “Well, when I was going to move to Louisville, some of my brothers though it was a good idea but some of them didn’t.” I said, “Dan, how many brothers do you got?” He says, “11.” I said, “How many sisters?” “One.” I just started laughing. I said, “Yeah, you’ve got Jacob’s family, don’t you?” He says, “In numbers only, I hope.” But God tells the old patriarch who’s been living in Canaan. He’s living in the Promised Land. Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt. You’ll be buried back in Canaan. So he’s buried in Canaan. Joseph, they made arrangements for his bones to be buried in Canaan. But again, the Land of Promise stays a Land of Promise even when the bearer of the covenant leaves town. Then, and that’s still in fulfillment of what’s said in Genesis 15, you’re going to go down to a nation not your own, be oppressed.
When they leave Egypt, it is with the idea of going to the Promised Land. As we said yesterday in Numbers 13 and 14, this is possession of the Promised Land is put on hold due to a lack of faith in God and a subsequent disobedience. They didn’t believe God so they would not invade so they were given the wilderness period, which basically from Numbers 14 is about 38, 38 ½ years.
Then, as we said yesterday, I left out Leviticus 26, but Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28, God says having told them how to live in the land, if you will follow me, if you will walk before me and be covenant keepers, I will bless you in the city. I’ll bless you in the country. I’ll bless your, the animals, but then it reverses it all, if you fail to serve me, you’ll be cursed in all those places. There’ll be consequences. You’ll be judged. And finally, if you persist you’ll be driven from the land, right?
And again, God must be the master of history to make this happen. And indeed, Moses says, “I know that the time will come when you will do this. We will lose land. Repent when you’re driven into exile and God will return you.” So again, the land is a promise. It’s the concrete evidence of God’s love and we were talking the other day, if you want to read people who take seriously the theology of the land, one place to look of the succinct one is Elmer Martin’s. He’s one of the three editors of Your [inaudible] Old Testament Theology. His Old Testament Theology, God’s design deals with land and how land is to be treated.
Christopher Wright has written a couple of books that talk about ethics of the land and in the land, been the bibliographies in the Old Testament Theology, Christopher Wright. So those are people who are talking about these issues. I think more needs to be done not just on ecology but on a whole host of other issues of stewardship. But again, God must rule history for Him to know what’s going to happen to Israel to command them to do these things.
And that would all be kind of [inaudible] to what you read for today and [inaudible] cutting and some other things. But hopefully it’ll pick up some threads from previous discussions we’ve had. And also as we see that God rules history, we come closer to Samuel II 7 where God promises David he’ll have an eternal kingdom.
We’re going to be seeing that by the time we get there, God’s ruling of history focuses upon the coming Savior and that’ll lead into next week. But if God cannot rule history, it’s very difficult to see how he can have a virgin born child born in Bethlehem according to two Old Testament prophecies. It runs both ways.
God rules history because he can know what a person’s doing, an individual and he can know about Bethlehem. But also because we already saw in Isiah 40, he rules the nations. He rules the rulers. God [inaudible] history. You can see it through the nations. You can see it through individuals. You can see it through places. There is nothing outside God’s concern along these lines.
And so again, if you, theological you can prove it by God’s concern for people, places, and nations, and rulers, and also I think perhaps this land promise, it’s all kind of riding on it.