8/18/15

From Mark Copeland... "FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" How To Find A New Testament Church


              "FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM"

                   How To Find A New Testament Church

INTRODUCTION

1. In this series of lessons I have sought to propose that "Following
   Jesus Without Denominationalism" is possible today when we:
   a. Appreciate why denominationalism is wrong, and therefore disdain
      sectarianism
   b. Imitate the example of Jesus by maintaining a non-sectarian
      relationship with God
   c. Properly respond to the call of the gospel, for that is how
      Christ is adding people to His church
   d. Allow the "apostles' doctrine" to be our standard of authority in
      religion, recognizing that is how Christ is directing His church
      today
   e. Develop those qualities of Christ-like character enjoined in the
      apostolic epistles, so that we can "maintain the unity of the
      Spirit in the bond of peace"

2. What I have proposed is really nothing new, and has been a plea
   expressed by many others...
   a. I am personally convinced that throughout church history there
      have always been groups of Christians seeking to follow Jesus in
      this way
   b. Even today, there are thousands of congregations composed of
      those who are "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism"
   -- Indeed, I believe there are many churches true to the example and
      pattern of the Lord's church as found in the New Testament

3. But suppose one wanted to find "a New Testament church" today?
   a. Where would they begin?
   b. What would they look for?

4. In this lesson, the final one in this series, I wish to offer some
   thoughts on "How To Find A New Testament Church"
   a. Not an exhaustive study, of course, but some simple suggestions
      that might help one get started
   b. These are the sort of suggestions that I myself would follow if I
      were seeking to find such a congregation

[First, I would...]

I. BEGIN WITH THE "NAME"

   A. THE "NAME" OF THE CONGREGATION REVEALS MUCH....
      1. It can quickly tell whether the church is concerned with
         "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism"
      2. For if the name is a denominational name, religious division
         must not be a major concern of those in the congregation

   B. THE "NAME" SHOULD BE A SCRIPTURAL NAME...
      1. There is really no one scriptural name for the Lord's church
         in the New Testament
         a. The expression "church of God" (1Co 1:2), "churches of God
            (1Th 2:14), and "churches of Christ" (Ro 16:16) are
            commonly used
         b. Other terms are used also, and they all reflect an
            association with God and Christ (body of Christ, kingdom of
            God, bride of Christ, temple of God, etc.)
      2. But the use of scriptural names instead of a humanly-conceived name...
         a. Reflects a desire to follow the Scriptures, and not human tradition
         b. Certainly conveys a desire to honor God and Christ, and not
            some man, creed or particular doctrine

   C. UNFORTUNATELY, THE "NAME" ALONE IS NOT A SURE GUIDE...
      1. Just as the name "Mrs. Copeland" alone is not a sure guide if
         you were seeking to find my wife
         a. For there are a lot of women who go by the name, "Mrs.
            Copeland"
         b. But only one who bears the name is properly my wife!
      2. So there may be many congregations that bear the name of
         Christ or God that may not be truly honoring them!
         a. For example, there are over 200 separate denominations that
            use the expression "Church of God"
         b. Likewise, there may be "Churches of Christ" that are no
            less denominational than any church with a denominational name!
      3. Yet I would still recommend beginning with the name, and in
         particular those congregations that use the expression "church of Christ"
         a. Because so many denominations have chosen to use the
            expression "church of God", the likelihood of simply
            finding a denomination is much greater
         b. Whereas most "churches of Christ" I have known are seeking
            to follow Jesus without denominationalism, therefore the
            possibilities of find a church true to the New Testament
            are greater

[But even when one has found a church that is non-denominational, that
does not automatically mean the people are truly members of the Lord's
body.  That is why I suggest the next step is to...]

II. EXAMINE THE "GOSPEL" BEING PREACHED

   A. REMEMBER HOW CHRIST IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH...
      1. Through the gospel, Christ calls us - 2Th 2:14
      2. As we heed the gospel call, the Lord adds us to His body, the
         church - Ac 2:41,47
      3. That is why it is so important that the gospel not be
         perverted in any way - Ga 1:6-9

   B. IF THE GOSPEL IS DIFFERENT...
      1. By changing either the facts or commands of the gospel
      2. Then people are not being saved, and the Lord is not adding
         them to His church!

   C. A CHURCH WITH A PERVERTED GOSPEL...
      1. May have the nicest people, but they are still unregenerate
         people!
      2. May wear the name of Christ, both as individuals and as a
         church, but are not truly the people of God!

[So while a group of people may identify themselves as a "church of
God" or "church of Christ", it is only Christ who truly makes them such
when they properly respond to the call of the gospel.  That is why it
is imperative a church teaches the pure and simple gospel of Christ!

A final suggestion, but one that might require very careful examination
over a period of time, is to...]

III. COMPARE THE "PRACTICE" WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT PATTERN

   A. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, WE FIND A PATTERN...
      1. The N.T. describes the early church during its first 60 years
      2. A careful study of Acts and the epistles reveal a picture of
         the church
      3. From this picture, a pattern emerges in reference to:
         a. The worship of the church
         b. The work of the church
         c. The organization of the church
      4. This pattern emerges as we see the early Christians continuing
         steadfastly in the "apostles' doctrine"

   B. A CHURCH ABIDING IN THE "APOSTLES' DOCTRINE" WILL REFLECT THIS
      PATTERN...
      1. Their worship will be like that described in the New Testament
         a. Involving such elements as singing, prayer, Bible study,
            preaching, and the Lord's Supper - Col 3:16; 4:2; 2Ti 2:
            2,15; 4:2; Ac 20:7; 1Co 10:16-17; 11:23-29
         b. Their assemblies seeking to provoke one another to love and
            good works - He 10:24-25
      2. Their work as a congregation will be similar to that found in
         the New Testament
         a. Equipping the saints for ministry (edification) - Ep 4:11-16
         b. Furthering the spread of the gospel by sending out
            evangelists (evangelism) - Php 4:15-16; 3Jn 5-8
         c. Meeting the needs of the saints as problems arise
            (benevolence) - Ro 15:25-26; 1Co 16:1-4; 2Co 8:1-9:15
      3. Their organization as a congregation will seek to be like that
         found in the New Testament - cf. Php 1:1
         a. With elders (also known as bishops, pastors, presbyters,
            shepherds) qualified to oversee and tend to the local
            congregation - Ac 14:23; 20:28; 1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9;
            1Pe 5:1-4
         b. With deacons also qualified to serve as they minister to
            the local congregation - 1Ti 3:8-13
         c. With saints (members) who sojourn in this world with
            conduct that is honorable and which gives glory to God -
            cf. 1Pe 2:9-12

CONCLUSION

1. By carefully studying the "pattern" of the Lord's church as revealed
   in the New Testament, we can know when a congregation is faithfully
   observing the "apostles' doctrine"
   a. This places upon each of us the responsibility of carefully
      studying the Scriptures
   b. For only then can we be able to distinguish between the
      "authentic" and a "counterfeit"

2. I am confident that there are many "authentic" congregations all
   over the world...
   a. It is likely that one exists in your community already!
   b. Please feel free to contact me if you would like for me to
      help you find one

3. But even if we live in an area where there is no church that
   "continues steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine", we can start one
   in our own home! - cf. Ro 16:5; Phm 1-2
   a. By proclaiming the simple gospel of Christ, and abiding in the
      "apostles' doctrine" as revealed in the New Testament...
   b. This will not be some new denomination, but simply a church of
      the Lord, a congregation of disciples that meet together to
      worship God and edify one another in their service to the Lord

Are you "Following Jesus Without Denominationalism"?  Don't you wish
to?  Remember the prayer of our Lord:

   "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe
   in Me through their word;"

   "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;
   that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that
   You sent Me."

   "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may
   be one just as We are one:"

   "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and
   that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them
   as You have loved Me."
                                   -- Jn 17:20-23

May all those who have come to believe in Jesus strive to be one!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

New Study Supports Biblical Record by Kyle Butt, M.A.


https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=1765

New Study Supports Biblical Record

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

The oldest sections of the Bible date back almost four thousand years to about 1600 B.C. There is no question about the fact that the Old Testament is an ancient book. Due to its antiquity, many in the modern “scientific” world have accused the Bible of being outdated, out-of-touch, and out-of-line with our “current” state of advanced information and knowledge. The interesting thing about this allegation is that it is patently false. In fact, rare is the week that some new study or finding does not verify some aspect of the biblical record.
For example, in January of 2006, the results of a technology known as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) began to show that those who drink alcohol excessively are damaging important parts of their brain. Scientists working with this technology have shown that alcohol can damage nerve fibers known as white matter. This damage potentially affects “working memory,” which is described as “a form of memory [that] allows one to remember, say, a phone number long enough to dial it (Singer, 2006). Other studies are looking into the negative effects on white matter of alcohol consumption by teenagers, due to the fact that much white matter growth occurs during these years (2006).
These “new findings” correlate perfectly with the description of drunkenness giving in the ancient biblical record. In Proverbs 23:29-35, a very accurate description of the effects of alcohol is recorded. The text explains that those who “linger long at the wine” have sorrows, woes, complaints, and various other maladies. The writer urges his readers to avoid the temptation to drink, because the effects of alcohol bite “like a serpent” and sting “like a viper” (vs. 32). With a catalog of such negative effects, it is no wonder that the New Testament also instructs its readers to avoid drunkenness: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation” (Ephesians 5:18).
The Bible is not an outdated book of human invention. It is the inspired Word of an all-knowing God whose descriptions of natural phenomena remain as relevant and accurate today as they were thousands of years ago. It is no wonder that accurate, scientific findings continue to corroborate the veracity of the biblical record.

REFERENCES

Singer, Emily (2006), “Your Brain on Booze,” Technology Review, January 26, [On-line], URL: http://www.technologyreview.com/BioTech/wtr_16197,304,p1.html.

God’s Love by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1438

God’s Love

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him” (as quoted in Ankerberg and Weldon, 1997, p. 29). If every one of God’s characteristics was to be summarized in a single English word, only one word could suffice: love. Of course, the idea of love does not encompass all of God’s characteristics, but it is a fitting summation of God’s personality. In fact, John wrote simply that “God is love” (1 John 4:8-9,16)—perhaps the most powerful statement ever made about God’s love (we do not, as some do, charge that God’s justice is inconsistent with his love and mercy [see Colley, 2004a]).
When Paul listed the fruits of the Spirit—characteristics that appear in the lives of Christ's followers (Galatians 5:22-23)—the first fruit he mentioned was love. Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:40; Mark 12:28). God is not merely a loving God, but God is love, and love defines His very essence. Every action of God has been carried out, ultimately, because of His magnificent love.
God loves His Son. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ is one of great love. God’s eternal love has an eternal object, and that eternal object is Christ. Consider a sampling of the passages that bear the special relationship the Father and Son share:
  • Isaiah 42:1: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, my Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice.”
  • Matthew 3:17: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ ” (cf. Matthew 17:5).
  • John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
  • John 5:20: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does” (cf. John 3:30).
  • John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.”
God loves His Son’s followers. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Greek verb translated “poured out” in Romans 5:5, ekcheo, is the same verb used to describe the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17ff.). This suggests that, through Christ, God has blessed His spiritual children with an abundant amount of love. The tense of the verb is perfect, indicating a settled state or a completed action. The idea, then, is that the love of God has filled our hearts, and, like a valley remains full of flood water, our hearts remain full of Christ’s love (see Packer, 1975, pp. 129-130). Those who are in Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27) are in a covenant relationship with God, a relationship in which both God and the Christian are pledged to each other.
Again, Paul wrote: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Although Christians can (and, sadly, sometimes do) cease to love Christ (Acts 8:12-13; Galatians 5:4; James 5:19-20; see Jackson, 2003), Christ will never cease to love them, for God is unchanging (James 1:17; see Colley, 2004b). Packer wrote concerning the unchanging quality of God’s love:
…[T]his does not mean that He is unfeeling (impassive), or that there is nothing in Him that corresponds to emotions and affections in us, but that whereas human passions—specifically the painful ones, fear, grief, regret, despair—are in a sense passive and involuntary, being called forth and constrained by circumstances not under our control, the corresponding attitudes in God have the nature of deliberate voluntary choices, and therefore are not of the same order as human passions at all. So the love of the God who is spirit is no fitful, fluctuating thing, as the love of man is, nor is it a mere impotent longing for things that may never be…. There are no inconstancies or vicissitudes in the love of the almighty God who is spirit (1975, pp. 133-134, parenthetical item in orig.).
God loves the world. That is, God cares even for people who disregard Him. Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love toward use, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emp. added). The Greek word translated love in Romans 5:8 is agape, which appears abundantly (82 times) in the Greek New Testament. Agape is a selfless love that motivates one to sacrifice on the behalf of others, so it has come to be known by many as “Christian” love. This purest form of love is the agape under consideration when Paul wrote: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It was that love that made Christ willing to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).
God despises sin, but loves sinners. He does not approve or overlook sin; rather, He wants each sinner to repent of his wrongdoing and change his life (Acts 17:30). Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emp. added). God delays the Second Coming of Christ, not because He is undependable or incapable of fulfilling the promise of judgment (1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:7-9; 1 John 4:17; Jude 6,15; Revelation 14:7), but because His love motivates Him to give sinners more opportunities to repent. Instead of admiring or imitating the wrong actions of sinners, we should abhor sin (Romans 12:9), and share God’s concern for lost souls—a concern that should motivate us to share the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16; John 14:6).
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34, emp. added). In stating that the commandment was new, Jesus obviously intended to draw a distinction between His commandment and everything else that would have been familiar to His disciples concerning the topic they were discussing. Though the command to love one’s neighbor was not new (Leviticus 19:18), Christ’s command was new in that it demanded that we love, not as we love ourselves, but as God loves us. This would be the sign to non-Christians that the first-century disciples really were followers of Christ (John 13:35; see Pack, 1977, 5:54-55), and it serves the same purpose today.
William Evans wrote: “As love is the highest expression of God and His relation to mankind, so it must be the highest expression of man’s relation to his Maker and to his fellow-man” (1994, 3:1932). God’s love should motivate us to express our love for Him by obeying His commands. Jesus could not have put it any clearer than He did when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Let us pray that as we obey Christ, we will be able to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” of His love, which “passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

REFERENCES

Ankerberg, John, and John Weldon (1997), Ready With an Answer (Eugene, OR: Harvest House).
Colley, Caleb (2004a), “God’s Mercy and Justice,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860.
Colley, Caleb (2004b), “The Immutability of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2567.
Evans, William (1994), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Jackson, Wayne (2003), “Galatians 5:4—Fallen from Grace,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/notes/fallenFromGrace.htm.
Pack, Frank (1977), The Living Word Commentary, ed. Everett Ferguson (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Packer, J.I. (1975), Knowing God (London: Hodder and Stoughton), second edition.

Comets, Chameleons, and Illogical Conclusions by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3724

Comets, Chameleons, and Illogical Conclusions

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some will go to reject the rational conclusion that God created everything in six days (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:11). In an effort to counter various common-sense arguments that Christians present for a literal interpretation of Genesis one and a recent Creation (as opposed to a multi-billion-year, evolutionary process), evolutionists continually draw irrational conclusions. Consider two explanations by evolutionists attempting to explain away evidence creationists present for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs in the past.
1. Whereas creationists believe that both the Bible and secular history teach that man once lived on Earth with dinosaurs (or “dragons;” see Lyons and Butt, 2008, pp. 13-45,109-134), evolutionists must somehow explain the existence of a plethora of stories of humans interacting with “dragons.” Why has humanity “since the dawn of recorded history” (“The Spread…,” 1981, 89:103) told stories of large reptilian creatures with long, serpentine necks, elongated bodies, massive tails, horned-heads, and some with membranous wings? Although evolutionist Ker Than was honest enough to admit that “[o]f all creatures that ever lived, pterosaurs probably most closely resemble the dragons of European legend” (2007), surely this couldn’t be the answer. After all, evolution says that pterosaurs and dinosaurs went extinct 60+ million years before humans allegedly evolved. What was Ker Than’s #1 explanation for the undeniable existence of antiquated “dragon legends” around the world? With all seriousness, he wrote:
To people living in ancient times, a comet streaking through the skies with an icy tail millions of miles long would have closely resembled such a creature…. If comets were the inspiration for some dragons, it could help explain why dragons are ubiquitous in the myths and legends of so many different cultures in all corners of the world (2007, emp. added).
In one of the few places I have ever seen evolutionists attempt to answer the dragon/dinosaur conundrum, a popular evolutionary writer concludes that a comet closely resembles a dragon. Absurd!
2. If, as the Bible teaches, humans once observed dinosaurs in the distant past (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:11; cf. Job 40:15-24; Job 41:1-34), it would seem logical that they not only would have told stories about what they saw (i.e., “dragon legends”—no doubt some were exaggerated), but occasionally they would have made some type of drawing or carving of them. In fact, this is exactly what has been found around the world: antiquated carvings and paintings of dinosaurs and dinosaur-like creatures (see Lyons and Butt, pp. 47-107). But such evidence conflicts with evolutionary theory. (If the ancients never lived with dinosaurs, and we did not learn about dinosaurs from the fossil record until modern times, our ancestors allegedly could not have illustrated dinosaurs; see Lyons, 2008.) Other explanations must be proposed; else evolution’s “factualiDinoty” would be called into question. Sadly, more often than not, evolutionists choose to “toe the party line” and come up with other explanations, regardless of their improbability.
Take, for example, the explanation one evolutionist gave of the Ta Prohm temple carving near Siem Reap, Cambodia (a carving that we have discussed at length elsewhere; see Butt and Lyons, 2008). Rather than admit what any unbiased child would call the animal (a “Stegosaurus,” or “dinosaur” at the very least), Dr. Steven Novella chose to point out what he called “creationist illogic” (2008). After showing two pictures of chameleons, he writes: “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! I think we have a winner. At the very least we can conclude that the temple relief looks much more like a chameleon than a stegosaurus” (emp. added). A chameleon? Really? One wonders why, when I randomly showed a class of middle school students this particular rock carving (which I had every reason to believe they had never previously seen) every student in the class identified the animal as a dinosaur, or more specifically as a Stegosaurus. [To read much more about this rock carving, as well as several others, see Lyons and Butt, 2008. NOTE: The most distinguishing part of a Stegosaurus (its plated back) is unlike any animal alive today. Though the carving may not be what a meticulous scientific illustrator would draw, one has to keep in mind that the ancients were (1) carving on rock, (2) working within the confines of a relatively small circular area, and (3) likely working from memory (either their own or from others who described the animal).]
A toy dinosaur that was originally (when sold) confined within a toy dinosaur egg. Notice that toy makers made the easily identifiable Stegosaurus without tail spikes. This particular feature of the dinosaur was purposefully left off of the toy model for various reasons (e.g., space limitation within the egg), yet any person remotely familiar with dinosaurs knows that toy makers were intending to manufacture a Stegosaurus.
Although Christians are continually mocked for believing that God designed all the various kinds of animal and human life on days five and six of Creation, in reality such a Creation makes perfect sense. The Bible, history, and true science are in complete agreement. It is logical to believe that “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). What we find illogical, however, is to maintain that “dragons” came from comets and that the CambodianStegosaurus carving looks like a chameleon.

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2008), “Physical Evidence for the Coexistence of Dinosaurs and Humans [Part 1],” Reason & Revelation, 28[3], March, http://ap.lanexdev.com/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=599.
Lyons, Eric (2008), “Did the Ancients Base Their Dinosaur Drawings on Fossils?” http://ap.lanexdev.com/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2444&topic=59.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Novella, Steven (2008), “Ancient Cambodian Stegosaurus?” NeurologicaBlog, http://theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=196.
Than, Ker (2007), “Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth,” LiveScience.com, http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_dragons.html.
“The Spread of Dragon Myths” (1981), Science Digest, 89:103, May.

Year of the Frog by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=2868

Year of the Frog

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by A.P.’s staff scientist. He holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington and Auburn University, respectively, with emphases in Thermal Science and Navigation and Control of Biological Systems.]
I recently went to a zoo with my family. While in the amphibian building, we noticed a dated video that was playing on the television monitors located throughout the facility. The video spotlighted a campaign to “save the amphibians,” many species of which were reported to be going extinct. The goal was to raise 50 million dollars for the conservation effort. Amphibian conservationists all over the United States are running to the rescue for our little slimy, hopping friends, even having formally declared 2008, “Year of the Frog.” Several zoos have “jumped” on board this effort. The Nashville Zoo’s Web site says that
Earth is facing the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. After thriving for over 360 million years, 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s approximately 6,000 known amphibian species could become extinct in our lifetime. In response to this epidemic, scientists and conservationists formed an Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP), including research, assessment and conservation in nature. For species that cannot be saved in nature, the plan is to rescue them before they are gone and protect them in captive facilities until the threats to the wild populations can be controlled. Nashville Zoo and other organizations supporting ACAP are participating in a global public awareness campaign, Year of the Frog. The goal of Year of the Frog is to raise awareness among media, educators, corporations, philanthropists, governments and the general public about the vulnerability of amphibians and the extinction crisis they face as well as generate much-needed funds to implement ACAP (“Year of the...,” 2010, emp. in orig.).
Amphibian Ark Communications says that their fundraising goal is to raise 50 to 60 million dollars to save several amphibian species (2010).
Now to the point: Imagine what could be done for the Lord’s cause if people contributed that money to Him instead of the frogs. How many souls could be reached if the conservationists declared 2008, “Year of the Human Soul” instead? Imagine how many missionaries could be sent out with one million dollars, much less 50 to 60 million. How many kingdom-advancing books and tracts could be published? How many television/radio programs could be aired? Imagine what could be done with the man-hours that are being poured into this effort.
Are the amphibians, as well as all living creatures, important to God? Yes. God feeds the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26) and clothes the grass and flowers of the field (Matthew 6:28-30). However, are animals more important than human beings, or even equal to human beings? No. Jesus said in Matthew 6:26 and 12:12 that human beings are “much more valuable” than them. Humans were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), unlike the animals. This is why humans were given a position of superiority over the created order, to have “dominion” over the animals and “subdue” them (Genesis 1:26,28).
Is it true that God would have us to be good stewards of the blessings that He has given us, including the Earth and its contents? Certainly. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches this principle, and the Old Testament gives specific examples of how God expected the Israelites to be good stewards of the land and wildlife around them. For instance, Deuteronomy 25:4 indicates that oxen were not to be muzzled while stamping out the grain from the chaff (Barnes, 1997), that they might enjoy the fruits of their labor (1 Timothy 5:18). Exodus 23:12 indicates that one of the reasons for the weekly Sabbath day was to give the animals a day of rest. Leviticus 25:1-7 and Exodus 23:10-11 indicate that every seventh year the land was not to be sown or reaped for food, but was to be given a year to recuperate and to provide food for, among others, the animals of the land. So, God expected the Israelites to consider the well-being of the animals, trees, and fields of the land. We are to be good stewards of what God has given us. We should not waste or be destructive with what God has given us. However, note one of the primary rationales for why we should be good stewards of the land. Deuteronomy 20:19 discusses the protocol that the Israelites were to follow in besieging the cities that they would be coming up against in their conquest of Canaan: “When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food” (emp. added). Notice that trees that bore fruit were to be left alone in the making of siege equipment. However, what was the rationale for this? They were to be spared due to their role in sustaining human life. Plants, animals, and the Earth are only important insofar as their value to humanity. They are instrumentally good—not intrinsically good (Warren, 1972, pp. 38ff.).
Many in the animal rights, environmental, and conservation movements simply do not have their priorities straight on what should be the appropriate use of time and money. To pump millions of dollars into saving the animals or the environment rather than souls is to miss the point of our existence. When people sacrifice more of their time and money to try to save the world and the creatures of the world rather than to help the cause of Christ in the world—spreading the Word and serving humanity—then those things have become their idol. Regarding unrighteous men, Paul wrote
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25, emp. added).
The rationale of the extremist elements of the conservation, animal rights, and environmental movements is based on a lack of faith in God as the Protector and Sustainer of life—Who is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3) and in Whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). It is based on faith in the Earth as our savior, serving Mother Nature, instead of Father God. This worldly, faithless rationale says, “We cannot count on God! We need to save the world.” It is based on panic and anxiety, rather than on the peace that we can have through faith in God to care for us (Philippians 4:6-7). It is based on human arrogance, confidently asserting that we have the knowledge to save the world when, even if such were possible, we could hardly have the power to do so. Perhaps God in His infinite knowledge desires that some species cease to exist at certain points in history. Who are we to claim we could know such things?
The extremist rationale is carnally minded. We should not treasure the Earth or its contents by dwelling on them or prioritizing them above other more important matters (Matthew 6:19). We should, rather, “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). The infallible principle of entropy treks onward. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that it will win every battle and implies that it will ultimately win the war, regardless of what we as humans do to fight it. Simply put, the “earth will pass away” (Luke 21:33). So, we should set our minds “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
The Lord told us how this Earth will come to an end. Ironically, it will be a form of global warming. However, it will not be man-made global warming:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:10-14, emp. added).

REFERENCES

“Amphibian Ark Communications and Fundraising Plan” (2010), Slideserve, [On-line], URL: http://www.slideserve.com/presentation/4878/Amphibian-Ark-Communications-and-Fundraising-Plan.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Warren, Thomas (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press).
“Year of the Frog” (2010), Nashville Zoo at Grassmere: Education, [On-line], URL: http://www.nashvillezoo.org/education_year_of_the_frog.asp.

From Jim McGuiggan... Torah and an Eye for an Eye


Torah and an Eye for an Eye

In another piece I said that the Mosaic covenantal Torah originated with and served the gracious Lord's purposes. In this section I want to look at some specific laws, their nature, purpose and application, to show what is true as a whole is true as it's worked out in specifics. If we read the Torah as a legalist's handbook we've missed its tone and spirit by a million miles. What immediately follows is written to show that the Torah is utterly unlike the kind of law a potential legalist would need to support his legalism.
A writer, justly recognized for his sensitiveness and graciousness, was certainly wrong when he used Exodus 21:24, "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" to characterize a legalist and vengeful spirit. He said of it that it's a quick, sure way to a sightless and toothless world. This is not what the Torah in general is about nor what that text in particular has in mind.
When you think of a "legalist" you think of someone who pores over the minutiae of life and scripture, trying to match them up; you think of someone who has to have every "t" crossed and every "i" dotted; you think of someone who scrutinizes his life and the lives of others, not like a nurse tending to someone who's sick to make them well, but with the intensity of Javert, the tormented policeman in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, looking for law-breakers in order to punish them (even if the law-breaker is himself).
When you think of a "legalist" you think of someone who insists that every matter of the law is of equal importance and should be given equal time and concern ("If it's a law, it's as much a law as any other law!"); you think of someone for whom everything must not only be spelled out with precision, it must be followed in slavish detail. When we think of a legalist we won't think of someone simply on the basis of a number of independent decisions, we'll see (or think we see) a pattern of thought, a "way" of responding.
There's a cut and dried approach to life, a definite right/wrong about everything, a rigid consistency which tends to nurture flintiness because, you see, there's little or no room for doubt or dithering--the facts are what the facts are! Little nuances are passed over, extenuating circumstances are minimized or completely ignored because they only muddy the waters; there's no giving the benefit of the doubt because if we confess there's something we can't nail down with precision, that's the thin end of the wedge. Before we know it we'll be dithering on a host of others things so everything's coloured with the same brush. Legalists only rarely dither and when they do, it's only until they have time to find a verse that settles the matter one way or another.
First, the Torah doesn't give enough answers to be a legalist's document. Second, the Torah knows nothing of a legalist's flinty consistency. Third, and as a consequence, people are left in many situations to work out their own response of faith to God. Fourth, the commandments in the Torah encourage and call for an extraordinary measure of generosity; something that doesn't sit well in a legalistic framework. Fifth, all the laws in the Torah are important but they're not all equally important.
There Aren't Enough Answers in the Torah
 Here's a question: Why were judges chosen in the Old Testament? Part of the answer is that so everyone would receive justice if and when disputes arose. Yes, but why didn't they simply go to the written text and let it settle the matter? Because there aren't enough verses in the world, spelled out with exhaustive precision, to settle every dispute. Judges--who loved the whole community as well as each individual--were needed to give a definitive interpretation of the Torah. This means the Torah wasn't an exhaustive blueprint! See Deuteronomy 1:9-18; 17:8-13 and elsewhere.
No one pretends that the legal material in the covenantal Torah is exhaustive. There can never be enough rules to cover every eventuality or deal with all aspects of life. Herbert Danby, in introducing the Mishnah to English readers said this (xvii-xviii): "Since written laws cannot anticipate all possible contingencies, or embrace every detail, or deal in advance with each possible case, it can be assumed that, in applying the Mosaic code to daily life and to the Temple worship, to domestic relations and trade and to the administration of justice, a multitude of usages arising out of practical necessity or convenience or experience became part of the routine of observance of the code..." 1  E.P. Sanders said in his Jewish Law From Jesus To The Mishnah, "In some ways the biblical laws regarding food and purity almost cry out for extension and clarification." 2
You only have to glance at Israel's laws to be confronted with a mass of unanswered questions. "You shall not work on the Sabbath" seems simple enough until you ask, "Precisely what constitutes work?" Precisely when does healthy desire become coveting? Is flirting with and/or kissing someone's wife the same as committing "adultery"? Is it stealing to haggle for and take more than you believe an object is worth? Punishment was to be carried out according to the nature of the crime, but how was that to be determined? The law said a rapist had to marry the virgin and never divorce her but what if she didn't want to marry him? At what precise moment did the Sabbath begin or end? Who disposed of the ashes of the altar of burnt offering? How and where was it to be done? It was forbidden to reap the "edges" of the fields. What was left in the edges was for the poor and the alien; but what exactly was an "edge" and who were the "poor"? There are precise answers for none of these questions and hundreds more.
We find illustrations of new laws having to be introduced to cover situations not covered by earlier legislation. Property and inheritance laws were laid out with males in mind, but what about females? What if the family had no boys? See Numbers 27:1-11. The daughters of Zelophehad came with that complaint and Moses had to take it to the Lord. A new law was introduced but it raised another question which required another new law. See Numbers 36:1-9 and 15:32-36 . Ezra and Nehemiah, who wanted people to be obedient to the Torah introduced new measures to that end.
The Torah wasn't an exhaustive blueprint!
The Torah Knows Nothing of a Flinty Consistency
Then there's the lack of rigid consistency in the writings of or connected with the Torah. Nehemiah was angry because his people were dishonoring God and ignoring the Torah. Angry at the traders who wanted to trade in the city on the Sabbath, he closed the gates and set guards to keep the merchants out. He saw no problem in having the guards working on the Sabbath to keep people from working on the Sabbath. See Nehemiah 13:15-22.
Leviticus 10 speaks of Nadab and Abihu being slain by God because they violated his law about "strange fire". What precisely is involved might not be clear; what's clear is that the two men violated the will of God and God slew them. It would be easy to take this text and make it a hermenutical grid by which to judge not only the whole Torah but the God of the Torah; however even before the chapter is finished we're given a different picture.
Aaron and his two remaining sons violate the Torah concerning the peace offering which was to be eaten by the priests in a holy place. When Moses first hears of it he is incensed but when Aaron explains to him that they broke the law to honour God, Moses is pacified. What exactly Aaron meant is something of a problem but he satisfied Moses that what they had done remained within the larger stream of God's will.
In 2 Samuel 6:1-11 we have the famous case of Uzzah who was slain by God when he touched the ark (see Numbers 4:15). We could use this text to stress the severity of God (and it will bear that weight, because God did indeed strike Uzzah dead), but if we have an eye to see it, God was just as merciful as he was decisive in judgment. It wasn't only Uzzah who had sinned; the whole enterprise headed up by David and his priestly companions was sinful from the beginning. Why didn't God slay the whole procession of people, including David, since every step they took was contrary to the Torah which said the ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests? So the very text which proclaims God's awful severity also proclaims his mercy. Uzzah breaks the law and dies; David and the rest break the law and don't die.
And take a look at Numbers 12 and 16. When Miriam and Aaron rebel against Moses, disputing his authority, an angry God shows mercy in judging Miriam. In chapter 16 when Korah and his companions rebel against the authority of Moses and Aaron, God not only destroys them, he destroys two hundred and fifty leaders who were implicated in the whole matter. And subsequent to that he destroys more than fourteen thousand who refuse to enter into the spirit of that righteous judgment.
And to complicate the matter, Hezekiah enlists Levites and priests who were not purified according to the Torah enlists them to do priestly work and offer sacrifice. God destroyed Korah for wanting to do what he later allows Levites to do priestly work. See 2 Chronicles 30:15-20 and note the joy in the whole experience of a renewed Passover. How God applies the Torah can help us in interpreting it. (See it developed in Franky and Jennifer.)
The Torah specified that adulterers and murderers were to be stoned and yet David is left alive despite committing both crimes. The Torah forbids anyone to eat the shewbread but the priests and yet a high-priest gives it to David and his men and did no wrong.
It's worth noting that when Jesus uses that incident in Matthew 12:1-8 in his defense of his disciples, he doesn't claim that he or David or the high-priest was exercising "executive privilege". He tells the critics that if they had had the heart that understood Hosea 6:6 they wouldn't have condemned his disciples. "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice" must have explanatory value when we turn to the laws in the Torah. Christ says here that they could and should have known better.
And, you'll have noted that this "inconsistency" isn't only about cultic matters, it involves moral transgression and what God did or did not do about it. The Torah doesn't call for a legalistic response because the God of the Torah is not a legalist. We see this variation of response to transgression in our own families. See it developed in Franky and Jennifer; Torah for the Family.
But how can we explain such variations in God's response? Why don't all adulterers die irrespective of their rank? Why don't all thieves die and not just Achan? Why don't all rebels against legitimate authority die as Korah did?
The Torah Leaves People to Work Out their Own Response of Faith to God
There are limits to be placed on that heading but it's still true that the Torah leaves room for people to exercise various options. Many of the punishments laid down in the Torah didn't have to be slavishly followed. Take the case of an "eye for an eye". The injunction was not promoting revenge, it was limiting punishment and ensuring that the injured party would be taken seriously.
One who lost his hand wasn't to think he had the right to remove his assailant's head. Losing a foot didn't give him leave to remove the other person's two legs. On the other hand, the person disabled or maimed was a person, and was to be taken seriously. Justice was to be done and a penalty commensurate with the nature of the injury was to be carried out if the situation called for it.
This "eye for an eye" text is part of a covenant Torah that urges forgiveness and generosity (more on that later) so we're not to see it as promoting vengefulness. The passage goes on to tell us that a servant who lost his eye could be given his freedom in place of his eye (Exodus 21:24-27) so we know Israel isn't bound to slavishly follow the letter. A reading of the whole section illustrates that compensation rather than "wound for wound" can be pursued. Note 21:28-31. (And we need to note that a musician's hand is relatively more important on a commercial, social scale than, say, .......?)
But more to the point, the punishments laid down in many texts are optional, not absolutely demanded. Exodus 21:24 isn't demanding that the victim insist on punishment! The passage limits the punishment that can be administered even while it takes into account the communal rights of the one hurt but the one who is hurt isn't required to demand the eye or even compensation.
Leviticus 19:18 says they were not to bear a grudge and were to love each other as they loved themselves. This certainly means they didn't have to demand an eye. What if they wanted to say, "An apology is quite enough," and got it? What if the sheep is stolen and the owner is content not to demand a replacement (Exodus 22:12)? What if the girl who was raped doesn't want to marry the rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)?
What if Jacob in a bizarre accident killed Barak, his lifelong and most devoted friend? What if instead of running to a refuge city he ran to Barak's house (to his parents and seven giant brothers), beside himself with grief and poured out the whole story? What if the bereaved family knew of the love these two had for each other and grieved not only for the loss of the son/brother but grieved over Jacob's loss? What if the whole village knew the truth and entered into the grief, and the judges saw the affair as one deep tragedy with no one to "blame"? Exile in a refuge city wouldn't be required. See Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Number 35:9-15 and elsewhere. [We should learn from this that biblical texts deal with specific situations and take many things for granted. The law concerning refuge cities and (alleged) accidental killings completely ignores all deaths that are not in dispute.]
Take the case of the adulterer. Adulterers were to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 19:22; Leviticus 20:10) and yet there isn't one person in the Old Testament who was stoned to death for adultery. At some point divorce was introduced based on adultery (as witnessed by Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8, compare also Deuteronomy 24:1-5). Obviously the death penalty wasn't carried out every time adultery occurred. It appears that the death penalty is open to the offended but not demanded. The case of Joseph (in Matthew 1:18-19) and the woman Jesus dealt with in John 8 add to the picture.
To be sure, the above raises other questions and there are issues involved that need nuanced, but what is the general drift of all this? I'm wanting to say that in many instances the passages assume that the "sufferer" may want to exercise his or her rights. The Torah doesn't demand that they take everything to court and insist on reparation. Those sinned against are allowed to forgive; they're allowed to be generous and dismiss the matter as something best set aside. There would be situations where the crime would have deeper level ramifications for the community, as well as the individual, and this would have to be worked out, but there is no nurturing of revenge or cultivation of a litigious spirit in the Torah.
The Torah has none of the marks of a legalistic document. It knows nothing of a flinty absolutism and it certainly doesn't promote a cold consistency which becomes a slave to the letter of the law. In it and behind it, giving it its spirit and thrust is a Lord of holy love and compassion who would want Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 6:7 to be taken seriously. "To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?"
The Torah Nutures Generosity
It isn't unusual to hear New Testament people say things like, "The law's demand falls below the obligation grace feels." Depending on what, precisely, is meant by that, there's some truth in it. But what if the Torah is God's grace expressed? To make what the covenantal Torah calls for something other than "the obligation grace feels" is completely false. (Compare Titus 2:11-15.)
And in the main, the specific statement is false. In practice, at least, Israel's "legalistic" system of giving outstrips much of what we see under a "grace" obligation. Paul will not only make Christ's giving the foundational motivation for Christian giving, he appeals to Old Testament texts on giving (see 2 Corinthians 8:9). That bad old "legalistic" system is used by the apostle of grace for instruction and inspiration for Christian giving!
The specified "tenth" was only the beginning of Israel's generosity to priests, one another (and to aliens). There were interest free loans, there were crops left unharvested, there was fruit not gathered in, there were firstlings (animals and crops) offered in sacrifice or redeemed with money, there was the redemption of their firstborn children which cost money, there was the feeding of animals belonging to others, there was the liberal giving of goods to the slave at the end of his seven year stint, there was the remission of debt and return of property in the Jubilee year and the remission of debts in the Sabbatical year, and there was the leaving of crops for the poor on the Sabbatical year. 3
The spirit and tone of the instruction in Deuteronomy 15:7-10 is pervasive throughout the Torah. "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought, 'The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,' so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing...Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart." All this is echoed in 1 & 2 Corinthians where Paul will speak of Christians giving as God has prospered them and giving cheerfully. In principle, there was nothing new about the nature of Christian giving—it was based on principles already taught in the Torah.
It isn't only the generosity of the giving that is striking, it's the motivation behind it all. In "liberally" giving goods to the departing slave they are to "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today." (Deuteronomy 15:14-15) God's own generosity and kindness is the basis and model for Israel's response. This means that Israel's ethical and moral response is as much an obligation to grace as the Christian's. Certainly the new manifestation of God's grace in Christ was grander than what went before, but it was nevertheless the grace of the same one true God. The truth is, in the Torah, the call for Israel to give generously doesn't exist without the truth that God has already graciously acted on Israel's behalf. To characterize anything in the Torah as legalistic is sheer ignorance. 4
This nurturing of generosity goes beyond the very important matter of giving money and goods. We've noticed it takes matters to the heart of a person. On the basis of their relationship to God and their neighbour, grudges are forbidden (Leviticus 19:17-18), shrewd self-interest is censured, tightfistedness and hard-hearted attitudes are outlawed (Deuteronomy 15:7-9). Personal differences are to be sidelined in order to show kindness (Deuteronomy 22:1-3); the disabled are not to be mistreated (Leviticus 19:14), gossip is frowned on and everything that threatens your neighbour's life is to be avoided (Leviticus 19:16; compare Romans 13:10).
And if we think all these things were to be carried out as if life were a long, grim slog, that too misses the mark. Catering for the needy and the vulnerable was to be done in the spirit of glad rejoicing or at least with a sense of cheerful contentment. See Deuteronomy 15:18; 16:10-14 and note the conclusion of 16:15.
Torah's Laws Are Not of Equal Importance
It's one of the failings of the legalist spirit that it flattens all God's commandments, it destroys the distinction between what is important, more important and most important. Part of the reason for this is the misguided notion that it's demanded by a true piety that is shaped by scripture and takes scripture seriously.
But it's precisely because we don't take scripture seriously that we make all commandments of equal importance. If we took scripture seriously we'd accept the word of Christ that there are "more important" and less important matters in the Torah (Matthew 23:23). We'd accept the word of Christ when he speaks of "the least" of Torah's commands and "the greatest" (Matthew 22:34-40).
No one has the right to reject even the least of God's commands (Matthew 5:19-22, and compare Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:32; 12:32) but it's unhealthy and it ignores a clear biblical witness to deny the priority of some commands over others.
To place the law which forbids non-priests to eat the shewbread on the same level with the command forbidding idolatry is misguided. To despise the law about shewbread is to despise the Lord who gave it, but if that law needs to be reverently by-passed in some exceptional circumstances to honour God, then it should be (and was with Christ's approval). But one couldn't reverently by-pass the command to worship and serve only the Lord. Some truths were "moral imperatives" without which there could be no life with God and others (like rules for gathering manna) could come and go because they existed for a particular and passing purpose. The moral authority behind all the commands, God himself, doesn't come and go but some of the specific commands he lays down serve their purpose and become obsolete in the sense that they are no longer binding.
This calls for reverent and rigorous study and reflection but what's strange about that? We have to prioritize our ethical and moral responsibilities if we want to live a normal life. "Things" are less important than "people". Love doesn't always respond in the same way to similar situations. While we're fixing a leaking roof (a matter of real importance, no doubt) and our child gets seriously hurt, we leave the roof and work with the child. As long as the child demands our attention the roof is left unattended. We wouldn't dream of debating whether the roof job was more important than the child's situation. Life confirms what the Torah everywhere insists on. 
The Torah has none of the marks of a legal code. No part of it is, or is a sure way to, a "legalistic system of works". The reverse is the truth!
1. The Mishnah, Oxford University Press, 1987
2. SCM Press, London, 1990, page 136
3. Gordon McConville's Law and Theology in Deuteronomy, JSOT Press, Sheffield, England, 1984 is a rich resource here. His treatment of this whole area is not only eye-opening, it's inspiring and convicting. He characterizes Israel's giving as gracious "self denial" (page 17) in the face of God's prior grace and goes on to say this: "Just as the creditor may not claim that he might consider his legitimate right with regard to the debtor, so the owner of the firstlings may not claim what seems to be his right in relation to his beast...we have noticed that such self-denial in the face of apparent rights is a theme that underlies all the laws of Deuteronomy." (page 96) It is not a devotional book!
4. It's worth stressing here that Israel's generosity is not a "secular" humaneness it's an expression of their relationship to Yahweh and is part of his overarching purpose for the world.


From Gary... Bible Reading August 18



Bible Reading  

August 18

The World English Bible


Aug. 18
Job 9-12

Job 9:1 Then Job answered,
Job 9:2 "Truly I know that it is so, but how can man be just with God?
Job 9:3 If he is pleased to contend with him, he can't answer him one time in a thousand.
Job 9:4 God who is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who has hardened himself against him, and prospered?
Job 9:5 He removes the mountains, and they don't know it, when he overturns them in his anger.
Job 9:6 He shakes the earth out of its place. Its pillars tremble.
Job 9:7 He commands the sun, and it doesn't rise, and seals up the stars.
Job 9:8 He alone stretches out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.
Job 9:9 He makes the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
Job 9:10 He does great things past finding out; yes, marvelous things without number.
Job 9:11 Behold, he goes by me, and I don't see him. He passes on also, but I don't perceive him.
Job 9:12 Behold, he snatches away. Who can hinder him? Who will ask him, 'What are you doing?'
Job 9:13 "God will not withdraw his anger. The helpers of Rahab stoop under him.
Job 9:14 How much less shall I answer him, And choose my words to argue with him?
Job 9:15 Though I were righteous, yet I wouldn't answer him. I would make supplication to my judge.
Job 9:16 If I had called, and he had answered me, yet I wouldn't believe that he listened to my voice.
Job 9:17 For he breaks me with a storm, and multiplies my wounds without cause.
Job 9:18 He will not allow me to catch my breath, but fills me with bitterness.
Job 9:19 If it is a matter of strength, behold, he is mighty! If of justice, 'Who,' says he, 'will summon me?'
Job 9:20 Though I am righteous, my own mouth shall condemn me. Though I am blameless, it shall prove me perverse.
Job 9:21 I am blameless. I don't regard myself. I despise my life.
Job 9:22 "It is all the same. Therefore I say he destroys the blameless and the wicked.
Job 9:23 If the scourge kills suddenly, he will mock at the trial of the innocent.
Job 9:24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If not he, then who is it?
Job 9:25 "Now my days are swifter than a runner. They flee away, they see no good,
Job 9:26 They have passed away as the swift ships, as the eagle that swoops on the prey.
Job 9:27 If I say, 'I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and cheer up;'
Job 9:28 I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that you will not hold me innocent.
Job 9:29 I shall be condemned. Why then do I labor in vain?
Job 9:30 If I wash myself with snow, and cleanse my hands with lye,
Job 9:31 yet you will plunge me in the ditch. My own clothes shall abhor me.
Job 9:32 For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, that we should come together in judgment.
Job 9:33 There is no umpire between us, that might lay his hand on us both.
Job 9:34 Let him take his rod away from me. Let his terror not make me afraid;
Job 9:35 then I would speak, and not fear him, for I am not so in myself.
Job 10:1 "My soul is weary of my life. I will give free course to my complaint. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
Job 10:2 I will tell God, 'Do not condemn me. Show me why you contend with me.
Job 10:3 Is it good to you that you should oppress, that you should despise the work of your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?
Job 10:4 Do you have eyes of flesh? Or do you see as man sees?
Job 10:5 Are your days as the days of mortals, or your years as man's years,
Job 10:6 that you inquire after my iniquity, and search after my sin?
Job 10:7 Although you know that I am not wicked, there is no one who can deliver out of your hand.
Job 10:8 " 'Your hands have framed me and fashioned me altogether, yet you destroy me.
Job 10:9 Remember, I beg you, that you have fashioned me as clay. Will you bring me into dust again?
Job 10:10 Haven't you poured me out like milk, and curdled me like cheese?
Job 10:11 You have clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.
Job 10:12 You have granted me life and loving kindness. Your visitation has preserved my spirit.
Job 10:13 Yet you hid these things in your heart. I know that this is with you:
Job 10:14 if I sin, then you mark me. You will not acquit me from my iniquity.
Job 10:15 If I am wicked, woe to me. If I am righteous, I still shall not lift up my head, being filled with disgrace, and conscious of my affliction.
Job 10:16 If my head is held high, you hunt me like a lion. Again you show yourself powerful to me.
Job 10:17 You renew your witnesses against me, and increase your indignation on me. Changes and warfare are with me.
Job 10:18 " 'Why, then, have you brought me forth out of the womb? I wish I had given up the spirit, and no eye had seen me.
Job 10:19 I should have been as though I had not been. I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
Job 10:20 Aren't my days few? Cease then. Leave me alone, that I may find a little comfort,
Job 10:21 before I go where I shall not return from, to the land of darkness and of the shadow of death;
Job 10:22 the land dark as midnight, of the shadow of death, without any order, where the light is as midnight.' "
Job 11:1 Then Zophar, the Naamathite, answered,
Job 11:2 "Shouldn't the multitude of words be answered? Should a man full of talk be justified?
Job 11:3 Should your boastings make men hold their peace? When you mock, shall no man make you ashamed?
Job 11:4 For you say, 'My doctrine is pure. I am clean in your eyes.'
Job 11:5 But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against you,
Job 11:6 that he would show you the secrets of wisdom! For true wisdom has two sides. Know therefore that God exacts of you less than your iniquity deserves.
Job 11:7 "Can you fathom the mystery of God? Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
Job 11:8 They are high as heaven. What can you do? They are deeper than Sheol. What can you know?
Job 11:9 Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
Job 11:10 If he passes by, or confines, or convenes a court, then who can oppose him?
Job 11:11 For he knows false men. He sees iniquity also, even though he doesn't consider it.
Job 11:12 An empty-headed man becomes wise when a man is born as a wild donkey's colt.
Job 11:13 "If you set your heart aright, stretch out your hands toward him.
Job 11:14 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away. Don't let unrighteousness dwell in your tents.
Job 11:15 Surely then you shall lift up your face without spot; Yes, you shall be steadfast, and shall not fear:
Job 11:16 for you shall forget your misery. You shall remember it as waters that are passed away.
Job 11:17 Life shall be clearer than the noonday. Though there is darkness, it shall be as the morning.
Job 11:18 You shall be secure, because there is hope. Yes, you shall search, and shall take your rest in safety.
Job 11:19 Also you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. Yes, many shall court your favor.
Job 11:20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail. They shall have no way to flee. Their hope shall be the giving up of the spirit."
Job 12:1 Then Job answered,
Job 12:2 "No doubt, but you are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
Job 12:3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Yes, who doesn't know such things as these?
Job 12:4 I am like one who is a joke to his neighbor, I, who called on God, and he answered. The just, the blameless man is a joke.
Job 12:5 In the thought of him who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune. It is ready for them whose foot slips.
Job 12:6 The tents of robbers prosper. Those who provoke God are secure, who carry their God in their hands.
Job 12:7 "But ask the animals, now, and they shall teach you; the birds of the sky, and they shall tell you.
Job 12:8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you. The fish of the sea shall declare to you.
Job 12:9 Who doesn't know that in all these, the hand of Yahweh has done this,
Job 12:10 in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?
Job 12:11 Doesn't the ear try words, even as the palate tastes its food?
Job 12:12 With aged men is wisdom, in length of days understanding.
Job 12:13 "With God is wisdom and might. He has counsel and understanding.
Job 12:14 Behold, he breaks down, and it can't be built again. He imprisons a man, and there can be no release.
Job 12:15 Behold, he withholds the waters, and they dry up. Again, he sends them out, and they overturn the earth.
Job 12:16 With him is strength and wisdom. The deceived and the deceiver are his.
Job 12:17 He leads counselors away stripped. He makes judges fools.
Job 12:18 He loosens the bond of kings. He binds their waist with a belt.
Job 12:19 He leads priests away stripped, and overthrows the mighty.
Job 12:20 He removes the speech of those who are trusted, and takes away the understanding of the elders.
Job 12:21 He pours contempt on princes, and loosens the belt of the strong.
Job 12:22 He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings out to light the shadow of death.
Job 12:23 He increases the nations, and he destroys them. He enlarges the nations, and he leads them captive.
Job 12:24 He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, and causes them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.
Job 12:25 They grope in the dark without light. He makes them stagger like a drunken man.

 
Aug. 17, 18
Acts 27

Act 27:1 When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band.
Act 27:2 Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.
Act 27:3 The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself.
Act 27:4 Putting to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
Act 27:5 When we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
Act 27:6 There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and he put us on board.
Act 27:7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and had come with difficulty opposite Cnidus, the wind not allowing us further, we sailed under the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone.
Act 27:8 With difficulty sailing along it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
Act 27:9 When much time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, because the Fast had now already gone by, Paul admonished them,
Act 27:10 and said to them, "Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives."
Act 27:11 But the centurion gave more heed to the master and to the owner of the ship than to those things which were spoken by Paul.
Act 27:12 Because the haven was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised going to sea from there, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, and winter there, which is a port of Crete, looking northeast and southeast.
Act 27:13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to shore.
Act 27:14 But before long, a stormy wind beat down from shore, which is called Euroclydon.
Act 27:15 When the ship was caught, and couldn't face the wind, we gave way to it, and were driven along.
Act 27:16 Running under the lee of a small island called Clauda, we were able, with difficulty, to secure the boat.
Act 27:17 After they had hoisted it up, they used cables to help reinforce the ship. Fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis sand bars, they lowered the sea anchor, and so were driven along.
Act 27:18 As we labored exceedingly with the storm, the next day they began to throw things overboard.
Act 27:19 On the third day, they threw out the ship's tackle with their own hands.
Act 27:20 When neither sun nor stars shone on us for many days, and no small storm pressed on us, all hope that we would be saved was now taken away.
Act 27:21 When they had been long without food, Paul stood up in the middle of them, and said, "Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete, and have gotten this injury and loss.
Act 27:22 Now I exhort you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.
Act 27:23 For there stood by me this night an angel, belonging to the God whose I am and whom I serve,
Act 27:24 saying, 'Don't be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.'
Act 27:25 Therefore, sirs, cheer up! For I believe God, that it will be just as it has been spoken to me.
Act 27:26 But we must run aground on a certain island."
Act 27:27 But when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven back and forth in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors surmised that they were drawing near to some land.
Act 27:28 They took soundings, and found twenty fathoms. After a little while, they took soundings again, and found fifteen fathoms.
Act 27:29 Fearing that we would run aground on rocky ground, they let go four anchors from the stern, and wished for daylight.
Act 27:30 As the sailors were trying to flee out of the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, pretending that they would lay out anchors from the bow,
Act 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these stay in the ship, you can't be saved."
Act 27:32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off.
Act 27:33 While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing.
Act 27:34 Therefore I beg you to take some food, for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads."
Act 27:35 When he had said this, and had taken bread, he gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it, and began to eat.
Act 27:36 Then they all cheered up, and they also took food.
Act 27:37 In all, we were two hundred seventy-six souls on the ship.
Act 27:38 When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
Act 27:39 When it was day, they didn't recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it.
Act 27:40 Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach.
Act 27:41 But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves.
Act 27:42 The soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape.
Act 27:43 But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land;
Act 27:44 and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land.