"THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN" Imitating The Good (11-12) INTRODUCTION 1. After describing "the spirit of Diotrephes" in verses 9-10, John encourages his beloved Gaius to be careful about what he imitates: "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true." - 3Jn 11-12 2. Following upon the condemnation of Diotrephes, and followed by the commendation of Demetrius, it is easy to infer... a. That John was warning Gaius not to be like Diotrephes b. And encouraging him instead to be like Demetrius 3. But why does John feel the need to exhort Gaius in this way? a. Haven't we seen that Gaius was a man whose soul was prosperous? b. Haven't we observed that he was walking in the truth? c. Haven't we noticed that he was commended for his hospitality? -- Wouldn't this make Gaius himself a man worthy of imitation? 4. Yes, and perhaps this should tell us something... a. About ourselves as imitators b. About the need for everyone to have good role models that we can imitate [In this lesson, "Imitating The Good", I would like for us to reflect on the idea of being imitators. Let's begin by observing that...] I. WE ARE NATURALLY IMITATORS A. CHILDREN IMITATE THEIR PARENTS... 1. Especially in their early years, children seem to delight in imitating their parents 2. They quickly pick up their parent's mannerisms: the way they talk, walk, etc. 3. It is as though there was some innate reason for them to imitate mom and dad B. TEENAGERS IMITATE THEIR PEERS AND POPULAR IDOLS... 1. As children get older, they may not seek to imitate their parents, but they are still active imitators 2. For better or worse (usually worse), they seek to emulate those in their peer group, or those whom they hold in high regard (athletes, musicians, etc.) 3. Despite frequent claims to want to "be themselves", you can usually tell by their behavior who they have been watching or listening to C. CHRISTIANS IMITATE THOSE THEY HOLD IN HIGH REGARD... 1. I have observed that many brethren often reflect the attitudes, dispositions, and conduct of those preachers or elders for whom they have much respect 2. This can be good, but in some cases it is not... a. I have known some Christians (including preachers) whose behavior greatly disturbed me, wondering how they could justify their conduct b. But when I saw their peers, or those brethren whom they held in high regard acting in the same way, I began to understand [For whatever reasons, then, we seem to be natural born imitators. Once we are aware of that fact, we are in a position to appreciate John's exhortation to Gaius in verse 11. That leads us to our next point...] II. WE SHOULD IMITATE ONLY THE GOOD A. IN OUR TEXT, JOHN EXPLAINS WHY... 1. "He who does good is of God" a. The one who does good, truly and naturally, bears evidence that they have been born of God - cf. 1Jn 5:18 b. Such was the case of Demetrius, whose life bore testimony from all who knew him - 3Jn 12 2. "He who does evil has not seen God" a. The one who consistently engages in evil demonstrates that he or she is has not seen God, and is in fact a child of the devil! - cf. 1Jn 3:6b,10 b. The implication seems to be that Diotrephes was demonstrating that he had not seen God 3. Who is a better role model for us? a. One whose life bears witness that they have come to know God, and are led by Him? b. Or one whose life demonstrates that despite their claims to the contrary they have yet to come to know God? B. THERE IS ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO IMITATE ONLY THE GOOD... 1. We become like those we imitate! a. Yes, I know this is redundant b. But it needs to be stressed, for some believe they can act like others, dress like others, and yet somehow not be like them 2. Children become like their parents, teenagers like their peers and idols, Christians like those they hold in high regard 3. If we imitate the good, we become good; if we imitate the evil, then it is evil we become! [So if by nature we must be imitators, then let us be selective in who we follow. Fortunately...] III. WE HAVE MANY GOOD EXAMPLES TO IMITATE A. WE CAN IMITATE DEITY... 1. As Christ encouraged us to do, in showing kindness to our enemies - Mt 5:43-48 2. As Paul instructed the Ephesians to walk in love - Ep 5:1-2 3. What better example do we have, than that of God and Jesus Christ? 4. Indeed, some of the very titles we wear imply such imitation: a. Children of God b. Disciples of Jesus Christ 5. Do you seek to learn as much about God and Jesus as you do other role models? B. WE CAN IMITATE NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES... 1. To the degree they imitate Christ, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians - 1Co 11:1 2. The New Testament is filled with good examples for Christians today... a. For married couples, there is the example of Aquila and Priscilla - Ro 16:3-5 b. For those blessed with things of this life, there is the example of Philemon and Gaius - Phm 1-7; 3Jn 5-8 c. For women, there is the example of Dorcas - Ac 9:36,39 d. For young men there is the example of Timothy - Php 2:19-22 3. This does not mean to preclude many fine Old Testament examples as well: Joseph, Daniel, Barzillai the Gileadite (an old man who helped David in his affliction - 2Sa 17:27-29; 19:31-39) and many others 4. Indeed, the Scriptures are filled with many wonderful examples worthy of our emulation! C. WE CAN IMITATE MANY OF OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS TODAY... 1. As Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to imitate those who provided a similar pattern as he - Php 3:17 2. Yet we should be careful, for not all who profess to be Christians behave as they should - cf. Php 3:18-19 3. It is important, therefore, that we know the Scriptures well enough to know when someone is worthy of our emulation CONCLUSION 1. Since it appears that we are creatures who will imitate something, let us make the choice to imitate the good! a. Only then do we have the hope of being "of God" b. Only then can we have a testimony like that of Demetrius, to which all bore witness -- The only alternative is to imitate the evil, which prevents us from ever "seeing God" 2. We close by adding these words of the writer to the Hebrews: "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." - He 6:11-12 Let us therefore look to the example of Gaius and Demetrius, and beware of the example of Diotrephes!
Does God REALLY Know Everything?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Numerous passages of Scripture clearly teach that God is omniscient. The Bible declares that God “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21), that His eyes “are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3), and that “His understanding is infinite” (147:5). Of Jehovah, the psalmist also wrote:
O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.... Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there (139:1-4,6-8).
The New Testament reemphasizes this truth: “God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:20, emp. added). Not only does He know the past and the present, but the future as well (Acts 15:18; cf. Isaiah 46:10). According to the Bible, there is nothing outside of the awareness of God.
Atheist Dan Barker, however, alleged in his February 12, 2009 debate with Kyle Butt that the Bible paints a contradictory picture of God and His knowledge. Whereas some scriptures indicate that God knows the future, supposedly, the God of the Bible cannot exist because other passages reportedly teach that God does not know the future. Twelve minutes and 54 seconds into his first speech, Barker exclaimed:
Look what God said after he stopped it [Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac—EL]. He said: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for I know now, I now know, that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld thy son.” I know now? I thought God knew everything. The Bible says God knows the future but here He is saying, “I didn’t even know.” The Bible even says that God searches and understands all the imaginations of the heart. The God of the Bible knows the future. The God of the Bible does not know the future (2009).
Is Barker correct? Does the Bible paint a contradictory picture of God’s knowledge? Do some passages testify to the omniscience of God, while others indicate that He is finite in His understanding?
The kind of language found in Genesis 22:12 actually is present throughout Scripture. As early as Genesis chapter three, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” (3:9). In Genesis four, He asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (4:9). The book of Job reveals that at the beginning of God’s first speech to Job, God asked the patriarch, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4, emp. added). Are we to assume questions like these or statements like those found in Genesis 22:12 and 18:21 (“I will know”) imply a lack of knowledge on God’s part?
First, one must acknowledge that questions often are asked and statements frequently are made for a variety of reasons. Are we really to assume that the Creator of heaven and Earth was ignorant of Adam’s whereabouts when He asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)? Are we to believe that God did not know where Job was when He made the world (Job 38:4)? Certainly not! What father, having seen his son dent a car door, would imply ignorance by asking, “Who did that?” Obviously, the father did not ask the question to obtain information, but to see if the son would admit to something the father knew all along. On occasion, Jesus used questions or made statements for the same purpose. When He questioned the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians regarding whose inscription was on a particular coin, it clearly was not because He did not know (Matthew 22:15-22). Likewise, when Jesus asked the multitude that thronged Him, “Who touched Me?” (Luke 8:45), it was not because the woman who touched Him was hidden from Him (Luke 8:47). Jesus knew the woman who was made well by touching His garment before she confessed to touching Him (Mark 5:32). His question was intended to bring attention to her great faith and His great power (Mark 5:34). In no way are the questions God asks or the statements He makes an indication of Him being less than omniscient.
Second, the term “know” (Hebrew yada, Greek ginosko) or one of its derivatives (i.e., knew, known, etc.) is used in Scripture in a variety of ways. Several times it is used in reference to a man and woman having sexual intercourse (Genesis 4:1,17,25; Judges 11:39; 19:25). Jesus used the term to refer to His regard for His sheep (i.e., people—John 10:27). In contrast to the way of the wicked that will perish, the psalmist wrote that God “knows” (i.e., approves, takes delight in, etc.) the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6). Paul used the term “know” in Ephesians 3:19 in the sense of knowing “experimentally what intellectually is beyond our powers of knowing”—the love of Christ (Jamieson, 1997). The fact is, like so many words in Scripture (and in modern times) the word “know” has a variety of meanings. What’s more, neither Dan Barker nor any Bible critic can prove that the term “know” in Genesis 22:12 directly contradicts God’s omniscience.
Third, the Bible’s usage of phrases such as “now I know” (Genesis 22:12) or “I will know” (Genesis 18:21) in reference to God actually are for the benefit of man. Throughout the Bible, human actions (such as “learning”) frequently are attributed to God for the purpose of helping us better understand His infinity. When Jehovah “came down to see the city and the tower” built at Babel (Genesis 11:5), it was not for the purpose of gaining knowledge. Anthropomorphic expressions such as these are not meant to suggest that God is not always fully aware of everything. Rather, as in the case of Babel, such wording was used to show that He was “officially and judicially taking the situation under direct observation and consideration” (Morris, 1976, p. 272). Almighty God visited Sodom and Gomorrah likely “for appearance’ sake, that men might know directly that God had actually seen the full situation before He acted in judgment” (p. 342). “These cities were to be made ensamples to all future ages of God’s severity, and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive (Ezek 18:23; Jer 18:7)” [Jamieson, 1997]. Similarly, in the case of God testing Abraham regarding Isaac, although God already knew what Abraham would choose to do, there still was a reason to allow Abraham the opportunity to actually show his great faith and know that God indeed had witnessed (in real time and not just in His foreknowledge), Abraham’s actions. God came “to know” of Abraham’s faith by actual experiment. The meaning of the phrase, “now I know” (Genesis 22:12), therefore, “is not that God had, by the events of this probation, obtained information regarding Abraham's character that He did not previously possess; but that these qualities had been made apparent, had been developed by outward acts” (Jamieson, 1997).
Similar to how God instructs man to pray and make “known” to Him our petitions for our benefit (Philippians 4:6), even though He actually already knows of our prayers and needs before they are voiced (Matthew 6:8), for our profit the all-knowing God sometimes is spoken of in accommodative language as acquiring knowledge.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If Adam and Eve were the only human beings that God miraculously created, where did all of the people come from who were of great concern to Cain? After God sentenced the murderous Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond” on the Earth (Genesis 4:12), recall that Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (4:13). Cain then said: “Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (4:14, emp. added). God then responded to Cain, saying, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold.” So, “the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (4:15, emp. added). Do the references to “anyone” and “whoever” in these verses suggest that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve?
Before answering these questions, one must keep in mind that Genesis chapters 1-11 cover approximately the first 2,000-plus years of human history (Butt, 2002; cf. Lyons, 2002). The following 1,178 chapters of the Bible tell us about the next 2,000 years. Although the first 11 chapters of Genesis are undeniably literal, historical language (cf. Thompson, 2001), God chose to reveal to man only a few important facts about the first 2,000-plus years of man’s existence—and most of this revelation is about Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. What’s more, Genesis chapters 4-5 likely cover a period of more than 1,400 years. Thus, a lot of time can pass between events without the text specifically expressing exactly how many decades or centuries elapsed.
How much time elapsed in Genesis 4:2? Immediately following the announcement of Cain and Abel’s births (4:1-2), the text says, “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (4:2). Most likely, at least 20 years had passed by this time, and it could be that several more decades had expired before Cain and Abel finally settled on their respective vocations. (How many people today do not settle on a profession until they are 35 or 40 years old?)
How much time transpired when the Bible says, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord” (4:3, emp. added)? How long was Cain angry with Abel before God spoke to Cain about his anger (4:6)? How long was it before Cain spoke with Abel (4:8)? (Have you ever known people, even family members, to hold-in feelings of resentment for years or decades?) Genesis 4:8 says, “It came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (emp. added). Again, we cannot know exactly how much time transpired between the conversation that Cain had with Abel and the day that he actually murdered Abel (4:8).
The fact is, Cain could have been 100 years old or more by the time he killed his brother. [Keep in mind that since the patriarchs often lived to be several hundred years old (e.g., Adam died at the age of 930), being 100 in that day, was somewhat comparable to being 20 today.] What’s more, Adam and Eve may have had 50 children or more by the time Cain killed Abel (cf. Genesis 5:4). They may have had 300 grandchildren by then. There could have been three or four generations of Adam’s descendants on Earth by the time God sentenced Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond.”
How many children, and possibly grandchildren, did Adam and Eve have when God said, “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”? How many people had descended from Adam by the time God “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”? Who were the “whoever” and “anyone” that both God and Cain mentioned? They were the dozens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of people on Earth by that time—all of whom were descendants of Adam, “the first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45) and Eve, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). In no way does reason or inspired revelation forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis; on the contrary, it demands such.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “The Bible Says the Earth is Young,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=885.
Lyons, Eric (2002), “When Did Terah Beget Abraham?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=624.
Thompson, Bert (2001), “Genesis 1 thru 11—Mythical or Historical?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=451.
Does Balaam's Talking Donkey Prove that the Bible is a Book of Fables?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Often associated with the definition of a “fable” are talking animals, unnatural phenomena, and make-believe individuals, places, and things. Critics of the Bible are inclined to declare its contents as “fable” in view of the account of Balaam’s talking donkey. However, this dismissal is a premature conclusion that merits examination. The account, recorded in Numbers 22, reports that this non-Israelite pagan prophet manifested reluctance to speak God’s directives to the Moabite king Balak due to a greedy desire for gain (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11). His “perverse/reckless” way (Numbers 22:32, ESV) was confronted by God via Balaam’s donkey by enabling the beast to speak words to its master.
The fact is that this admittedly unusual incident differs in several particulars from the uninspired fairytales and fables that characterize mere human authors. Some commentators believe Balaam’s interaction with his donkey was simply a vision or trance-like state that only he experienced in his own mind.1 But Jamieson rightly labels this viewpoint as “inadmissible” because of “the improbability of a vision being described as an actual occurrence in the middle of a plain history.”2 Indeed, the account does not possess the characteristics or qualities of a fictitious narrative. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “fable” as “1. A usually short narrative making an edifying or cautionary point and often employing as characters animals that speak and act like humans. 2. A story about legendary persons and exploits. 3. A falsehood; a lie.”3 Older dictionaries emphasize the fictitious nature of a fable: “A feigned story intended to enforce some moral precept; a fiction in general.”4 Webster’s original dictionary had “1. A feigned story or tale, intended to instruct or amuse; a fictitious narration intended to enforce some useful truth or precept.”5 The account of Balaam’s donkey does not match the definition of “fable.”
In the first place, as D.R. Dungan notes in his discussion of biblical hermeneutics, “a fable is an illustration made by attributing human qualities to animate and inanimate beings…. [T]he actors are selected from those beings which are incompetent to do such things…. [U]nlike the parable, its actors are unreal,…made to act a fictitious part.”6 Balaam’s donkey was not an imaginary creature that possessed human capabilities comparable to Brer Rabbit or the tortoise and the hare. The characters in fables never existed and never will exist. In contrast, this donkey was an actual, literal donkey owned by Balaam and on which he had ridden many times (vs. 30). The donkey remained nothing more than a donkey both before and after the supernatural interlude. The animal was able to speak only because God directly intervened to communicate His rebuke to Balaam, using the donkey as His mouthpiece. As Matthew Henry explains: “God opened the mouth of the [donkey]…. God enabled not only a dumb creature to speak, but a dull creature to speak to the purpose.”7 Or as Keil and Delitzsch note, God expressed Himself in “the rational words of human language, which an animal does not possess.”8 The donkey did not cease being a donkey, let alone become human in its nature—as do the characters in fables. Even the rationale offered was God’s argumentation intended to reason with Balaam and prod him to come to grips with his own irrational behavior and internal motives.
Comparable instances of the use of non-human vehicles of supernatural communication may be seen in Satan’s speech to Eve via a snake (Genesis 3:1ff.),9 as well as God speaking to Moses from within a burning bush (Exodus 3:4), and also speaking to Job out of a storm (Job 38:1; 40:1). In each of these instances, the harnessed object (whether animate or inanimate) used by the speaker was purely a physical medium through which the speaker conveyed a message. This understanding of the use of Balaam’s donkey is reinforced and supported by the inspired apostle Peter’s remark concerning Balaam: “but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:16). The donkey did not speak with his own voice. Rather, God spoke using a human voice via the donkey’s mouth. Other renderings of the Greek further support this conclusion. The NASB reads: “but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” The NIV reads: “But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” The donkey did not function of its own accord—as do fictitious characters in fables. Rather, the donkey was merely being utilized by God to articulate the divine message. Like the burning bush, God enlisted the physical form of the animal to speak to Balaam. As Augustine explained: “God did not convert the soul of the [donkey] into that of a reasonable being, but, as it pleased Him, made her to utter sounds to restrain Balaam’s folly.”10
Interestingly, the Bible does, in fact, contain a smattering of fable. However, its use is easily distinguishable from the erroneous use alleged by skeptics. For example, Jotham related a fable in Judges 9:6-21 and Jehoash told a fable in 2 Kings 14:8-10. But even in these biblically rare instances of this type of figurative discourse, the fables are nothing more than literary devices used by the speakers to press their contemporaries with specific truths. The Bible nowhere portrays itself as fable. Rather, it purports to convey actual history.
In the second place, the Bible is filled with historical accounts of miraculous and supernatural events. The evidence indicates that the Universe had to be miraculously (i.e., supernaturally) created by an intelligent supernatural Being. Supernatural phenomena, therefore, have occurred in the past in connection with the activity of the supernatural Creator. The Bible, itself, has supernatural qualities that prove it to be from God.11 Since we know that supernatural phenomena have occurred in the past and that the Bible can be verified as being the product of the supernatural God of the Universe, if the Bible says that “the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey” so that it talked, then, we can know that it talked—albeit, supernaturally. As Seraphim explained:
The stumblingblock…lies in the reasonable speech of an unreasoning and speechless ass…expressed in the form of human speech, of which animals are not capable…. [T]he fact remains clearly indubitable that the ass spoke in a language comprehensible to Balaam, and that this was a supernatural event…. The speech of the ass was an act of Divine Omnipotence.12
Indeed, “the episode moves, from beginning to end, on miraculous ground”13
While mere fables cannot be verified with actual evidence, the claims of Scripture rest upon mounds of evidence that substantiate them—both the natural and supernatural. If God could speak the entire physical realm into existence (Psalm 33:6,9), if He could create a physical body out of dirt and breathe into it a human spirit, endowing that individual with an intellect and ability to speak (Genesis 2:7ff.), if He could part a sea (Exodus 14:21; Hebrews 11:29) and rain down burning sulfur to destroy the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24)—and the list goes on and on—then God could easily cause a brute beast momentarily to speak His words.
In the third place, the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture have proven time and again to be a matter of history—not fiction—firmly distinguishing its contents from make-believe fables.14 Even in the context of Numbers 22, the account gives no indication whatever that it is conveying mythical events. In fact, several features of the narrative have been historically authenticated, including the plains of Moab15 (vss. 1,47,8,10,14,21,36), the Jordan16 (vs. 1), Jericho17 (vs. 1), the Amorites18 (vs. 2), Midian19 (vss. 4,7), Pethor20 (vs. 5), Egypt (vss. 5,11), Arnon21 (vs. 36), Kirjath-huzoth22 (vs. 39), and Bamoth Baal23 (vs. 41). We’re not talking here of “Neverland” or other imaginary realms or mythical peoples, but actual, historically verifiable places and peoples, cultures and countries. The episode of Balaam’s talking donkey is ensconced firmly in the midst of actual history.24
The more one studies the Bible—with an open and honest heart (Luke 8:15)—the more one is struck with the wonder of divine inspiration. The self-authenticating nature of Scripture will inevitably drive the impartial person to the unalterable conclusion: the Bible is the Word of God.25
1 For example, see “Dissertation V: On the History and Character of Balaam” in John Jortin (1809), Six Dissertations upon Different Subjects (London: Richard Taylor), pp. 142ff. See also “Ass of Balaam” in John McClintock and James Strong (1879), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1970 reprint), 1:477, and William Smith (1868), Dictionary of the Bible, ed H.B. Hackett (New York: Hurd & Houghton), 1:227-228.
2 Robert Jamieson in Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (1882), A Commentary: Critical, Practical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments (Toledo, OH: Jerome B. Names), p. 247.
4 Samuel Johnson (1777), A Dictionary of the English Language (London: J. Mifflin), vol. 1.
5 Noah Webster (1828), An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse), 1:78.
6 D.R. Dungan (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light), pp. 244-245.
7 Matthew Henry (1961), Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), p. 166.
8 C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch (1976 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1:171.
9 See Gleason Archer (1974), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press), p. 201: “The serpent was a mere guise through which the tempter spoke to them.” The Hebrew term translated “serpent” is the normal word for “snake.” See also Revelation 12:9,15; 20:2.
10 As translated in Seraphim (1900), The Soothsayer Balaam (London: Rivingtons), p. 147. See also Charles Taylor (1832), “Ass of Balaam,” in Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Bible (London: Holdsworth & Ball), p. 113.
11 See the “Inspiration of the Bible” section at apologeticspress.org.
12 pp. 146-147, emp. added.
13 Marcus Kalisch (1877), Bible Studies, Part I: The Prophecies of Balaam (London: Longman, Greens & Co.), p. 142, emp. added.
14 See the “Factual Accuracy” section of “Inspiration of the Bible” at ApologeticsPress.org.
15 See “The Archaeology of Moab” (1997) in The Biblical Archaeologist, 60:194-248, December.
16 See Jeremy Hutton (2019), “Jordan River in Israelite History,” https://www.bibleodyssey.org:443/en/places/related-articles/jordan-river-in-israelite-history; also William Francis Lynch (1849), Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea (Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Blanchard).
19 Jacqueline Schaalje (2005), “Archaeology in Israel: Timna,” Jewish Magazine, October, http://www.jewishmag.com/95mag/timna/timna.htm; Isidore Singer and M. Seligsohn (1906), “Midian and Midianites,” Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10804-midian-and-midianites.
20 See William Shea (1989), “The Inscribed Tablets from Tell Deir ‘Alla (Part 2),” Andrews University Seminary Studies, Summer, 27:97-119, https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://en.wikipedia.org/&httpsredir=1&article=1911&context=auss.
21 See Bruce Routledge (2004), Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology (Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania Press), pp. 44ff.
22 M.G. Easton (1893), Illustrated Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers), p. 410, https://archive.org/stream/illustratedbible00east#page/n11/mode/2up.
23 George Smith (1903), The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (New York: A.C. Armstrong & Son), p. 562; Morris Jastrow, Jr. and Frants Buhl (1906), “Bamoth-Baal (‘The Heights of Baal’),” Jewish Encyclopedia, http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2431-bamoth-baal.
24 See Edward Wharton (1977), Christianity: A Clear Case of History! (West Monroe, LA: Howard Book House).
25 For more on the supernatural qualities of the Bible, see Kyle Butt (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Hallowed be Your name
Is there no respect?
Is there no respect?
Man’s failure to respect that which is sacred has, through the ages, been detrimental to the culture of the day as well as being displeasing to God. God’s name represents His person just as your name represents you. The scriptures in both Testaments are replete with instructions and examples emphasizing the sacredness of the names of the divine.
Personally, I am old enough to have experienced the days when mothers who heard their children use God’s name as an expletive or use other “swear words” and unbecoming language would threaten with “I’ll wash out your mouth with soap and water.” Using the name of Jesus and using substitutes for God’s name such as “gosh” or “golly” was also punishable. Things have changed since then. We now hear mothers themselves using such expressions in casual and otherwise wholesome conversations in front of their children and in public. Women, in their push for equality, it seems, feel that the use of such language is one way of being equal.
Perhaps my mother’s early efforts contribute to my reaction to the now so commonly heard, “Oh My God.” My involuntary reaction to hearing this phrase, especially from unexpected sources, is similar to the chills that run up my spine when a student playfully causes hard chalk to screech on the chalk board. The popular TV program, “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition,” serves as an example. For me, a very fine program that encourages the Biblical concept of helping the less fortunate is ruined by the frequent and, I fear, deliberate use of the “Oh My God” phrase. The frequency suggests that these people must be coached to use this expression. I have renamed this show “The OMG Show” and avoid viewing it. I am startled, shocked, to hear this expression freely flowing from unexpected sources such as the tongues of “ladies”, mothers, teachers.
In bygone days this type of language was commonly heard from the worldly, those who were not making any effort to be God’s people. It is shocking to hear it in casual conversation among parents, teachers and church leaders. Recently, individual articles in religious journals as well as a couple of special issues (See Gospel Herald, March 2010 – God the Father for one) have highlighted the greatness of God and the importance of giving Him due respect. Similar emphasis has been noted in recent worship service themes. The contrast between these and what is being heard in daily conversation has prompted me to compose this article on a topic that has been on my mind for a long time.
It is clear that God’s names have always borne special significance and that He has expected such to be recognized by those who would please Him. This should not surprise us. Our own names are important to us. We are pleased and complimented when people remember our names and use them in addressing us and when they, in general, show respect for our names. The opposite is also true. We are demeaned and displeased if our names are used in careless and disrespectful ways.
An interesting item entitled “Blasphemers of Ireland Beware” appeared in the January 18th edition of MacLean’s Magazine. It begins, “Be careful how you invoke the name of god . . . any god . . . in Ireland.” and tells us of legislation which bans the publication of material, “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” Surely the names of God and Jesus Christ should be held sacred by all Christians.
Ireland’s 1937 constitution already outlawed blasphemy. Its 1961 Defamation Act included the possibility of both a fine and up to seven years in prison. These laws recognize, in fact, require that language usage show respect for what others hold sacred. They are primarily geared to avoid our offending each other. This reminds us of the workmen who adjust their speech when their minister drops by. They may be concerned about offending his sensitivities or, perhaps, more about hiding their true character from him. Being careful not to offend others is important but how much more careful ought we to be not to offend almighty God by our careless, casual and disrespectful use of His name? We cannot hide our true character from Him.
Number three of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Ex.20:7 NRSV). An online Reader’s Digest service has an item entitle, “If God Had Texted the Ten Commandments” that the reader will find interesting. For number three we find “no omg’s”. When Ezra led the people of Israel in national confession, he instructed them to stand up and “bless the Lord our God” and declared, “Blessed be your name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.” (Neh.9:5)
The title of this article is the words used by Jesus in the beginning of the “model prayer”, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .” (Mt.6:9). We often include this or similar phrases in our prayers. These are “empty words” if we do not show respect for God’s name in our everyday communications. We sing hymns such as, “We Trust in the Name of the Lord our God,” “Glorify the Lord” and “Exalt His Holy Name.” Do we mean what we sing and pray?
There was a time when God’s name was held so holy by the Hebrew people that they were afraid to speak it. The scribes, whose occupation was to hand copy the scriptures would stop copying and ritually purify themselves with water before transcribing God’s names. (You are encouraged to google “scribes, God’s names” and read more about the extremes to which the scribes were required to go when transcribing God’s names.) How would one of them react to the casual ways that His name is used today by many? How, indeed, does God feel about this?
To those whose response to these comments is, “God knows that I don’t mean any disrespect,” we ask, “What do you mean? Using the name of God as an exclamation (punctuation point) in a slang way has meaning or does not have meaning. If it has meaning, it is disrespectful to God and His people. If it does not have meaning, it is being used in a vain, empty way which cannot be pleasing to God.
The Psalmist, after declaring several verses expressing praise for God’s wonderful works, concluded, “Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.” (Ps.111:9,10)
Let us demonstrate at least “the beginning of wisdom” and some “good understanding” in the use of the name of our Holy God. We fear that the casual way that we vocalize God’s name in our culture is evidence of a growing disrespect for God Himself and hence in the way we respond to His word and apply it in our daily living.
Let us show a very high respect for God, His name and His word.
Eugene C. Perry
Published in The Old Paths Archive