The Far Reaching Impact of Sin

If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. The Far Reaching Impact of SinAny food that could be eaten but has water on it from such a pot is unclean, and any liquid that could be drunk from it is unclean. – Leviticus 11:33-34

This passage is from a larger section on clean and unclean food. It addresses what to do if an unclean animal such as a lizard or a rat dies and falls into a pot used for cooking. Sin damages all that it touches. The people of God were not only to avoid those things the Lord had declared unclean but anything those things came in contact with. Continue reading “The Far Reaching Impact of Sin”

Jesus On Every Page by David Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David MurrayThere’s a phrase you sometimes hear referring to middle-America – fly over country. This is born out of the (wrong) attitude that the really important stuff goes on on the east coast in places like New York and Washington and the west coast in places like Los Angeles. All the places in between are unimportant.

In some ways the church has treated the Old Testament like “fly over country” in recent years. We parachute in at the Creation then get airlifted out only to drop in again at the Exodus or the story of David and Goliath. But besides the most famous and beloved stories, much of the rest of the Old Testament is treated as either unimportant or irrelevant to New Testament believers. One consequence of this approach is that we see the Old Testament as a collection of stories teaching a moral lesson rather than as one seamless Story of the history of God’s redemption of His people.

It was this unbalanced approach to the Old Testament that led David Murray to write his new book Jesus On Every Page. He had two main goals for the book: to show that all of the Old Testament is all about Jesus Christ and to do so in a way that the average believer can understand and apply.

In my opinion, he succeeded in both. Starting with the second of those goals, David Murray is a good writer. He writes in a style that flows logically and is easy to follow. He uses word pictures and illustrations effectively to bring home his points and he’s quick to point out his own areas of weakness and struggle. It’s clear he’s not out just to show how smart he is but to help his readers learn. This is the same style I found helpful when I read his book on preaching a year or so back.

On the first point, the book is equally successful. The biggest strength of the book is Murray’s multi-faceted approach to the topic. As he points out, there are  a lot of books about one or two ways to see Jesus in the Old Testament but none that do what he’s done –  present an overview of ten different ways. Some of these ways I’d read about before, Jesus in the Old Testament Characters, for example, but others were less familiar to me such as discovering Jesus in Proverbs or in the Old Testament Law.

I was especially challenged by his discussion of Jesus’ Old Testament appearances. I am familiar with the idea that Christ appeared to people occasionally prior to His incarnation, such as in Genesis 18 when the Bible says the Lord appeared to Abraham concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. However, I’d never heard Murray’s point that God “speaks to sinners only through the channel of His Son in both the Old and New Testaments.” He teaches that every direct interaction of God with man is through the son. Meaning, for example it was the second person of the Trinity who was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. I don’t necessarily disagree but would like to explore this concept more.

One area I particularly appreciated was his treatment of Song of Solomon. He does an excellent job showing that Song of Solomon is not an anomaly but is also focused on Christ and is part of the seamless story of redemption that is the Old Testament. This is a welcome contrast to so much teaching on Song of Solomon today that treats it as nothing more than a Christian Kama Sutra.

I highly recommend this book. Our church is doing an Old Testament overview starting in the fall with our adult Bible study classes and I plan to use it both as a resource as I prepare to teach and as a suggested small group study for those in the class to supplement the teaching.

You can purchase the book several places, including at Amazon.com:

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament

Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book free of charge.

The Test For An Unfaithful Wife?

The Test for an unfaithful wife? Numbers 5:11-31

The Book of Numbers is a history of the wanderings of the people of Israel in the desert after their liberation from slavery in Egypt. It is organized in two parts. The first section, 1:1 – 9:14, concerns how the people are to worship God and relate to one another as God’s people.  The second section, 9:15-16:50 concerns the failure of the first generation of Israelites to possess the Promised Land and the consequences resulting from that. One of the oddest passages in Numbers and perhaps in all the Bible comes in the first section. It describes a test that can be done to determine if a wife has been unfaithful to her husband (Numbers 5:11-29).

A Strange Ritual

The woman suspected of adultery is to be brought to the priest who prepares an offering of grain and incense and oil. He then makes a mixture of holy water and dust from the tabernacle floor. After loosening the woman’s hair, placing the offering in her hand and placing her under oath, he is to write on a scroll the curses upon those who commit adultery and then wash the words off in the holy water and dust mixture. The woman then drinks this concoction. If she’s guilty she will get sick, if she’s innocent she will not.

This is the kind of passage detractors of scripture love to keep in their pocket for just the right gotcha moment. “Oh, you believe the Bible is inerrant? Well,what about…THIS! You don’t believe this nonsense do you?” Well, do you? What are we to make of this strange sounding ritual? Is the Bible teaching that jealous husbands should use some kind of magic spell to test their wives’ faithfulness?

The Interpretive Key

They key to correctly understanding this passage is in verse 11 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,…” Everything that follows was spoken to Moses directly by God. This was not some man-made ritual developed by a primitive, superstitious society. This wasn’t the Old Testament equivalent of throwing suspected witches into the water to see if they float. This was a test designed and ordained by God Himself. As such, it could be trusted to be accurate 100% of the time – exposing the guilty and protecting the innocent.

The Application for Today

So if that’s true, that God ordained and commanded this test, are we to perform it still today? Let’s look at what’s required for the test: A priest from the tribe of Levi (v. 15), the tabernacle, since dust from its floor is required (v. 17), holy water (v. 17) and an altar on which to burn some of the grain offering (v. 26). None of these things exists today. The tabernacle became obsolete when the temple was built and the temple along with the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices became obsolete with the coming of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9 & 10). The relationship God had with national Israel in the Old Testament is unique in history. No nation is or ever will be their modern equivalent. God’s people this side of the cross are identified by their possession of His Spirit, not their ethnicity or the real estate they occupy (Revelation 5:9). As a result, they now hail from many nations and live under the authority of a variety of political systems (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, Old Testament ways of dealing with transgressions of the law under the theocratic political system of Israel are not directly transferable to New Testament believers.

So, do I believe this “nonsense?” Yes. I believe it was a method given by God uniquely to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a valid way to determine guilt or innocence in cases of suspected adultery. Today, it provides information on how God interacted with His people during the Old Covenant and highlights the seriousness of sin. But, this ritual is not applicable to God’s people today. God’s displeasure with the sin of adultery remains (Matthew 5:27-28) but this particular method of dealing with suspected adultery is unique to the time and circumstances in which God gave it.

Elijah & The Prophets of Baal – I Kings 19:1-18

Elijah and the prophets of baal - I Kings 19
Prophet Elijah, Russian Orthodox icon from first quarter of 18-th cen.

A consistent pattern in scripture is that, the wicked, when confronted with the truth about God, seek to kill the messenger. One of the clearest examples of this is I Kings 19:1-18. In the previous chapter, Elijah had shown the prophets of Baal that God was God and Baal was not with an unmistakable demonstration of God’s power and glory – yet the circumstances did not seem to change. The wicked were still in power and now were seeking to take Elijah’s life.

God, however, was still in control. He maintained a remnant (I Kings 19:18) who continued to be faithful and serve Him. But, more than that, He continued to control the events of history so that the Redeemer would come into the world at just the right time (Galatians 4:4).

The wicked always seek to destroy those who glorify the One true God. They did so with Elijah and the prophets and they continue to do so today. This is why Christians face death daily in many parts of the world. But just as in the past, God remains in control and continues to work out all things for His glory and the good of His people (Romans 8:28). In Elijah’s day, His promise was to send a savior and no device of the wicked was able thwart that plan. Today, we live in anticipation of His promised return and again, no amount of persecution or wickedness will stop that from happening at the appointed time.

So, take heart fellow believer, especially in these uncertain times. Our God knows the end from the beginning because He’s the creator of them both. Therefore we have nothing to fear.