Thursday, October 22, 2009

Judges series - Judges 2

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 2

1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, "I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." [God, as the angel of the Lord came to the Israelites. God was upset with the disobedience of the Israelites. As can be seen in Judges 1, after Joshua’s death, in the subsequent sub-dues of the remaining territories in the Canaanite Land, some of the tribes of Israelites did not completely destroy the enemies. In fact they lived amongst the Canaanite inhabitants, only in certain cases, pressed the Canaanites into forced labor. They did what the Lord had forbidden them to do – inter-marry with the locals with the consequent serving of their gods (You can read of this in Judges 3:5). This was clearly not acceptable to the Lord because God, in His covenant with the forefathers of the Israelites, gave very strict instruction to the Israelites not to make treaties with the people of the land and that the altars of the heathens must be completely destroyed. Because of this disobedience, God said that He would no longer drive out the enemies from before the Israelites. The heathens would be thorns in the Israelites’ sides, and their gods would be a snare to the Israelites.]
4 When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD. [On hearing what God had spoken the Israelites wept aloud, and they offered sacrifices to the Lord]
6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance. 7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. [Before Joshua died, he allotted the territories of the Canaanite land consistent with the Lord’s desire. (Please note that an allotted territory did not necessarily had been secured) For a time, the Israelites served the Lord]
8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. [Joshua, one of the 2 courageous spies that spied the Promised Land when the Israelites first came to the edge of the Promised Land, and who had led the Israelites into the Promised Land, died at the age of 110.]
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. [This is the important lesson that we must learn, that we must pass on our heritage in the faith to our children, including all the testimonies of God, the signs and wonders and miracles God did in our generation so that this type of history does not keep repeating itself. The previous generation of the Israelites, comprised almost entirely of the children of the Moses generation, who still knew some of the heritage of the faith, wept and offered sacrifices to God when God told them at Bokim (verse 4) that because of their disobedience, God was not going to be fighting for them anymore, in the Promised Land that they were in. We read here the children of that generation, as predicted by God, got influenced and got drawn away by the local inhabitants to worship the local gods. The practices of the local worshippers towards the local gods like Baals and Ashtoreths were hideous and were abominations to God. That was the reason for God to ask the Israelites to completely destroy the enemies and all their altars. The Israelites of that generation did evil in the eyes of God. We have to do our part so that the generation after us do not fall away from the Lord and do evil in the eyes of our God.]
14 In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. [Let it be understood that God is firstly holiness, God is first God (then comes all the rest - Love, Creator, Father, etc). God cannot allow violation of Himself, holiness. Evil and wickedness are abominations to God. God will never allow violation of his very nature, holiness. God is the source of life, if God is violated, the very source of life is violated, and life will cease. The story of the Great Flood comes to mind, and in that episode of human history, the meditations of the hearts of men were continually evil, right even from childhood; God had no choice but to wipe out the entire human race except Noah and his family, from which we all are descendants. For this time in the history of Israel, the Israelites sinned greatly in the sight of God, and so God left the Israelites to fend for themselves, as He had said at Bokim (verse 3). It must be said that compared to the Great Flood, God had already been more merciful to the Israelites as a whole. It must be understood that God is not evil, God does not plot evil against man. God is absolute holiness, there cannot be any wickedness in absolute holiness. To even insinuate that God is in any way wicked, is a great sin. Do you know that the great Moses did not enter the Promised Land because of this sin? (You can read the article, here) I tell you, to say that God is evil or equate God with evil, is the unpardonable sin, it is blasphemy. When we read of God handling over people (his people) to an enemy, it really means that God takes his hands of protection/blessing off the people. It is the workings of the fallen world that bring the harm to the people, not God. That is why it should be frightening for us to live our lives without the covering of the Lord. Such was the case here.]
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. [You remember I said compared to the Great Flood, God was already more merciful. After the Great Flood when Noah built the first altar and made a burnt offering to God, and God came to speak with Noah, God was greatly grieved by the death of men in the flood and vowed not to have such annihilation, and a rainbow is ever over the throne of God as a reminder God made for Himself. So, in His mercy, God raised up people who were called judges, to help the Israelites. The condition was that they had to listen to the judges.]
17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. [We read here that despite God’s mercy and compassion, the Israelites refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. The judges only managed to function like policemen, when they were around, people behaved, when they were not, evil returned.]
20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, "Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did." 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. [The writer repeated again what he wrote at the start of this chapter of Judges. I believe it is for stressing that it was the Israelites who broke the covenant God made with the Israelites, and so what happened following that (the care of God) was once again all by the grace, mercy and compassion of God, not bound by covenant. And we saw that God was still trying to help the Israelites despite the lapse of the covenant.]

Points to note:
This chapter recorded the breaking of the covenant (Promised Land Covenant) God made with the forefathers of the Israelites. I consider the covenant broken, and the party who broke it first was the Israelites not God. At Bokim, God merely said that since the fundamental term of the covenant was breached by the Israelites, He would longer be bound by the covenant as well. God was no longer covenant bound to fight for the Israelites in the Promised Land. Yet, in his mercy and compassion, upon the outcries of the Israelites, God raised up judges, from time to time, to help the Israelites. Still the Israelites returned to the evil that God detested every time a raised judge died.

The fundamental term that the Israelites had to comply with was that they were not to make treaties with the enemies and to completely destroy their altars. The demand of God was that the Israelites must completely destroy the enemy when they took a place. What that meant was that the standard things to do were to kill everyone, men, women and children, burn the place, and destroy all altars and high places. That was what the Israelites did when Moses was still alive, when they took the territories on eastern side of Jordan, i.e. before the crossing of the Jordan. I believe they continued to do likewise under the leadership of Joshua, but when Joshua died, the Israelites slackened, leading eventually the total disregard of this demand of God, as we have read in Judges 1. Some may say this was cruel of God, demanding utter destruction. The rationale was simple – God did not want the Israelites to mix with the locals or heathens who would lead to them to be influenced by their practices of following other gods, and engagements in worship practices which were evil and were abominations to the Lord.

From this chapter, we also learnt that, part of the problem was due to the lack of passing on of the faith heritage down the generations. In short, we have to teach the future generation the ways of the Lord.

Anthony Chia - God is holy. God is also compassionate; He still heed cries of desperation.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-15)

This article is put up because a sister (in-Christ) requested.

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

1Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' [Some Bible translations (e.g. NKJ) have the word “also” in verse 1 (i.e. Jesus also told ….), the writer who did the write-up of this parable in Wikipedia, went at some length concerning the implication of the missing word. (You can read the full write-up here {Updated: 28/03/2011 - Link removed, reason being that THE ARTICLE IN WIKIPEDIA HAS SINCE BEEN CORRECTED. THERE IS NOW NO DISCUSSION OF THE MISSING WORD, "ALSO"}). His interpretation of the use of the word, “also” in the verse, is not necessarily correct. My view is this: If the sentence just ended with “disciples”, i.e. “Jesus also told his disciples.”, I would agree with him, i.e. meaning, Jesus told “some other people” in addition to telling his disciples. When it was being used in this manner: “Jesus also told his disciples: “There was ….”, I am of the opinion that it can be interpreted simply as: “Jesus told his disciples also this parable of …., in addition to some other earlier told parables.” Whichever the interpretation, I believe it is “much ado with nothing” and I have no qualms about the NIV Bible translators leaving out the word, “also” here. The writer of the Wikipedia article only concluded this:

“Readers who don't include Luke 15: 1-3 can find the parable difficult if not impossible to understand.” (Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIPEDIA HAS SINCE BEEN CORRECTED.)

Luke 15:1-3 was only making mention of the people who were around Jesus – tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees and Scribes. The writer did not explain how knowing these additional people around, help us to understand this particular parable. In any case, in this chapter itself, you can read in verse 14, that the Pharisees were around, and heard what Jesus had spoken. (Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIPEDIA HAS SINCE BEEN CORRECTED.)

The reason I included some discussions here about the article in Wikipedia is to draw some attention to the fact that there are so much writings on the internet these days on the faith, and the great disparities, discrepancies, and even incorrect expositions of Biblical scriptures on the internet. You can read another exposition on this parable on which I am not so comfortable with (you can read it here. {Updated: 28/03/2011 - Linked removed, reason being that THE ARTICLE IN WIKIANSWER HAS SINCE BEING IMPROVED OR AMENDED.}). I believe many people read stuff on the “Wiki” and the “pedia”. We should warn our children or even young Christians about what they read in the internet. We should think about what we should do about this growing phenomenon, the internet is not going to go away, it is just going to get more and more common-place. There is a question to think about – Should or should we not, write on the internet concerning the matters of the faith? The answers will differ from person to person, but for those “well-versed” in the faith, do you think you should write on the internet to balance out the half-truths, untruths, etc concerning the things of the faith on the internet. For example, am I contributing to the “mumble, jumbo”? Should we take the same attitude we take with regard to gossips, let them end in your ears, and do not start any? Nowadays, I hear of people stressing the wrestling back of the 7 Gates. People are saying if you do not take those gates, others will. I believe that the internet is one of the gates within the 7 Gates. Or are we going to just say God will look after his own Word? What about distorted Word deceiving people? I tell you, get your children to a good church to balance out the misinformation of the internet which is so freely accessible today.

Ok, let me get back to the interpretation of this parable. I believe in this parable, the Lord was trying to say a few things, one of which is fruitfulness. I know many people talk about “increase”. In the Parable of Talents, for example, 5 talents became 10 talents, 2 talents became 4 talents, and the one given 1 talent only presented the same talent back to master, no increase whatsoever. Concerning these matters, I believe the more correct concept is the concept of fruitfulness. The other concept we need to bear in mind is that what we are having here, is a parable.

A little is needed to be said concerning parables if we want to be able to interpret this parable. The Greek word for parable is parabolē, which means

1) a placing of one thing by the side of another
2) metaphor - a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude

This is to say a parable comprises concepts of “parallels”, metaphors, and analogy. The idea to bear in mind is the chief definition of placing of one thing by the side of another, i.e. there are 2 different things being put side by side and being talked about. This is why for some of the parables in the Bible, the opening goes like this, “The Kingdom of God is like ….”. At the end of the day, we still go back to one of the 2 things, and the correct one to go back to, is the one being illustrated, not the metaphor.

Now, it is important when you are reading the Bible, to know whether you have come to a parable or just a narrative. For example, the narrative about the woman with blood issue (been bleeding for 12 years) touching Jesus’ cloak and got healed is not a parable – it is an account of an event and should be interpreted as such.

Remember I said there are 2 things in a parable, the thing (in this case, scenario of a “manager” in the Kingdom of God/Kingdom domain), and the metaphor (scenario of a “manager” in the world). Referring to the metaphor, Jesus said there was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. The rich man was God, in the Kingdom of God scenario, not in the world scenario, of course. The manager as his name implied was to manage his master’s resources, which according to the accusation here, he was not doing well; he was charged with wasting.

How do you interpret verse 2? I believe there are 2 reasonable interpretations:
Either the master was saying to the manager that he was to be terminated, and that now he had to give an account of what was the status of things under his management, very much like when a modern day manager, on being confirmed leaving a company, would be required to prepare a hand-over; or the master was asking the manager to answer to the accusation, failing which he would be terminated. My own take is the former. The reasoning is that I have put my emphasis on the last part of the verse, “because you cannot be manager any longer”. Perhaps, the master already did his own investigations. Wouldn’t you have done your own investigations before firing a manager? Also, if you go down to verse 4, you will see that the manager used “when” instead of “if” when thinking about the loss of the job.

The article in seems to imply that out of this parable we ought to consider whether or not we should fire people on the spot (asking them to leave immediately). I believe this is not what Jesus was even hinting, even though the manager in this case was not leaving immediately {Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIANSWER HAS SINCE BEING IMPROVED OR AMENDED.}

Coming back to fruitfulness, I believe Jesus was trying to say that we got to be fruitful. In the world, we are expected, in the Kingdom domain we are expected also. In the world, in many instances, “increase” was all that people were looking at. For example, when one hands over to another a certain amount of wealth to manage, the yardstick of performance is most likely to be in terms of how much the increase (in wealth) would be. If you do not bring about the “increase”, you are not a good manager. In the Kingdom domain, a similar concept is at work. God gives everyone certain resources, some, more, some, less, some in terms of intelligence, some in terms of creativity, some in terms dexterity of the hands, others, gift of the gap, some in terms of monetary wealth, some in terms of extraordinary long suffering, etc. The question is, what have we done with the resources or what are we going to do with the resources? The idea of increase is not wrong but not adequate. It is not wrong to bring about an increase in the “talents” God has given us, but a wider concept of fruitfulness was in order for the Kingdom domain. Often, the mere increase in the thing is not adequate, for example, if God blessed you with certain monetary wealth, your mere increasing of the wealth is not sufficient. What fruit you bear with the wealth or increased wealth is what matters. Or say, you are gifted by God in music, and you trained and worked very hard at perfecting the talent God has given you, and you become very famous, you have increased the “talent” God has given you. But what do you do with the perfected talent, what do you do with the fame you achieved? If you waste away what God has given you, you are a bad manager.

Connected to fruitfulness, what this parable, in just 2 verses, was trying to say was that we all need to give an account to God. To keep this article short, I will just say I believe God kept saying to us, “Hello, so and so, you have to give an account to me. What are you doing?” Sometimes, He would say, “Complaints have come to me, and I have checked what you are doing. You are wasting what I placed in your hands, if you continue to stay that way, I might have to take that away from you.”]

3"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg— 4I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' [If you have agreed with me about verse 2’s interpretation, the manager was fretting over his predicament as he was preparing the hand-over. He was wondering what to do, now that he was going to leave his employment, he claimed that he was not strong enough to toil, and he was ashamed to beg. While listing the outstanding matters, including outstanding receivables due to his master, an “idea” came to his mind.]

5"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
6" 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'
7"Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' " 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'
[He came up with a dishonest plan. He decided to give unwarranted discounts to the master’s debtors, on the amounts owing. The idea was to curry favor the debtors so that when he was out, one of them might take him on, as a manager.

I want to say I do not agree with the interpretations cited in the Wikipedia’s article referred to above, about Judaic prohibition against usury, and that this act of the manager was therefore done entirely honestly {Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIPEDIA HAS SINCE BEEN CORRECTED. DIRECT REFERENCE TO JUDAIC PROHIBITION AGAINST USURY HAS SINCE BEING REMOVED.}. Neither can I accept the interpretation that the manager was merely sacrificing his own legitimate commissions and therefore was praised as “astute”. The suggestion in the WikiAnswer’s article that the manager was not dishonest because he was still in the service of the rich man when he gave the discounts was wrong. Also, the discussions on the 2 options of the master in the same article, to me, only served to confuse the matter, it was never really about the rich man (the master){Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIANSWER HAS SINCE BEEN IMPROVED OR AMENDED.}.]

8"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. [These are the 2 verses that many of us struggle with. What do these verses mean?

There are a few words here that “stumped” us. First, let’s get it straight, it is said very clearly here that the manager was dishonest. So we shouldn’t go round trying to find ways to say that the manager was not dishonest. What he did was dishonest. I know sometimes there are insufficient details in the accounts in the Bible, but we can only insert reasonable scenarios which are consistent with what was already made known to us. Do you know the story of the Fall of Jericho, the part about the spying and Rahab, the prostitute? ( You can read it here: Joshua 2 & Joshua 6:22-25) Was Rahab dishonest? Yes, she lied. Did God asked her to lie? No. Did God asked her to be dishonest? No. Did Rahab acted shrewdly? Yes. Was she and her family spared? Yes. Did God commend her on her dishonesty? No. Did God commend her for shrewdness? No. In that story, it was a worldly action, done with dishonest shrewdness, ended up helping the people of God. It was a case of Romans 8:28. We struggled here, because we saw the words, “commended” and “shrewdly” in verse 8.

We read that the master praised the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. Let us be clear that there is no praise for dishonesty. Was the manager praised for his shrewdness? What is shrewdness? Is it something good? Or is it something bad? “Shrewd” here comes from the Greek word, phronimōs (Strong’s no. G5429), which means

1) wise (but can be with the connotation of being wise in one’s own conceit),
2) prudently mindful of one’s own interest

I believe it meant that the dishonest manager acted mindfully of his own interest, he curried-favored the master’s customers with the hope that one of the customers would employ him; and he thought he acted wisely (self-conceit) but his master came to know about his actions. So, is being shrewd good or bad? I would put it this way, being innocently shrewd is positive. Being dishonestly shrewd, as in the case of this dishonest manager is negative. In Mat 10:16, we read this:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

The word, “shrewd” used in this Mat 10:16 is the same as the one used in verse 8 here (Greek word, phronimōs). So what is the difference? The difference is that Jesus was telling his disciples to be shrewd but at the same time be innocent. Being shrewd and at the same time dishonest is not what was commanded by Jesus.

But then verse 8 said, “The master commended ….”; what do I have to say about that? Yes, but it does not say God likewise commended (such phrases can be found in other parables. For example in the Parable of the Unforgiving servant, Mat 18:35). But you may say that I said the rich man (the master) was God. Yes, I did say the rich man was God, but I say the rich man was God in the Kingdom of God scenario, not in the world scenario. The clues to saying that it is not likewise that God commended are firstly, there was no such thing said, AND secondly, because the second sentence of verse 8 started with “For”. When structured in this manner, the observation that was to be emphasized is in the second sentence. What was the observation? It was this - that the people of this world were more shrewd when dealing with one another regarding their own interests in this world than the people of the light (God’s people) regarding their own interests in the Kingdom domain. The first part of verse 8 (first sentence) should be seen as flowing from the second part (second sentence). We should not be putting weight on the master’s commendation. To me, it is no more than one like our common remark, “You have to give it to him, he was shrewd, cunning or conniving or scheming.”, and it did not mean approval of what the manager did. But I would not dismiss that many worldly masters may esteem such attribute, so long as the dishonesty was not against them. To me, it is better to be simple-hearted (free of deceit) than to be shrewd. Apart from the Greek definition, if you check up the old use of this word, “shrewd”, it carried high connotation of conniving and deceit.

The Wikipedia’s ‘anti-Qumran’ interpretation of the parable is uncalled for because the “people of the light” in verse 8 was clearly referring to the people in the Kingdom domain, which I put here as God’s people; it is not about some Qumran sect members {Updated: 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLE IN WIKIPEDIA HAS SINCE BEEN CORRECTED. THERE IS NOW NO MENTION OR DISCUSSION OF WHAT "PEOPLE OF LIGHT" MEANT.}). Verse 8 is a parable comparison of a state in the Kingdom domain (“the thing”) and the same, in the world (“the metaphor”). It is not a comparison of 2 metaphors.

Actually God was saying, “Why can’t you shift your worldly mindset to the eternal mindset, from looking at the worldly self-interest and goodwill, to eternal self-interest and goodwill?” That was why what He said in verse 9 was amounting to a command for us to use our wealth to do Kingdom work (like those contributing to the Kingdom enlargement or Kingdom welfare) so that when we die, we would be welcomed into Heaven by the people (saved people) benefited from them. Maybe you and I should ask ourselves whether or not there will be many people welcoming us when we enter Heaven. Will there be many friends waiting to receive you? This is what these 2 verses are about.

Is there any special significance to the word, “worldly” attached to the word “wealth” in verse 9? My opinion is that there is none. All wealth that we cannot bring with us when we die is worldly wealth. I believe it was just referring to our wealth in this world. No, I do not think it was referring to “ill-gotten” wealth of any sort.

I also would like to point out that the “gaining friends” here was not referring to gaining friends in this world particularly, although people benefited from your Kingdom contributions could become your friends in this world. The connected metaphor for verse 9 is in verse 4. So, this verse 9 is not about making friends in this world. It is not about using wealth to build “guan-xi” (connections) in this world. Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying you should not make friends or get connected with people; it is just that this verse is not about gaining the connections to get ahead in this world or in this life on earth.

Please note that it is incorrect to end this parable at verse 8. As a minimum, verse 9 must be included.]

10"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? [Some consider these few verses not part of the parable. I am treating them as part of the parable.

We need to be honest and trustworthy. Firstly, if we cannot be trusted with little, it is not likely that we will be trusted with much. Secondly, if we cannot be trusted to handle worldly wealth, it is not likely that we will be trusted with true riches.

Worldly wealth, I have defined very simply as wealth you cannot bring with you when you die. What are true riches, then? I have not come across any good write-up on this, true riches, or have seen any convincing definitions of what true riches are. I think you also will not be faulted for not accepting what I say about true riches.

Maybe true riches are riches that still matter when we die. Since verse 11 talks about being entrusted with them, maybe they include other people’s eternal lives, and their spiritual well-beings, spiritual revelations, spiritual gifts, wisdom, and favor of God. Maybe these things do not die with you, people’s eternal lives and spiritual well-beings get translated into goodwill with God, friends in heavenly places, spiritual revelations and gifting, at least some of them, maybe remain with you; maybe wisdom stays with you (maybe King Solomon still has great wisdom in Heaven), and favor with God gained here on earth, may continue into Heaven.

Verse 12 may on the surface, looks easy to interpret, but if you bring yourself back to the Kingdom scenario, you will be wondering what was it that was being referred to as property of your own. Even if you join me in accepting a “measure” of the Kingdom is already here, in the world, we do not have real ownership, do we? Your church, for example, is really not your church, right, it’s the Lord – we are stewards. Maybe we do get to own something which we can call our own, in the future; who knows? – 1 Cor 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him”]

13"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
14The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.
[Are these last 3 verses part of the parable? I think they are part of the parable.

To me the “parallel” is still there, in the world, it is difficult to serve 2 masters; in the Kingdom domain, it is also similar, Jesus said you cannot serve both God and Money. To Jesus, the Pharisees were bad managers, they tried to serve both God and Money, and ended up loving money and were dishonestly shrewd. In the world, who came to know about the heart of the manager? The master. In the Kingdom domain, Jesus said, “but God knows your hearts (v 15)”. When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River, in preparation for the coming of Jesus, he saw the Pharisees and Sadduces approaching, he called out, “You broods of vipers!” (Mat 3:7). Vipers are venomous snakes. What did Jesus implied about snakes? Remember Mat 10:16, quoted above, the same shrewdness is being referred to. They, the Pharisees and Sadduces, knew Jesus was talking about them, as shrewd but bad managers, even as He, Jesus, was teaching his disciples and all others, who were gathered around Him.

Now what do you think is being referred to in the last part of verse 15 – What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight? No, not money. Money by itself is neutral. It is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. Dishonest shrewdness was what Jesus was referring to. If you want to be shrewd, be innocently shrewd and not dishonestly shrewd, the latter is detestable in God’s sight.]

This has been a long article, in part because I included the discussions on the articles on Wikipedia and WikiAnswer in an effort to point out the “gross” expositions of matters of the faith in the internet. It is not my desire to go round attacking people on their beliefs or opinions, especially if their articles are on their personal sites or blogs. These 2 articles are somewhat different; they are on “public sites” which people use widely. Wikipedia and its associated sites are being projected as the encyclopedia of the internet. Actually, I did consider removing these parts from my article but when I was doing that I felt a “prompting”, which I read as “not to remove”. So, you have it, complete with the discussions on the “Wiki” articles. {Updated 28/03/2011 - THE ARTICLES IN WIKIPEDIA AND WIKIANSWER HAVE SINCE BEEN IMPROVED OR AMENDED. I RECOGNISE THAT ARTICLES IN "WIKI" ARE LARGELY FROM CONTRIBUTIONS FROM "INFORMED" MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC COMMUNITY, AND THE MANAGEMENT OF WIKI HAS BEEN IMPROVING ITS PROCESSES OF ENSURING ONLY "CREDIBLE" ARTICLES APPEAR IN THIS SO-CALLED ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF THE INTERNET. MY POINT IS THAT CHRISTIANS STRONG IN THE WORD, SHOULD CONSIDER HELPING TO SHAPE WHAT WOULD APPEAR IN THIS ENCYCLOPAEDIA, AS INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD, EITHER DIRECTLY AS CONTRIBUTORS OR PROVIDING FEEDBACK. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED TO ATTACK WIKI FOR ANY FAILURE.}

Let me summarise the points to note:

1. As Christians, we are all servants of the Lord. We are also managers of the Lord.

2. As managers, we must be fruitful. Not necessarily increasing the resource given, but be fruitful.

3. As managers, we cannot just let the resources given to us waste away

4. Managers who are not fruitful and wasting away resources will not please God. I cannot judge, but it appears that maybe such managers may get demoted, given lesser and lesser to take care. In the worst case scenario, maybe what little that they may have, may even be taken away from them.

5. Being unfruitful through wasting away resources is not pleasing to God, being dishonest in management is also displeasing to God.

6. God often starts people off with a little. We have to prove ourselves to be diligent (bear fruits, not letting resources go to waste), and trustworthy before He will entrust us with more, and more important resources and tasks.

7. Whether little or much, whatever the resource, belonging to others or your own, be a good steward.

8. Use your resources for Kingdom work to bear fruits which should include people getting saved, and people getting helped, in the process, gaining friends who would be welcoming you at your entry to Heaven. Shift from a worldly mindset to an eternal mindset.

9. Do not try to serve both God and money. Serve only God. Do not love money, for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

10.If you need to be shrewd, be innocently shrewd and not dishonestly shrewd. The latter is detestable to God.

Anthony Chia - To sister who requested this exposition, this article took me a long time to complete, but I want to thank you because I have learnt about what kind of shrewdness is pleasing to God, and what kind of shrewdness is detestable to God.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Judges Series - Judges 1

I felt led to do a series on the Judges period. Today we will look at Judges 1. Before we go into this series, let me say that this study is very much a self-study, not a historian-like kind of study. The purposes of this study are: firstly, to learn more about God from historical dealings God had with men, and secondly to learn from the Bible characters, from their successes and failures or strengths and failings. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I believe from the Old Testament, we can learn much concerning God. I believe it not only pleases God, it should help to shape how we deal with God. To me it is also an expression of love. If you love someone, you will like to know more about the person, what that person will be pleased with or displeased with. We want to please the one we love. It will be in a somewhat commentary style with interjections of my understanding, views, opinions or conclusions. Details will be in moderation but as usual, perhaps, it will be somewhat long-winded because that’s me. This is not to be regarded as a scholarly Bible commentary. Also, verse expositions probably would not be exhaustive – all significant aspects should be covered, though. {To get full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".

Judges 1

Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?" [Joshua was the one who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. At the second time the Israelites reached the edge of the Promised Land, God insisted that Moses passed over the leadership to Joshua so that Joshua would bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. Moses did not enter the Promised Land because God did not allow him so. He died just outside the Promised Land. {If you want to know why God disallowed Moses to enter the Promised land, go to my article – Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised Land? } After entering the Promised Land, subsequently, Joshua died at the age of 110 after securing some of the Canaan land. The Canaan Land was divided into many territories. The rest of the territories were left unsecured for 2 reasons, according to Judges 3:1 which we will cover, later in the series.] 2 The LORD answered, "Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands." [The Israelites was of 12 Tribes, through the sons of Israel (aka Jacob). Judah is one of the tribes. The other 11 tribes are: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin. While in Egypt, Ephraim and Manasseh were born to Joseph. The house of Joseph was divided into 2 half-tribes – Ephraim and Manasseh by virtue of Israel’s blessing (Gen 48:1-20).] 3 Then the men of Judah said to the Simeonites their brothers, "Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours." So the Simeonites went with them. [Judah solicited the help of another tribe, the Simeonites.] 4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. [Judah won with the capture of Adoni-Bezek. The latter had his thumbs and big toes cut off]
7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them." They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. [Adoni-Bezek got his retribution.] 8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire. [The men of Judah then took Jerusalem.] 9 After that, the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. [Some more territories taken by men of Judah.] 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage. . [Some more territories taken by men of Judah. Who is Othniel? He was later to one of the judges raised by God. Here, his background is given; he was the younger brother of Caleb, the only other adult of Moses’ generation, apart from Joshua who lived to enter the Promised Land. This Caleb was the same Caleb who spied the land with Joshua when they first came to edge of the Promised Land.] 14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?" 15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
16 The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.
17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their brothers and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 The men of Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.
[Some more territories taken by men of Judah] 19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, failed to dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites. [Some more territories taken by men of Judah. At the end of day, when it came to allotment, the Simeonites received their inheritance within the Judah territory (Joshua 19:8a-9). I believe it was because they fought together with the men of Judah (verse 3). However there were remnants of Canaanites left behind, including the Jebusites living with the Benjamites (another Israelite tribe) in Jerusalem.]
22 Now the house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, "Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well." 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day. [The house of Joseph, another tribe of Israelite, also fought and won some territories. The story here has a little semblance to the story of the Fall of Jericho in the sense that a person helped the Israelite spies, and when the city was taken, that person and his whole family were spared.]
27But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. [The Manasseh tribe (one of the 2 half-tribes within the house of Joseph) settled in but did not drive out various Canaanites tribes.]
29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. [The Ephraim tribe (the other tribe of the 2 half-tribes, in the house of Joseph) also spared the Canaanites.]
30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them; but they did subject them to forced labor. [The Zebulun too did not drive out the enemies, they just subjected them to forced labor.] 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob, 32 and because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. [The Asher tribe too did the same, just lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the Land.]
33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. [The Naphtali tribe also did not drive out the Canaanite inhabitants of the Land.]
34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the house of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond. [The Dan tribe fought against the Amorites, but the Amorites proved to be too strong. Eventually the Amorites were defeated by the house of Joseph but they were not destroyed. The Joseph tribe just pressed them into forced labor.]

The points to note:

The Judges period is a period in the history of the Israelites, starting from the death of Joshua, and ended with appointment of King Saul. Prior to this, the Israelites were led by Moses out of Egypt. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the leadership baton was passed from Moses to Joshua to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Israelites, under Joshua, fought in the Promised Land, taking more territories with time, until finally it was time for Joshua to pass on.

The Judges period is a period of time where there were no great leaders, like Moses or Joshua leading the Israelites. It was a period in the Promised Land where many more territories were yet taken over, and all around there were locals, uncircumcised heathens. It was a perilous period for the Israelites without strong leaders. Nevertheless, it was supposed to be a period that the Israelites needn’t be too fearful because the Lord had promised to be with them, through the covenant with the Israelites’ forefathers, Moses’ generation (and earlier). When Joshua died, the Lord was still there with them. The Lord had travelled with the Israelites in the portable Tabernacle, all through the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Lord fought and gave victories to the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, and would have continued to do the same if not for the disobedience of the Israelites after the death of Joshua.

You should note that over time, increasingly the Israelites became tolerant of the locals, and did not completely destroy them. This, you will read in the next chapter, led to their falling into abominable sins.

Anthony Chia – Israel is of 12 tribes - Judah, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) and Benjamin.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised land?

I did NOT think about it before
Up until recently, I really did not give much thought to this question. I only knew that Joshua was the one who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua succeeded Moses as the Leader just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. But I was not having the impression that Moses was physically unable to make the journey into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 34:7, we read that Moses was 120 years old but his eyes were not weak and his strength was not gone. I have heard over and over again that the adults who left Egypt (except Joshua and Caleb) did not make it to the Promised Land because by the second time the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. It was that long, that by this time, the many adults would have died, apart from the fact that God had decreed that the adults (except Joshua and Caleb - the two spies, who wanted the people to enter the Land) would not ever enter the Promised Land when they refused to enter Land the first time God brought them near it (Numbers 14:29-30). Although I knew of this decree of God against the adults, I never really thought that Moses was excluded. Indeed, I now think Moses and Aaron were NOT included in the decree. It was in a later event that Moses and Aaron were NOT allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Miriam dies
After about 38 years (according to Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary) of wandering in the
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deserts, God brought the people to a place called Kadesh in the Desert of Zin. By this time, only Moses, Aaron and Miriam were left (apart from Joshua and Caleb){Num 26:64-65 - By the time of the second census, all adults had died except a handful}. In case you do not yet know, these three (Moses, Aaron and Miriam) were brothers and sister (Numbers 26:59). Moses was the Leader God had chosen, Aaron was the Priest, and Miriam was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). They were a team although at times they had their differences. We know that Miriam died at Kadesh (Numbers 20:1). I believe Moses was sad and upset. I believe Moses wanted to believe that Miriam was NOT included in the decree God made when they first came near the Promised Land (Numbers 14:29-30). Moses loved his sister very much, and had successfully appealed to God to heal her of leprosy which God Himself inflicted on her because of her opposition to Moses’ taking of a Cushite wife (Numbers 12). I believe Moses had wanted and thought that the 3-member team would remain intact until they have entered the Promised Land. I could understand his sentiments, by the time they reached Kadesh, he could see that probably, all the adults who needed to die, had died.

Background to the decree
When the Israelites first came close to the Promised Land and spies were sent out to check out the land and when the spies came back with their reports, the Israelites (except Joshua and Caleb) decided NOT to trust God who said that He would be giving them the Land. The Israelites were afraid of the giants of the Promised Land. The Israelites treated God with contempt. Numbers 14:1-3 recorded this as follows:

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?"

In fact, God said, I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, … (Numbers 14:12).

It was Moses who pleaded with the LORD, and eventually God agreed NOT to destroy the people right away but decreed the “deaths over 40 years of wandering”. It is very important to see how Moses pleaded with God but we will return to it, a bit later on.

Second time round
We shall return to Kadesh, where Miriam died and was buried. The Bible recorded that for this second time of approaching the Promised Land, the Israelites had come to a place without water:

In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!" (Numbers 20:1-5).

It is very interesting to note that the Israelites’ {children of the adults who left Egypt} attitudes and reactions were the same as those of their fathers (when God first brought the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land), as we have seen in Numbers 14:1-3 above.

Same attitude at the Red Sea
It is also interesting to note that the fathers of that generation of Israelites behaved the same way their children subsequently displayed, when there were plenty of water, too much water to be more precise; then, the people faced likely death because of water rather than lack of water. Yes, I am referring to the juncture in time when Moses and the Israelites had reached the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit behind them, shortly after the Israelites had left Egypt. I reproduced Exodus 14:9-12 below:

The Egyptians—all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"

Stiff-necked but what does it got to do with Moses?
Ok, we now know how stiff-necked the Israelites were, but what does it have to do with Moses NOT being permitted to go into the Promised Land? This is to show that the Israelite community always had this bad attitude and complained in the same manner – that they have been set up, snared to die a terrible death! The complaint of the Israelite community at Kadesh where there was no water, was NOT new to Moses.

A point to note is that the Israelites were really complaining about God. It was very clear that both Moses and Aaron represented God - Aaron, being The High Priest, Moses being the one who consistently acted supernaturally. I want to reiterate, the one who consistently performs God’s signs and wonders, and miracles, has God’s name written all over him, and he represents God in certain aspects. It was very clear that the Israelites were complaining about God. In fact, in Numbers 20:13, the place at Kadesh where the complaint of no water was made, it became called Waters of Meribah because the Israelites was said to have quarreled with God, there.

About Moses (and Aaron) at Kadesh
This was what happened after the Israelites murmured about dying of thirst:

Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink." (Numbers 20:6-8).

This is what Moses did and what God said afterwards:

He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." (Numbers 20:10-12).

What did Moses do wrong?
Have you figured out what Moses did wrong? I did not until I re-read the verses a couple of times. After that it took me a while to figure out the severity of what Moses did wrong.

Yes, Moses was supposed to have just spoken to the rock instead of striking the rock (in fact, not once but twice). Also, Moses did NOT speak positively for the LORD, he did NOT even mention the LORD in the performance of the miracle. Remember, he (Moses) represented God, and the complaints against Moses (and Aaron) were really complaints against God.

You will NOT enter the Promised Land
Remember I said in the opening para. that I realized that Moses and Aaron were NOT included in the decree against the Israelite adults. If the duo were included, there would NOT be a need to state that they would NOT enter the Promised Land in Numbers 20:12 above. But why so severe, a punishment? To me, this was a severe punishment, just imagine how you would have felt if you were in Moses’ shoes. You challenged the Pharaoh of Egypt to let all the Israelites go, you parted the Red Sea, you faced the murmuring of the people for years in the deserts, and then you were told you would NOT enter the Promised Land, the every place the Israelites left Egypt for, the very goal of your personal journey too, I believe. In fact, we read in Deuteronomy 3:23-25, how Moses pleaded with God to let him enter the land:

At that time I pleaded with the LORD : "O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon."

No, that is enough!
In verse 26, the LORD replied him harshly and said, “No ”. In verse 27, the LORD relented only to allow Moses to see the Promised Land from Mt Pisgah.

……"That is enough," the LORD said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:26b-27).

In Deuteronomy 34:1, we read that Moses climbed to the top of Mt Pisgah where the LORD showed him the Promised Land, talked with him [Moses], confirming the land that the Israelites and Joshua would be entering was indeed the land that the Lord had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The LORD said to Moses, I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it (Deuteronomy 34:4) – how sad!

The Rebuke of the LORD
It is important for us to look at the manner the LORD rebuked Moses. I list below Numbers 20:12 again:

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

Moses, NOT presumptuous per sec
We may think that Moses was presumptuous – thought he had to do something with the staff; when God first sent him, God actually told him to take the staff with him so that he could perform miracles with it (Exodus 4:17), and he raised the staff when he parted the Red Sea; so he might have thought that he must do something with the staff since God did, in this case, say “take the staff” (Numbers 20:8). But God did NOT say Moses was presumptuous, per se.

You did NOT trust Me enough
God said Moses (and Aaron) did NOT trust Him enough. God told Moses to speak to the rock. Instead Moses struck the rock, NOT just once but twice. God said Moses actions indicated Moses’ lack of trust. Of course, we should be clear that presumptuousness and lack of trust are 2 separate matters.

Also we see in Deuteronomy 32:50-51, God again explained why He was NOT happy with Moses (and Aaron):

“There on the mountain that you have climbed [Mount Nebo, (Mt Pisgah) Moab] you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor [Aaron did NOT make it as far as Moses] and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.”

God equated Moses and Aaron’s lack of trust as breaking of faith with God.

Did NOT honor Me as holy
But the thing that struck me is that how come the LORD said Moses’ lack of trust did NOT honor Him as HOLY in the sight of the Israelites (Numbers 20:12). Again in Deuteronomy 32:51 (see above), God said Moses did NOT uphold his holiness among the Israelites. Why “as holy”? What does it got to do with holiness of God?

I looked up a couple of Bible commentaries on this, but I did NOT really get a satisfactory explanation. As I mediated on this, I formed the conclusion that it got to do with the condition of Moses’ heart at that point of time.

Let’s look at the condition of Moses’ heart
Let us go back further in time and look at a couple of situations and see how Moses’ attitude was, compared to the same, in the situation in question:

Occasion 1: Moses and the Golden Calf
Remember the time when the Israelites were left at the foot of Mount Sinai (aka Mount Horeb) whilst Moses was up the Mount waiting for the 10 Commandments from God. Yes, the Israelites made the Golden Calf from the gold gotten from the Egyptians (the Egyptians gave the Israelites much wealth, upon the latter’s departure from Egypt, as prophesized earlier on in time). In pleading with God not to destroy the entire community of Israelites, Moses said these words,

"Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.” (Exodus 32:11-12).

What Moses was trying to tell God was that He was a holy God and that everyone knew that. If God destroyed the Israelites, people would say God set the Israelites up to snare them with the view to destroy – a wicked thing. God should not allow such thing to be said of Him. Even the slight insinuation could not be acceptable.

Setting people up with ill intent is wicked
I want to say, indeed, to God, the setting of people up to snare them with ill intent is a wicked thing to do, and wickedness and holiness just do not mix. Before we go back to see some more examples of Moses’ attitude/reactions, let me say that King David, known to God as the man after His heart, knew how much God hated such wickedness – many of David’s psalms had such set-ups, traps and snares cries in them, when he (David) petitioned for God’s help (Ps 140, for example). So, please do not do these things, it is detestable to God.

Occasion 2: Moses in The First Time
Now we go back to the time when the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land the first time the LORD brought them to the edge of the Promised Land (Numbers 14). God wanted to destroy the Israelites (verse 12). What did Moses say? This is what Moses said to the LORD,

"Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put these people to death all at one time, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 'The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.' (Numbers 14:13-16).

Moses was saying the same thing to God, people would say you were NOT a holy God but a wicked one.

Occasion 3: Moses and water everywhere
We go to one more scenario before we return to Kadesh, to the Waters of Meribah (Meribah means quarrel. Israelites quarreled with God and He [still] showed himself holy to them, although He rebuked Moses and Aaron (Numbers 20:13).

Remember the Red Sea story, briefly touched on above (Exodus 14), where the Israelites were pursued by the Egyptian army on leaving Egypt. We saw how the Israelites complained that they were set up to be killed in the desert. How did Moses react then? Let us see.

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:13-14).

After that, he (Moses) did exactly as told by the LORD, raised his staff and stretched out his hand over the sea (Exodus 14:16, 21).  Notice the ascribing of glory from what was to happen, to the LORD, in the text above.

Now we compare
Now, think about the Waters of Meribah situation (Kadesh). You see the contrast. At the Red Sea, he assured the people, he spoke positively for the LORD before doing exactly as he was told by the LORD. At the Waters of Meribah, he did NOT even mention the name of the LORD, and he did NOT do as he was told (but why?!).

Also remember how he appealed to the LORD’s holiness in those other situations (Golden Calf, and the first time at edge of Promised Land) above.

This generation of Israelites, again like their fathers maligned God. By Moses’ actions (NOT speaking positively for the LORD and NOT doing as told) God was NOT given the “voice” due Him. This is why God said Moses (& Aaron) did NOT uphold his holiness before the Israelites. Moses did NOT try to displace the insinuation that God was wicked - setting the people up to have them die of thirst.

What have we learnt here?
Firstly, this article goes to show God views holiness very seriously; his own holiness most seriously. It is interesting to note that God still showed himself holy to the Israelites despite being displeased with Moses (& Aaron), He still allowed water to flow out from the rock at Kadesh (Meribah);  Numbers 20:13 confirmed that.

If you want to read more on the importance of holiness, read my other articles:
1. Way of holiness - the way of Lord
2. Be holy as I am holy

Secondly, wickedness is opposite to holiness, and God hates wickedness.

Thirdly, setting people up to snare them with ill intent is wickedness in the eyes of God. Pre-meditated (planned, set up) sins are equated to wickedness and God looks at them very seriously.

Fourthly, do NOT be upset with God, especially when you are in position of leadership. I believe Moses and Aaron had allowed Miriam’s death to cause them to be upset with God. When we are upset with God, our hearts would NOT be right with God and God would NOT be happy, especially when we are in position of leadership. Moses’ trust in God got diminished because he allowed Miriam’s death to cause him to be upset with God.  Why did Moses struck the rock twice, instead of just speaking to it?  Perhaps, he letting his upset with God got the better of him - a kind of showing unhappiness against God for the death of his sister, Miriam.

Fifthly, God still disciplines no matter how high you are in leadership and metes out punishment.

Finally, from Moses’ case, we take comfort that God does NOT write his servants off for one blunder. Bible recorded that Moses died on a mountain outside of the Promised Land but the Israelites could NOT find his body. God must have lifted him to Himself. How can we be so sure? The Bible recorded that at The Transfiguration of Jesus, God sent Moses (and Elijah, who was taken up by God) to talk with Jesus, on a high mountain, witnessed by 3 disciples of Jesus (Mat 17:1-3).

Now, we know why Moses did NOT enter the Promised Land – he did NOT uphold God’s holiness before the Israelites when he was expected to do so.

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Anthony Chia, high.expressions
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. (Rev 4:8). Please do NOT even insinuate any wickedness in God. God is holiness, absolute holiness.

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