Sunday, November 28, 2010

Psalm 62 - God and only God matters

Preamble: My original intention was to put up my exposition of “Ps 66 – Intercede, but cherish not sin in your heart”, which I have done some time back, because my previous article, “Intercede for others, and you’ll be blessed too”, has continued to find readers. But last week, I felt led, to do up the exposition of Ps 62, which I thought I will put up, perhaps, several weeks later, (again) but this morning, when I read the blog entry of a cancer-stricken lady (Liz Mah), in Malaysia, and the email of Rusty Russell, USA, on him being stricken by some strange “disease”, I have decided to put this up, ahead of Ps 66 -Intercede, but cherish not sin in your heart {title, mine}.

There are 3 reasons for this swap:

1. I hope that Ps 62 would encourage both Liz Mah and Rusty Russell to hold on to the position, “God and only God matters”.

2. As the titles of the intercession articles suggested, I hope that fellow believers would pray and intercede for both Rusty Russell (many of my readers, from FGBMF, should know him (and you can know about the great works and sacrifices of this man of God, at his website,, and sister Liz Mah (I have no relation to Liz, except that, for several months now, I have, I believed, been led to encourage her on her journey with the Lord even as she was afflicted in life. You can know more about her from her blog site,

3. I want to encourage both Rusty Russell and Liz Mah to continue to pray and intercede for others even as they are still bearing the weight of their own afflictions.

Recently, I have my belief in a particular way of God confirmed by a young but powerful man, Philip Mantofa, of God from Indonesia {}, and that way of God is that, we are to pray and intercede for others (and even, to serve) even when we are in affliction ourselves (my own testimony also bears witness to it). When we take up the causes of others, when we focus on securing God’s aid for others, be it through prayer and intercession or service, Jesus prays and intercedes for us, in Heaven, before the Father God. I am not saying that we should not pray for ourselves, but perhaps, in the ways of God, there is a dimension of Jesus interceding, additionally, for those who have placed the interests of others ahead of their own. Isn’t it wonderful to know that even as we are busying praying and interceding for others, Jesus takes up our cause and prays and intercedes before the Father God in Heaven (Rom 8:34). The Bible said the prayer of righteous one avails much (James 5:16). Jesus passes that righteousness with a full 100%. Don’t you like Him to intercede for you?

For testimonial evidence of such is a way of God, those who read my previous article, “Intercede for others, and you’ll be blessed too”, I related that I was healed when I interceded for the Haiti disaster. I have also shared, as encouragement, in my church, that when I served as a lay Altar Minister, and still avail myself to pray for the sick, when I was in pain myself, the Lord healed me, and caused my pain to leave me. Pastor Philip Mantofa had shared that he too, had experienced God’s healing of his body of weird affliction, when he interceded for a member of his congregation of the same weird affliction. He said he was healed of his affliction when he did not even know if the member of the congregation was healed or not.

Of course, I am not saying that we work for salvation (sozo), but when we love God (often times, many of us do not know how to love God, according to his definitions) by aligning ourselves to His Word and ways, we attract or draw out His grace and mercy. Please, do not habour in your heart that because you pray for the sick, and they got healed, then Jesus must intercede, and you must be healed; that is not what I am saying, nor is it the right attitude of the heart. The right attitude, and I am not saying I have arrived, is that we place God’s interests and the interests of others, ahead of ours, in love, fulfilling the twin pillars of love that enveloped all laws and commandments.]

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/What we have learnt/can learn".

Psalm 62 - God and only God matters {title, mine}

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

1 My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
[David started out this psalm by saying to God his position, his stand, his belief system, his faith.

David stated that his soul found rest in God alone; his salvation came from Him. God alone was his rock and his salvation; He was his fortress, and He, David would never be shaken knowing that. {I prefer this 1984 edition of the NIV over the latest 2010 version, for the 2010 version had no “alone” in either of the verses. The KJV or NKJV both have at least an “alone” in one of the 2 verses. This, in my view, is important, and must NOT be omitted}

There are 2 important points to note: One, David’s understanding that his soul would find rest in God, and God was his rock, his salvation, and fortress; and two, such rest could only be found in God ALONE, not in anything else or, in God together with something else; and God ALONE, and no others, was his rock, his salvation, and his fortress. The “ALONE” point is very important, we cannot try to find rest for our soul in God and something else, it must be purely and solely in God. David experience was that there were no others or no other things. That was how he could weathered through the repeated attempts by King Saul whom he served with great loyalty, and the rebellion of his son, Absalom, snatching his throne at Jerusalem. Only one could not fail David, and us, too, and that was and is God; everything else could and can fail. If we want to be able to say that we will NEVER be shaken, then our reliance must be solely on and in God, no one else, nothing else.]
3 How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
4 They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse. Selah
[David then told God what was bothering him.

David had enemies, and he was telling the LORD that his enemies kept on assaulting him. His enemies had wanted to throw him down the moment there was weakness in his position, like throwing him down a (city) wall or fence that was weakened or was shaky {In those days, city were fortified with walls, and people stood/moved about on the top of those walls}. His enemies fully intended to topple him from his elevated position (his elevation was by the LORD). David said these people who were after his blood delighted in lies. They pretended to bless, but in their hearts they cursed. These were wicked people.]
5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
[David repeated his faith in God again, but this time he was even speaking to his soul {stir himself to hold on to the right position that he first was able to assume}.

The spoken words are powerful, and meditations of the heart, even more so, and David knew both. That was why he cared to say in the earlier verse that his enemies lied, and they blessed, but in their hearts they cursed. So, David wanted to speak to his own soul, so that his soul and heart would be firmly established in who God was.

David told his soul to find rest in God alone, saying that his hope would come from God. God alone was and would be his rock, and salvation; God was and would be his fortress, and he would not be shaken. In verse 7, David repeated again that God was his salvation; and his honor, his high position depended on God. God was his mighty rock, his refuge.

I believe that David at this time was already king, and was enthroned in Jerusalem, yet even in his high position, he still had enemies, and had included those outwardly looked friendly, but were scheming against David, even to want him to fall.]
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge. Selah
[Such psalms, like this one here, were recited before the LORD. In 1 Ch 16, after David successfully brought the ark of God into the City of David, he had instituted spontaneous exaltation before the LORD, including spontaneous praises, psalming, and worshiping with joyful sounds, at the tent (some called it the Tabernacle of Praise) which he had put up for housing the ark of God. Such a psalm was also to edify and build up others, when recited.

In verse 8 here, and in the subsequent few verses, we read of David, after encouraging himself, tried to edify others by calling his people to trust in God at all times, to pour their hearts out to God, for God was their refuge, too.]
9 Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
[David said that men, whether lowly men (or lowborn men) and lofty men (or highborn men), they were the same on God’s scale, they were nothing but only a breath. Indeed, Man was nothing but dust with a breath, and our very breath was and is from God; He gives us our every breath each day. We have believed a lie if we think that just because we are highborn, or in high or lofty position, we are special; men are all the same, completely dependent on the grace and mercy of God.]
10 Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
[Because of his status as a king, and so, his contacts with the highborn, David continued to speak what he had observed of these people’s characters which he felt were not right, and these people ought to reconsider their belief system.

David advised not to trust in extortion or to take pride in stolen goods. The people who extorted, were the highborn, and the “powerful” people. Stolen goods here probably carried a broader meaning to include every form of ill-gotten goods, including those through abuses, including of power, etc, etc. Here is sound advice from David, “though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them”. Our every breath, life, could be demanded of us, at any time, whatever riches we amassed cannot save us. Our salvation and our hope have to be in God alone, and no other, animate or inanimate.]
11 One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
12 and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.
[Speaking from experience, David ended by speaking about the character and ways of God.

Such beautiful depiction of the character of God: One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard – that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. What is meant here was that when God speaks, we can be sure that we hear in it, God is almighty, powerful and strong, and we can hear in it, God loves us. God is El Shaddai yet He is loving towards us. (It must be understood that in those days, the spoken words, especially through the prophets were the most frequent way of interaction/communication between God and Man. That was why that which proceeded from the mouth of God was being referred to.)

Verse 12b, was the observation of David, and I believe that David, as a man said by God to be after His own heart, this observation could not be wrong, that God would reward each person according to what he has done.

In Jer 17:10, the same thing was said, and in that prophecy of Jeremiah, the LORD Himself said it - “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”]

What we can learn here:

1. It is perfectly fine for us to tell God how we regard Him. It is nonsensical to say that God knows everything, and so we should not even need to say that. Sure, God knows everything, but it still does not mean that we do not tell things that God already know. If it were so, why bothered to talk to God at all since He already know everything. However, one needs to be truthful though, we cannot deceive God; we cannot say one thing and in our heart it is a different thing. The Holy Spirit of God searches and knows the hearts of men (1 Ch 28:9). What is the significance of doing this? What we have is a relationship with God, and so, for a relationship, we tell the other party such matters. When we do that, it goes to show that we place importance to the relationship, and importance to the other party, in this case, God.

2. It is not only fine, it is necessary for us to reinforce our faith and belief by speaking to ourselves, to our own souls, so that we would be reminded, and continue to hold on to positions which we first were able to assume. For example, in psalm 42:5-6a (or 43:5 {In many Hebrew manuscripts Ps 42 & 43 constituted one psalm}), we read this:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Remember now, that our spoken words and the meditations of our heart are very crucial for us to assume a firm position concerning the matters of the faith. Do them both, speak to ourselves, and meditate on God’s words.

3. Many psalms have a petition element, and this one is no exception, and if we are to petition, we are to say what our problem is, or what is bothering us. Again, do not say God knows, and so, I will say nothing. If it were the case, why pray to, or talk with, or psalm to God, at all! My personal belief is that you can be long-winded or short-winded, it does not really matter. God is able to take it all, and if He is annoyed He will let you know. Just avoid vain repetitions. In the moment, if He asks that you cut-short, you cut-short, otherwise, shoot away. Verses 3 & 4 above were where David told God what was bothering him.

4. In the intended edification by David, we should note the followings:

a. What he recommended was what he subscribed to. In Verse 8, he recommended trusting in God alone, to cry out to God, and take refuge in Him; all of these were what he was subscribing to, as can be seen from the verses prior to verse 8.

b. Concerning verse 9, regardless of our high or low position, we can only take pride in one position, and that is the position of God’s grace and mercy. In James 1:9-12, the apostle James taught about this. Those interested can read my exposition of the James’ text from this separate article of mine, “Trials and Temptations (James 1:2-18)”.

c. We are all being tested in our Christian walk. The lowborn men will be tested too, yet Scripture had much to say to the highborn men or men in high positions, the rich and the powerful. In a very real sense, pride and money are the biggest stumbling blocks for men. Actually, the same James 1:9-12 passage talked about the trials of the rich and those in high position. David, in verse 10, reminded 2 things: one, do not misuse high position, and be found to engage in extortion, and derive ill-gotten gains through those positions; such are not only dishonest, it is oppressive, and oppression is always detested by God. Two, though one’s riches increase, he is not to set his heart on them, for if he holds money too tightly to his chest or loves money, he will find problem loving God, and serving Him.

d. The character of God; David pointed out 2 important attributes of God, He is almighty, none can match Him, and He is loving (it does not mean God does not punish). These 2 attributes, David said, could always be noted in God’s words, meaning we can see these attributes in them. We better believe that (the character of God), if we are to stand firm on “God and only God matters”.

e. The ways of God; David believed that God would reward each according to what he has done. This is not necessarily be referring to Man's perspective of "good works" as such, like doing a philanthropic act of donating $100K to a university endowment fund, but at the least, should include such matters of whether or not, what we do is in agreement with the very foundation of His throne. Ps 89:14 gives us “the foundation of His throne as justice and righteousness”. In Micah 6:8b, we read this: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Will we NOT receive mercy when we show mercy? Surely, the Lord may reward us with mercy, for Matt 5:7 said this: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. If we stubbornly remain wicked, what do we think is our reward? Prov 10:16 said this: “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment”. 1 Pet 3:12 - For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Revelation 2:23b has this: Then all the churches will know that I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may I subscribe to what I write here. May I constantly speak your ways and truths to my soul, and meditate upon them, that I may be firmly established in my knowing you, and will NOT waiver in my position that “God and only God matters”.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Judges series - Judges 17 (Micah, his mother & Levite)

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/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 17

[Preamble: This and the other narratives that follow in subsequent articles(Judges 18-21) form a miscellaneous collection, or appendix to the Book of Judges. It belongs to a period when the Hebrew nation was in a greatly disordered and corrupt state. This story here (Judges 17) speaks not of any judge, but only serves to illustrate the great disorder, even disorder in the matter of proper administration of priestly matters or acts of worship or devotions unto the Lord.

Those who had gone into the Book of Ezekiel, would know that even a few hundred years later, when the judges period was over, many kings had passed on, and the Hebrews were exiled, the northern kingdom people, to territories of the Assyrians, and the southern kingdom (Judah) people, to Babylon, God still spoke to prophet Ezekiel about His displeasure at the Levites, saying that only the Zadokites (of the Levites) were faithful to the ways of God.]

1 Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim 2 said to his mother, "The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse—I have that silver with me; I took it."
Then his mother said, "The LORD bless you, my son!"
[Here, a man by the name of Micah, and living in the Ephraim country, told his mother that he had taken her 13 kg of silver, after hearing his mother uttered a curse on discovering the loss of her silver.

The verses speak of the readiness of people at that time to curse others. No one is to curse another unless the curse is instituted according to the Word of God. Curses instituted according to the Word of God are curses sanctioned by God. Any others are not, and cannot be given. Curses are a grave matter; that was why the Word of God had it recorded for us that one of the specific powers of the Cross of Jesus Christ, is the power to nullify curses. Jesus became the curse that we might be released from any curses made on our lives. Before God sent Abraham out to the Canaan land to populate the earth, he said this to Abraham:

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you." (Gen 12:3)

Just on the account of this, we can see that people of God cannot curse another. We who are believers are children of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7). Because we are created in the image of God, our words have powers. Curses have powers in them. Bless people, do not curse. It is wicked to curse another, and wickedness is detestable to God.

If the account of Abraham was a little too far off, consider the account of the Balaam and the talking donkey. This account probably happened towards the end of the 40 years of wandering in desert. The Israelites had again come near the Jordan, and they had already defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. The Moabites (descendants from one of the sons of Lot, Abraham’s nephew) who also lived in the plains of Jordan got frightened. The Moab prince, Balak, went to consult Balaam, a prophet who had gone astray, who was believed to be an Ammonite (Ammonites, were also in the plains, they were the descendants from the other son of Lot).

Some said Balaam was a wicked man and a non-Israelite. The latter was true, he was not a Israelite since he descended from Lot, who though came from the same bloodline as Abraham, both were the descendants of Shem, one of the 3 sons of Noah; was separated from Abraham after the destruction of Sodom (and Gomorrah). An Israelite is a descendant of Israel (aka Jacob), son of Issac, son of Abraham. Since Lot was not directly descended from Abraham, Lot’s descendants were not Israelites.

The account of Balaam and the talking donkey revealed that Balaam knew the LORD and the LORD knew him, which was not surprising because he was an Ammonite, descendant of Lot. The LORD, on pleading by Abraham (Gen 19), spared Lot and his two daughters (Lot’s wife turned back and was turned into a pillar of salt). Many years after that, when the Israelites came out of Egypt and first came to plains of Jordan again, God told the Israelites to only pass through, and not to take, the lands of the Moabites and Ammonites because He said those lands were given to Lot and his descendants. The favor of God was evidently on the bloodline of Shem, one of the 3 sons of Noah; and in those early days, extended down to Lot.

So much for the little background on Balaam, but what did he has to do with curses? You see, Balak, the Moab prince, because of his fear of the Israelites, sent for Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam, on his way to Balak, on his donkey, had his donkey refusing to obey him, and turned 3 times. After the 3rd time, the donkey spoke to Balaam, the donkey was mad that her master had beaten her when what she did, was to avoid the angel of the LORD who had stood in front of the donkey with a drawn sword, for those 3 times. Finally, the angel of the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam to see him, the angel of the LORD, and the latter told him that, had the donkey not turned, Balaam would have been killed by him. To cut the story short, Balaam gave a number of oracles on the occasions he was supposed to curse the Israelites; oracles according to the words of the angel of the LORD (instead of curses). In his first oracle, he included,

How can I curse
those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
those whom the LORD has not denounced? (Num 23:8)

In his second oracle, obviously referencing Gen 12:3 (given above) he included,

God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill? (Num 23:19)

In the third oracle, he included,

Like a lion they crouch and lie down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?
"May those who bless you be blessed
and those who curse you be cursed!" (Num 24:9)

So, don’t curse, only bless.]
3 When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, "I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you."
4 So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah's house.
[In those days, people just did what they thought was the “proper” thing to do without regard to the commandments of God. Of course, one of the 10 Commandments of God said that people were not to set up carved images or cast idols. Furthermore, Moses instituted a number of curses, called the Curses of Mount Ebal, recited over the Israelites by the Levites from Mount Ebal, just before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to the Promised Land. Moses, because he was not crossing over with the Israelites, because God had not permitted him to enter the Promised Land (Those who want to know why God did not allow Moses to enter, see my article, “Do you know why Moses did not enter the Promised Land?”), specifically instructed the Israelites not to forget the commandments of God after they crossed over, and instituted the curses mentioned. They can be read from Deu 27:14-26. The relevant curse is quoted below:

"Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol—a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of the craftsman's hands—and sets it up in secret." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" (Deu 27:15)

The mother of Micah thought she did the proper thing, getting the silversmith to make an idol out of the silver, and had it put in Micah’s house. She thought it was an act of thankfulness for the recovery of the silver, and the honesty of his son, but what she did was detestable to the LORD. We should not make such mistakes, and we can only avoid these mistakes if we are bothered with the things of the LORD, what the Word says, and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit which the Word of God says would reveal to us nothing but the truth.]
5 Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest. 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. [With the silver idol from his mother, Micah effectively had a shrine in the home. Micah got hold of some more idols, made an ephod (special piece of clothing worn for performing priestly function), and made one of his sons as his priest. Indeed, people just did what they saw fit.

If we read about God’s specific instructions given in the Book of Numbers (particularly Numbers 3) to the Tribe of Levi (Levites) concerning the proper handling of the Tabernacle, you will realize the Israelites then had become so complacent about the things of the LORD that no wonder the LORD was greatly displeased, that He sometimes lifted his hands of protection off the Israelites, as a chastisement to the people.]
7 A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah, 8 left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim.
9 Micah asked him, "Where are you from?"
"I'm a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah," he said, "and I'm looking for a place to stay."
[I thank the LORD for allowing me, very quickly and easily, to understand much of the surrounding circumstances to events in the Old Testament; and I believe this will continue.

A little background information is good here: In the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, God moved with the Israelites in a portable tent called The Tabernacle. Of the tribes of the Israelites, the LORD had chosen the Levi tribe as his own (Numbers 3:44 & 45). The role of the Levites is singular – do the work of the Tabernacle. That was to say that a Levite’s life was to work at the house of the LORD, and nothing. In those days, the LORD’s instructions to the Israelites were very specific – the Levites were the LORD’s directly, they were not even counted together with the other tribes in census. Because they were the LORD’s, the LORD was their inheritance, and as such, they, as a tribe, would not be entitled to any territorial land allocations which all the other tribes were entitled to, and the Israelites were to take care of them, and not to neglect them, as they were the LORD:

"Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns (Num 35:2).Be careful not to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land (Deu 12:19). And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own (Deu 14:27). If a Levite moves from one of your towns anywhere in Israel where he is living, and comes in all earnestness to the place the LORD will choose, 7 he may minister in the name of the LORD his God like all his fellow Levites who serve there in the presence of the LORD. 8 He is to share equally in their benefits, even though he has received money from the sale of family possessions (Deu 18:6-8).

So, now we read of this young Levite; he was not staying in The Levitical City of Shiloh, or any levitical city. He had been living amidst the tribe of Judah, in Bethlethem, which was not a levitical city, for it was only about 10km south of Jerusalem. He was going to find another place where he could do what he was supposed to do in a house of the LORD. On his way, he met Micah.]
10 Then Micah said to him, "Live with me and be my father and priest, and I'll give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes and your food." 11 So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man was to him like one of his sons. 12 Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house. 13 And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest." [Micah asked that the Levite live with him and be his priest, to take care of the shrine in his house.

I believe this passage showed 2 things, not one, as is commonly written in commentaries. The one that was written in commentaries was about Micah, that he mistakenly thought that by doing this thing, having a Levite as a priest, the LORD would be pleased. The commentators were right: how could the LORD be pleased, when things were not done according to his specific instructions, and idols were found to be worshipped together with the LORD in his house? Do not be mistaken, I am not saying that there could not be other houses of the LORD apart from the Tabernacle at the Levitical city of Shiloh; that was not the case, if you look at Deu 18:6-8, already quoted above.

The other issue, which was not talked about, was the complacency of the Levi tribe. Theirs was a special tribe with a special specific lifetime calling for every man in the tribe. The privileges were instituted by God Himself, but the calling was also by God. They must not fail to pass on the responsibilities of their calling to their descendants. This young Levite here clearly was not properly guided, ended up being a stumbling block to others, who were looking to him for guidance for spiritual matters. On the subject of whether a Levite could at all be installed as a priest, based on strict Biblical records that I know of, the answer was no (Exo 29:1-9, Num 3:9-10), only the descendants of Aaron (Kohanim) could be priests. All Kohanim were Levites but not all Levites were Kohanim.]

What we could learn here:

At the opening of my exposition of this chapter, I have already said that this chapter, and the subsequent ones, in the Book of Judges, did not address particular judges, rather it served to paint the background of the time – disorder and corruptness. Nonetheless, from this, we can still learn some important things, for this chapter had touched on curses, idolatry, spiritual adultery, complacency, and presumptuousness.

1. We must not curse people, rather we should bless.

2. All forms of idolatry are unacceptable, and are detestable to God

3. Spiritual adultery, even the slightest, is not acceptable to God. We are to have the LORD as the only God, He and He alone shall we worship and turn to. We cannot have another god, beside Him.

4. We are not to be complacent with the things of the LORD, and this includes His ways, His Words, which include His instructions, laws, commands, and precepts, and sensitivity to His Holy Spirit.

5. We are also to be careful that we do not act presumptuously. Here, Micah’s mother was presumptuous; Micah himself was, also.

6. To avoid the pitfalls of ignorance, complacency, presumptuousness, we must make an effort to be diligent in the things of the LORD.

7. It is our responsibility to ensure our spiritual heritage be passed down to the generations. The Levite above was ignorant of the requirements of the LORD, had he not be taught by his father? Also, ignorance was prevalent in the general population of the people of God, then.

Anthony Chia – Even as I thank you for the ease with which I have understanding of your Word; by your grace and revelation, I look forward to more of the same, from you. Lord, may I be faithful to hold fast to what you have revealed through your Word, and your Spirit, and remember, always, that when much is given, much is expected, also, by you. Amen.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who are the sheep, and who are the goats

Matt 25:31-46 –

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Verse 31-33 suggest to us that the setting is one of Jesus coming in His glory at end time, with all the angels with Him, and He will sit on His glorious throne as the King, to judge. All peoples will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep, He will place them on His right, and the goats, on His left.

The King will say to those on His right, i.e. the sheep, the ones blessed by the Father God, to take their inheritance, which is the kingdom of Heaven, prepared since the creation of the world. As a Christian, this is the side we all should want to be. But who are the sheep?

I agree with some pastors’ interpretation that the above text is a narrative, not a parable. However, I believe the sheep and goats are representations, i.e. they are allegoric of actual persons falling into the respective categories. Who then are the sheep, and the goats?

The followings are possible scenarios:

1. Sheep are Christians or believers, and goats are non-believers.
2. Sheep are persons with good works (of love), and goats are persons without.
3. Sheep are Christians with good works (of love), and goats are persons without.

If you were to choose one, which will be your answer, 1, 2, or 3, or do you have another possible scenario? For me, my choice is no. 3, but let me explain away the other 2 options.

If it were just simply sheep are Christians or believers, and goats are non-believers, then there is really no need for the subsequent verses 35 & 36. These verses talked about works. Not any works, not bad works, but good works; works characterized by compassion and love, and of giving encouragement and hope. They are also works without expectation of return, for the help was even extended to strangers. Such works as are listed here are not exclusive to Christians or believers. There are non-believers, and even many other religious faiths followers, who do such works. In later verses, 42 & 43, the same list is thrown at the goats, but the rebuke is that they did not do them. It really isn’t the case of persons who do them, are Christians, and persons who do not do them, are non-believers, for the works, per se, cannot be pointing directly to the kind of people comprised in the classes of sheep and goats.

Following what is said in the above paragraph, are sheep simply persons who do those things listed, and goats, those who do not do them, making option 2 as the answer? No, that cannot be the answer. In fact, there is a teaching in the broader Christian brotherhood that use this narrative (story) to substantiate their claim that Jesus is not even required, and that such good works in love is the ultimate criterion for salvation – this is clearly WRONG, and is a teaching that is not consistent with the overall counsel of the Word of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is very sad that some leaders openly endorsed it in their books.

Indeed, it is true that Jesus did say that all of the commandments of God could be distilled down to 2 pillars of love, firstly to love God with our all, and secondly to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:37-40), and while it is correct that love is very important indeed, such teachers who choose to take one pillar of love, and leaving out the other, are clearly apostates.

Actually, if such teachers have been careful enough, they would have noticed that there is a hint in the text that suggested that it is not just a matter of showing love and kindness to people, solely; “righteous” is used on the sheep (v 37), meaning, they have been redeemed by Jesus, such is not used on the goats, for they are not all the redeemed of the Lord. To say that we can infer from the above text, that the ultimate sole criterion for salvation is the measure of our charity or love to men, is heretic. To further say that peoples of other religious faiths (or unbelievers) with such good works can also go to Heaven is apostate.

The fact that “righteous” is used on the sheep, I believe, is meant to imply that there is at least an additional element for a person to be classified as a sheep. The overall counsel of the Word of God tells us that righteousness is not had by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:28), and we are saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9). One can only be righteous after one is justified.

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9).

The “righteous” in verse 37 referring to the sheep, implies that sheep have to be Christians or believers. For this reason alone, option 2 is out.

Now, verse 32 paints to us that all peoples will be gathered; if sheep are referring to Christians who do good works of love, then goats must be referring to all the other peoples, barring no other criteria are in place. This means that among the goats will be Christians without such good works of love. In this interpretation of mine, not all Christians are regarded as sheep here, only those Christians with such good works of love. All non-believers are goats, and all Christians without such good works of love are goats. This, I believe, is the reason, “they” is used for the goats, as in verses 44, and “righteous” is not used, for included in the goats are non-believers.

Could it be that only the Christians are addressed here, and no non-believers included? My answer is that verse 32 painted for us that all peoples are gathered, and that must be including the non-believers. But if one wants to suggest that non-believers are, perhaps, separately judged, already or subsequent to this, it is fine with me, except, it still does not negate the serious implication that there are Christians not going into eternal life, but into eternal punishment (verse 46). The eternal punishment is named for us, and it is stated in verse 41 - into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. This is the burning lake of fire in Hell!

I can envision my readers who are Christians getting very disturbed at the last 2 lines above. Nevertheless, it is a conclusion arrived at, by reasonable interpretation of who are being talked about as the sheep and the goats. There is no other way, if the text is a narrative, and not a parable of an end time judgment. As I have mentioned in the preceding paragraph, we can say that only the Christians are being referred to, but that does not negate the conclusion. If you want to say only non-believers are being referred to, it cannot be, because that will be apostate, for it suggests that non-believers can enter the kingdom of Heaven by works.

This is my suggestions:

1. Accept it that we have to be righteous to get to Heaven, and we get that righteousness through the justification by Christ Jesus, meaning we have to be a Christian before we can ever get to Heaven.

2. We have to love God. We must subscribe to the 1st pillar of love referred to, by Jesus; it is the greatest commandment, according to Jesus. If you read carefully at both, the replies of both the sheep (vv37-39) and the goats (v44), and the replies of the King to their replies (v40 & v45), you will catch that it is implied in there, and apparently it is understood by all. Only those who are blind to say such apostate statement as, being a Christian is not a must, cannot see it implied in the verses, and follow on to say that non-believers, including followers of other religious faiths, can be admitted to Heaven on the basis of good works of love.

3. We have to love our neighbors, the 2nd pillar of love, and in actions, please. The King’s replies (vv40 & 45) suggested to us that in the eyes of God, loving our neighbors adds up to the same thing, loving God, for we are pleasing God, and executing His desires and wishes.

4. Do not be gripped by fear and anxiety at the knowledge of the conclusion painted here. The text does not specify in any way concerning adequacy or sufficiency of the works of love; there is no measure of quantum specified, nor is there a measure of quality given. But decide today, you are not going to come before the King on that day without any works of love. Adopt 1 John 3:18-19 given at the end of the article (at the sign-off).

5. Be careful of teachings that seek to turn believers into selfish people who just bask in grace in their Christian walk. I am not against basking in grace, yet, do not be carried away with the idea that there is no such thing as Man’s part (arguing everything is wholly God’s job), for that breeds complacency and incorrectly pushes all accountability back to God; subconsciously, many overly grace believers, are adopting the attitude of “if God wants me to do such and such, He has to make me feel moved enough to do it, otherwise, it is all works which must be avoided.” Over emphasis on the notion that believers will “automatically” do good works in love, and therefore, all believers are sheep of the above, are also misplaced. Such teachings are too skewed. We have responsibility to guard our hearts against false teachings. In 2 Tim 4:3, we read this: For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

6. Do not hide behind the excuse that “I do not know what is the will of God for my life, and so, I do not know what to do, and I therefore, have every reason to wait for God to speak to me before I should even do anything; and so, since I do not hear God, it is perfectly fine that I do nothing.” If you are a Christian, and you do read the Bible, including this Matt 25 text, you are self-deluding to say you do not know a single thing that can be counted as good works of love that God will accept. Start doing, start small, do something.

7. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and read His Word. At the very core of the Christian faith is the Lordship of God in our life. Do not listen to people who say that you have invited Jesus into your life as your Savior, and nothing else. That is a lie; you have invited Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. If you have never regarded Him as your Lord, only as Savior, because you were misled, today, say sorry to the Lord, acknowledge His Lordship over your life. As you properly acknowledge Him as your Lord, and desire to serve Him, He will, through His Holy Spirit, and His Word, guide you, in your journey of loving Him in works.

Another way of the labeling the narrative, would perhaps be “My sheep and the goats”, for not all sheep are Jesus’ sheep, for only His sheep hear His voice and obey, including doing the things He wants done (John 10:27), all other sheep, might ultimately turn out to be goats!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:18-19).

[Added 22 June 2011: PS:
1) Some interpreted "one of the least of these brothers of mine" in v40, as calling that works must be directed at believers, to be valid. I considered it too narrow a definition to adopt for "brothers", unless the "neighbors" in "Love thy neighbors" is also said as referring to believers only. No, I do NOT believe God is calling us to love only the believers. Yes, at the end, there is a certain end for the non-believers, but meanwhile, it is NOT for us to love only the believers, although we are to love our fellow believers.

2)There also those who avoided the use of the word, "works", treating it like it is leperous. I think it is wrong to do that; Scriptures do NOT portray that understanding. You just need to look at 1 John 3:18-19 at my sign-off, to see that works is NOT a concept that Biblical authors shy away from. See also Eph 2:10, Matt 3:10]

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Hold on, for the grace of God

2 Cor 4:8-9 - We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Hard pressed
We are hard pressed on every side. Isn’t it so, sometimes? We feel like we cannot take it anymore; we doubt we can still hang on. But the Word says we are not crushed.

There was one I know, who was out of job, low in savings, had bills and expenses to meet, and his spouse divorced him, and he had to legally fight for righteousness, and for the care and control of his children (case of which became long drawn); he was hard pressed to be with income, hard pressed to pay for expenses bills, and to pay the lawyers, on top of his obligation to his children and his mother. He held on to the Word that says “we will not be crushed”.

The same gentleman was perplexed, really perplexed, for he was by then a Christian of many years, had served in his church in more than one ministry, faithful in his church attendance, sang, praised and worshiped the Lord mostly fervently, relative to many, in church services, took pain to ensure his children receive Sunday school teachings, and to grow with Christian inputs. When his career started to brightened up, he started to want to serve the Lord more, and had began to seek the Lord; he began a year of fasting on weekends, and went to seminars and teachings in the faith. Toward the end of the year-long fast, he lost his job and his career; things went south for him, until finally, the cruel thing happened, his wife divorced him, and wanted to take the children away, overseas. It was all so perplexing! Down, down, and down, he went to the bottom of the pit, nothing around, but darkness, and more darkness. But he had to refuse to be abandoned to despair, because the Word says despair is not our lot.

Today, if you are being persecuted, the Word says that you are not abandoned. Many people may not take notice of your predicament, many of those you know, do not understand you, your loved ones may be incapable of helping you; even your partner may abandon you. But there is one who will not abandon you. He is the Lord.

Struck down
When we are struck down, whether by calamity, by sickness, or by any others, are we destroyed? We are not destroyed.

I know of one who was struck (but not down) by stage 4 lung cancer. It has been more than a year now for this lady, and she has refused, and continues to refuse defeat, and destruction. Sister, you are struck, but you are not down, and when you are not down, you can be hard pressed and yet not crushed, you can be perplexed but you are not to be in despair; the Devil had tried to persecute in your job yet you were not abandoned, the Lord had given you back your job. Keep up the spirit, sister. Physical destruction is possible but endpoint destruction is remote, unless you allow yourself to be counted or be reckoned with Satan.

That is how it is
Until we are called home, we are to persevere as Christians, and be of good cheer; life is worth living just because Jesus lives. We have to accept that even though we have entered into salvation, we are still in this fallen world, and as much as we want it, and work toward it, this world is still far from being completely taken over by the kingdom of God, meaning perfection is not here.

In the words of the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor 13:12, for now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then {when Jesus comes back} we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. There are varying degrees of manifestations, in this world, of the kingdom of God, especially when believers will themselves to be the hands and legs of Jesus, yet full manifestation is not here. The latter will come when we reach our home in the Kingdom of Heaven. Many people did not quite get the picture that Paul was painting with the reflection as in a mirror, because, the modern day mirror is of such high quality in terms of reflection that we forget that in the days of the apostles, the commoners’ mirrors were of poor quality, giving poorer reflection of the actual thing. Today, when we look at one mirror and then look at another, it is all the same, very clear reflections, it was not so then, and so, there were varying degrees of clarity.

Paul then went on to say that, nevertheless, 3 things still remains; 3 things we need to hold fast to, and they are faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13). The context of this “3 things” should be for earthly living, NOT as some commentators had wanted to interpret it to be, for living of all time, including that in the Kingdom of Heaven. Trying to frame the “3 things” in the Kingdom of Heaven living, just confuse matter; I believe the objective of Apostle Paul was to give guidance to current living on earth, i.e. earthly living.

The Apostle Paul was saying that the scenario of 2 Cor 4:8-9, that we are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, even struck down, are very real. Yet as gospel bearers, and having entered into salvation with the Holy Spirit indwelling our body, we are to shine for God. Paul said we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:8), and with that we are able to show the all surpassing power of God working in and through our life. We are not to lose heart; by the grace of God, even when we are hard pressed on every side we are not crushed; perplexed, but we are not in despair; persecuted, but we are not abandoned; struck down, but we are not destroyed.

The Key – We can attract the grace of God
Revelation? When we hold fast to the 3 things, faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13), we can attract the grace of God.

The grace of God cannot be demanded, cannot be merited, yet it can be attracted. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that grace of God is not poured out to his children all the time. God is extending grace all the time, different grace, and different degree of grace. This, I called the quiet grace of God. There are streams and streams of quiet grace of God extending out from Him all the time.

There is also the exceeding grace which God also extends out to people from time to time, in various occasions, like a supernatural healing of a sickness. A miracle is an exceeding grace at work. Do not be mistaken, even non-believers are recipients of certain quiet grace of God. God’s grace is truly an amazing grace!

So, if grace of God is given, and cannot be earned or merited, is there nothing that is of Man’s part that we should do? It is not that God MUST, or God SHALL do it, but I believe, we can ATTRACT the grace of God; and for that we need to hold fast to the 3 things the Apostle Paul referred to – faith, hope and love. The exercise of faith attracts grace of God. Living in hope attracts God’s grace, and in loving, we attract grace.

Exercise of faith attracts grace
The opposite of faith is doubt. When we are hard pressed from every side, it is very easy for us to begin to doubt whether we can make it through. We will be crushed when we doubt. In order, not to be crushed, we have to hold fast to our faith, and in our actions, we act out in keeping with that faith. We pray and move, or not move, accordingly. We are to do the right thing that we can do, for those we cannot do, we trust God to take care.

Faith without action is dead, and is not a complete unit of faith that would be pleasing to God. For example, a belief that God can heal is not yet a complete unit of faith that is pleasing to God! It is merely a right belief, not yet a faith; there is still another element, and that is conviction. A right belief with a strong enough conviction, will move you to act in keeping with the belief, and the whole thing becomes faith, a complete unit pleasing to God.

Faith in action, or living faith is what can possibly attract grace (and hopefully exceeding grace) of God. You can be of right belief all you want, that God can heal, but if you are not going to pray for the sick person, your belief will just stay as your belief, a dead thing. When you go into action, and that reflects your conviction, we have a faith, capable of attracting the grace of God, coming as healing for the sick person, for example. Why are Christians not crushed when we are hard pressed from every side? It is because we hold fast to our faith, not doubting our making it through.

Living in hope attracts God’s grace
When we are perplexed and very tempted to repeatedly ask why and why, yet we do not despair, why? It is because to despair is to be without hope. We do not despair because we have a strong hope. What hope? Are hope and faith the same? Obviously, as used in 1 Cor 13:13, they are not the same.

The first way of looking at “hope” in 1 Cor 13:13 is to view it as the living hope, i.e. the hope that we, Christians, have, of making it to Heaven to dwell with God there. Viewing it this way does help us to keep things in perspective, that what we are facing and living through here, on earth, is a short and temporal experience; and when we fix on eyes on the after-life, worldly things fade into the background, set-backs and sufferings are more clearly seen as temporal, and more easily accepted, and need not be unduly fret over, or be anxious about.

Another way of viewing it, which I like, is not to view hope as “the looking forward to something happening according to expectation” (common definition). There is another meaning of hope that can help us weather through storms of life. But this meaning is not referring to confidence of outcome, for that too closely resembled faith, and would make it meaningless for the Apostle Paul to include hope as one of 3 things, since faith was already listed. Let me elaborate:

When one is sick, he may say he has faith that he will be healed by God (when someone prays for him). He has faith that he will be healed. That is his faith (that he will be healed), even though undoubtedly, his faith is in the Lord. If faith and hope are the same, then we could word the same sentence as “When one is sick, he may say he hopes that he will be healed by God.” But that is not exactly the proper thing to say. It will be ok to say, “When one is sick, he may say he has faith that he will be healed. His hope is in God.”

What is the difference? The difference is this: his faith that he will be healed is referring to his confidence that he will be healed (Heb 11:1, NIV), whereas hope is the ground of that confidence that he will recover. Hope as the ground, got to do with who God is. Let say the sick man is in need of a surgical operation, and I am to perform it. He has better not hope, for I am no surgeon, not even a doctor. He has no ground to be optimistic. We do not despair because we know our God, and that is the ground, that is the hope.

Hope is the ground, and is the ground of our confidence (faith). In another definition of faith, found in Romans 10:17 (KJV), it is said that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The Word of God is about God. From the hearing of the Word, we get to know God; in other words, faith comes from knowing who God is. Who God is, is the ground, and is the hope. In other words, Romans 10:17 implies that faith cometh from hope in God; faith cometh from the ground of who God is (It is possible that faith and hope are used synonymously, but used in 1 Cor 13:3, they were obviously referring to different things).

So, I repeat, even though we are perplexed, we do not despair, because we are with hope – we know who our God is. And when we live our life always with hope, always knowing who God is, with personal knowledge of Him, even, and act consistent with that knowing, we can attract His grace in our life.

In loving, we attract grace
Why do I say when we are persecuted, we are not abandoned. Firstly, there is the category of people being persecuted for their love for God. Our living in love for Him attracts His grace. Secondly, in general persecution, we are not abandoned, because we acted as instruments of His love. He is watching, and we are not alone; he is right beside us. When we are persecuted, we can rest in knowing that He loves us, and in His love for us, He will use other willing instrument of His love to comfort us, and if none was available, He Himself shall manifest to bring comfort, and assure us that we are not abandoned. As Christians, we should be ever ready to be God’s instrument of love, extending comfort to others, even to those being persecuted. And when we do that, moving in love, we can attract the grace of God for ourselves when we face persecution, and for those in persecution. If you want to see and perceive more of God’s grace, go, move in love. Perhaps, then and only then, can we appreciate why the Apostle Paul said that the greatest of the 3, is love, for though the very foundation of God's throne is justice and righteousness, He moves in love and faithfulness (Ps 89:14).

For those struck and down – the grace of God is there, to carry you home
When the temporal end comes, i.e. for those going to be struck down, the perspective to hold is this: Satan cannot destroy us if we do not allow ourselves to be counted or reckoned with him.

In John 10:10, we read that the Devil came to steal, kill, and destroy {notice destruction is put after killing}; while Jesus, the Lord, came that we might have life, and life abundant. Both had come (on earth). It is the Devil who aims to destroy; he came first, and he hatched out a deception, and Man had fallen for that deception in the Garden of Eden, and so, every man is already condemned to destruction. Through that deception, every man became counted with Satan, to share his destiny, which is destruction by the burning lake of fire in Hell.

The destruction in John 10:10 is not a mere physical destruction, but is one that includes both physical and spiritual destruction, with the latter being the endpoint. This endpoint destruction is not a reduction to nothingness; it is the eternal “roasting in the burning lake of fire” away from God, and is the eternal spiritual death, and is the destruction that Man must fear, and which we, as Christians, are being rescued from, by the Lord, Jesus.

The Lord came to give life, to deliver us from this eternal death. Before becoming Christians, we were first of all, condemned to that eternal death, because of the Original Sin, but by our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the Lord gave us life; we are no more condemned by that action of Adam and Eve. So, today, we may be struck down, even through accident, calamity, and sickness, we are not destroyed. We may suffer physical destruction, physical death, but in our journey into eternality, that is, but a transition, for after this corruptible body is gone from us, our soul and spirit (Man is body, soul, and spirit) will, in His time, acquire an incorruptible body, and at that time we will be complete once more, and will dwell in the presence of the Almighty God, forever. We may be struck down, but we are not destroyed.

Anthony Chia – Hold fast to faith, hope and love, exercise them, live in them, and live them out; in this way, the grace of God may be attracted for our lives and for the lives of those around us.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Judges series - Samson as type to Jesus

The concepts of types and parables

What is a type when used in Scripture?
When we say something is a type for another, what we are saying is the first mentioned thing (usually referred as “the type”) has enough attributes to somewhat show us what the second mentioned thing is about.

It is NOT equal to, and NOT the same as the actual thing (the second thing, in the above para.) that we are referring to, but the knowledge and understanding of the type can help us to understand the actual thing. It points us to the actual thing, yet it is NOT a pointer merely, for a pointer or sign per se, does not have attributes or elements of, or is a representation of the actual thing.

For example, a “L” plate hung on a car on the road, is a pointer or a sign, telling us the driver is a learner-driver; there is nothing on the plate that can be considered as attributes, elements or a representation of the driver in the car.

A type, on the other hand, would have some attributes or elements in common (or nearly common) with the actual thing. For example, and is one quite widely accepted, Moses is considered as a type to Jesus Christ. Why do we say that? Because these are the attributes or elements in common:

1. Jesus (the actual thing) is a Deliverer, and Moses was a deliverer.
2. Jesus is leading God’s people to Heaven (Our Eternal Promised Land), and Moses was leading God’s people (Israelites, then) to the Promised Land.
3. Jesus was sent by God into the world (John 3:16), and Moses was sent by God (back) into Egypt (Exo 3:10).
4. Jesus faced death threat at infancy (Mat 2:16), and Moses also faced death threat at infancy (Exo 1:15-16).
5. Jesus left royalty to be the Deliverer (Phil 2:6-8), and Moses also felt royalty (Heb 11:24).
6. Jesus was rejected by some of his own (Matt 23:37, and Matt 12:24, Matt 27:22), and Moses was also rejected by some of his own (Acts 7:23-27).
7. From rejection by his own, Jesus embraced the Gentile, converting them to be part of His corporate bride (Rom 11:25), and Moses, also from rejection by his own, took and converted a Gentile wife (Exo 2:21, Exo 18:5-12).

Moses was not a mere sign; he was a type, pointing to Jesus Christ as the actual Deliverer, the perfect Deliverer.

Samson as a type to Jesus Christ

Samson was also a type to Jesus Christ. The story of Samson, as would, the story of Moses, was a parable. What then is a parable? For clearer picture of what is a parable and what to watch out for, in interpreting a parable, see my separate article, “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-15)”. Just remember that in the story of Moses, as a parable to Jesus’ story, Moses was the type to Jesus, likewise, in the story of Samson as a parable, Samson was the type to Jesus. Also, remember that a “type” is not “the thing”, and so, even as Moses did not represented Jesus fully or completely, so was Samson not able to fully or completely represent Jesus. The only one type that can fully represent another is Jesus as a type to Father God, for truly when we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:7,9).

The Parable of the Samson story

In regarding Samson as a type to Jesus, the story of Samson, in this regard (pointing to Jesus), was a parable. The story of Samson in itself is more of a narrative, and NOT a parable, as such. This understanding must be noted, so that we do not go round mindlessly interpreting plain narratives, allegorically.

Here is the story of Samson in a snapshot:
1. Before he was even conceived, his arrival was already proclaimed (Judges 13:3).
2. The LORD spoke to both his parents about him coming (Judges 13:3,11).
3. He was set apart for God since birth, to be the “light” in the dark season of the people; the people of God were greatly oppressed (Judges 13:1), and he was to begin the deliverance of God’s people (Judges 13:5).
4. As he grew, God blessed him (Judges 13:24).
5. He overcame the lion (Judges 14:5).
6. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power (Judges 14:19).
7. He was betrayed (Judges 16:5-6).
8. He was bound, blinded and mocked (Judges 16:21,25).
9. He entered into sacrificial death (Judges 16:30).

Whose story does the above look like? Yes, the story of Jesus. Not exactly the same, because it was a parable when it serves to point to Jesus. Samson was a type to, and a metaphor for Jesus, and it pointed to us, the limitation of a man as a deliverer or savior, and therefore, begged the coming of a true deliverer, Jesus Christ who is of God, and is God.

For the benefit of readers, for the same story, references for Jesus are now given: the story of Jesus Christ in a snapshot:
1. Before he was even conceived, his arrival was already proclaimed
(Luke 1:31).
2. The LORD spoke to both his parents about him coming (Luke 1:30-31,Matt 1:20)
3. He was set apart for God since birth, to be the “light” in the dark season of the people; the people of God were greatly oppressed, and he was to begin the deliverance of God’s people (Matt 1:20-21, John 1:9).
4. As He grew, God blessed him (Luke 2:40).
5. He overcame the lion (Satan – the roaring lion {1 Pet 5:8}, Gen 3:15, Jesus crushed Satan’s head – symbolic to mean the wrestling back of authority).
6. The Spirit of the LORD came upon Him in power (Matt 3:16-17, Jesus empowered to defeat Satan in the 3 counts of Temptations in the desert).
7. He was betrayed (Matt 26:15-16).
8. He was bound, blindfolded (“blinded’) and mocked (Matt 27:2, Luke 22:63-65).
9. He entered into sacrificial death (Heb 2:14-16; 2 John 2).
10. He was resurrected (Acts 2:31-32, Ps 16:10-11) [added, Samson’s story did not have this. I will address this in a while.]

There are of course, other “parallels” that can be extracted from the story of Samson being speaking in parable form, the life of Jesus. For example, Samson means “like the sun”, and in that respect it spoke of proximity to the LORD, for the LORD is a sun and shield (Ps 84:11), and we have Jesus being the said to be the light (John1:9), and God is light (in Him there is no darkness) {1 John 1:5}. Even, Samson’s father’ name can signify something – Manoah means “rest”, and we often speak about (from Isaiah 57:2) entering into the God’s rest. The “God’s rest” is referring to the rest in the Father God, Jesus’ father. One can even argue why the Philistines were called Philistines, for Philistine means “one who crawls in the dust”, and the serpent of old (Satan) was the one described that way (Gen 3:14). But just do not go overboard, and try to make every verse describing Samson’s life as pointing to a similar thing in Jesus’ life, for parables are parables, it is not necessary to do that, and it will be wrong to “force” it, for the type or metaphor is always imperfect relative to the actual thing, in this case, Jesus Christ.

I added a point 10 in the story of Jesus; this was of course, without equivalent in the story of Samson. It is how it is, with parables or metaphors; a parable or metaphor cannot capture everything of the “actual thing”. Even in the things that were illustrated, they were still illustrations, always short in fullness and extent, for men or the world is nowhere near God, and kingdom of God. Although man was created in the image of God, the fallen man is nowhere a sufficient model or representation of God, yet infallible God works with fallible men, to achieve His ends, which include the establishment of eternal bliss for all in the kingdom of Heaven.

Now, since I have established some grounds to classify Samson as a type to Jesus Christ, does it therefore mean that, whatever happened in the life of Samson was a matter of engineering by the LORD, including the failings we have visited in the expositions of the 4 chapters that God had allowed the story of Samson to occupy in the Holy Scripture? Remember, the story of Samson had episodes of him sleeping with enemy prostitute, and then ripping the gate of enemy town and waved it around on a mount. Some even argued he did not honor the vows of a Nazirite; God said he was to be a Nazirite even before conception. My short answer is that it was probably not like that - that God would have engineered all his steps in life. I believe it was more of God distinctly decided to grant favor upon Samson, even before his conception, and that decision was followed through, but it was perhaps, the lack of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and the lack of guarding his heart (or what I call, lack of tending the “garden” of our heart) that had made him short of the truly admirable deliverer of the people of God, the Israelites, then.

I like to remind people not to subscribe, even subconsciously, that our life is a completed movie being screened. We are living in real-time, and God deals with us in real-time. Samson (and we, too) was with free-will, and so he was free to choose what he did in his life; and we, our life, in appreciation of the favor and grace of God in our life, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, with full sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, so as to fulfill the will of God in our life. The “whatever will be, will be”, fatalistic view, is wrong. In Samson’s case, despite whatever failings on his part, and even in all our own cases, God was and is doing according to Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Despite Samson’s presumptuousness and failings, God did not withdrew His hand completely, but had still performed miracles when Samson had needed it, for the sake of His name, and as a grace to Samson.

The riddle - out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet

Lastly, I have said in my exposition of Judges 14, I believe the giving of the riddle, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” was prophetic, i.e. it was the LORD’s idea to give the riddle. Its contemporaneous answer was the lion, but the prophetic answer was another! And, I said that I will attempt to answer the riddle at the end of my exposition of the 4 chapters devoted to Samson in the Scripture. Different people have different views on this; nonetheless, here is my take:

In 1 Pet 5:8, we read this: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The eater, indeed, was the lion, and is the lion – Satan; he devours, he is the eater.

Now, who holds the keys to Hades and death? It was Satan, initially, and the keys are now in the hands of Jesus Christ. This, we read in Rev 1:18 - I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. When Jesus Christ died, crucified, he was swallowed by death and Hades. If you want a visual metaphor, the stings of death put Jesus into the eater (lion). What stings of death? They were represented by the bees in the story; they were the stings of death that were in all men because of men’s sins, for the sting of sin is death. It was all our stings of death that forced Jesus into the eater, the lion, or into Hades.

But out of it, something to eat, said the riddle. What was there to eat? When Jesus was resurrected, meaning He got out of Hades, or the metaphorical lion, there is something to eat. What is that? It is the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. When we partake of the Holy Communion, we consume elements representing the body and blood of Jesus. God defeated Satan (lion) with Jesus Christ dying, being forced by our stings of death into the lion or Hades, and then by God’s power Jesus was taken out of the eater, and He ended up as the something we can partake of.

Lion or Satan was strong, Jesus as man (Jesus on earth, was fully man), was not; that was why the second part of the riddle said “Out of the strong” came something sweet. Jesus said that His body broken for us and His blood shed for us, were what would set the New Covenant into place. What is this? This is the Good News – the Gospel, the sweet Gospel. This was not just honey, but honey from the rock (Ps 81:16). The honey is Jesus; it is also the Good News, it is sweet Jesus, it is sweet news! Samson was pointing to a more perfect, in fact, the perfect Samson - Jesus Christ is His name.

Anthony Chia – You, Oh Lord, is that something we eat; you, Oh Lord, is that something sweet. May we feed on you, always, and live.

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