Monday, January 31, 2011

To enter into the kingdom, we need to be like little children

Is there still relevance for Christians to consider this, since we have already entered the kingdom?

Without going into what constitutes the kingdom, it suffices, for the purpose of this article, to consider whether or not, having entered into salvation or having been born again, constitutes having entered into the kingdom. What do you think; entering into salvation means entry into the kingdom?

Jesus said we need to be like little children to enter
Concerning the need to be like little children to enter into the kingdom, 3 out of the 4 gospel books have almost the same wordings; they are Mark 10:15, Matt 18:3 and Luke 18:17.

I {Jesus} tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15)

And he {Jesus} said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3).

I {Jesus} tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

Has the kingdom already come?
According to my reading and understanding of Jesus’ teaching, the kingdom of God can be considered to have come to Man from the time of His death and resurrection. Some might want to consider it having come with Jesus being born or when he started His earthly ministry, but I believed it should be upon His resurrection (3 days after His death) that the kingdom under Christ Jesus was formed, for upon resurrection, Jesus was restored to the throne, at the side of the Father God. Furthermore, Jesus when He was preaching on earth, He said that the kingdom of God was near or at hand, meaning that it was near but still not yet in place, then. Also, we read in Matthews 16:21-28, when Jesus spoke to His disciples concerning His impending death and resurrection, in verses 27 and 28, He said that He would enter into His Father’s glory and His going into His kingdom:

27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matt 16:27-28)

To me, Jesus' coming to His disciples, after His resurrection (3 days after death), can be construed as His coming (to His disciples) in His Kingdom.

What about the Lord’s Prayer?
Of course, there are those who challenged such a conclusion, citing that Jesus taught the believers to pray for the kingdom to come, in the Lord’s Prayer.

The argument is: if the kingdom has come, how come Jesus still taught believers to pray for the kingdom to come? It is commonly accepted that the Lord’s Prayer was NOT intended for the believers then only, or to be said by believers only once (like some “overly grace” teachers are erroneously teaching it, because of the issue of asking for God’s forgiveness was found in it). It, the Lord's Prayer, is to be embraced by every believer across time. Then, how do we explain the presence of asking for the kingdom to come?

My understanding is: in the Lord’s Prayer, we are to pray for more and more of the realities of the kingdom of Heaven to be manifest in our present earthly living, not literally as calling for the coming of the kingdom, like it is not yet already formed. The kingdom of Jesus Christ was already formed upon His resurrection by the Father God; He was and is sitting on His throne at the right hand of the Father God as the king and ruler of His kingdom. Yet the fullness of kingdom of Jesus Christ has not fully invaded our earthly living; and we, as believers or Christians, are to help enforce the realities of Christ’s kingdom, on earth; that is what the Lord’s Prayer was exhorting us to do.

Yes, we enter the kingdom upon entering salvation
With this understanding, what we therefore believe, is that after Jesus’ resurrection, when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior or enter into salvation, we enter into Jesus’ kingdom and is one of His subjects. In this sense, it is every believer is already in the kingdom of God, only that we are still living in a “phase” whereby we are in the world (earthly world) where Heaven’s realities are not fully manifest on earth as yet.

Kingdom of God in phases
Comprehending the kingdom of God in “phases”, I believe, is the correct approach to take. A believer living in his earthly life is in one phase of the kingdom of God; life after this life is another phase; Judgment Day is another phase; thereafter, is another phase; ultimately what is most important is the phase after Judgment Day, which is the phase of living with God in Heaven.

There is even another dimension of this “phases” make-up of the kingdom, and there was the “before Jesus’ 1st coming” phase (Old Testament phase); the “post 1st coming” phase (the current phase), Millennium Rule phase (where Jesus would come back again and rule a 1,000 years on earth), the Judgment Day phase, and finally the post-Judgment Day phase which coincides with the phase of the living in Heaven with God.

As a believer, all of us need discernment of which phase we are in, and carry ourselves according to the requirements of that phase. The people of God in the Old Testament phase had needed to obey the Law; that was their requirements. For us, we need to know what God requires of us, in our phase.

John touched on the fundamental requirement of being born again
Before we go back to the issue posed by the title of this article, by way of mention, I will like to say that in the gospel of John, although the Apostle John did not talk about entering into kingdom of God the same way the other 3 authors of the gospel recorded Jesus’ words, he did cover the fundamental requirement for coming into the kingdom, and it, being that, one must be born (again) of both, the water and the Spirit.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

This, I will not cover here, as I have previously dealt with this, and readers who are interested, can read my separate article, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit

Having entered, is there still relevance of being like little children?
Indeed, if we can accept that having accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior means that we have entered into the kingdom of God, then, is there still any relevance to consider whether we are to be like little children or not, as believers?

I tend to look at the entrance requirement, NOT so much like, you have a good university degree and so, you will get into a good company to work, and when you have gained entry, you have no need of the university cert. You will be surprised that many have this “cert” mentality. Actually, what is more important is what the cert. pointed to; that is the real requirement! Suppose, one lazy and unscrupulous Mr A managed to get a forged top university degree showing top honors, and with that, managed to get into a top MNC to work as a manager; do you think he will last long in the top MNC? Do you think he can just rely on “I got the cert, what!” and can cruise along, without doing his part as a manager of the MNC? Even if he managed to get through the probation phase, he might not get through the annual assessment phase!

Well, one maybe already in the Kingdom of God, we, Christians, are in the Earthly Phase, but there is still the final Heavenly Phase.  You and I are NOT there yet.  Perhaps, the "enter the Kingdom", is best undestood to mean to enter all the way to the final gate of the Heavenly Phase of the Kingdom, to where the ultimate Promised Land is.

Bro. Anthony, the kingdom of God is not like that-lah!
The Kingdom is not like that? Is it so? Maybe, not exactly like that, but still, it is not just basking in grace. I am not saying, we are saved through good works, but at the same time, Eph 2:10 does say, we are saved to do good works. Also, the Book of James is very clear about faith without works is dead. It is obvious, such dead faith is not pleasing to God. Ok, I am also not driving believers to do good works solely by their own effort, for Scripture, in Philippians 2:13, does say, it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good pleasure. But at the same time, we cannot hide behind this Philippians verse, and claim no responsibility, purportedly, saying, it is not our fault if God did not work hard enough in us, to will and act according to His good pleasure. We are to partner God, and yield ourselves to obey His Word and be willing to be led by His Holy Spirit; and this calls for a certain mindset and attitude.

Gleaning from little children
Is it possible that such a mindset and attitudes can be gleaned from little children? That is the pertinent issue.

I believe there are relevant mindset or attitudes of the little ones that we are expected to still possess and follow through, even after we have come into the earthly phase of the kingdom of God. They are as follows:

1. Do not give up our fascination with God. When a child steps into a “frontier”, he pictures that there is a lot more, many more, awesome things lie beyond the initial steps, some more new things and fresh things to see and experience if he pursues further. We must continue to hold in our mind and heart, that giganticness, of God and His kingdom, in all dimensions of hugeness, as we once thought it to be; and for many of us, that would be before (or in the process) or at our entry into the kingdom. It is wrong to brush away those initial sense of God’s awesomeness as illusions, as some overly grace believers are encouraging others to do, saying, we should just get on with our lives as before. How can we take that attitude, for we are a new creation; we are now born of the Spirit, having the Holy Spirit to lead us?

2. God love us, we must love God. Children know their parents love them after experiencing what their parents freely gave unto them. They learn to love them back, and would continue to love their parents. When we teach little ones how to love their parents, for example, by making nice little crafts for their parents, they would readily do them. How about us, believers? Have we not recognized that what the Lord had showered upon us were not things that we have merited? Scripture said, because God first loved us, we ought to love Him back. Do we love Him back? Scripture taught us how to love our God, do you readily embrace that?

3. To love God is to obey Him. After knowing their parents love them, children quickly learn that their parents are to be obeyed, too. Do we also, like the children, realize that God is to be obeyed? Parents expect obedience from children, for the children’s own good. It is the same; God expects obedience from us, believers, for our own good. God has our interest at heart. Children learn also that, they obey their parents because they did not want to upset their parents; it is their way of loving their parents back. It is the same; obeying God is loving God. Scripture said, those who obey God’s commands are the ones who love Him (John 14:21). Obedience is not necessarily out of fear; it can be out of love!

4. Do not forget or rationalize away the peace and joy. These, we once had, in the process of/at the entry into salvation. When a child had experienced joy, he wants more of the same. He wants to go the same place, if it was a place; he wants to go back to the state, if it was a state; he refuses to let go. What do we, adults, tend to do? We think, that was in the past, it was over, it was best we just forget about it, and be like “normal” people, conditioned by the world to think, we are to be “just surviving”. Instead of wanting more of the peace and joy, and guarding it, adults succumb to rationalizing it away as being impractical; adults tend to resign to “there are more important things” to pursue. The over-emphasis of self-independence has also caused us not to embrace reliance on God for peace and joy. According to Scripture (Rom 14:17), the peace and joy that we should be wanting is the peace and the joy in the Holy Spirit.

5. Do not stop learning. Children do not stop wanting to know about their fathers (or parents) and to know their fathers (or parents). How peace and joy can come? Children learn, and we, too, should learn how we can have peace and joy and prevent them from slipping away. Knowledge of truths is one way peace and joy can come. Doing that which pleases God is the other. Learning is both acquiring knowledge of truths, and applying the knowledge.

The opposite of peace is anxiety, and the main ingredient of anxiety is uncertainty. We are uncertain because we have insufficient knowledge, for with insufficient knowledge it is difficult for us to understand and to trust. Children secure their peace through learning and interaction with the fathers or parents. It is the same for us, believers; we are to learn about God, and get to know Him, and we are to interact with Him, in order to secure peace. If we do the things God disapproves of, we are not going to be able to interact positively with Him.

6. God knows best and is capable. For the little ones, their papa (or parents) knows best; their papa (or parents) knows what he is doing. They would insist that their papa would come through for them. They would have such “faith” in their daddies, who are heroes to them. (Of course, because of the fallen state of the world, some papas disappointed their little ones, and at times, such failures brought very negative developments in children). When you malign their dads, they will fight you! They will even refuse to listen to anything bad that you want to say about their fathers; they just want to continue to trust that their papa is good all the time. As believers, we all trusted God before; the question is, “Are you still like the little children, continuing to put your faith in the God who is good all the time?” Do you believe He knows best, and that you can trust Him to know how best, to see you through if you would obey Him?

6a. [Inserted 17/12/2012] Be lowly or humble. Another way of looking at children's keenness to learn and to be acknowledging fathers or parents know best and are capable, and therefore, deferring to their fathers/parents and even to others, is view it from the dimension of lowliness or humility. We, adults, on the other hand, tend NOT to defer to another, instead, would rather claim that we could do it or have the answers to problems.  Children are humble to ask for help, and more readily acknowledge that fact, voluntarily; adults, on the other hand, want to be face-saving, want to boast, and if possible omit, saying help was sought or received, i.e. we are prideful.

7. God is never too far away. Children know and rest in knowing that their fathers or parents are never too far away. When they need their parents, they will be there. It is also so, for us; God is never too far away. In fact, in God’s faithfulness, through the Holy Spirit indwelling us, God knows what is going on in our lives, despite, we not sensing it or seeing it. In God’s eyes, we are all, despite our age, still his children. Those interested, can read my separate article, “The Lord as the Papa eagle – a vision of faithfulness, comfort and assurance”.

8. Stay in fellowship with believers. Children just mix, play, and even work together; be it, in their made-believed roles or actual endeavors. We, adults, conditioned by the world to emphasize personal achievements and looking after self-interest, have learned not to share, and give. We are also, too worried about being hurt and disappointed. And we have bought into the deception, that the only way to be happy is to receive, and never the other way round, to give.

9. Learn to love your neighbors. Children know love and they will learn to love, not just their parents, but also others. Children recognize the love coming from their fathers (or parents), and they learn to love them back. Not only that, they learn to love other kids. A child who freely received from his parents, freely shares and gives to others; it is the adults who teach them differently (or they learn it differently by observing the adults)! Can you be a child again, and believe that God freely gives you all good things, and you can share and give some away to others, and in the process you will be happy? A sister, on her blog has humbly written about what her little girl taught her about this; you can read her article, “Lessons from a child

10.I want to be with my God. Children want to be with their father or parents, there is no denying about this. They know their father or parents love them, and they in turn love them back, and they know they will miss their father or parents, and that their father or parents’ hearts would be broken if they are lost. As a believer, do you feel the same for your Abba Father? We should not doubt our Father’s love for us, and if we love our Father, we should want to be able to go to Him when we pass on. I do not appreciate a believer being nonchalant about going to Heaven. We break our Father’s heart when we are not serious about going to Heaven, to be with Him. Jesus died so that we can make that journey; do not profane that.

We want to be with our God, but do we know the most fundamental nature-hood of our God? No, it is not love; it is holiness. Scripture exhorts us to be holy as God is holy; we, be righteous as God is righteous. If we say we want to live with God eventually, are we currently submissive to His refining fire to refine us in that direction (Heb 12:10)? Do you know that without holiness, no one sees God (Heb 12:14b)?

So, even though we have entered the kingdom of God, for our current phase of the kingdom living, we still need to be like little children; continue to be fascinated by the things of God, always remember God loves us, and so, we ought to love Him back, and to love Him is to obey Him; we are to pursue peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, never stop learning concerning God and our faith heritage, and to continue to believe that God knows best, and that He is capable, and we are to be humble; we are to know that God is never too far away, for His Spirit is indwelling us; meanwhile, we ought to stay in fellowship with other brothers and sisters, and love our neighbors even as we love God; finally, we must want to be with God, eventually; and towards that end, we must be willing to align ourselves to His righteousness and holiness.

Anthony Chia – Father, I still lack the faith to trust you to provide for me fully, even though as a child previously, I trusted my parents to provide for me, unconditionally. God, forgive me for my lack of faith in you. Help me in my unbelief, Lord. I pray this in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Judges series - Judges 19 - A Levite and His Concubine

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 19

A Levite and His Concubine

1 In those days Israel had no king. Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her father's house in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her father's house, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the girl's father, prevailed upon him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there. [These last few chapters of Judges are difficult chapters for even the best Bible scholars. I scanned the standard Bible commentaries but there was nothing very “solid” written about these chapters. I tell you these chapters are difficult, that explained why I scanned for help myself. Often, we find standard Bible commentaries might omit explanations for verses because they were easily understood but the omissions of much commentaries for these chapters were perhaps intentional, just on the ground that the scholars really did not know what to make out of these stories. Even as I write I am saying it isn’t easy for me either.

The time period of this story is believed to during the early Judges period. That it showed up in later chapters of the Book of Judges does not necessary mean that it occurred at later part of the period. It was early Judges period, because of the mention of the Levite high priest, Phinehas, in Judges 20:28. The morality depicted by this story was really bad, so bad that it makes one wondered why it could be done by God’s people, and allowed to be recorded here. When you finished the story, you will know what I mean.

Conquered lands were for the possession of the people of Israel. Moses distributed some territories, those on one side (the east) of the Jordan River (Moses did not cross over the Jordan River). Joshua was the one who led the Israelites across the Jordan River, took Jericho, and then later on, took other territories in the Promised Land, as the LORD fought and gave the territories over to the Israelites. Joshua distributed captured territories among the tribes of Israel (By the time Joshua was old and died, not all territories of the Promised Land were captured). But in the distribution, the Levi tribe got no land, they being the priestly tribe, was to live among the other tribes and depended on the other tribes to provide for them as they (the Levites) served as priests for the Israelites. This explains this particular Levite (and even the Levite of Judges 17), moving about the lands of various Israelite tribes (although this did not mean that members of other Israelite tribes did not move about/dwell in their brothers’ lands).

In this story, the Levite was in the hill country of Ephraim (this, I believe, was referring to the hill country of Samaria. This, later became part of Israel, the northern kingdom, the first king {Jeroboam} of which, was an Ephraim, the half-tribe of the house of Joseph. But please note that at this time, there were not yet, the duo kingdoms). He took a concubine from Bethlehem, Judah. The concubine, recorded here, in verse 2, was unfaithful to the Levite. She left the Levite and went back to her father’s house in Bethlehem. The Levite went to his father-in-law’s house to get his concubine back. The father-in-law kept asking the Levite to stay longer.]

[Added: 1 Mar 2013: Concerning the statement of the concubine being unfaithful, the word translated “played the whore” (KJV) and “unfaithful” (NIV) in Hebrew is zanah.  According to Dr Claude Mariottini, in his article,,

 “The word has a primary meaning of committing fornication, being a harlot. However, according to Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1958), 261, the word also can mean “to be angry, hateful” or to “feel repugnant against.”

The Professor went on to say:

“Thus, taking the above meaning of the word, the translation of the NRSV makes better sense: But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah.  This is the view also adopted by some ancient translations such as the Septuagint, the Targum, and the Vulgate.  Neither of these ancient translations nor Josephus accused the woman of conjugal infidelity.”
I leave it to you to assess this; as far as I am concerned, it changes NOT, any of my other commentary on this account.]

5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go." 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the girl's father said, "Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself." 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the girl's father said, "Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!" So the two of them ate together. 9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the girl's father, said, "Now look, it's almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home." 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine. [The father-in-law kept asking his son-in-law to stay longer; what exactly was the motive was not revealed. Finally, despite it being almost evening, the Levite still set off with his concubine and servant.]
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, "Come, let's stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night." 12 His master replied, "No. We won't go into an alien city, whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah." 13 He added, "Come, let's try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places." 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them into his home for the night. [Because they set off late, soon it was nearly dark, and they had to spend the night somewhere, before continuing the next day. The Levite’s servant suggested a nearby city of the Jebusites. Jebusites was a local tribe of the inhabitants of the land (not one of the tribes of Israelites). But the Levite insisted on going to an Israelite-occupied city, and so they ended up in Gibeah, in Benjamin. Benjamites was a tribe of the Israelites.

They were at the city square but no one took them into his home for the night. In those days, hospitality to fellow travelers was expected to be the norm (Because of this norm, Abraham, entertained The Three Vistors/Men – you can read this in Who were The Three Visitors/Men), yet none of the Benjamites took the Levite in. What are we to make out of this? What was the intention of the LORD for having this recorded as such? Was it to show to us, with the disobedience of the Israelites as explained in Judges 2, brotherly kindness also went down the drains? The lack of brotherly kindness bothers the LORD, I believe, that was why we find that Jesus, in his earthly ministry, told of the story of the Good Samaritan. By the way, the “love thy neighbor as yourselves” is not a new command from Jesus; it was an Old Testament command (Lev 19:18); many believers are not aware of this! Or was it to indicate that things were so bad, in terms of moral values, that people just were too afraid to take any strangers into their home, lest they get robbed, molested or even killed?

In present times, do you take strangers into your home to stay? If not, what does it tell of the condition of mankind? Yes, perhaps, it is not wise (whose wisdom?) to take in strangers but how about servants of God (itinerant preachers, overseas preachers/speakers, visiting pastors, etc)? This chap, in the story, was a Levite – priestly family, in those days. There is an important point I believe the LORD had wanted to show to the children of the Israelites – I will dwell on it later, in my commentary for the next chapter, Judges 20.]
16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the men of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, "Where are you going? Where did you come from?" 18 He answered, "We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me into his house. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, your maidservant, and the young man with us. We don't need anything." 20 "You are welcome at my house," the old man said. "Let me supply whatever you need. Only don't spend the night in the square." 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink. [It is not very clear whether the old man in verse 16, was an Ephraimite (member of the half-tribe of the house of Joseph) or just a local of the Ephraim land, who was then living in Gibeah, the city of the Benjamites.

But I believe the old man should be an Ephraimite. My reason is this: We read earlier on, the Levite did not want to stop at a city belonging to the Jebusites for the reason that the Jebusites were aliens. So, if the old man was an alien, it was likely that the Levite would have again declined. Furthermore, the Levite’s saying that he was going to the house of the LORD, I believe, was an attempt to appeal to old man to take him in for the night – only an Israelite would be bothered whether or not, the strangers were going to the house of the LORD.]
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, "Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him." [Some Bible translations use the phrase, “sons of Belial” which was translated in the NIV version here as wicked men. There are various definitions of the sons of Belial, some referring to demons, some referring to men. In this context, it should be correct to say that men were being referred to. Some definitions included wicked men, worthless men, yokeless men (I take it to mean men without any meaningful work), men never to rise (“men without future”) – generally, scum of society. In the Book of Jubilees (aka Lesser Genesis, an ancient Jewish religious work), uncircumcised heathens were called sons of Belial.

It is important that we know who these people were, because of the offence committed and the consequence and punishment thereafter, which were the “offensive” elements in this story. Many commentators just assumed that since the city belonged to the Benjamites, the Benjamites did the hideous thing that you would read about later on.

If you have been following this series of mine on the Book of Judges, you would remember that the very thing that the Israelites did wrong that broke the Covenant God made with them was this: that they did not destroy the inhabitants together with all the altars of the pagan gods. Therefore, in places dwelled in by the Israelites, there would be local inhabitants amongst them. For some instances, the Israelites only forced the locals into forced labor, in others, inter-marrying happened afterwards, mixing of bloods and cultures, including worship of gods/deities. The latter was what God did not want to see happened, and it was fundamental in the covenant God had with the forefathers of the then Israelites.

I postulate that the wicked men in verse 22 were not Benjamites. I would not say that I have looked at all the commentaries on this story but of those I looked at, none postulated as such - that the wicked men were not Benjamites. If you look at the definitions of sons of Belial that I have talked about above, particularly the definition from the Book of Jubilees, you might agree with me. I am not saying that it was not possible, but I would say it was highly unlikely that the scum of the city of the Benjamites, made up of Benjamites; it would be more likely that the scum included original locals, other tribes from rural areas sojourned into the city and got dysfunctional much like what we see even in some of our societies and cities. Of course, here the owners of the city, the Benjamites could not escape from the responsibility for the city, leaving the scum of society to do what they like.

Some commentators dealt with the phrase “the people in the house were enjoying themselves” as if to imply that was a sin that “brought on” the subsequent hideous event. I think, that would be reading too much into a very “innocent” phrase.  {Added 26/09/2011: The same "enjoy/merry" {yatab, H3190} was also used in verses 6 & 9 above, by the father-in-law of the Levite - surely there was not the connotation of "sin" there.  It is probably and simply equivalent to "make yourself comfortable and enjoy your meal or stay"!}

Just in case, some did not understand what the wicked men were demanding, they were demanding that the Levite man be given to them for sodomy, for homo-sex. Homosexual practices were and are still expressly forbidden by God – Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, Rom 1:26-27, 1 Cor 6:9, Jude 1:7 {Added 26/09/2011: My understanding is that God loves sinners, and therefore, including homosexual persons, but hates sins, and that included homosexual practices.}]
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, "No, my friends, don't be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don't do this disgraceful thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But to this man, don't do such a disgraceful thing." 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. 27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home. [Yes, this account sounded so familiar, isn’t it? There was a similar account just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; yes, compare this old man here with Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Even compare the entire story.

Here is one more reason I think the old man was an Ephraimite, not a local inhabitant sojourned into Gibeah. The locals would remember the destruction of their twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, Lot, then was staying among the locals of the land on the plains of Jordan. But would they, the locals, have known and passed down the generations, the part of the event that had Lot’s proposal of letting his daughters be defiled instead of the men who were guests at his (Lot’s) house {the 2 men at Lot’s house were angels, and they saved the day, the daughters were not defiled and the twin cities were destroyed by God through the raining down of burning sulphur (Genesis 19)}; I think not.

All the people of Sodom and Gomorrah died except Lot and his daughters. From Lot and his own daughters {the girls slept with their father} came the Moabites and Ammonites; and we also have read in Judges, in an earlier chapter, on Judge Jephthah, that Israelites did not destroy the 2 descendant tribes of Lot, when they (the Israelites) came out of Egypt to go to the Promised Land. Lot and Abraham came from the same bloodline of Shem, son of Noah. I believe on the account of the bloodline, the love of Abraham had for his nephew, and the pact Abraham had with his nephew, God did not want the wars between the Israelites and the descendants of Lot, if it could be avoided (see Deu 2:9,16). For these reasons, the part of the story about Lot’s proposal to the vile men of Sodom (to have his daughters) and how he (Lot) escaped death at Sodom, I believe, got passed onto the Israelites, pointing to the old man was an Israelite.

Alternatively, Abraham could be the one who passed down the story to the Israelites because even though the Bible did not record that he (Abraham) went to look for Lot after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it was highly probable that he searched out Lot after the destruction since he pleaded with the LORD in Genesis 19, because he knew his nephew was in Sodom. I believe the old man had to be an Israelite to care about such a story and approach, and imitated Lot.

While I did not think the scum were Israelites (also, not Benjamites), I am of the opinion that the old man was an Israelite (not necessarily a Benjamite, though), and not an uncircumcised heathen. If the old man had been the latter, old Bible translations would not have recorded the wicked men as sons of Belial, which meant uncircumcised heathens (according the definition in the Book of Jubilees) with the old man in context, for the old man would then fall in the same category.

I believe, here is a sad case of these: firstly, people (the old man) not knowing well enough, particularly the dealing of God with His pinnacle creation, Man, and did a wrong thing, thinking that history would kind of repeat itself with angels coming to the rescue; secondly, people (the Levite) conveniently manipulated the same.

Maybe some of the cultish “Christian” sad stories of more recent times, involving loss of many lives, were similarly rooted in the misinterpretation and manipulation of scriptures and our true faith heritage. But this does not point towards the suggestion that, not knowing is better than knowing. Because if we do not know the Word/Bible, although we would not be influenced by it, including misinterpretations thereof, at the same time, we would be deprived of its goodness, and instead be influenced and governed by our other knowledge, acquired in life and in dealings with the non-Christian world. The way out is not to throw out the Bible, but to correctly, interpret the Word of God.

In verse 25, we read that eventually, it was the Levite who gave his concubine to the wicked men, not the old man. So the old man’s daughter did not get implicated. But from verse 24, it was clear the old man had thought like what Lot thought of, but it was the Levite who did it. The Levite must have thought likewise (the thoughts of Lot), or in agreement with the old man, and made use of the Lot’s story to save his own skin. The Levite went to sleep and did nothing the whole night. What the wicked men did to the concubine I need not repeat here, I just want to say that she was so inhumanely abused that she was already dead when her husband found her at the door.]
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, "Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!" [These verses just, very crudely, said the Levite took a knife and cut up his concubine in full view of the public, much like one cuts up a dead animal. In those days, being unfaithful deserved death, even by stoning, and so, some commentators tended to say she got what she deserved, death, even if her husband had forgiven her!

But the humiliation she suffered before death, to me, did not point to a punishment by God for her sin. Furthermore, in the Gospel, John 20:23 is capable of being interpreted as Jesus was saying if you forgave someone who had sinned against you, God would also forgive that person. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be too quick to say bad things that happened to people are due to God. Every action of God is justified, even if it appeared “bad” to us, there is no wickedness in God. And many bad things are part of the workings of a fallen world, not the doing of God. I do not think that in this case, it is a doing of God. In fact, I doubt whether the Levite had really forgiven his concubine.

After cutting up the body into 12 parts, the Levite had them sent to the tribes of Israel, all over the land! When the people saw the parts, they were shocked, and wondered what to do.]

What can be learnt here: - a shocking story!
Here is the recap –

In this story, a Levite in the Ephraim hill country took a concubine from Bethlehem, Judah. The concubine was unfaithful, and afterward, had left home and gone back to her father’s house in Bethlehem. The Levite went to fetch her back, and on the way back, when it was late, they decided to spend the night in Gibeah, a city, controlled by the Benjamin tribe. An old man, probably a fellow Israelite, extended hospitality to the couple. In the night, while everyone was inside the house, some wicked men of the city came to the door, demanding the Levite be given over to them to have sex, sodomy! The old man said that, that would be a vile and disgraceful thing to do, and countered, offering to give his own virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the men, but the men refused. The Levite took his concubine and gave her to the men outside. The men raped and abused the Levite’s concubine until next morning, and she died. Both the old man, and the Levite did nothing until the next morning! The Levite took the body and went back to his own home. On arrival, he cut up the body into 12 parts, and had them sent to the tribes of Israel, all over the place. When the people saw the parts, they were shocked, and wondered what to do.

The story did not end there, it continued into the next 2 chapters, Judges 20 & 21; and we will look at them in subsequent articles.

What were the lessons here? Apart from the indirect issues I have raised in the body of my exposition of the chapter, I will add no more, but to defer them until the exposition of the next chapter; but you can attempt the question (of what lessons) yourself, first!

Anthony Chia – Perhaps, Lord, what you are trying to say here was that if we, the people of God, do not “guard” our city properly, wickedness will take over, disorder, corruption and vileness can become the order of the day, and it will be a sad state of affair, and a sad day or time. May you awaken your people from slumber, in the land of Singapore to guard this Antioch. Amen.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Animals do not go to Heaven

This article came about because a sister, whose pet dog died recently, has wanted to believe that animals do get resurrected to Heaven; and has asked that I spent some time to consider the matter. These are my findings:

1. Clearly, the understanding from Genesis is that animals are bi-partite, body and soul. Man, on the other hand, is tri-partite, body, soul and spirit. The spirit part makes all the difference. Only spirited soul could ever hope to be resurrected to Heaven, for Kingdom of Heaven living. From this standpoint alone, animals (and plants, likewise) will not be able to make it up to Heaven by resurrection.

2. Following from point 1, if there are animals and plants in Heaven, they are not the same animals (like her pet dog) and plants that were resurrected to Heaven. If there are, indeed, exact animals (which I do not know if there are, and I am not saying that there cannot be any), they are created by God, and are not those same ones which used to be living on earth!

3. It is clearly unthinkable to have animals (and plants) resurrected to Heaven. If one animal, like her pet dog, is resurrected, shouldn’t other animals like the chicken, duck, fish, monkey, snake, and what have you {even lice and germs!}, be also entitled to be resurrected? Now, we eat many of these animals (and plants too); how are we going to face the accusation of all these animals against us when we go up to Heaven? We do not ask for God’s forgiveness for eating any of them, do we? How are we going to clear the Judgment Day then? Well, it is regardless that the Bible was written only for Man (as the sister said, fallen Man). Even if animals cannot read the Bible, you and I can, and so, God could have easily included in it, a statement that we cannot eat animals, just like we obviously, cannot kill to eat another man, for that would be sin against that man (and God). On the contrary, the fact that there were Old Testament scriptures which talked about certain animals or animals under certain conditions (like how they died, etc) should not be consumed, we can assume that there was and is no total prohibition to eat animals (Those who argue that believers should presently be totally vegetarians are not of line).

4. Scripture is very clear that Jesus died for Man, even Satan and the fallen angels were not included, meaning only men are able to appropriate the propitiation of sin provided by Jesus.

5. As to her being given Revelation 22:15, as support, in which “dogs” were mentioned there, we really have to interpret it within the context.

14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Rev 22:14-15 KJV)

Now, this is how it should be interpreted: Obviously, verse 14 is referring to Man. Blessed are the believers who do God’s commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life (which presumably sustains life, keeping us in eternal life), and may enter in, through the gates, of Heaven, into the City, the Heavenly Jerusalem. Now, leaving “dogs” aside, every other one mentioned in verse 15 is a Man. Logical interpretation will point us to say that the “dogs” there must be referring to Man, and not a lone isolated animal, a dog. The “dogs” here must be interpreted as referring to “undesirable” men of the same class as sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers and idolaters, and whosoever who love lies and lied.

This is what has been said of the use of dogs on men (i.e. calling someone a dog!):

“It is a wide cross-cultural practice to use 'dog' as some sort of derogatory term," says John Archibald, head of the University of Calgary's linguistics department.

The English term “bitch” {female dog} has long been derogatory - Lawrence Paros, author of Bawdy Language.

Of course, generally speaking in cultures of the Middle East, there were aspects connected with dogs being “unclean”. Under Judaism (the belief of the Jews, before the Messiah’s 1st coming), dogs were said to be “unclean” by characteristics under Levitical laws.

Our Senior Pastor, in the last weekend sermon, also expressed that the “dogs” in Rev 22:15 above, were referring to people and not animals.

6. She was also given by others, Isaiah 65:25, in support of the argument that animals do make it to Heaven; I believe no convincing verdict can be drawn from the text:

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:25)

Firstly, this verse merely painted that there are animals at this particular time period. And during this time period, the animals are at peace and living harmoniously, indeed. My interpretation of Isaiah 65 is that, the time period in question or the place, is not necessarily referring to the time after death (life after this life or next age) or Heaven. At most, and it could possibly be correct, the time period was referring to the Millennium Rule of Jesus on earth recorded for us in the Book of Revelation. Of course, to explain how the conclusion is reached that Heaven was not being referred to, would necessitate me to dish out my entire commentary on Isaiah 65; which I am not going to, here.

Secondly, even if indeed, the place was in Heaven, it still did not say anything of whether or not, the animals were the ones once living on earth, and got resurrected to Heaven; it only painted a picture of animals being there, living in harmony and peacefully. As I have said in point 2 above, I am not saying that Heaven cannot have any animals, but what I am saying is that, such, if any, would NOT be the same ones previously living on earth like us, and got resurrected to Heaven.

For a moment, even if we can assume that, from earth an animal got to Heaven, it obviously did not get there by the same manner we are getting there, i.e. by believing in Jesus Christ by grace, through faith; and so, if what was not revealed in Scripture, even if we got it right, that animals do get to Heaven, it is guesswork!

7. There are jokes out there on the internet, etc, about dogs or animals having died, and people wanting to do the “wake” to send them on their way to Heaven. In fact, our Senior Pastor shared one in his sermon last weekend. Here, is one question asked by a Jew concerning the same, on the internet; and an real Rabbi answered the question:

Question: Does Judaism provide any prayers we can say when burying our beloved pet dog?

Answer: Kaddish and real prayers are a bit more complicated. While
these prayers have meaning for human beings reaching out to the Divine, it is possible that reciting these prayers for animals is inappropriate and desecrates Jewish worship.

Clearly, those who relied solely on the Old Testament did not believe that there could possibly be any possibility of animals making it up to Heaven.

I am sorry for the sister’s loss, of her pet dog, which she obviously loved very much. I have lost pet dogs before, as well. In fact, when I was still a boy, my pet dog ran after me when I crossed the road to take my school transport to go to school. I only knew it was run over by a bus after I got home from school. It did not die immediately; I had to care for it for a few days before it passed away. It was so sad, and today I can still picture the dog resting on an old zinc sheet before it died. But there is nothing we can do about it. It is all part of life. Who knows, if God does allow dogs in Heaven, maybe He might indulge us with replica (not the same dogs) of our pet dogs! Ha Ha!

Anthony Chia – That which God has not revealed; right or wrong, it is guesswork, and it counts not, but what God has revealed, we must lay hold of it.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Lord, what are you saying in “these”?

It has been some time since I last wrote anything of a testimonial nature concerning my “little ministry”. Is my little ministry dead? Is there not any fruit from the ministry that I can write about? Is there nothing worth journaling about?

What is the “little ministry” all about?
Below this is a cut and paste from an earlier article:

“By the little ministry, for the benefit of readers who are new to this site, I mean the tiny bit or two that I believe the Lord is using me in, or even would like to believe the Lord is using me in. Principally, there is a bit which I am a little more certain that the Lord is using me in a tiny way; and that is in the broad area of healing. Of course, for many who had embraced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the power thereof, such things that I do, may not, in their eyes, amount to a ministry at all, especially when what I do, I do not do it in a full-time manner. But I want to call it a ministry, if not for any other reasons, it is better for me to view the things I do, as important to the Lord because the sinful nature in me, naturally will not want me to do the things that I do. It is tiny, yet I must see it as capable of being made wider, deeper, and greater; not that I can but the Lord is able, and He can enlarge if He so desires.

Is there any other bit? I like to dream with the Lord, and based on what I see as having happened or is happening to me, I like to picture myself as a “healer” with a slightly unique slant, a singing healer. We all have many dreams. How about a dream with the Lord? I find that dreaming with the Lord is one thing, not difficult at all, but to make an effort for that dream, is altogether a different thing, not a easy thing, because the sinful nature in us doesn’t like that. The tug of war of us trying to live according to the Spirit, and not, to the sinful nature is really tough, as like the Apostle Paul said it, in his epistles. But that is the reality of this life; there is no escaping it, we have to face it, and learn to win in that tug of war of choices of life, bearing in mind that Scriptures said that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for us, and that the Lord is faithful.”

Everything is more or less still going on, and at the usual venues. I still am faithful in ministering on a voluntarily basis, in all 3 services of my church (one, on Saturday, and two, on Sunday morning). For this, typically, I function in the “Altar Ministry”, which in my church is referring to the ministry time that we have for each service, after the typical praise and worship session that takes place at the beginning of each service. I move in the word of knowledge, a little, by the grace of God, and would typically be releasing words of knowledge (on sickness, etc) regularly, and general words of prophecy occasionally, during these ministry times. I would pray for the sick and any others, requiring ministry, after the release of words. I still go, about an hour earlier, each Sunday, to church, to intercede for this ministry and the services, at the front of the sanctuary. I still intercede for people I promised I would pray for them, and I would pray for my loved ones. I have been doing this since 2008. Also, since 2008, I have been with one of the gates (chapters) of the Full Gospel Business(men) Fellowship. I serve in the gate-committee and try to exercise my spiritual gifts and pray for people in those weekly gate meetings. I also frequent another monthly marketplace fellowship run by a brother from my church, in which I avail myself to pray for people with needs. Then, although I do intercede for the sick, apart from prayers in person, sister Liz Mah in Malaysia (with stage 4 lung cancer, her blog, Liz’s Adventure), has been a unique case, one whom, I suppose the Lord has somehow caused to me to have a “burden” for, and is whom I have spent much time, not just saying prayers for her, but have been trying to build up in the faith, to the extent that she could receive the feeding. And of course, this blog has kept me busy too, apart from my private study of the Word.

Dead or alive?
I guess in terms of the “doing”, they are still there, but of course, the doing alone, did not imply much, maybe a little faithfulness (and maybe a little of men as a “habitual” creature!).

Or could it mean more than just that, especially, in such things, tangible results are not known easily, at least for my settings. I sometimes wondered what sustained me in all these. People go to 1 service per weekend, I go for all 3! I am just a member of congregation; I am not a pastor and not a staff of the church, I am not required to do so.

Is it for the honors? Yes, but not the honors from men. I supposed at the end of the day, it is because of the honors and privilege that the Lord has given to me that I cannot ignore. Furthermore, I could no longer turn my back on His love shown to me:

Who am I that the Lord has taken notice of me;
Who am I that the Lord has cared to hold on to me all these years;
Who am I that the Lord should come near when even my beloved has decided to desert me;
Who am I that the Lord had cared to put His thought into me when I had sunk to the bottom of the deepest ocean;
Who am I that the Lord had cared to consider what would keep me from despair;
Who am I that the Lord should encourage when even my beloved has abandoned me to meaninglessness;
Just because I said, The Lord would be number 1 in my heart; even though I did not live up to it?

I remember my troubled days, how I could not sleep, and the only way I could get to sleep was to hug His Word to my chest, and called His name until I fell asleep. Who had heard me in the dark of the night? It was He, the Lord God Almighty. How could I turn my back from your love, now, Lord? Lord, you know I want to say, “Never”, but I fear once again I could not live up to it. By faith, I shall say, “Never.”

A couple of “these”
I could remember the times when it was difficult for me to function in the release of words of knowledge and prophecy, how if not, for the audacity the Lord put in me, I would have chickened out. I remember I was weak; a man from despair, and in abandonment, yet He showed His strength in me, even the strongest had to take note. The Lord has shown me honors when my closest has dishonored me.

1. Honors by the Lord (through men)
The Lord has not just honored me by his presence; he has given me honors by men. Not that I seek the honors from men, but it is good to know that I have helped and is appreciated.

More recently there were more feedback from people, that indeed the ministry I do in church has touched people, and they have received healing and ministry. I have more people stopping me outside the church, like in the supermarket, telling me that they had been ministered. A number asked if I could remember them, but I really could not remember, for I have prayed for too many, in church. And of course, it is an honor that people chose to come to me for prayer when there are pastors around. That some people repeatedly came back to me for their prayer needs did tell that the love of the Lord did flow across, through me. What a privilege to have been your minister, Lord! I thank the Lord, too, for the honors of church remembering me as a ministry partner in the Altar Ministry, and extended me the ministry year-end gift. I am even more surprised, that Lord, you would honor me with the Senior Pastor singling me out, to assist him in praying for a sick at the start 2011, before the entire congregation, when clearly there was no such need.

2. Tell him to pray for you
Even this could happen: From the Full Gospel Business(men) Fellowship, a member came saying that he had been told by the Lord to ask me to intercede for his non-moving stocks, and when I have done that some of the stocks moved. I thank you, Lord, for truly the member, he has believed, that, that was your voice, and you have intervened, and the proof of that was that he intentionally gave me a Christmas gift. Lord, you know I cannot minister for profit, but since it was an honoring act, not of money, I have accepted it.

3. He wanted it too
From the monthly marketplace fellowship (Tuas Reachout Fellowship), some were strongly moved by my singing in tongue that one of them who helped out in his own church healing services, sought me out, wanting the gift. I was glad to pray for impartation, and he received. It was an honor.

4. Will you be my mentor?
This too, was an honor. Lord, thank you for the Christmas gift from this mentee.

5. Multiple wheelchairs
More recently, in December 2010, it was close to Christmas, and I felt that morning in the church service, generally, that the Lord had wanted to minister a comforting touch to some needing that. I mentioned a specific category being cancer sufferers. I do not remember ministering to any with cancers, perhaps, the atmosphere then had brought out many who needed prayers, and I did not pick and choose; I just ministered to those needed prayers, but after I thought I had finished, a man pushed a wheelchair-bound man for me to pray. Before I even started praying for the man, another on wheelchair was pushed beside, for me to pray. These had chosen me to pray for them. I mentioned in an article of November 2009, I had a dream of seeing multiple wheelchair-bound people before me, and one of them stood up before me. But the needs of the 2 persons on wheelchairs were not specifically that they be healed to be able to stand up, and so, there was no standing up, but indeed multiple persons on wheelchairs came before me. Did it mean anything or was it a precursor to more of such, and one day, someone will stand from the wheelchair healed?

6. Almost the same, same cancer, same stage
Those reading the more recent articles on my blog know Liz Mah. On the 17th December 2010, she came down to Singapore with her 2 sons and husband from Malaysia for a short break. I had suggested that for that weekend, if she could make it, she could come to my church so that I could pray for her. I sent her an email with an attached map, but I did not hear from her. Liz did come to Singapore, but she did NOT come to the church that weekend, but I had a strange phenomenon that weekend, another woman, also with stage 4 lung cancer, with 2 sons, and a husband came to church and they were seated right behind my seat, and I ministered to the family. How strange?!

7. Leg grew in my hand and before my eyes!
This just happened over the weekend, Sunday, 9 January 2011. I was in church and it was at the end of the 8.30 am service. What happened was that I also commonly wait around for a couple of minutes after the service, just in case there are any people who still want to be prayed for, but have not come to the front during the usual ministry time after the praise and worship before the sermon.

This brother, older than me, came to me and told me that he still had difficulty walking properly, despite having operation on one of his knees. He explained that because of the operation, the operated leg had become longer. I told him that I could check it out for him, and so I had him seated down, back against the back of the seat (sit straight), and I then lifted both his legs, and I could tell one leg was longer than the other by about ½ inch. When I pointed to the longer leg, he said, that was the leg he had been operated on. I told him I was going to pray for him, and I launched into praying in tongue. The tongue prayer came out melodious but was forceful, and I could feel the shorter leg growing, for I had held up both his legs with both hands, one on each hand. As I watched, the shorter leg grew longer before my eyes to match the other leg. I was so thrilled, even though I have seen it happened before when some other minister elsewhere had done the same. This is a first for me, praying and seeing an observable miracle happening before my eyes (apart from seeing people slain). Hallelujah! The Lord had done it.

So, Lord, what are you saying in these, you have more installed for me? What must I do? Yes, I have, by faith, said as a resolve for the new year that I am abandoned to you. Remind me always, Lord, that I have said such a thing. More importantly too, Lord, help me to walk the talk.

Anthony Chia – All glory to God. Lord, thank you for the honors. May I always walk humbly before you as you have demanded in Micah 6:8.

PS: Please intercede for sister Liz Mah, even if it is for a season of time.  Thank you (Go to her blog, if you want to know more about her {Liz's Adventure}).

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

About God's Compassion (Ps 145:9 & Rom 9:15-16)

Recently, Sister Liz puts up an article on God’s compassion in which she genuinely queried about God’s compassion. Principally, she has 2 texts, Ps 145:8-9 and Rom 9:15-16. Ps 145:9 said that the LORD is good to all {men} He has made, He has compassion on all of them; whereas Rom 9:15-16 said that God will have mercy on whom He have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He has compassion. It does not depend on man’s desire or effort but on His mercy.

Sister Liz’s issue was that, whether God really has compassion on all men He made (Ps 145:9 said so) when God also said that He will have compassion on whom He has compassion on (which seems to suggest it can happen that He may not have compassion on some), and that compassion depended not on man’s desire or effort, but on His mercy (Rom 9:15-16). Sister Liz said, “So how?”

Sister Liz looked up John Gill’s expositions and other references, and in the end she concluded this:

“So now I understand that truly God is compassionate to all the chosen people of a God, the elect, who love Him and is loved by Him, redeemed and justified by Him and not generally to mean compassionate to all He has created.”

I would like to provide some understanding, and perspective on the issue.

John Gill’s exposition, I do not quite agree
Firstly, John Gill’s implying that verses 8-9 were specific to a select group of people, “the elect”, I do not think it was quite correct {There is claim that John Gill was hyper-Calvinistic, Perhaps, general predestination of personal salvation notion got in the way. My stance is that I do not believe in general predestination of personal salvation.}.

His narrowing of the compassion is not appropriate; rather compassion (and good) there, should be interpreted in its largest scope. And so, compassion (and good) there should include, and not exclude, general and providential goodness to all men. A lot of people cannot see that some of the verses in the Old Testament (OT) were referring to Jesus, but at the same time, it is not appropriate to “force” Jesus into clearly “non-Jesus” texts, although “types” are common. To say that “elect” or chosen people or believers or new creations (because of the “He made”, in the verses) were the only ones being addressed in those few verses of Ps 145, is “forcing” it, and is not appropriate.

Theology and doctrines are not formed out of experience, per se
There is a place for experience in a Christian’s walk, yet theology and doctrines are not formed out of experience, rather experience testifies to the truths of God, and much of those, are written in the Word of God (although there is much that we, men, may not have understood; we say we do not have revelation of what was written). For example, just because some enter into salvation, and some don’t, does not necessarily imply there is a general predestination of personal salvation by God.

When it is of His nature, it is of His nature
When the Bible says God is good. It means what is says, God is good. God is good even if today I am divorced by my spouse; God is good even if I am stricken with cancer; God is good even if I lost a leg; God is good even if I were Job of the Bible. While it is true that being a believer is important, in fact, it is no exaggeration to say it is everything, yet the goodness of God is of His nature, nothing to do with our status, yet the compassion of God is of His nature, nothing to do with whether or not, we are Christians or non-Christians. Even if we narrow the target people to the elect, the same observation still holds – some do not “get” that God’s compassion they sought for.

Theocentricism Vs Anthropocentricism
In biblical interpretations, we must adopt a theocentric view (God-centred view), and not an anthropocentric view (man-centred view). Many people cannot see what I said in the preceding paragraph, because I believe, they thought they have a better grasp {man-perspective} of goodness, compassion, and love, and so, they view God and God’s truths and ways, through their own human lenses, rather than gleaning from the whole counsel of the Word, of how God revealed of Himself. Concerning such as goodness, compassion, and love, man thinks he knows a lot {and thus he looks at scriptures through his own human lenses}, however, if you think about holiness, unquestionably, it comes out different; oh, oh, that is about God; it is how He is, in fact, we scarcely grasp holiness, and so, we more readily accepts it as the way He is; He is Holiness (of course, for some, because they grasp not, they completely ignore holiness as anything).

Compassion is in the Nature of God
God’s compassion was there for one even before he becomes a Christian. God’s goodness was there before a person becomes a believer. Much compassion was extended out to Man. In fact, Jesus’ dying on the Cross was and is compassion for all men (1 John 2:2). It is the high expression of God’s passion for Man. Even today, many people around the world, across all of time, and they were and are, not Christians, but God had and has extended goodness and compassion, in various ways and forms, to them. It is wrong for people to say, you are healed because you are a Christian, and he is not healed because he is not a Christian. It is wrong for people to say, I have long life because I am a Christian, you are going to die young because you are not a Christian. Yes, when the time of reckoning comes, there is a divide, but until then, the love of God, the compassion and the goodness of God, they do not flow out according to that divide, as in, nil for he who is on the wrong side of the fence.

Jesus’ ministry not resisted to elects
Just look at the miracles and the healings recorded for us in the Bible, Jesus did them without such patterning. Jesus had compassion for the 5,000 men, and He healed them and He fed all of them. How many of them actually believed Him before receiving His compassion? How many of them actually believed Him after receiving His compassion? Following from that miraculous feeding, with the discourse of Jesus at Capernaum, not many really believed Him, yet Jesus already healed many of them, and fed all of them. You can read of this in John 6.

Mission work in poor and needy nations/peoples reflected otherwise
Those who had been to such missions will report that God used them to heal and perform miracles on many who knew little or nothing about the gospel. God's compassion flowed out and touched and healed many without necessitating the persons to have had received Jesus into their lives. God’s compassion went out to those needing compassion, regardless of their status of being a believer or not. If you want to see God’s compassion flowing through you with signs and wonders and miracles, go to the poor and the needy, the sick, the rural, and the shunned peoples.

Apostle Paul did not get the compassion he sought
In 2 Cor 12:7-9, we read of the Apostle Paul’s affliction, thorn in the flesh. It does not matter, what interpretation you give to “thorn” in that text (in v7), still it was something that greatly affected Paul; it tormented Paul (v7). God was not removing the “thorn” despite 3 times Paul pleaded with God. Paul was obviously an elect, but still in this instance, God did not “heal” him {“heal”, if you believe he was diseased, “set him free”, if you believe the “thorn” was a person, or a bondage, etc}.

{Actually, I believe I just understood another thing, from this Paul’s affliction, through this examination of the question posed, perhaps, I will write about it in days to come.}

But the question is a legitimate one
Yes, the question is a legitimate one, and it shows, we want to understand, and that is what God wants, when we meditate on His word. The answer to the question is:

Yes, God really has compassion on all men {no point talking about animals} He has made; and He will have compassion on whom He has compassion on; and God’s compassion depends on God’s mercy and not on man’s desire or effort. Let me explain:

It is in His nature
It is in God’s nature, compassion, I mean. We did not in any way shape Him. He exists {no beginning, no end} and He was and is like that, full of compassion; we are His creation, who came afterwards. God has compassion, not only for this man, or that man, but for all men, and God does not, just have compassion today, or had it yesterday and no other day, He has compassion from day 1. So, when we look at God’s compassion, per se, it is really not difficult to appreciate God does have compassion for all of men.

But God is not just compassion
Just as we can picture God’s multi-personhood, we should know there are different elements to God’s nature. Jesus is friend; Jesus is also brother, king, Lord, and God. Similarly, God is compassion, but He is not just compassion, He is wisdom, He is righteousness, and He is holiness.

I am a playmate to my children, but I am not just their playmate; I am their teacher and their father as well. They will not always have me playing with them all the time; “who I am”, “prevent me” from playing with them all the time. When the need to instruct comes higher, I instruct them over playing with them. This is a simplistic illustration, but I hope you get the idea.

Apart from compassion, there are the dictates of His higher nature, prime of which are sovereignty, wisdom, and holiness and righteousness. On the personhood side, God is first of all, God, and the chief attributes represented that personhood are sovereignty and wisdom. The personhood and the nature-hood of God work together, to give “Who He is” (or the “I AM”).

Know the highest personhood and nature-hood
We must understand that, the “GOD-personhood” and the “HOLINESS nature-hood” of God rank highest; many do not know this, because many churches defer to men, preferring not to talk about things men do not like to hear. People like to hear the love of God, compassion of God, and faithfulness of God, often painted through the lenses of man, and these are preached countless times, until it slips people’s mind that God is first of all, God, and first of all, holiness. When we lose sight of these 2 aspects of God, our lenses become distorted, and we cannot interpret Scriptures the way it should be.

Compassion ranks high, yet “God-personhood” ranks highest (holiness co-ranks that)
Compassion ranks high; God is compassion, He wanted and wants to be compassionate towards all men, it is an important element of Him, and so looking at that, per se, it is true that God has compassion on all men.

He will have compassion on whom He has compassion on (NOT He MUST, on ALL), shows up when His “God-personhood” is needed at the forefront. The key attributes of that “God-personhood” are sovereignty and wisdom.

A simple illustration
I give you my simple illustration of a few years ago, when the Lord led me to minister to a young man (who had just become a Christian) who had problem handling compassion.

When the young man accepted Jesus, the Lord had made tender his heart, and he could “feel” compassion for people. He was “infected” by God, who is compassion. His issue was how much was he to follow through with the compassion, was he to keep giving of his money or time, etc? This young man had his constraints, and so, his first issue was how far must he go?

I told this young man that, suppose a beggar came to him, and asked him for some money, what would he have done? He said he would give something. And I said, alright, suppose with compassion, and after “looking over” the beggar, he gave $10.00 to the beggar; but the next day, the beggar told his friend that there was this young man at such and such a place, who was very kind to him and had given him $10.00. I said when this friend of the first beggar came to him (the young man), what would he do?

He said he would give the man, $10.00. Then I said, “What if he appears double pitiful, and has expected $20.00 from you?” Then, he said, “That is the point, I felt bad not having been able to meet such expectations. In this case, the man expected $20.00, and I could only give him $10.00!” To which I said, “Why don’t you give him $20.00?” The young man said, “But I have my own constraints; sometimes, I saw requests were genuine and I wanted to help, and help more, but I could not; sometimes, they were not genuine, at least, not so pressing, like they (some people) insisted that I helped them on a particular day, when I really was constrained to help.”

I explained to the young man that it was right to have compassion (and we should have compassion), for our God is full of compassion; help if he could, to give a little, if he could, of money or time or in other forms {we can do something, but we need not do everything asked for}.

Then I told him when it was out of compassion he gave, he gave of his own accord, people could not {should not} demand, he did not “owe” them. The money was his, and his time was his; it was up to him to decide how much to give. But the young man retorted, “But I feel bad.” I told him, “No, you should not feel bad. What if the next day, the 2 beggars bring 10 other beggars each to you, are you going give to all the 20 beggars? Worse still, what if each one of them, comes telling even more pitiful stories, and has expected you to give them more?”

The illustration tells 2 things
The story illustrated 2 important things: One, that compassion is not extended in vacuum; there are constraints, for the young man, and even for anyone of us. Two, even if there is no constraints on our part, still we decide, we own that which is given out.

But one may argue that God is without constraints. Is it really? God does not have the same constraints as the young man, but God is constrained by “Who He is”. For one thing, “Who He is” has wisdom, and holiness and righteousness rolled in, plus a few others.

The young man has to learn to decide, and I told him that he was to do it without “feeling bad”. If we take out the young man, and put in God, it is God decides, because He is God; He controls all and it is His to grant. The key attributes of that God-personhood are sovereignty and wisdom, and they would come forth together with other attributes in “Who He is” to “constrains” Him, if He will have compassion on A or B or none at all.

Considered graciousness
God’s compassion flows out according to His mercy, and not dependant on man’s desire or effort. What is mercy? Mercy is we not getting the ill-consequence that is coming to us. So, when we say God has mercy on a person, we are saying that God has decided to intervene according to His wisdom and understanding (not ours) and love, such that the ill-consequence is set aside. God’s mercy is not law, but it is still a considered graciousness on the part of God.

I believe God wants to be gracious to us as far as possible, for He loves us, because He made the choice of creating us, but yet because of His God-personhood, He still needs to consider, and that is why God’s compassion flows out according to His considered graciousness (mercy), not dependant on man’s desire or effort.

A simple example to illustrate, suppose, this morning, before leaving the house, you looked out of the window and you saw the sky was full of dark clouds, indicating that it might rain, but still you decided not to take an umbrella with you when you left home. The ill-consequence of that is that you are going to get wet, and (let’s say) catch a cold. Suppose God sends a handsome young man with an extra umbrella; in God’s mercy you avoided the rain, avoided the ill-consequence of getting wet and sick. If God did not intervene, you “had it coming”; God did not “owe” you, to have to send an umbrella to you.

Although, there are many situations quite outside of “you had it coming” {your fault!}, the point is that some ill-consequences are coming your way, and God is not responsible for them, and then He has to decide if He will intervene to set aside those consequences for you – a considered graciousness, when you receive His compassion.

Actually the question is generic
Actually, the whole thing, if we look at it honestly, it is no different from a generic scenario of asking the question of why God does not grant us, all our requests.

What we do not like, is ill-consequence {to us} which we want set aside. What we like is what the compassion of God brings. The Apostle Paul said in Scripture {Rom 9:22-23} that we are object of wrath {God’s wrath}, due to The Fall of Man, and we are object of mercy {God’s mercy}, for God still desires to aid us despite the coming on, of the ill-consequences of The Fall. And so, really, much of what is extended by God to us, is rightly, in many scriptures, described as mercy. In the great mercy of God, Adam and Eve were not struck dead by God instantly, when He had previously said they shall surely die, if they disobeyed (concerning The Fall). Every goodness of God extended to Man thereafter, in the largest picture, is mercy of God and grace of God.

For an everyday example, we could be wanting a good-paying manager job. What we are telling God is that, for such and such of our qualifications, because of such and such that we did not manage well in the past, if God, you do not have compassion {mercy} on us, we might have to work as a ……, have to do ….. and get a pay of only…. etc, etc. We are in effect, praying for God’s compassion that we do not end up with a “lousy job” – what we do not like, the ill-consequence of what we did not manage well in the past.

Of course, in life, there are consequences that were “purely” due to the fallen world nature running its course; nonetheless, because they are “ill”, we naturally want them set aside for us.

Not at all!
A common lament: How come so and so, were born in rich families, but not me?! What then shall I say? Is God unjust? The Apostle Paul answered for such questions, in verse 14 of Romans 9, and he said “Not at all!” I believe Paul was able to answer as such, because he has a greater comprehension of the wisdom of God. It is God’s wisdom that matters, not ours. It is God’s overall set-up for Man, and even the same for a particular man, that matters, not what Man or that man’s idea of how things should be lined up for him. We must grasp this AND accept.

Then is it according to His whim and fancy?
You may then say, “Brother Anthony, you mean it is all up to God, if He likes, He will grant (compassion or mercy, and blessing), if He does not, He will not.” Yes, if we take it that what He likes is governed by Who He is.

For example, we can be sure God does not like wickedness, for wickedness runs contrary to Who He is. And so, if you promote wickedness, He will not be on your side. If you want to cheat people of their hard-earned money, but you tell God to have compassion on you so that you will not be caught and be put to shame and to jail, do you think God will let His compassion flows out to you to ensure you will not be caught? No, “Who He is” “constrains” Him. {I am not saying 100% God will not have compassion on such a person, but you can be sure that while He might still accept the person, He does not and cannot approve the man's wicked ways. It is the same as saying that God came to justify {render righteous} the wicked (if you are not wicked at all, you have no need for God's justification) but at the same time, God does not justify the cause of the wicked.}

On the other hand, if you, after exhausting all your annual leave asked for time off, to go see a friend who was suddenly hospitalized, and you had meant to come back to the office within the time required to avoid the time-off being counted as taking a half-day unpaid leave, but you were held by your friend who wanted to know more about Jesus while lying on the hospital bed, very sick. You committed it to the Lord, and stayed longer and shared the gospel with your friend, and then you went back to the office, arriving later than the cut-off time. You prayed to God for the understanding of your supervisor. It can be that God will have compassion on you and you get off, without a half-day pay being deducted from you, for what you desired and went on to do, was in alignment with Who He is, and that can draw Him to intervene for you concerning your time-off.

Now, if the last time this happened to you, and you got half-day’s pay deducted from you, despite praying to God, it still did not mean that your desire and action had not caught the admiration of God, but it could be that God just felt that it was alright for you to sacrifice that half-day pay for the sake of the gospel. God might have just made a note somewhere in His diary!

Our part is to know Him
What I am saying is that our part is to get to know Him, Who He is, be aligned to that, and trust Him that when our desire is to please Him, and to glorify Him, He knows, and likes it; whatever it is, He will take care of us, according to His wisdom and understanding (not ours), and we have nothing to worry about. It is not cliché. Many, including me, have no idea how much it entails to get to this state. If you think there is no “getting there”, and you think you are “there already”, you are probably too skewed towards the overly grace teaching, and you better rethink.

God has compassion on all men, and God will have compassion on whom He has compassion. Both are valid.

It is not that God’s compassion is holding true only for the elect, but rather as a believer you have the Word and you have the Holy Spirit, you have been greatly endowed to get to where the considered graciousness (mercy) of God will find you, and carry you through life’s journey.

Anthony Chia - Lord, may you like me more, even as you love me. The world might have, have it wrong. Maybe, you love all men, but you will like some of us more than others, as it is first of all, your prerogative, and secondly, why would you not like any who is after your own heart. In other words, Lord, may I not only get to know you more, but also to please you, as David did. Amen.

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