Thursday, May 26, 2011

Secret of Obed Edom, faulty premise more likely

In recent times, books, articles, and sermons had been spun out of this so-called secret of Obed-Edom, or the pleasing ways of Obed-Edom. Many of them were erroneous, for their core premise of one Obed-Edom throughout, was faulty. In this long article, by addressing who Obed-Edom was, I will show indeed the core premise used was incorrect, and therefore, the conclusions drawn are NOT admissible as exhortations from the life of an individual called Obed-Edom.

Link to author's cross catalogue
The following are the few questions that we need to address, with given information in the Bible:

1. The Obed-Edom who housed the ark for 3 months, who was he?
2. The Obed-Edom that followed the 2nd attempt by King David to bring the ark to City of David, who was he?
3. Who was the Obed-Edom who was said to be a musician? And who was the Obed-Edom who was said to be a gatekeeper?
4. And lastly, who was the Obed-Edom who was said to have been the treasurer?

The Obed-Edom who housed the ark for 3 months, who was he?
10 He {David} was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. (2 Sam 6:10-11).

The above was recorded of what David did after his first (failed) attempt to bring the ark of the LORD to the City of David (old Jerusalem), from the house of Abinadab. The ark was “parked” in the house of Obed-Edom, the Gittite, for 3 months. Who was this Obed-Edom? First, we need to know who was a Gittite? Scripture tells us that he was a native of Gath, one of the 5 main cities of the Philistines:

From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites: (Jos 13:3, KJV)
from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite (the territory of the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron—that of the Avvites);(Jos 13:3, NIV)

This verse below confirms that indeed, Gittites were natives of Gath:

All his {David’s} men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king. (2 Sam 15:18 – Here David was fleeing from Jerusalem because his son, Absalom, has revolted against him)

Now, from the above, we are clear that Gittites were natives of Gath; whether or NOT, Gittites also referred to residents of Gath-Rimmon, the Bible does NOT say. Gath-Rimmon (became of Dan, was believed, situate in the northen part of Dan, near{er} to the Yarkon River) and Gath (of Philistines, nearer to the Valley of Elah) were believed NOT the same.  Scripture said this of Gath-Rimmon, in Joshua 21 - it was one of the many towns given to the Levites in the Promised Land:

23 Also from the tribe of Dan they received Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 24 Aijalon and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—four towns. 25 From half the tribe of Manasseh they received Taanach and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—two towns. 26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans. (Joshua 21:23-26).

Now, there are people who linked “Gittite” to Gath-Rimmon, but they gave NOT their reasons. Of course, it does NOT make sense if David is said to have passed through Gath (in the territory of the Philistines) in trying to bring the ark to Jerusalem, for the house of Abinadab was already inside Israel’s territory (Kiriath Jearim {see 1 Chron. 13:6}); but that does NOT mean that the ark was necessarily parked at Gath-Rimmon even though Gath-Rimmon was inside Israel (and Gath was outside); 2 Sam 6:10-11 only said the ark was put aside in the house of a Gittite; not necessarily the place was Gath (regardless, Gath or Gath-Rimmon). Well, even the threshing floor of Nacon where Uzzah was killed for his “unauthorized touch” of the ark has NOT been identified (Nacon, likely to the name of a person, owner of the threshing floor, perhaps). 2 Sam 6:10-11 only said that the ark was taken aside to the house of a Gittite, most likely, a place in Israel, but NOT necessarily in Gath-Rimmon (You can look up old maps on the internet on the likely locations of Gath and Gath-Rimmon yourself.  I will NOT put any here, for copyright reason).

The most plausible conclusion to draw is that the ark was parked in Israel’s territory, at a house on the way from the house of Abinadab to the City of David; and that house belonged to a Gittite. It is completely possible that a native of Gath, therefore, called a Gittite, was staying in the land of Israel, for among the most faithful followers and warriors of King David were the Gittites, and 600 of them were still with David even when David was fleeing Jerusalem when his son, Absalom, revolted against him (2 Sam 15:18 – given above). The Gittites were loyalists; when David was a fugitive from King Saul, they followed David; and when David was again on the run, from his son, Absalom, they still remained loyal. I think it is NOT wrong to say they, despite being Gentiles (non-Israelites), were special vessels of God.

One possible reason for bringing in Gath-Rimmon, by people, I speculate could be because, they wanted to believe the ark of the LORD must be housed with a Levite or Levitical family, and Gath-Rimmon was given to the Kohathites-Levites, as was recorded in Joshua 21:23-26; but did it happen so? I reckoned nearly no one had wanted to take the ark of the LORD then! Even King David was afraid to continue to bring the ark to his City of David. Just imagine, even the son of Abinadab, Uzzah, died for the “unauthorized touch” of the ark. The ark was in the house of Abinadab for 20 years, yet Uzzah was struck dead when he was acting in good faith to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled. Indeed, many would be afraid to take the ark home. It was probably, a loyal Gittite coming to aid of the King, agreed to take the ark back to his house in that place. That Gittite was Obed-Edom.

Obed-Edom was indeed loyal and bold, for Gittites, taking the stance that Gittites were natives of Gath (and NOT Gath-Rimmon), would most likely, of all peoples with David, to remember that 20 years before that, when the ark was captured by the Philistines and circulated in the cities of the Philistines, God inflicted plagues against all the cities of the Philistines, including Gath (God brought tumors there!). But God honored the Gittite, Obed-Edom. God blessed him and his entire household (2 Sam 6:11), for the 3 months the ark was in his house. Frankly speaking, there was no evidence to expect the Gittite was a Levite, for in the first attempt (ark was put aside in this first attempt), David was NOT tasking the Levites to bring back the ark to the City of David; we only know that David went with 30,000 able young men of Israel (2 Sam 6:1). To me, squarely, the ark of the LORD did get housed in a Gentile’s house, and NOT a Levite’s house, and the LORD blessed that Gentile and his entire household.

Who was the Obed-Edom who housed the ark for 3 months? He was Obed-Edom, the Gittite, native of Gath, one of the 5 main cities of the Philistines.

The Obed-Edom that followed the 2nd attempt by King David to bring the ark to City of David, who was he?
1 Chronicles 15 recorded for us, how King David went about to bring the ark of the LORD to the City of David (old Jerusalem) from the house of Obed-Edom; in other words, it was a recording of the 2nd attempt of David to bring the ark to (old) Jerusalem, NOT of the 1st attempt. In Chr 15:4 we read David called together the descendants of Aaron and the Levites, and a whole list of names was given. Realising his mistake, David wanted the priests and Levites to do everything as prescribed by Moses in regard to moving the ark. Among other things, we also read in 1 Chr 15:16-24, this:

16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals. 17 So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah,[b] Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel,[c] the gatekeepers. 19 The musicians Heman, Asaph and Ethan were to sound the bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Jaaziel,[d] Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah were to play the lyres according to alamoth,[e] 21 and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps, directing according to sheminith.[f] 22 Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it. 23 Berekiah and Elkanah were to be doorkeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer the priests were to blow trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-Edom and Jehiah were also to be doorkeepers for the ark (1 Chr 15:16-24).

David had wanted to have music and singing to accompany the procession, and the Levites appointed from among themselves (i.e. Levites) people to take various roles. Verse 17 said that Heman (a Kohathite-Levite {1 Chr 6:33-38}) was appointed, and from his relatives, Asaph (a Gershonite-Levite {1 Chr 6:39-42}) was appointed, and from their relatives, the Merarites (Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites were sub-tribes within the Levi tribe – see 1 Chr 23:6 given below), headed by Ethan (Merarite-Levite {1 Chr 6:44-46}). Included among the 2nd tier Levites (“next in rank”) was one Obed-Edom who was a gatekeeper (v18). So, from here, we can see that the Obed-Edom here was a gatekeeper. He was a Levite, NOT a Gittite, NOT a warrior or bodyguard of David.

3 sets of instruments, cymbals, lyres and harps, were decided to be played. For the cymbals, the musician heads, Heman, Asaph and Ethan would be doing that. Verse 20 listed those who would play the lyres; for the harps, Obed-Edom, the Levite, was involved in there (v21). Another Levite head, Kenaniah, was in charge of singing (v22). Two senior Levites were assigned as doorkeepers for the ark (v23); and they were Berekiah, the father of Asaph (1 Chr 6:39), Elkanah, the grandfather of Heman (1 Chr 6:34), with the same Obed-Edom and one Jehiah as back-up {or maybe, rear-end} doorkeepers (v24). Clearly, Obed-Edom, the Gittite was NOT involved. The Obed-Edom involved in the procession was Obed-Edom, the 2nd tier Levite whose formal and usual job, was a gatekeeper.

From 1 Chr 16:1 we know that David was successful in bringing the ark to the City of David, on this 2nd attempt:

They brought the ark of God and set it inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and they presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God (1 Chr 16:1).

We must understand that at this time, the Temple of Solomon had NOT yet been built; David had prepared a tent to house the ark of the LORD.

So, now, who was the Obed-Edom who was involved in the 2nd attempt by David to bring the ark to the City of David (old Jerusalem)? It was Obed-Edom, a 2nd tier (2nd rank)-Levite who was a gatekeeper, NOT Obed-Edom, the Gittite. Obed-Edom, the Levite, his role in the procession was to play the harp along with other Levites assigned, and secondarily, he served as back-up (or perhaps, rear-end) doorkeeper for the ark.

Who was the Obed-Edom who was said to be a musician? And who was the Obed-Edom who was said to be a gatekeeper?
From the above, the Obed-Edom who had a musical role in the procession was Obed-Edom, the 2nd tier Levite who was a gatekeeper. It had nothing to do with Obed-Edom, the Gittite; although I am NOT saying that it was NOT possible Obed-Edom, the Gittite, followed the ark to the City of David, but Scripture did NOT say he did that.

What about at the City of David? There was a celebration, and this is what was recorded for us:

4 He {David} appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to extol,[a] thank, and praise the LORD, the God of Israel: 5 Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel,[b] Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. (1 Chr 16:4-6)

From 1 Chr 15, we continued into 1 Chr 16; the Obed-Edom in verse 5 (of 1 Chr 16) was the same Obed-Edom who played the harp in bringing the ark to the City. There is no reason to believe that a different Obed-Edom was involved. The difference in rank or tier was still reflected there, Asaph being higher in rank. He (Obed-Edom) just continued to minister before the ark in the same capacity as a harp musician, which was his temporary assignment, for his formal and usual function was a Levite gatekeeper.

It should be understood that the ark of God was moved to the City of David, and placed in a tent specifically made by the order of David for the LORD, but the original Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) was NOT brought into the City with the ark.

It should be noted with the arrival of the ark in the City of David, David instituted a set of religious duties for the priests and general Levites to be undertaken before the LORD, and this had been omitted in the Book of Samuel, and so, it was more elaborately narrated in 1 Chronicles. I will NOT go into too much details, but it suffices to mention, firstly, the original Tabernacle was still in Gibeon, and secondly, there was then a scenario of 2 tents, one in the City of David with the ark of the LORD in it, and the other, with all the other implements of the tabernacle (including the altar of burnt offering) but without the ark, still in Gibeon. The original Tabernacle (Tabernacle of Moses) with all the other implements could NOT be ignored, and must continue to be maintained. Because of David’s instructions to include music and singing, the Tabernacle at the City of David was also called the Tabernacle of Praise. The Tabernacle of Moses essentially became the Tabernacle of Sacrifice (sacrifices were made on the altar of burnt offering still within the Tabernacle of Moses).

David instituted and wanted Asaph and his associates to minister to the LORD daily at the City of David, according to each day’s requirements. Asaph and his associates were musicians, and so, it is believed they ministered songs, praise, worship, and joyful sound before the LORD daily. Other Levites were left there to minister to the LORD, including the gatekeepers. Now, Obed-Edom was again reflected in David’s instructions:

37 David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements. 38 He also left Obed-Edom and his sixty-eight associates to minister with them. Obed-Edom son of Jeduthun, and also Hosah, were gatekeepers. (1 Chr 16:37-38).

39 David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the LORD at the high place in Gibeon 40 to present burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of burnt offering regularly, morning and evening, in accordance with everything written in the Law of the LORD, which he had given Israel. 41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD, “for his love endures forever.” 42 Heman and Jeduthun were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song. The sons of Jeduthun were stationed at the gate. (1 Chr 16:39-42).

David appointed Asaph as chief musician to minister before the Tabernacle of Praise in the City of David (v37). The other key head musician, Heman, was sent up to Gibeon to minister before the Tabernacle of Moses where burnt offerings were still being done regularly. In verse 38, we read the Obed-Edom, the Levite, was the son of the Levite, Jeduthun. And he, Obed-Edom, together with his 68 associates ministered with Asaph (and his associates) before the Tabernacle of Praise. And Obed-Edom continued to function in his original role as a gatekeeper.

For one thing, since it was all a continuation, and there was nothing to cause to us to think otherwise, the Obed-Edom referred to, here, should be the same Obed-Edom as in 1 Chr 15, who took part in the procession of the ark into the City of David. Also, one unchallenged view has it that Jeduthun and Ethan of 1 Chr 15:17 {given above} were the same person. That being the case, since Ethan was a Merarite-Levite {1 Chr 6:44-46}, the Obed-Edom here was a Merarite-Levite.

Meanwhile, Zadok, the priest was assigned to Gibeon, for the priest must be there to carry out the burnt offerings on the altar of burnt offerings. Heman and Jeduthun (the father of Obed-Edom) ministered music there, and other sons of Jeduthun functioned as gatekeepers at the Tabernacle of Moses in Gibeon (Some of the sons of Jeduthun also functioned as musicians. Jeduthun family was believed to be great string instrumentalists, especially the harp {1 Chr 25:3 recorded it for us; now, Obed-Edom was NOT listed there; I believed it was because Obed-Edom was assigned to Asaph in the City of David to assist in music, even though formally he was a gatekeeper, while Jeduthun and some of his sons were assigned to Gibeon – The father, Jeduthun went to assist Heman, and his son, Obed-Edom assisted Asaph}).

From notations against the psalms in Scriptures (and also from 1 Chr 25:6 – these 3, Heman, Asaph and Jeduthun, were under the King’s supervision, and they in turn supervised those below them), we know the 3 head musicians of David were Heman, Asaph and Jeduthun, and therefore, I submit to you that, because of the 2 separate locations, due to the 2 Tabernacles, Obed-Edom, son of Jeduthun was put to assist Asaph, even as he (Obed-Edom) continued to serve as a gatekeeper {1 Chr 16:38}, making each location with 2 main musicians {Obed-Edom assisting Asaph, and Jeduthun, Heman}).

The above covered the time period where the Temple of Solomon had NOT yet being built; subsequent to this, in 1 Chr 23, we read that David had become old and he made his son, Solomon, King in his place, and because of his heart for the LORD and the lesson he learnt from his experience of NOT following the prescribed ways of ministering to the LORD, he once again specifically laid down the roles and duties of the Levites (including priests) concerning ministering to the LORD in anticipation of the Temple which Solomon would build, so that his descendants and the people would be careful to observe the requirements of the LORD.

He gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. The Levites of 30 years old or more were counted, and they numbered 38,000. This was how David divided the roles of the Levites: 24,000 were to supervise the work of the temple, 6,000 were to be officials and judges, 4,000 were to be gatekeepers, and the balance 4,000 were to praise the LORD, i.e. be designated as temple singers of the LORD, to sing and praise God with songs and musical instruments David had provided for that purpose.

In 1 Chr 23:6, we read this:

David divided the Levites into groups corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

Levi, one of the 12 sons of Israel (aka Jacob) had 3 sons, Gershon, Kohath and Merari. From these 3 came the tribes of Levi.

Gershon’s descendants were listed there - 1 Ch 23:7-11. Moses and Aaron (also Miriam) were siblings, and their father was Amram, son of Kohath, son of Levi, meaning Moses and Aaron were Levites. Because the LORD had, right from the beginning, had Moses led the Israelites, out of Egypt, and Aaron, being made the high-priest, it was the Kohathites who had the exclusivity of being priests for the LORD, amongst the Levites. This meant that all priests were Levites, but NOT all Levites were priests. God designated that priestly functions were to be done by the priests, and the general Levites were subject to the High-priest. The general Levites were supposed to, under the direction of the High-priest (and his priests), to take care of the non-priestly functions. The priestly functions included: consecrating the most holy things, offering of sacrifices before the LORD, ministering before God, and pronouncing blessings in His name. The descendants of Moses were also listed there -1 Chr 23:15-20. The early {just the early} descendants of Merarites were listed there - 1 Chr 23:21-23.

1 Chr 24 further gave us the ancestries of the Levites from the functional (priest and non-priest) perspective. 1 Chr 25 gave us the singers and musicians. 1 Chr 26 gave us the gatekeepers, and in there we read of Obed-Edom!

Obed-Edom appeared in verse 4 (of 1 Chr 26), and because verse 1 has the word, “Korahites (clan of Kohathites), some interpreted Obed-Edom was a Kohathites or Korahites. Actually, there is ambiguity in the couple of verses there; for one, Asaph was listed there, verse 1, worded as if he was under Korahites when we know from 1 Chr 6:39-42, Asaph was a Gershonite-Levite. Although it was possible that some sons of Asaph, and therefore, clans from Asaph could be gatekeepers (as was the case for Jeduthun), Asaph (who co-ranked with Heman {and Jeduthun}) was NOT a Korahites (or Kohathites). It was ambiguous there; whether or not, one can conclude, the Obed-Edom there, in verse 4 (of 1 Chr 26) was also a Korahites, and therefore, conflicts with 1 Chr 16:38 which clearly said Obed-Edom was the son of Jeduthun (aka Ethan), and therefore, a Merarite-Levite, is subjective. I believe, in such a scenario, the correct approach to take, is to adopt the unambiguous verse, and that would be 1 Chr 16:38, i.e. the Obed-Edom who was a gatekeeper was a Merarite and NOT a Kohathite or Korahite Levite. Furthermore, the way 1 Chr 26:1-5 were worded, it appeared to want to refer to the “next in rank” gatekeepers, and their sons, and so, Jeduthun (or Ethan) was NOT reflected there; and also, Jeduthun (or Ethan) was NOT to be classified under “gatekeepers”, for he was a chief musician, and had been reflected in 1 Chr 25. In any case, it was clear that, the Obed-Edom who was a gatekeeper was a Levite, and could not have been a Gentile, Gittite.

Obed-Edom, the Merarite (I have preferred accepting 1 Chr 16:38), had 8 sons (1 Chr 26:4-5), and when lots were casted (then; lots would be casted for each new term), the lot for the South Gate fell to Obed-Edom, and the lot for the storehouse fell to his sons. (1 Chr 26:15). The section on gatekeepers concluded with verse 19 saying this: These were the divisions of the gatekeepers who were descendants of Korah and Merari (I believe Korahite (Kohathite) equivalent in rank with Obed-Edom (of Merarite) was Meshelemiah given in verse 1 (of 1 Chr 26). Just as Obed-Edom’s sons were listed (vv4-5), Meshelemiah’s sons were listed in verses 2-3).

Before we move on to who was the Obed-Edom who was said to be a treasurer, let me conclude on who the Obed-Edom who was said to be a musician, and who was the Obed-Edom who was a gatekeeper. Why did I go at great length about the genealogy and functions of the Levites? It is my hope that you get a clearer picture that it was highly unlikely if NOT impossible for the Gittite Obed-Edom to be functioning as a musician or a gatekeeper or doorkeeper before the ark or Tabernacle or in the Temple of God. I have omitted to refer to the Torah (or the 1st 5 Books of Moses), but if you go there, you will know that God left very strict instructions as to who could minister before Him, before the ark and in the Tabernacle, and therefore, also Temple of God. There was no doubt that David knew his God, the LORD, but he was initially NOT careful to pay attention to this aspect of the requirements of the LORD, and he learnt it the hard way (by the way, king Saul also learnt it the hard way), in his failed attempt (1st attempt) to bring the ark of the LORD from the house of Abinadab to the City of David. David learnt fast and he learnt well, and he wanted to make sure his successor, his son, King Solomon, to know well, and therefore, he laid down clearly, who and who were to minister in what capacities to the LORD. A Gittite Obed-Edom could NEVER be a Merarite-Levite; for who were the Levites was all predetermined, as 1 Chr 23:6 (given above) showed. Today, any believer can be a priest or a pastor, and can minister before the Lord, but that is because of the works of Jesus on the Cross, but back then, it was NOT so. The Obed-Edom who was a gatekeeper was the Merarite-Levite, son of Jeduthun; and he, Obed-Edom doubled-up to minister with head musician, Asaph, at City of David, because his father, Jeduthun was assigned to assist Heman in Gibeon.

And lastly, who was the Obed-Edom who was said to have been the treasurer?
Below is the section from 1 Chr 26 on the treasurers:

20 Their fellow Levites were[b] in charge of the treasuries of the house of God and the treasuries for the dedicated things. 21 The descendants of Ladan, who were Gershonites through Ladan and who were heads of families belonging to Ladan the Gershonite, were Jehieli, 22 the sons of Jehieli, Zetham and his brother Joel. They were in charge of the treasuries of the temple of the LORD.

23 From the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites and the Uzzielites: 24 Shubael, a descendant of Gershom son of Moses, was the officer in charge of the treasuries. 25 His relatives through Eliezer: Rehabiah his son, Jeshaiah his son, Joram his son, Zicri his son and Shelomith his son. 26 Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David, by the heads of families who were the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and by the other army commanders. 27 Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the LORD. 28 And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish, Abner son of Ner and Joab son of Zeruiah, and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives. (1 Chr 26:20-28)

Another key function of the Levites was to act as treasurers for the temple of the LORD, for there were the general treasuries, and the treasuries of dedicated things. There were offerings dropped off, by the people who came to the Temple, there were the dedicated things of the Temple, and the latter included those dedicated by the kings, as well as plunders of war dedicated for the Temple or to the LORD.

From the above scripture passage, we know only 2 of the 3 sub-tribes of the Levites were involved as treasurers. From verses 21-22, we know the Gershonites were involved. From verse 23, we know the Kohathites were involved; Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Ussielites were all clans within Kohathites; Amramites, for example, were descendants of Amram, descendant of Kohath. (Some of the Kohathites were also assigned out of the temple to be officials and judges over Israel).

From the above, we know that Merarite-Levites were NOT involved as treasurers, and so, solely based on the above, there could NOT be a Merarite-Levite Obed-Edom who was a treasurer. Then, from where did that erroneous notion come? It came from a misunderstanding of what the role of the gatekeepers given charge of the storehouse of the Temple, and a misreading of 2 Chr 25:23-24 where the name Obed-Edom appeared.

In 1 Chr 26:14-16 we read this, regarding the Temple gates and the storehouse of the Temple:

14 The lot for the East Gate fell to Shelemiah.[a] Then lots were cast for his son Zechariah, a wise counselor, and the lot for the North Gate fell to him. 15 The lot for the South Gate fell to Obed-Edom, and the lot for the storehouse fell to his sons. 16 The lots for the West Gate and the Shalleketh Gate on the upper road fell to Shuppim and Hosah. (1 Chr 26:14-16)

From the above, we know that in those days, among the gatekeepers (Levites), they drew lots to assign duties for each term. And we know, as previously noted, Obed-Edom, the Merarite-Levite was assigned the South Gate. From verse 15 above, we also know that the storehouse lot fell to Obed-Edom’s sons. Now, the whole section in this 1 Chr 26 was concerning the gatekeepers, in other words, the storehouse and the 4 gates came under the gatekeepers. Among the many duties, and you can read about them in 1 Chr 9:26-29 (although there, the scenario painted could be that of the Tabernacle {v24} rather than a temple, but it was still equally applicable), was that gatekeepers guarded over the gates, and if the storehouse was included, the guarding of the same. In other words, their main duties were that of a guard. Now, as a guard for the storehouse was different from being the treasurer of the treasury of the Temple. It is NOT even important to discuss what was found in the storehouse, but verse 28 of 1 Chr 9 painted to us, articles used in the Temple (made of gold and silver) moved in and out of the storehouse, and it was the duty of the gatekeepers or guards to check if correct number were taken out and returned. Gatekeepers in charge of the storehouse were guards on duty to ensure the storehouse was NOT broken into, burgled, and items pilfered, they were NO treasurers. The Merarites-Levites gatekeepers, like Obed-Edom or his sons, were NOT Temple treasurers.

Now, we turn to 2 Chr 25:23-24:

23 Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah,[e] at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash brought him {king Amaziah} to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate—a section about six hundred feet[f] long. 24 He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of God that had been in the care of Obed-Edom, together with the palace treasures and the hostages, and returned to Samaria. (2 Chr 25:23-24)

Now, the above incident happened, at least 180 years after the reign of King David (if you traced the genealogy of the kings of Judah, Amaziah came into power after more than ½ a dozen kings). So, firstly, the Obed-Edom here could NOT be the Gittite Obed-Edom. Secondly, the Merarite-Levite Obed-Edom, of David’s time, around the same time as the Gittite Obed-Edom, too, could NOT have lived until the time of King Amaziah!

One possibility is that the Obed-Edom here was referring to the clan name, started from The Merarite-Levite Obed-Edom. This means that the actual person(s) involved were the descendant(s) of the Merarite-Levite gatekeeper, Obed-Edom, NOT himself; and they were NO treasurers of the treasury of the Temple; they were merely gatekeepers, who, in that time, also had been assigned to guard the storehouse. If at all it was referring to a specific individual, then it had to be a recycling of ancestral name, which was NOT impossible, but it obviously was NOT the same Obed-Edom of David’s time (from the bringing of the ark into the City of David).

The king of Israel (Northern Kingdom, Israel, for the United Monarchy of Israel was already split, into Israel and Judah {in the south}) came attacking and broke a section of the wall of Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and looted the storehouse which was then under the guarding of the Obed-Edom clan, and the Israelites from the North (Samaria), also looted the palace treasury and took hostages.

The above was what it was all about; and there was NO Gittite Obed-Edom as treasurer, in charge of the Temple treasury, nor was there the Merarite-Levite Obed-Edom, son of Jeduthun, personally present (or still alive), but merely that the descendants of the Merarite-Levite Obed-Edom were on duty at that time as gatekeepers of one of the gates and the storehouse.

I repeat, books, articles, and sermons had been spun out of this so-called secret of Obed-Edom, or the pleasing ways of Obed-Edom; they were erroneous, for their core premise of one Obed-Edom throughout, was faulty. While I know 2 Tim 3:16 said that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”, still facts and reasonableness CANNOT be ignored. Filling-in of gaps is one thing, but no matter how we fill in the gap, we cannot contradict existing facts given in Scripture.

These are clear:
1. In the first attempt by David to bring the ark of the LORD from the house of Abinadab to the City of David, when Uzziah was struck by the LORD and killed, the ark was “parked” with the Gittite Obed-Edom. There was NOTHING to suggest the Gittite Obed-Edom was also the subsequent Merarite-Levite. A Levite was a Levite, he could NOT be a Gittite, and a Gittite could NOT be a Levite (Even if the Gath referred to, in 2 Sam 6:10-11 was equated to Gath-Rimmon, a Kohathite-Levite and a Merarite-Levite were NOT the same). By the way, Levites, they did NOT fight in battles, unlike the Gittites who were warriors for David.

2. The Obed-Edom who functioned as a musician, playing the harp, and served as a back-up (or rear-end) doorkeeper in David’s 2nd attempt to bring the ark to the City of David, was NOT the Gittite Obed-Edom. The latter, whether or NOT he followed the ark of the LORD down to the City of David, we know NOT, for scriptures did NOT say.

3. The Obed-Edom who functioned as a musician, played the harp, and served as a doorkeeper in David’s 2nd attempt to bring the ark of LORD to the City of David was the Merarite-Levite, Obed-Edom, son of Jeduthun.

4. The duties of Levites were all established during the time of Moses, right from the time God took the Levi Tribe as His own to minister to Him. They did NOT fight directly in battles, and they did NOT inherit territories but were given cities and places to live, and were (supposed to be) looked after, by the other tribes of Israel, as was instructed by God. Functions such as priests and gatekeepers were long established, the various sub-tribes and clans of the Levites knew what they were supposed to do. A clan assigned to be gatekeepers, generally stayed as gatekeepers for generations. Only certain Levites could be priests, the rest could NOT; all these duties and functions of the Levites were carefully observed, although there were periods of lapses (in Judges Period for example) but still occasions revealed in Scriptures were none of the kind that Gentiles taking over the roles of Levites as a normality. A Gentile could NOT be deemed a Levite and functioned like a Levite (At least NOT under the hand of David, after his realization of the importance of the roles of Levites, after his 1st attempt to move the ark). Examples are present in Scripture of the fury of God’s wrath when there was disobedience; the Uzziah incident was one; the 2 sons of Aaron died when they offered “unauthorized” fire before the LORD was another; and King Saul losing his kingdom when he took upon himself the role which the priest and prophet, Samuel, could function in, was also another. You should be convinced by the lengthy and detailed instructions of David concerning all of these, after he realised the seriousness of properly ministering before the LORD.

5. The Levite Obed-Edom was merely doing his duties, almost NOTHING more than that. He was a Merarite-Levite, and his job for life was a gatekeeper, and his sons were to be, also; except, because of David’s remodeling of the worship ministering before the LORD, he doubled up as a musician. As evidenced by scriptures which we have seen above, even after more than ½ a dozen kings later on, his descendants or clan were still gatekeepers.

6. There was nothing of the sorts that the Levite Obed-Edom did an extraordinary good job of having his sons also serving the LORD. No, if you were a Levite-gatekeeper, your sons would be one; they just would NOT be going round trying to do another thing, unless the King or the priest said so. If they did, most likely they were doing them against the wishes of the LORD or because the other tribes of Israel failed to provide for the Levite tribe (as they were required to, by the LORD) as recorded for us, in occasions, in the Judges Period.

7. Obed-Edom was NOT promoted from a gatekeeper to be a treasurer. If there was any scope expansion, it was only that David had let him doubled up as musician to support Asaph in the City of David, before the Tabernacle of Praise, which housed the ark, because his (Obed-Edom’s) father, Jeduthun, had to be at Gibeon to support Heman who was ministering before the Tabernacle of Moses (of Sacrifice).

Only if you are preaching Obed-Edom NOT in contradiction to the above points, you perhaps have a “legitimate message”. Similarly, for listeners or readers, watch what you hear or read; whatever the message, it must NOT contradict the above points. If you have NOT heard about Obed-Edom being portrayed as models in the likes of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Esther, etc, until more recently, it was because Scripture did NOT make him out to be one. Separating him from the Gittite Obed-Edom, the Levite Obed-Edom was NOT given any comments by God of how he had functioned; we were merely told of what he functioned in, as a Levite, hardly enough to build any case of him having any pleasing ways or secrets!

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Anthony Chia, high.expressions
Lord, as far as I could search out, your Word did NOT contain the facts that could justify the use of the character, Obed-Edom, particularly, to say the way to receive prosperity blessings from you is to follow the ways of Obed-Edom, the Levite. But I did learn you used the Gentiles, Gittites, for your cause of protecting your servant, David, and the Gittites showed great dedication and loyalty to their leader, David; and you were pleased to bless when we revere you despite our fear.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

It is a tug of war

There is indeed a tug of war, but it is NOT as Paul McCartney put it (in his 1982 album of the same name); it is NOT a tug of war to try to outdo or outscore one another.

It is a tug of war alright, but is NOT about Paul before salvation
No, Romans 7:14-24 was NOT a painting of a life of the Apostle Paul before salvation. It was an illustration by Paul, using his own experience of life as a believer, of what it was like to live a Christian life. It was his attempt to stress that we MUST WILL to follow the ways of God despite having entered into salvation. It was NOT and it is NOT “Abra-cadabra, and you now (upon born-again) automatically follow all the ways of God”. Nor is it “voila or presto and your will is perfectly aligned to that of God - no more struggle!”

Romans 7:14-25, 8:1-15
Romans 7:14-25 - 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 8:1-15 - 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

The above passage is indeed a long passage; but really, to do meaningful study of the Word, often it is necessary to look at big chunk of scriptures at a go, for Bible authors, such as Paul, wrote with great flow, often with singular theme running over many verses and chapters.

3 grounds it was NOT a flashback
A number of people have argued that Romans 7:14-24 was a flashback by the Apostle Paul of the time he was NOT a believer yet; and so, such people are arguing that Paul was talking about the struggles in him before he became a believer. In isolation, perhaps, one could say that, but if one reads the verses following, which was a continuation of the same theme, in Romans 8:12, we find the answer that Paul was NOT doing a flashback.

In fact, the present tense used for Romans 7:14-25 already painted to us a picture that Paul was NOT doing a flashback, for NORMALLY, if it were a narration of the past, past tense would have been used by the author.

Let’s us look at what Romans 8:12 said.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it (Rom 8:12).

Remember now, this epistle of Paul was written to the believers in Rome, and in Romans 8:12, we read that Paul used the word, “brothers”, meaning he was referring to the Roman believers. Paul said, “we”, meaning, the Romans believers and himself (Paul), in other words, believers generally, have an OBLIGATION {or be a debtor to, KJV}. Now, if Romans 7:14-25 was a flashback, about Paul’s life and struggles before becoming a believer, then accordingly, Romans 8:1-11 must be referring to the change upon and after salvation or born-again. Indeed, Romans 8:1-11 was talking about what happens upon salvation or born-again, and post born-again. But was Romans 7:24 the question Paul posed before his salvation, and Romans 8:1-11, the answer to that question, we have to determine.

In brief, there are 3 grounds for NOT believing that Paul was doing a flashback:
1. Present tense used
2. How Paul was before conversion, and how he was being converted
3. If sinful nature is NOT relevant or dead, why talk about obligation to it

The first is clear-cut, and has been explained above; we will look at the remaining two grounds.

Have you forgotten how Paul was and how he was being converted?
Now, how was Paul converted? People who argued Romans 7:14-24 was a flashback erred on NOT taking into account how Paul, previously known as Saul, was converted and the kind of life he was having before conversion. Paul did NOT hear the Gospel, felt somewhat convicted, but continued to do the evil of persecuting the believers, and then one day, on hearing a good preaching, accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Saul’s conversion was NOT the run-of-the-mill conversion.

Below was how Paul had narrated his past, before believing and how he became converted:

Acts 22:3-10 - 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. 10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

Even when Paul was testifying before King Agrippa, he gave a similar account; here is a part of it (Acts 26:15-18):
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
This was what Paul told King Agrippa concerning what he, Paul, had been doing most zealously before his supernatural encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus:
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. (Acts 26:9-11).

I submit to you, Paul, before conversion, did NOT struggle the struggles painted in Romans 7:14-24. He was deceived and in deception, he thought he did right, and he, before he became a believer was bent on persecuting believers, and was so obsessed with it that the Lord said Saul was persecuting Him, the Lord Himself! The sentiment expressed by Romans 7:24 – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” could NOT have been that of Paul’s before his conversion. His conversion was one of those “you have no choice”, so to speak; God had chosen him, he “could not” refuse. Rather, the sentiment expressed in Romans 7:24 was that of a man, truly had had experienced God, and understood his own utter wretchedness despite having been born-again. Romans 7:14-24 could NOT be a flashback of Paul’s condition before conversion, rather it was a speaking of the struggles that he, Paul, still had to put up with, to pursue the course that the Lord had designated him to take, as he himself had testified, before King Agrippa (Acts 26:15-18), above.

[Added 27/07/2011: The Apostle Paul also exhorted, in Gal 5:13, 16-17, BELIEVERS to live by the Spirit, and NOT to gratify the desires of the sinful nature: 13 YOU, MY BROTHERS {cap, mine}, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13) 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Gal 5:16-17 – notice the similar fashion of expression of the struggle – the tug of war!)]

Some misconceptions
It is a misinterpretation and a lie, on the part of many overly grace preachers and believers, that the Apostle Paul taught perfection (righteousness and all) upon born-again or salvation. All over, in many epistles of Paul, he wrote about the need to grow and mature. This passage of Romans 7:14-25 was one such admission of even himself still needing to put up with battling against that which Satan had stacked against Man. The above text of Acts 26:15-18 recorded for us what Jesus had taken hold of Paul, and in Phil 3:12, we read Paul expressed his imperfection and the right posture of a believer –

Not that I {Paul} have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Phil 3:12).

Some argued that it is preposterous to say, the God-appointed Apostle Paul was still so unspiritual, and he did what he had NOT wanted to do, and did what he hated to do (Romans 7:14-15) even after he was born-again. What these people did NOT realize was that those words were a lamentation of a contrite heart of a mature believer. A mark of true growth in a Christian life is increased sensitivity to sinfulness; NOT only the person leaves sin, he abhors it, just as God would. Here is NOT the place to elaborate on “You are a new creation upon born-again”, but central to this new creation fact, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as a believer continues to be increasingly yielded to the Holy Spirit, his sensitivity and abhorrence of sin increases, and his awareness of his own utter carnality or wretchedness increases.

How could Paul, while saying he was unspiritual, said the law is spiritual (Romans 7:14)? In fact, 2 verses earlier, in Romans 7:12, Paul said, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good”. This is again another mark of maturity, and a more mature believer knows that he can get to understand God a little more through His many precepts, and appreciates what the psalmist said in Ps 119:104, that “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” Again, it is misinterpretation, and by many, to say Paul taught that laws (commandments, precepts) are NOT important or irrelevant to the Christian’s life.

We come back to Romans 8:12 – about obligation
In Romans 8:12, Paul said that we, believers, have an OBLIGATION {or be a debtor to, KJV}, but it is NOT to the sinful nature, and it is NOT to live according to it. If sinful nature was NO longer an issue, why would Paul have talked about the possibility of believers (including himself) having an obligation to it? If sinful nature is non-issue or completely done away with, upon born-again, why talk of obligation to it. Very obviously, Paul was NOT talking about, before salvation sinful nature was an issue, and after salvation it was a non-issue or dead. Paul did NOT say, “Abra-cadabra, you are born-again, sinful nature no more; or voila or presto, now you automatically sin no more.” Worst still, some believers actually believe they cannot sin (impossible to sin; erroneous interpretations of 1 John 3:9 & 1 John 5:18a – those interested, can read my separate article – “Please, 1 John 3:9 does not mean a believer cannot (unable to) sin!”).

It is precisely because there is still the sinful nature still operating and the Holy Spirit operating, that we, believers, have to choose. If sinful nature is no longer operating in a believer, then there is no need to choose. Paul was painting a matter of choice; don’t believe, see what the subsequent verse, Romans 8:13 said:

13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,

Now, some people still insist on saying Paul was painting the picture generically, meaning if a person, if he decides NOT to be born-again, then he is making the decision of living according to the sinful nature, he will die, but if he decides to be born-again, he will live. If we look at the verse in isolation, yes, that is a possible interpretation, but we have just looked at the verse before it (v12) and we read loud and clear, who Paul was talking and referring to, “Therefore, BROTHERS, WE have an obligation ….”. Yes, believers, including Paul himself. In fact, the “For” at the start of verse 13, is the same as the conjunctive, “since”, meaning verses 12 & 13 are to be read together. In other words, verses 12 & 13 could read like this:

Therefore, BROTHERS, WE have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it SINCE if you live according it, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,(Romans 8:12-13 joined and rephrased, substituting “since” for “for”)

If you still insist to think that Paul was addressing the believers, but NOT that they, the believers, were posed the choice, but rather non-believers had to decide, then let me tell you it was unlikely that Paul or for that matter, any man writing to instruct another, to instruct on non-existing scenario. It is as good as we, telling our sons this: “Son, tonight, when you sleep in the park (camping), and when a dinosaur comes into the camp, you are to pretend to continue to sleep and not move, so that the dinosaur will think that you are dead and will not eat you up.” The boys will say you are crazy, for there are no more dinosaurs! If sinful nature is dead, do you think Paul would say, “BROTHERS, WE have an obligation … not to the sinful nature”?

People are just kidding themselves if they think upon born-again, sinful nature is dead, and Satan is dead. The overall counsel of the Word did NOT paint such pictures as sinful nature is dead or Satan is dead or if you are a believer, it is now alright for you to give in to the sinful nature in you (exercise NOT self-control), because you are now a born-again.

What really is that tug of war?
For a believer, 2 “parties” are operating in him; one, Iniquity or Sin or sinful nature (this is NOT the mere act of wrongdoing, but it is in the like of iniquity {“evil”} of Eze 28:15, KJV) which we all inherited from the Original Sin (from the Fall), and two, the Holy Spirit {I tell you a revelation: even the Apostle Paul interpreted the relevant verses of Eze 28 as depicting the fall of Lucifer (aka Satan) – read 1 Tim 3:6 if you do NOT believe!}. Before conversion, a man is a slave to Iniquity or sinful nature; the man has almost no means of resisting, for Satan who replicated Iniquity into Man, has authority over all unregenerate men (or men NOT born-again). At conversion, God put His Holy Spirit into the person, and the born-again man has the Holy Spirit indwelling him. At the Fall, Satan replicated Iniquity or sinful nature into Man, at born again or salvation, God put a deposit of His own Spirit (also called the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Christ) into Man. Jesus, the Son of God, has defeated Satan (but Satan is NOT dead), and wrestled back, that authority over Man which was lost in the Fall of Man, in the Garden of Eden.

Because, in the first place, God created Man with free-will, even when Jesus had wrestled back that authority, God only held it until a man gives his life over to Jesus. God gave that authority back to the man entering into born-again. It amounts to God saying to the man, “Now, so-and-so, Satan no longer has authority over you. That authority over your life is now vested back into your hand. You, once again, have free-will, to decide if you will obey me, God, and live, or if you still want to choose to re-give that authority to Satan, all over again, in which case, you will die.”

Now, that Satan, has no real authority over a believer does NOT mean that he has no more powers; there is a difference between authority and power. Against a believer, unless he has re-given the authority to Satan, Satan has NO authority over the believer, even though he, Satan, has powers. What it means is that as a believer, we can refuse Satan, and he cannot exercise authority over us. But he, Satan, has powers (NOT yet removed from him) to tempt a believer, to deceive a believer, even powers to perform signs and wonders and miracles. To level out the playing field, in fact, more than level out the field, so to speak, God put His Spirit to indwell you upon your born-again, even as Satan had Iniquity (or sinful nature) indwelled you.

There is a war on, a war between God and Satan (lopsided, nevertheless, a war), and there is a tug of war within us, and that is between the dictates of the Holy Spirit and that of Iniquity or sinful nature. But because God did NOT take away a believer’s free-will, we have to choose which side of the tug of war we are on, to follow the dictates of the Spirit of God against the misdeeds of sinful nature or to still choose to allow ourselves to be enslaved by the sinful desires of the sinful nature, even though we are freed at born-again. Isn’t that what Romans 8:12-13 is painting to us?:

Therefore, BROTHERS, WE have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it SINCE if you live according it, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,(Romans 8:12-13 joined and rephrased, substituting “since” for “for”)

Why an obligation? Because Jesus died to set you and I, believers, free from the slavery of sinful nature. Indeed, we, believers, have an obligation to the Spirit of God, and to live by it (Him); and it is only by the Spirit we can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh (sinful nature resides in the flesh), and live.

Verse 14 (of Romans 8), i.e. the next verse, went on to say that those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Why did Paul said that, when the Holy Spirit already adopted our spirits as sons of God? The answer is this (another revelation!): God adopts us, that is His part; when we allow ourselves be led by His Spirit, that is when we are acknowledging God as our Father. Isn’t it also so, for the human father and son? A man begot a son, the son did no part, but we know, that son, acknowledges the man as his father when he allows himself be led by that man.

Indeed, there is that tug of war within every believer, a pull from the Father of perdition through Iniquity or Sin or sinful nature, and a pull from the Father of Heaven through the Holy Spirit. At the base of it all, love is a choice (that’s another revelation for some). Your choice is your love. Do you choose your Creator? Do you choose the One who first loved you by giving of His Son to die on your behalf? Do you choose the One who adopted us first, as sons of Heaven? Often not easy, even Paul experienced that, yet which side are you on? Do you pull to the tune of the Holy Spirit, or to that of Iniquity?

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Fear not Iniquity or sinful nature or Satan, for you and I have received NOT a spirit of timidity but a Spirit of sonship. He, who is in us, the Holy Spirit, is greater than he who is outside us (in the world), Satan {from 1 John 4:4}. The Holy Spirit is in us, but Satan is NOT, if you permit him NOT. Only Iniquity or sinful nature is in us, but we have God in us. Amen.

PS: We can put to death the misdeeds of sinful nature. Sinful nature dies only when we die, for then the body is no more, until replaced by an incorruptible body.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hide NOT under filthy rags (Part II)


This is a 2-parts article. Part I turned out to be more or less, a teaching, although articles I put under my blog heading of “Concerning my `little ministry’” should generally be testimonial or journal in nature. It centered around “That we sin, no excuse for NOT working”. This part, below, is both reflective and journaling.

Unusual altar call responses?
When I started on this 2-parts article, I had wanted to journal my “little ministry” happenings. I make it a point to reflect on the “ministry” every few months. There was an initial quietness, after the period covered by the previous article, “Lord, what are you saying in these?”. The excitement came in March 2011 in church weekend services. I wouldn’t really say it were highly unusual responses to “altar calls”, for in my church we saw huge turnouts at the front of the sanctuary (“altar area”) from time to time. But it is unusual in the sense that it has been a long time since we had one, without outside “famous” speaker on the pulpit. I mean it is generally true that a prophet is without honors in his own “town” or congregation (Mark 6:4) but there are temporal exceptions (which I will elaborate later). So, if suddenly, there is an unusually large response to an “altar call”, it sometimes can indicate a fresh move of the Spirit of God. Such happened in 2008, on multiple church services, when words of knowledge and prophecy were given, by seemingly ordinary pastors and church members, including myself; particularly when it was almost by myself, for then, I knew, it had to be the Spirit of God moving in the church sanctuary, for I was a nobody.

Prophet without honors in his own congregation – temporal exception
You want the temporal exception I referred to? Yours truly was the example. Really, I was a nobody in my church until that time (2008). It was a phenomenon few could ignore. I would give words of knowledge on sickness, mostly, and we would see many people come to the altar area for ministry. Actually, I became rather famous, and many wondered, and until very recently I still have people stepping up to me and asked if it was correct that they did NOT notice me serving so prominently in the years previous to the more recent ones (I have been with the church for more than 20 years). I remember back in 2008/2009, I even had an occasion, an older lady member came up to me and asked me if I was a watchman; apparently, she was thinking that as a watchman, I was assigned by God to sit tight and watch, and did so for a long time, and when the time was right for me to act, I would come forth, and even the church leadership would defer to the desired move of the Spirit, and allowed the light to be cast on me. But of course, I am NOT aware of any such watchman commissioning.

Reflection continues, but I boast NOT
The Lord forbids I boast in myself, it indeed had nothing to do with my worthiness, and neither did (and do) I call myself a prophet. It was all the grace of God, who carried me in my affliction, in His most unique manner by projecting me to serve Him. It was an impossible thing, made possible by Him, by His granting of favor through the Senior Pastor of the church. I recognized it as His work yet I must still salute my Senior Pastor (who is retiring this year or next), for His courage to be bold for the Lord, and his humility, and his acceptance of me. Apart from the watchman thought, there were those in church who thought I was about to enter the church as staff or pastor, for they saw the favor and liberty I enjoyed with the church leadership. Some even thought I was related to the Senior Pastor, still others commented I looked like him. I even had an ex-pastor from another church, who could not help, but expressed that he thought I must have been the 2nd man in the church, from what he observed of the proceedings in church services and where I usually sat. Also, I have members kept calling me pastor, although I tried to explain that I was NOT one, and was NOT a staff of the church. But it was all great honors God gave through men which I deserved them NOT; in fact, it was that I was in need of help, and the Lord helped me by having me help, so how could I deserve any of it. But I have tasted His goodness, and want to continue to function for Him.

A good rub-off has been on my children; both my kids have been serving in the church Sunday Schools for several years now. Their father’s fame did spur them on, too, and today both of them lead worship in the church’s 8.30 am Sunday School.

So, really, there was a fresh move by the Lord some 3 years ago, and it was a move in the supernatural even though I knew then, the call was to have more of the believers in our church to serve God in one way or another. It took quite a while for the entire church staff to embrace the supernatural heartily; meanwhile, more had joined the rank of “active servicemen” for the Lord. Over time, I saw my Senior Pastor openly endorsed and encouraged that we are to serve despite our problems and afflictions of life. I saw him encouraging serving the Lord beyond the 4 walls of the church, and it matters NOT if none of those saved or helped, actually culminated into our church, so long as they culminated in the church of God (and that is maturity).

Fresh move?
So, was there or was there NOT a fresh move of the Spirit in my church in March 2011? There was a weekend in that March whereby, in altar calls, many members of congregation responded to the calls and came before the Lord in the altar area (others, at their seats) with observable manifestations of the Spirit, which included speaking in tongues, impromptu singing in tongues, alternating with singing in English, most fluently, I must say (definitely authentic), words of knowledge and prophecy. There appeared to be a drawing near to God. There was manifest presence of God; perhaps, even some influence on demonic spirits, I believe; but there was NO clear observable demonstration of the power and authority of God, in breaking of bondages, of ill-wills, healing of the sick, and deliverance.

A level-change might be coming
I believe it was NOT that there was a separate move of the Spirit, but rather a possible level-change coming. My own experience with the moves of God with an individual is by levels. Perhaps, it is the same with the body corporate. We go from “glory” to “glory”, so to speak. From one level, we move to another level. Perhaps, how fast we break levels depended, among other things, such things as how yielded we are to God, how faithful we are to the things entrusted, and our foundation built. The move, in my humble view, was still part of the same seen 3 years ago; only that perhaps there is a desire of the Lord to bring it one notch up. If one calls such, as a revival, there was really NO clear observable demonstration of the power and authority of God in those areas I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Was there a stifling of the move of the Spirit? I cannot put a finger on it; but if the next time I come across such, and I am in a position to influence, I will argue for giving of slack, to usher in God’s move of power and authority.

I am NOT saying we let people prophesize anything they like, but we should be bold to call for the sick, the badly sick, the ones in afflictions and bondages, and those who are in need of breakthroughs, to come forward, and we call on the name of God to heal and set people free. I would argue for us to be prepared to be a fool for the Lord. It is NOT a time to “play it safe” and box God. We should NOT decide God is only ministering inner healing but NOT physical healing, repentance but NOT deliverance, cleansing but NOT empowering. My point is that if there is indeed a big move, God would actually want to be touching many people, and different people could be touched in different areas NOT necessarily related to one another. Yes, common themes of holiness, righteousness, forgiveness and repentance, and restitution even, are usually present in revivals, but we should signal liberty and diversity for the Holy Spirit.

I believe it has taken the church 3 years to reach a degree of yielded-ness to God, to be faithful to the things entrusted (such as word of knowledge, gift of healing, etc), and to have our foundation strengthened. Perhaps, the Lord was saying, “let see if they can take it to the next level”. How we responded was crucial, but we can be still responding; the window is NOT necessarily closed. This brings me to the 2 visions I had for that weekend concerning the church.

The parking lot vision
This vision released on the 8.30 am service of Sunday, 27 March 2011 went like this: I saw a parking lot compound, and I saw cars. Being a parking compound there were lots and there were cars. Cars were of different makes. What was interesting was that there was no one around, meaning I could see no men or women, only cars. Yet the close up scene was cars being reversed into parking lots, all by themselves. My interpretation was this, that there were no men or women seen in the compound, was because we, the church members, the believers, were the cars or vehicles, more correctly, the vehicles of the Lord; and it was the Lord who was parking the vehicles, each into the lot that He so decided. The lot space denoted our place, where the Lord wants us to be placed, so that whenever He wants to use one of us, we are at the exact spot, and He can use us. So, the question posed to the congregation was this: “Are we prepared to be at where the Lord wants us to be?” The Lord cannot use us if we are NOT found at where he needs us. It calls for conscious mindset on the part of the members or believers to say to himself or herself that he or she is at a particular place or setting or doing particular ministry in anticipation of the Lord’s move involving him or her. Be willing and be expectant.

Cookies at the end
This vision was given out at the 10:30 am service of the same day: In this vision, what I saw was a way, a concrete way. There was a barrier in front of the way, but when I stared at the barrier more intently, I saw it broke away. What became visible was a long narrow way, and still looked like a concrete way. One could see far ahead, and frankly speaking I was about to say there was nothing there, for I could see it all, just a narrow concrete way, like one was in a big drain. Anyway, I traced along, suddenly, at the end there was a turn, a sharp turn. Right before my eyes, after the turn, was an area with stacks and stacks of cookie jars with all kinds of cookies in them. Then, one of the jar caps got spun open. This was my interpretation: a way might have opened up in the spiritual realm. The barrier giving away perhaps indicated that there would be (or has been) a breakthrough in the spiritual realm. Yet, things do NOT come straight away; the goodies are still some distance away, in fact NOT immediately visible. Perhaps, pressing in and perseverance are needed. We need to stay the course, for a season, and NOT give up, or we will miss the goodies. The cookies represented the anointing, the empowering, the healing, deliverance, salvations and goodness of God.

Has anything happened since that March 2011 weekend?
Soon after that weekend, the church had, for one service, Patricia King, of Extreme Prophetic Ministry, speaking from the pulpit. Although we were told by the church that there was no salvation, my review of the full video of the service showed that Patricia King counted up to 5 salvations (and mentioned about ½ a dozen). In that sense, it was NOT true that there was no salvation, but rather it was that the new believers did NOT came forward to the front, despite call by the Senior Pastor over the pulpit, and the pastoral team had NOT the opportunity to take down details of the persons. If I could recheck the video, I wondered if the church leadership did go through the service recording. To say administratively, the church was unable to secure details of salvation is one thing, it is altogether another, to say there was no salvation.

Salvation cases did not come forward, but many responded
But many people did go out to the altar area though, in fact, it was packed, and it was NOT surprising, for a famous speaker taking the pulpit. Along with a lady, who in recent days, had been used of the Lord in giving words of knowledge, mostly in healing, I was asked by my Senior Pastor before the start of the altar calls, if we had any words of knowledge. I stood up and told him that there were and they were on healing, and he signaled to release them. It took a while before I had had the chance to speak over the mike; and I was at the usual mike for words of knowledge. Meanwhile, some words had been given, and many people had gathered at the front; finally the Senior Pastor signaled that I could release my set of words, I did so, and then it was followed by the lady I mentioned. Because of space constraint, I moved myself to the central aisle instead of staying at the sanctuary front. 2 or 3 persons came to me for ministry for healing. One of them subsequently expressed she felt certain sensation gone down a part of her body when I prayed for her.

The surprising bit
However, to my surprise, the following week I was told, the pastoral team, without the Senior Pastor, when discussing about absence of salvation cases in that service by Patricia King (but it really was NOT that there were no salvation cases, but rather the lack of securing the names and details), had hinted one of the problems was that “unrelated” words of knowledge such as the healing ones got in the way, and suggested instituting new control measure. My checking of the video recording, on top of the my above explanation that I was approached by the Senior Pastor, revealed that everything was done according to procedure and under the supervision and direction of the Senior Pastor that morning. The only one word released, NOT from the usual mike for words of knowledge and prophecy (guarded that morning by the Senior Pastor), was a word released through the mike of the worship pastor, which the worship pastor had permitted it. That was a surprise, and if at all, that exception should be examined (but I am NOT saying any inappropriateness in that, for it was the worship pastor who gave of her mike). I honestly must say, I did NOT feel very good hearing the church leadership speaking out disappointment over that Patricia King service, with hints of error on the part of members of congregation whether in terms of their inappropriateness of release of words of knowledge/prophecy or their contribution to the church’s inability to secure salvation (actually particulars thereof). The point was that Patricia King herself, together with the Senior Pastor gave a number of words (and there was nothing wrong for that occasion) and many responded, as the Holy Spirit convicted, and as such one should NOT fault the people.

I have since spoken to the pastor next in line to take over when the Senior Pastor retires, that there was indeed procedure as far as the release of words of knowledge and prophecy is concerned, and it was NOT broken. As for myself, I do note flow of the Spirit, and submit to authority, and on that occasion, released words, called on by the Senior Pastor. I sounded my caution that we should NOT stifle the Spirit of God, especially if we thought there was going to be a “fresh move” of the Spirit. It took 3 years to get to where we are; a curb, where it is NOT necessary is likely to kill the spontaneity of the release of the words of knowledge and prophecy, and the ministry of ministering to people in church services.

On the plus side, the recent Easter and Resurrection Weekend (in April) brought over 100 salvations from the various cell-group and ministry cell level outreach gatherings. Some of the over 100 salvations also came from the Resurrection Weekend church services (I played no DIRECT part in these, just in case some thought I was boasting; put here for record purpose).

On my personal level side, concerning my helping in the altar ministry, in the church services, releasing words of knowledge and prophecy, and praying for those in needs, after the 2 visions released (given above) and the words given during the weekend Patricia King visited, I believed until the time of writing of this article, I have NOT released further words. There were times I had no words, and there were times I had, but the occasions for release were NOT there. It is of course, my desire, which I believe, does mirror that of the Lord, at least for this season, that, ministry time continues to be provided for, in the church services.

Flesh vs Spirit
Even after some years of moving a little in the supernatural, I still feel IF we do NOT consciously effort to move in the supernatural, we will very quickly settle back into the natural. If the occasions for supernatural are NOT made available, it may make it harder for us to fight the reversion to the natural. Many people in my church, since 2008, have experienced moving in words of knowledge with visions and pictures and all, but many of them did NOT move more than a couple of occasions. Why? In part, I believe it was because they effort NOT to continue; when they had NOT the experience, they eager for them, but when they had experienced it, they paid attention NOT to the demands of the Lord, of the need to be sensitive, paying attention to the Spirit of God, even making the necessary sacrifice, and would rather revert to the natural. The Apostle Paul painted for us (Rom 7:14-24), a tug-of-war resulting from the pulls of the desires of our sinful nature and that of the Spirit. Common sense tells us that in a tug-of-war, if you effort NOT, you lose because you get pulled over! (There is a separate tug-of-war article coming. Watch out for it!).

With or without word of knowledge I still minister
Words of knowledge and prophecy aside, I continued to minister prayers for people in services; and I must say, after a lapse of several months, I have recently back to seeing people getting slain when I prayed for them. It is NOT that people need to be slain to mean that they had been ministered or healed by the Lord, but I generally ministered with no formal feedback, and sometimes do like to know that the anointing of God still “comes through me”; and the Lord does encourage. But of course, I repeatedly remind myself that I do NOT pray to slain but pray that people get healed and get ministered. Frankly speaking, although it was my Senior Pastor who allowed me to minister in services, my position was and is established NOT by men, for I am a member of congregation ministering among pastors, I do NOT and cannot insist I pray for one, if he feels he should be prayed for, by a pastor. In that sense, the Lord has to establish me to serve Him; and may I always remember to walk humbly before Him, and before His anointed servants.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, clean hands, pure heart I have NOT; yes, I still struggle, you know that. Yet, you used me for your glory, and it has been a privilege and honor to have served you by just making myself available for you. May you help me in my struggles, and clean me, a filthy rag, as you use me. Amen.

PS: I understand that a reasonably sized church in leadership transition does have adjustments for many, and can temporally be a little "unsettled". Lord, I forgive all, and you know I do care for the flock of the church because you caused me to care. Forgive me for the things I have omitted to do that you wanted done, and for any overstepping of boundaries on my part.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hide NOT under filthy rags


As I write, this article turns out to be a 2-parts series. Part I has come to be more or less, a teaching, although articles I put under my blog heading of “Concerning my `little ministry’” should generally be testimonial or journal in nature. This part, centered around “That we sin, no excuse for NOT working”, is of itself NOT devoid of link with the “little ministry”, as you shall see. Part II of this article will be both reflective and journaling.

Journaling is good
More than 3 months have passed since I last wrote about my little ministry; the last article being, “Lord, what are you saying in these?” I have just re-read that article, and it is indeed good for me to go over the things the Lord had done through me, my thoughts and promises to the Lord. Christians should do some kind of journaling, so that they do NOT go through life forgetful of the workings of the Lord for them and through them, and their words given to their Lord. How many of us already forgotten this year’s resolution we made at the start of the year concerning our walk with the Lord? It is through the re-read that I have just done, of the last article, that I remember that I pledged to be abandoned to the Lord this year.

We are soldiers and servants of God
As Christians, are we clear that when we gave of our lives to the Lord, Jesus Christ, we are all enlisted into the army of God, and are part of the wider spiritual war that has been going on? We are all soldiers of the Lord; but are you functioning as a soldier? Or are you a MIA (missing in action)? Or have you mutinied? Or are you just adopting the layback attitude, and always saying, “Lord, NOT me, send him, and him, and him; just do NOT send me!”?

That we sin, no excuse for not working
Be careful NOT to adopt the attitude of saying, “But my works are like filthy rags to the Lord, and so, I should stop doing them. Anthony Chia (or any other) is different, what he does pleases the Lord, let him do it.” Yes, there is a verse in the Bible that mentioned works (NIV) being filthy rags, but we have to understand what God was driving at, there.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; (Isaiah 64:6a, NIV). No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins. (Isaiah 64:7, NIV)

During his time, Isaiah said, no one called on God’s name or strived to lay hold of God (so sad, a state), for God had hidden His face from them. The people were wasting away because of their sins. This was a time period when the people of God sinned greatly before God (see Isaiah 1:2-4), so much so, that God “put His presence far” from the people of God. God would turn away His face when the people prayed to Him; He would NOT even listen to them! – see Isaiah 1:15 {God DID hear, but did NOT listen to them – there is a difference between the two}.

The Israelites then had become like one who was unclean (like a leprous person, greatly feared and ostracized) and all their righteous acts (including good works) were like filthy rags.

First view – before salvation, unrighteous, therefore filthy rags
There are 2 ways of viewing the scenario painted by Isaiah. One is that before salvation, we are all unrighteous, and so, any good works are also unrighteous, all are like filthy rags.

Generally speaking, it is of course, right to say if one is unrighteous, nothing truly righteous can come from him. The use of leprous person as an analogy was meant to portray the pervasiveness of the “unclean-ness” of the unrighteous person. Or in terms of a rag, if the rag is already filthy, how can it be used to make clean the surface it passes over! (Actually, the KJV used “all our righteousness are as filthy rags”, and NOT “our righteous acts are like filthy rags”).

If one subscribes to this rendering, then in his view, he may think that if one has become a believer, he is righteous, and so his acts are righteous, and therefore, his good works will NOT be filthy rags. If one looks at the matter like that, no believer can hide behind the filthy rags excuse, and NOT work for the Lord (Of course, “work” here does NOT mean one has to go into full-time work for the Lord). But I do NOT like this view (that it necessarily was referring to “before salvation”, and perfection was assumed upon born-again), for it implied that I, a believer, can NEVER be unrighteous, even if I disregarded the Word of God.

2nd view – we sin, we become unclean, filthy
The 2nd way of viewing is that Isaiah was NOT directly correlating the matter to salvation; all he was saying was that when we are in sins, and have become unclean, all our righteousness are like filthy rags. In fact, the KJV rendering of the verse has NO acts in it:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; (Isaiah 64:6a, KJV)

This view is superior for a number of reasons: One, the Isaiah 64 passage was NOT on righteous ACTS/WORKS of the Israelites {Now, there are those who believe the olden use of righteousness in the KJ version meant righteous acts; nevertheless, it is the heart-condition that God looks at, acts are just observable manifestations thereof [Mat 15:8, Isaiah 29:13a, Mark 7:20-23]}. Two, Old Testament (OT) scriptures did NOT generally painted the picture that all of the righteous acts of all OT people (including the likes of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, David, etc) were filthy rags, despite Jesus was NOT yet manifest in their time to grant them salvation. Three, in the New Testament (NT) we read of this, in the Book of Acts, in Acts 10:31, Cornelius, a non-believer, a Gentile, but one who was devout and God-fearing who prayed and made much gifts to the poor, his prayers were heard by God, and his gifts were remembered by God. God sent the Apostle Peter to his house and he and his household were saved as a result. Cornelius’ good works were before his salvation, and God weighed them in.

Fear of God, an important key
You have to consider for yourselves, what Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23, whether He was only saying them as applicable to non-believers or it was generally applicable to all men (NOT just unsaved), when his disciples asked concerning the “clean and unclean” parable He gave, in answering the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Mark 7:20-23, we read this:

20 He {Jesus} went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

I believe Jesus was referring to ALL men, and reality bears up to that. Many believers, and that is including myself, are NOT of totally pure hearts, and it got nothing to do (almost all the time) with whether or NOT they were born again “properly” or NOT. It is a matter of our fear of the Lord or lack of it, despite us being already born again.

I believe, apart from whether or NOT one is saved, God does look at whether or NOT, one is fearing Him. In a nutshell, if one is fearing God, one takes care to subscribe to 1 Pet 1:16 (or Lev 19:2) –

For it is written, “Be holy because I am holy.”

In elaboration, David who taught on the fear of God in Ps 34, said to note the followings, on our part:

1. Keep our tongue from evil, and our lips from speaking lies (Ps 34:13).
2. Turn from evil and do good (Ps 34:14a).
3. Seek peace, and pursue it (v14b). {The peace here should be interpreted in the context of the verse of turning from evil and doing good. The Jews then, relied on the Law, but today, we, Christians, have the Word, and laws written in our hearts}.

Those interested, can read my exposition of Ps 34 here: Ps 34 – I will teach you the fear of the LORD. It is interesting that David gave the last verse of that psalm (Ps 34:22a) as this, remember now that David’s era was before Jesus’ 1st coming:

The LORD redeems his servants;

In that article on Ps 34, I said that David did NOT “out of the blue” switch to another group of people, when he was talking about the righteous (Ah! Anyone in OT ever righteous? – more, in next para.). In fact, I believe he was, by verse 22, saying that only the righteous were the true servants of God. In other words, righteous ones of God do NOT contribute nothing, do NOT do nothing, of no fruit acceptable to the LORD – righteous ones bear fruits, and so, are the servants of the LORD. What did the verse (v22) said about what the LORD would do for his servants? Yes, He would redeem His servants. So, don’t you think we should be servants of the Lord, even if you have entered into the redemptive works of the Lord, for full redemption is yet to come?

As to the argument, if salvation was NOT being pointed to, could OT children be able to serve God in any acceptable manner? I submit to you that we need to understand there are 2 dimensions of righteousness; One, being the passive or imputed righteousness, and the other, the active righteousness. The OT children of God, Israelites then, they did NOT have the passive or imputed righteousness (of Jesus), but they were expected to have the active righteousness, although too many failed God too miserably. Those interested on an exposition on the righteousness of OT people, can read my separate article - Anyone in OT ever righteous since Jesus was not yet manifest then? In the article, I stressed that, it was whether or NOT one was in agreement with God and flowed with Him that mattered, in considering whether or NOT one was righteous. This was the case for the OT people, for they, IN THEIR TIME, had NOT the means (Christ Jesus) to “buy” them out.

Conclusion on Isaiah 64:6a
It is really NOT necessary to say that “the filthy rag” condition in Isaiah 64:6a was referring to the fallen state of men (from Original sin), although we can apply a similar analogy to the fallen state of men. The Isaiah’s scenario could stand (and I believe it is the correct position to take), as giving us a picture that, the Israelites then had so greatly sinned, that God described their condition (due to their doings, NOT as inherited) as filthy rags, nothing to do with the Original sin, as such. Isaiah made it very clear, in verse 7 (Isaiah 64:7), that God hid His face from them, and “made them waste away” because of THEIR sins. In other words, the Israelites then sinned and they did NOT address their sins, and had NOT yet receive the forgiveness from God (please, forgiveness did NOT always have to do with Jesus; He was NOT yet made manifest then). Throughout the OT, we read that God used men and women (with Original sin unaddressed; none had his Original sin addressed) (Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, David, and many ordinary men and women), and they served God. Yes, the thrust of those few verses of Isaiah 64 was that people of God then had sinned greatly and were NOT repentant.

Salvation a MUST, but works is part thereof
Sure, salvation through Jesus is a MUST for all, who want to have eternal life, but serving the Lord is part of that salvation, and one cannot say that he is saved, but He is saved, NOT to serve the Lord or to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 (KJV) said this: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The Apostle James posed you this question: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”(James 2:14) You are redeemed, imputed righteousness, NOT to just bask in grace, but to be servant and soldier of the Lord.

I sin and therefore, NOT righteous, so I cannot serve, right? Wrong. Even the OT people of God could be forgiven by God and served Him, why can’t you and I repent and ask to be forgiven by God and serve Him? Isn’t it just a lame excuse to say that since I sin, I am unrighteous, a filthy rag, and so, my service or works cannot be acceptable to God, and so, why bother? Be careful now, if we are NOT forgiven, as we would like to claim (to avoid serving), how are we to get to Heaven? We cannot say we are forgiven (enough) to go to Heaven, but we are NOT, for works! We cannot argue we are righteous enough to go to Heaven and at the same time argue that we are NOT, to work for God! Ah! Do NOT be nonchalant about going to Heaven. If you love God, you should want to get to Heaven. Do you NOT know that you pain the heart of God that you want to “perish” in Hell?

Can God say our works are like filthy rags?
Sure, God indeed can; we have read that He did just that, in Isaiah 64:6, and like I implied, filthy rags can be applied to believers, like you and I. When God said it to me, an individual, it is one thing, but when it is said that God said it to a church, it is a BIG thing, especially if it is said that ALL the works of a church are like filthy rags. Such a word of prophecy is either NOT from God or the church concerned had become like the leprous person.

There are really only 2 options for such a church, one, to note that the prophecy was mis-delivered by the “prophet”, or two, go do “soul-searching” before God. Even as an individual needs to journal his walk with the Lord, the church must maintain a journal of sort, and it is the church leadership’s responsibility to review such a record of what God had been doing for the church, through the church (through her many ministries), saying to the church, and what the church had done for the Lord, and her words or promises given to the Lord, to access the credibility of such a prophecy is from the Lord.

In assessing the credibility, the leadership should take into account, if the church has been committing grave sins (idolatry, sexual impropriety, injustices, oppression, stumbling people, dishonesty), for a start, in regard to her clergymen; has been doing things without going before the Lord to see if they were in line with the wishes of the Lord. A point to note is that one of the redemptive works of the Lord is “works redemption”, and so, generally speaking, the lack of works is more prevalent than God’s complaining about too much works from His people. Of course, of the many things we do, the pertinent question is whether we regarded them unto the Lord (Romans 14:6); if they were NOT, they counted NOT.

Are you doing your own things? Are you doing sinful things? All of them, you camouflage under the guise of works of the Lord? Unless, it is really bad, I do NOT think that God would say to a church that ALL her works are like filthy rags. It is more likely that God will specify particular areas or sets of works rather than ALL works. The basis of my saying that, is that, I believe in a God who primarily wants to encourage his children towards the right direction (and to do good works, is in the right direction), and it is inconsistent with that spirit of encouragement and the redemptive works of our Lord, to, on a blanket basis, thumb down ALL good works, unless indeed the leaven has worked too pervasively through the “bread”. If the church has indeed reached this stage, then she better be on her knees, day and night, pleading for mercy and restoration from the Lord.

Why this subject
The reason I wrote at some length on the above subject is because such a word of prophecy had been released against a church, and I was present in the church. It set me to think, to consider, and to assess, for I am part of that church (member only). It would be a shame if the church leadership does NOT take a serious view of that word of prophecy, but I am NOT here saying that she does NOT. Because of what I do in church, I count myself as being covered in the prophecy; and on my own part I must assess the truth of the prophecy, especially against sets of words released in past few years concerning the church, and that which I believed the Lord had impressed upon me concerning the church for the last few years. I have to ask myself if what I have been doing in church, a filthy rag to God. Then I think about what went through the minds of the few thousand members of the congregation on hearing or knowing about the prophecy. Many of them were serving, one way or another; did they just brush it off? No, they could NOT do that, for 1 Thess 5:19-22 said this:

19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

For those who did NOT (brush it off), how have their hearts sunk? The Lord was purportedly said, to have despised their good works. While I do NOT agree with the interpretation of 1 Cor 14:3-4 to mean New Testament prophecies cannot admonish or rebuke, the word released that “all the works of the church are like filthy rags” surely did NOT edify, rather it was so discouraging, unless the church has indeed become leprous.

Harvest is plentiful, workers are few
On the contrary, the more universal lack in the current age was the desire of fellow believers to engage in good works for the Lord (The harvest is plentiful but the labors are few, is always true; with greater world population, greater is the labor required).

One reason, the lie of good works pleases God NOT
There are a number of reasons for scarcity of workers, but I will only touch on one; and that is, that we think we can please God NOT, with good works.

I am NOT talking about those who think that God is already pleased with us, and nothing we do can please Him any more than He already is; this category of believers encourage just basking in grace, and they have to answer to God themselves.

I am referring to believers who feel we can please God NOT, with good works, because we feel we are NOT “fit” enough. Just look at how God grants salvation to people, all kinds of people; how God enlisted people into His army (you are enlisted the moment you are born again), all kinds of people. Do you think God is trying to fight the massive spiritual war with a few elite marksmen? I do NOT believe the word of God tells us that if you are NOT that sharp shooter, you are NOT to join in the battle. Sure, if you are a lousy shooter, you may NOT want to be a sniper, but maybe you have brute strength, and you can dig a few trenches; then go dig trenches in the battle. Sure, if it is war, we just cannot do our own things, but I am NOT saying you are to do your own things; in fact, you can’t, in war, you and I have to obey the Commander of Host. There is a place for snipers and there is a place for trench diggers.

But we are talking about a spiritual warfare and godly matters, sins or sinfulness matter, right? Yes, but who does NOT sin at all? If the Lord, now, says, “Those who did NOT sin and will NOT sin, come with me to the battlefront”, do you think any can step forward? The Lord knows, but it does NOT means He is saying it is ok to sin. But He nevertheless enlists His people to be His soldiers. Jesus is NOT going to have any active soldiers if everyone hides behind or under a filthy rag. At the same time, as we serve, we adopt this attitude in 1 Cor 10:31 (KJV) – “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” We go into active service, and in our service, we do all to the glory of God. We try NOT to sin, and we try NOT to shame God, but to glorify Him; but we can only try (make the choice and effort in it), we are NOT the Commander of Host, He is. We may fail to glorify God in our trying, but we sure are NOT glorifying God without trying.

My take, He uses them as He cleans them
Sure, wisdom must be called into play in execution, but it is my belief that all believers can serve; the sick can serve (it is wrong teaching that the sick should NOT pray for another sick, mind you there are believers believing that!), the afflicted can serve, the ones with struggles can serve, the poor can serve, and so can the rich, all can serve, and should serve. Few know my affliction, and I serve in my affliction, and the Lord sustains. In this era of the Lord’s favor, God is cleaning filthy rags, NOT discarding them; He can clean them, and He uses them as He cleans them. The question is only one of whether or NOT you are willing to make the choice and effort in it. [Added 1 June 2011: I am NOT saying that we should all just ignore the need to be holy or be complacent that we have a holy God. In fact, we need to cleanse ourselves of ignoble to serve God - Please read my separate article, "You must choose to cleanse yourself from ignoble"]

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds {works} (Heb 10:24). For Jesus has given himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).

[Added 05 July 2012: For part II, go here: Hide NOT under filthy rags Part II]

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