Wednesday, July 27, 2011

God knows man through man's spirit; for believers, most intimately by His indwelling Spirit

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? (1 Cor 2:11a)

Man is tripartite, i.e. he is body, soul and spirit. Read my separate article, “Man is body, soul and spirit”, for understanding.

The soul, the real you
Who is the “real” me or “real” you? When we say, the real me or real you, in effect, we are referring to our souls, for you are different from me because our souls are different; the elements of reason, emotion, and desire or passion which together made up the personality, are different for you and me. The real you is NOT referring to the physical you, or the real me is NOT referring to the physical me.

Our spirit differentiates us from animals and plants
In a way, we know very little about the spirit of ours; we only know that, unlike the animals and plants, both of which, have body (form) and soul (life or incorporeal essence), we have been given a spirit, on top of the life principal (soul) and form (body), meaning we are a very different life-form from animals and plants.

The thoughts of Man come from his soul
Because the soul comprises personality elements, the thoughts of a man, come from his soul (the personality elements of animals and plants are perhaps different, and so, although animals and plants are of souls, their souls are different from souls of men). How come we can be that sure, personality is of the soul? I think no one would argue with us when we have implied that personality is quite separate from the body, form or flesh; but why do we say they are of the soul? I believe it is NOT wrong to say we can look at animals which are of NO spirits, and yet with “personality”, and extend it to Man, and accordingly, say man’s personality is coming from his soul makeup.

It is the spirit of Man, additionally, knows the thoughts of Man
The thoughts of a man come from his soul. The soul, therefore, knows its own thoughts. I believe it is ridiculous to say that the soul of a man does NOT know its own thoughts. Therefore, I believe what verse 11 above was really saying was this: apart from the soul of a man who knows the thoughts of that man, another who knows is, NOT another man, but the spirit of that man, and that spirit is within him. This spirit of man is NOT referring to the Holy Spirit; as I have already pointed out in my tripartite man article above, Man has a spirit – he is created, body, soul and spirit (tripartite); his spirit was given him by God at the time of creation of Man.

Any clue how God knows the thoughts of Man?
Verse 11 above establishes for us that, it is the spirit of the man that knows the thoughts of the man (the soul). But how does God know the thoughts of man? Did the Bible leave us any clue? To me, this verse helps:

The spirit of man is the candle {or lamp} of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. (Prov 20:27, KJV)

I believe this is the interpretation of this proverb verse: Because the spirit of man knows the thoughts of man (1 Cor 2:11a {our opening verse}), it (the spirit of man) becomes God’s eyes of understanding of the man (the soul). Through the spirit of man, God is able to look into the innermost part of Man’s seat of mental faculties (historically, the core of the soul was understood to be in the innermost part of the belly of man). This is how God knows the very thoughts of man. God does NOT need a man to be a believer, to have the Holy Spirit in him, to know the thoughts of the man. Because Man is with a spirit, God who is spirit, is able to know the thoughts of all men, right from the beginning of creation. Therefore, I can say, as a Man, God knows me through my spirit.

The Fallen Man and the Regenerate Man (a believer)
Is there a difference for the fallen Man and the regenerate Man? Where then does the Holy Spirit fit in? This is what Romans 8:27 says:

And he {God} who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Rom 8:27, KJV)

The exposition for this verse is like this: First, we need to understand what the “heart” is, here. The Greek word used was G2588, "kardia"; and its meaning is similar to “innermost part of the belly” as used by the Hebrew, like in the Prov 20:27, we saw earlier. It is the very centre of the soul where the elements of the soul like reasoning, emotion and desire or passion are centered. So, when it was said here that God who searched the centre of the soul, it was actually referring to God who searched through His lamp, the spirit of man, to know (the thoughts of) the man; He (God) knows the mind of the Spirit. The Spirit here was referring to the Holy Spirit whom God placed in our heart, the same, very centre of the soul. Where does it say, in Scripture, that God placed the Holy Spirit in our very centre of our soul (“heart” or “innermost part of the belly”)? It was written in 2 Cor 1:22 and Gal 4:6 –

{God} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor 1:22). Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Gal 4:6)

The heart here, in both the verses, was the same “heart” G2588 (kardia), we saw in Romans 8:27. A point to note is that frequently, when Scriptures referred to the heart, it is NOT referring to the physical heart – the biological pump!

What Romans 8:27 was implying is this: For non-believers, God knows the thoughts of man through His lamp, the spirit of man. How does a Gentile able to come to become a believer? In the Apostle Peter’s words: “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them {the Gentiles} the Holy Ghost {Peter saw the manifestations}, even as [he did] unto us {Jews}.” (Acts 15:8, KJV). The Apostle was saying God knew the heart of the Gentile. In the manner that it was used here, Gentiles basically refer to non-believers, for the Gentiles then, were the ones NOT knowing God (the Jews taken to know God, for they were God’s people). So, I repeat, for the non-believers, God knows the thoughts of man through His lamp, the spirit of man.

For believers, whom He had placed His own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in the very centre of man’s soul, God knows through the Holy Spirit, through the latter’s communion with the man’s spirit. Because the Spirit communes with man’s spirit at the very centre of the soul, the Spirit knows the thoughts of the man (or the meditations of his heart {G2588}), and is therefore, able and does intercede for the believers (or saints) in accordance with God’s will. For believers, God knows directly through the (mind of) indwelling Holy Spirit because the Spirit intercedes or petitions to God (concerning the saint’s condition, his spirited soul condition).

Just as our spirit knows our thoughts, the Holy Spirit also knows God’s will
As a side, the Apostle Paul also explained how the Holy Spirit can know how to intercede for the believers according to the will of God. In 1 Cor 2:11, he said this:

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:11)

Just like the spirit of man would know the thoughts of a man, it is the Spirit of God who would know the thoughts of God, and therefore, the will of God. And by knowing the will of God, the Spirit knows how to intercede for the believers, on knowing the condition of the spirited soul of the believer.

What understandings did we receive? We now know firstly, Man is NOT just soul and body, Man is with a spirit given by God at Creation. In other words, Man is a spirited soul (if you still do NOT get this, read the Tripartite Man article). The elements of the soul combined to define the personality of a person; the soul is the person. The soul, of course, knows its own thoughts. Next to it (the soul), is the spirit of man who would know the thoughts of the soul or man. This fact is used by God to know the thoughts of man; the spirit of man is used by God as His illuminating lamp to know the thoughts of man. So, for any man, even if he is NOT a believer, God can know his thoughts by “tapping” Himself into the spirit of the man. In addition, for a believer, God has placed His own Spirit at the very centre of the soul, called the “heart” or the “innermost part of the belly”. Because the Holy Spirit has been placed there, and He (the Holy Spirit) interacts with the man’s spirit, the Spirit knows directly the condition/thoughts of spirited soul, and He, the Spirit, does intercede to God (Father God), concerning the believer, according to God’s will, which the Spirit would know, since, like the spirit of man would know the thoughts of man, the Spirit of God, too, know the thoughts of God, and therefore, His will. Because of the Spirit’s petitioning according to His knowledge of the man’s spirited soul, God therefore, knows the condition of the spirited soul, visa-vis’ His (God’s) will.

There is just no way, a man can hide his thoughts from God. God is the knower of hearts.

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all [men], shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, (Acts 1:24, KJV).

The “which knowest the hearts” (G2589 - kardiognōstēs) means knower of hearts; thus the Lord is known as the knower of hearts.

What is the significance of these understandings?
Which is more intimate and immediate, the Spirit of God coming to know by tapping in, from outside, or the Spirit of God knowing directly from within? For non-believers, the Spirit of God does NOT indwell them, He (the Spirit) works from outside in; for us, believers, the Spirit indwells us, and works from within. Because of the immediacy and intimacy, the thoughts of a believer, “hit” God immediately and strongly, be it, in offending or honoring way. And so, we have this, written for us, believers, in Scripture:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Eph 4:30)

Anthony Chia, high.expressions The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity (Ps 94:11, KJV). If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart {H3820 – “leb”, equivalent to centre of soul}(Ps 44:20-21, KJV). Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him {God} to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13, NIV).

PS: An article to come: What God wants to do, apart from knowing.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

People are NOT healed all the time, why we still pray

It is a fact that people are NOT healed, all the time by God; those who argue this is NOT a fact, is in denial. It is indeed a fact that not everyone is healed by God all the time no matter how hard we pray. As Christians, if we claim 100% success rate all the time, we are NOT doing God a favor, rather we are doing Him a disfavor. God NEVER promises unconditionally He will heal everyone in his present life on earth. Many verses can be cited for support of God heals, but none is saying that God promises unconditionally to heal everyone or for anyone all the time. As a minister in healing, we should refrain from stating that there is such an unconditional promise. If God does NOT heal all the time, should we still pray for healing?

It is NOT just healing
But it is also a fact that it is NOT just for healing, that we do NOT get a 100% success rate when we pray. We pray for many things and all sort of things; if you can have 100% success rate over long period of time, or near to it, let me know, maybe you can pray for me! Let me point out that it is therefore, improper to deemphasize praying for the sick any more than praying for other matters (job, life-time partner, money, shelter, and food or deliverance). In other words, the lack of 100% success rate is NOT limited to praying for the sick.

How do we explain, NOT all are healed?
Yes, it is true NOT all are healed when we pray for them; it is because God NEVER promises unconditionally to heal all, in their present lives on earth.

The redemptive works of Jesus Christ on the Cross are of 3-folds, spiritual, physical, works (or purpose). For understanding of this, please read my separate article, “Works of redemption by our Lord”. Basically, under physical, the body is being referred to, and my exposition in the article is that full redemption of the body is NOT intended in our current living on earth.

Full redemption comes after we pass on or when Jesus comes back (rapture following it), when we take on our incorruptible body. After The Fall, it was NEVER intended Man shall live forever in his earthly body; he is destined to die, so that he can take on the incorruptible body. That is why there is NEVER an unconditional promise in Scripture that God heals. You see, if God did give an unconditional promise to heal, then it will be God MUST heal, and if God MUST heal, then Man cannot die, and when Man cannot die, Man cannot take on the incorruptible body that Jesus talked about, and that scripture will NOT come to pass.

That, Adam and Eve would eventually died, did NOT stop God’s caring for them
After Adam and Eve sinned against God in The Fall, as decreed by God, they must die in accordance to the commandments God gave them in Gen 2:16-17.

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

The death was referring to both spiritual death and physical death. Spiritual death means to be separated from God by being thrown into the lake of burning fire in Hell to remain there, separate from God for eternality. But physical death must happen so that spiritual death can be entered into. That was why Adam and Eve must NOT be allowed to eat of the fruit from the Tree of Life anymore, and so, be put out of the Garden of Eden where the Trees of Life were found. Those wanting to have fuller exposition of The Fall, can read my separate series on “The Fall”.

But that, Adam and Eve would later (a few hundred years later) died (physical death), did NOT stop God from caring for them. Below are some verses indicating God’s care for the first family, after the Fall:

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Gen 3:21).

When Adam and Eve fell, they only made for themselves, leaf covering - Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Gen 3:7).

Outside of the Garden, subsequently, Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Gen 4:1-2).

After Cain murdered Abel, and Cain was banished, Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” (Gen 3:25) When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died. (Gen 5:3-5)

Thereafter, it was and is still the same
It is the same today, despite we are still going to die physically, God still cares for our physical and emotional well-being. It was prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 53, and it came to pass when Jesus walked on the earth as a man, and did that (cared), on behalf of the Father God.

The prophecy: Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)

The Fulfillment: When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Matt 8:16-17)

Jesus did only, those which the Father God would have done, and that included caring for the physical and emotional well-being of Man, while he (Man) lived: Jesus gave them {the Jews of His time} this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19). “I have testimony weightier than that of John {the Baptist}. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36). They did not understand that he {Jesus} was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. (John 8:27-28).

Many healing accounts in Scripture
There are many accounts of healing in Scriptures, showing God did care to heal and make people well. Below are just examples from the Book of Matthew alone:

The “are you willing” leper healed: A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. (Matt 8:2-3).

Servant of “Centurion of great faith” healed: 5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” 7 Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. (Matt 8:5-10,13)

Peter’s mother-in-law healed of her fever: When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matt 8:14)

Demons cast out and all sick THERE were healed: When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Matt 8:16-17).

Jesus healed all kinds of sicknesses and diseases: Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matt 9:35).

Jesus’ disciples also healed various sicknesses, including expelling demons: He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matt 10:1). Jesus’ instructions - As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matt 10:7-8).

Although here, there was no direct mention of healings done by the apostles, in Acts 5:16, it was recorded many sick, demonized and demon-possessed people were healed by the apostles.

Jesus healed daughter of a Gentile (we can pray for non-believers to be healed): A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. 26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matt 15:22-28).

Jesus healed many at one seating, the mute, the crippled, the lame, the blind, etc: Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matt 15:29-31).

This is why I pray for the sick for healing
I reiterate, it is NOT that God MUST heals or God WILL heal; it is God can and does heal. And we should pray for the sick on the following grounds:

1. God cares for the well-being of Man while he (Man) lives on earth
2. God can and does heal. He healed in the past, and currently still heals.
3. Jesus when He walked on the earth, did that, and it was part of His manifesto (see Luke 4:18-19), and as followers of Jesus, we are to do the same.
4. It is a good way to love our neighbours.
5. Generally, healed soldiers of God are better soldiers.
6. It glorifies God when testimony of His healing is shared.
7. It edifies the Church.
8. It is good works, it is bearing fruit, and we are commanded in Scripture to do good works and bear fruit.
9. Divine healing is one of the signs and wonders and miracles that God said will accompany His gospel.
10. Sickness is NOT good.

Of course, all of us would like to see higher success rate out of our ministry of praying for the sick. With a right heart attitude, this is absolutely right, for our love and compassion desire more people be ministered and healed; but ultimately, God decides who He will heal; and people can be, NOT healed, for any one or more reasons. If it is one success out of 7 attempts, I am more than willing, to pray, even if it is one out of 77, I will still pray.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them {for that instance} were healed {by the Apostles}. Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out (Acts 5:16-19).

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who killed Goliath?

In recent days, I have spent some time on the above subject, and it had begun with the reading of the first post, by the same name, by a Professor of the Old Testament, Dr Claude Mariottini. I was startled when I first came across the title, “Who killed Goliath?” I thought to myself, “I have gone through both books of Samuel and enough of the Old Testament stuff, but I had NOT previously come across any ambiguity as to who killed Goliath. Why, did this professor pose this question?” Did you also think it is clear-cut, even your Sunday School kids know the answer?

And so, I went back to my own study notes, which I refer to them as “my private commentary” on the Word of God. From the commentary that I had written up, it was this, and which I had previously accepted them plainly:

1 Samuel 17:49-51 – David killed Goliath {“everybody” knows that}

2 Samuel 21:19 (NIV84) – “Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim [c] the Bethlehemite killed Goliath [d] the Gittite ….”

and the NIV84 footnote for [c] is this: “2 Samuel 21:19 Or son of Jair the weaver”; and for [d] is this: “2 Samuel 21:19 Hebrew and Septuagint; 1 Chron. 20:5 son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath”

1 Chron. 20:5 (NIV84) read as follows: “In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.”

From here, previously, I concluded that David killed Goliath, and Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath, Lahmi (assuming Jaare-Oregim and Jair were the same person, the father of Elhanan). But the Professor, in his first part of a 3-part article, said this:

“But the answer to the question “who killed Goliath” is not as easy as it seems. Several years ago, a group of international Old Testament scholars met in Paris at a two-day conference to discuss this issue. The topic of the conference was “Who Killed Goliath.” Scholar after scholar presented papers on different aspects of this issue. After two days of discussion, those scholars concluded that it was impossible to decide who killed Goliath.”

The Professor, in his articles, gave a few views of other scholars, but I would NOT go into them in any details, because I consider them as having little merit, but if you like, you can read all the 3 parts of the Professor’s article here: Who killed Goliath? Part 1; Who killed Goliath? Part 2; Who killed Goliath? Part 3. In the last part, the Professor gave His own take of who killed Goliath. Imagine, a group of international OT scholars, after researches and a 2-day conference could NOT conclusively decide who killed Goliath!

So, I commented on the Professor’s part I of his article:

“Unless, it is argued that the equating of Jaare-Oregim to Jair is NOT acceptable, it appears that Elhanan killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath whom David killed. Goliath could be a family or clan name, such was NOT uncommon in those days. The key figure would then be called “The such and such”, and in this case, “The Goliath”; and David killed The Goliath. Elhanan killed “a Goliath”, and that Goliath was the brother (Lahmi) of The Goliath.

With due respect, less fuss over this might be better.”

Without seeing the Professor’s view, my conclusion was that Goliath was probably a clan or family name of some giants. My own study of OT scriptures, without always ignoring genealogy, and my more recent study on a similar “same name issue” character, Obed Edom, had helped to me to believe Goliath could be a clan or family name. Those interested, can read my separate article on Obed-Edom, although it is quite separate from Goliath, but related, in the sense that the controversy over the “secret” or “pleasing ways” of Obed Edom also hinges on whether there was one Obed Edom throughout or there was more than one Obed Edom - “Secret of Obed Edom, faulty premise more likely”.

By now, you are probably wondering what the Professor’s view is! But before I reveal that, let me say that the Professor expressed his objection to the purported harmonisation of the 2 accounts of a Goliath being killed, one account in 2 Samuel (2 Samuel 21:19) and the other, in 1 Chronicles (1 Ch 20:5).

While there was a case for saying that a harmonisation was perhaps attempted, but the Professor’s slant was that the writer or he called him or them, the chronicler(s) of the Books of Chronicles, introduced “the corruption” to resolve the inconsistency of the 2 accounts of Goliath being killed in the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 17:49-51 – David killed Goliath; and 2 Samuel 21:19 – Elhanan killed Goliath). Originally, I got a little confused and thought that the Professor was referring to a translation of 1 Chronicles, and so, I mistakenly thought that “the brother of” (Goliath) was introduced by a translator, but when I went to the Hebrew text (OT originally written in Hebrew) of 1 Ch 20:5, I realised that “the brother of” was in the Hebrew text. And so, my final conclusion is that I cannot agree with the Professor that “the brother of” was introduced into the Chronicles to harmonise the 2 accounts of Goliath being killed, in the Books of Samuel. Why do I say that?

My understanding is that we have to be clear first of all, whether we are referring to the original text, written in Hebrew, or a translation (into another language) of the Chronicle’s account. We need to distinguish between the original authors of the various books or epistles that made up the Bible (the official 66 Books – canonised Scriptures), and groups of persons who translate the Bible into other language(s). According to 2 Tim 3:16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (KJV) or is God-breathed (NIV84); and so, we must believe the original authors had the inspiration from God, and in that sense, whatever that was written in Scripture (the original versions) had the approval of God, minimally, to me, God allowed them to be entered the ways the original authors entered them, influenced by their own personal styles and so on and so forth. Because of this understanding it is proper that a Christian takes the Bible as it is, authoritative; it is the words of God, there is no mistake in the words of God; any “mistake” that we see in the written form (as written by the original authors) of the words of God, it can only be the “mistake” made by the authors (NOT talking about the translators), but even so, since God had allowed it to be recorded as such, such “aberration” is NOT “fatalistic”.

Now, for the translators, it is a whole lot of a different story. The individual translator may claim he was inspired by the Holy Spirit for particular verse translation, but you have to decide if you can believe him. There are so many translations out there, and frankly speaking, there are some legitimate disapproval of some of the translations. Which translators are right? You, be my guest.

So, since we are NOT talking about a translation of the Chronicles, but the original Hebrew text, and “the brother of” (Goliath) was found in the Hebrew text, I can accept NO corruption of the Chronicle’s account, despite the Professor’s inclination. The suggestion that the original authors of Chronicles had wanted to harmonise the 2 apparent contradictory accounts (in the Books of Samuel) of who killed Goliath is just a speculation; no one knows the truth of that.

Now, to be clear, it was the 2 Samuel 21:19 account that did NOT have “the brother of” (Goliath) in its original Hebrew text; and translators, including the 1984 NIV translators, attempted to harmonise it to 1 Ch 20:5, through the use of footnotes. I accept the Professor’s protest against 2011 NIV’s rendering which inserted “the brother of” directly into the verse, and by way of footnote, mentioned that the Hebrew text did NOT contain the phrase, “the brother of”. With due respect to the Professor, we could argue against the introduction of “the brother of” by the translators, but we should NOT argue “corruption” by the original author(s) of the Books of Chronicles. Meaning, if we like, we can regard that there were 3 events, and NOT 2 events, meaning, David’s killing in 1 Samuel 17:49-51, as one event, Elhanan of Jaare-Oregim’s killing, as another event (2 Samuel 21:19), and finally, Elhanan of Jair’s killing, as a separate event (1 Ch 20:5).

It is obvious, by now there was more than one (1) Goliath; two (2) if you want to treat 2 Sam 21:19 and 1 Ch 20:5 as referring to the same account, three (3) if we treat all the accounts as separate. Then who killed Goliath? Even if we accept 1 Ch 20:5 as it was written, i.e. it was a brother of Goliath (called Lahmi), and NOT Goliath, who was killed, there were still two (2) Goliaths in the Books of Samuel. So who killed Goliath? My answer, you already know, in brief, from the above, David killed one Goliath, Elhanan of Jaare-Oregim killed another Goliath, and Elhanan of Jair killed another Goliath (called Lahmi); Goliath was (I believe) a clan or family name. What about the Professor’s answer?

The Professor ‘s answer is that Goliath was probably referring to a group of warriors, something like in the US, there were the “navy seals”. In other words, David killed one such warrior, and Elhanan(s) killed other such warrior(s). The support cited by the Professor was that there was a recent discovery made, where a potsherd was dug out in Gath where Goliath lived, that had “Goliath” written on it, and the inscription was believed to have been made over 100 years subsequent to David’s time. In reply to my comment, the Professor agreed that it was possible that there were a family of Goliaths. However, he said that he believed the archaeological find could indicate that the name was used by other people. Now, there is NO conclusion to that last statement; for to me, who were “other people” and who were the descendants of Goliath clan, who is able to tell now?; a 100 years from David’s time was NOT very long, possibly, the children of the deceased Goliaths, were still around and could be the “other people”.

Until more light can be shed from archaeological discoveries, there is only so much we can deduce from the information recorded for us in Scripture. I suppose, of the two views, mine or the professor’s, you can just take one. I will still stick to mine, though, and I will say a little bit more about it.

Normally, such family name or clan, as I understand them to be, there was a “head” and the head started the line (or name), and it was possible that the Goliath that David killed was The Goliath headman. The timing could suggest that, since when David killed The Goliath, he (David) was still a young boy who did NOT have any warriors with him, unlike his brothers who were already serving at the battleground; the other accounts appeared to have occurred subsequent to David’s killing. Of course, it was also possible that because of the fame of David, well, “The David”, the Goliath that he killed was being labeled as “The Goliath”. In any case, there were 2 or 3 Goliaths killed.

It is too long a shot to claim that Elhanan and David were the same man. The suggestion that David was without sword, and it was another who killed the Goliath and David just assumed the credit, it is NOT admissible (this was one of the views expressed by other scholars), for it was CLEARLY stated in 1 Sam 17:51 that David killed the giant with the giant’s sword – “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.”

Finally, as I have hinted in my comment against the Professor’s 1st post, all of these should NOT distract us from the story of David’s slain of a giant with a sling and a stone. In Biblical interpretation, the part of the Word that clearly has no ambiguity, we accept without questioning, and if we have to, we will drop ambiguous parts, favoring the one without ambiguity. Compared with the others, where goliaths were also killed, David’s story is “big deal”, NOT without reasons or merits: David was still a shepherd boy, courageous for a boy, he stood for God, he chose to arm appropriately, yes, he was without sword or armor, he used only a sling and smooth pebbles.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - It is understandable we do NOT have revelation of all of Scripture (i.e. we do NOT understand all of Scripture), and some parts of the Bible, to us, really are short, in details, but Scripture was NOT intended to record everything; Scripture itself, in John 21:25, said there would NOT be enough room in the world to contain it, if we had recorded just all the things that Jesus did. But we CANNOT doubt the integrity of Scripture.

PS: If you cannot remember anything else, still just continue to remember David killed a Goliath with a sling and a stone!

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The potter and the clay – His sovereignty

In the Old Testament, the subject of potter and clay was clearly seen in the words of 2 significant prophets of Old, namely, Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah came on the scene about a hundred years earlier than Jeremiah. He started prophesying around 740 BC during King Uzziah (or Azariah) of Judah, and died during the reign of King Hezekiah. All in all, he prophesied during the reigns of King Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, the kings of Judah.

Jeremiah started prophetic ministry around 626 BC, during the reign of Josiah, King of Judah. His ministry was believed to have continued until after the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem (Temple of Solomon) around 586 BC by the Babylonians.

The parable of the potter and the clay was most comprehensively expressed initially by the prophet Isaiah.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8).

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? (Isaiah 29:16)

9 “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to his mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’ (Isaiah 45:9-10).

We can trust that the parable of the potter and the clay expressed by Isaiah was inspired by the LORD. Then, subsequent to Isaiah, the LORD confirmed the parable through His instructing the prophet Jeremiah to go to a potter’s house, and while there, and while Jeremiah was observing the potter reshaping a marred pot into another pot, He, the LORD, spoke out concerning the parable:

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:6)

Then, in the New Testament (NT) we read of the parable in the Book of Romans, by the Apostle Paul:

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:21)

It is a parable
Why do I say it is a parable? Because it fits the definition of a parable. What is a parable? The Greek word for parable is parabolē, which means

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

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

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

Remember I said there are 2 things in a parable, the thing (in this case, the set of things, God and men), and the metaphor (potter and clay). In this parable in question, there is a pair, with potter, the metaphor for God, and clay, the metaphor for men. In interpretation of a parable, we must always remember at the end of the day, we go back to the “thing”, and NOT the metaphor or we do NOT stop at the metaphor.

The Interpretation
For a start, I would like to put the verses we have seen above, altogether in one place:

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8). You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? (Isaiah 29:16) 9 “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to his mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’ (Isaiah 45:9-10). “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:6). Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:21)

From Isaiah 64:8, we can derive this understanding: we have God, our LORD; He is to be understood as our Father. We are men, and we have a Father God. When He is Father, we are children. Framing in terms of what we can understand (Father and children), we, men are given rise to, by the Father, God. A child is begotten by a father, just as a pot or a piece of pottery is made by the potter from clay. Not only that, a child is shaped by the father, just like the clay is shaped by the potter. The child is likened to the clay. A Man, a grown-up child, is likened to a pot or a piece of pottery, shaped from clay. Just as the pottery was the result of the works on clay of the potter, we are the works of God’s hand. Honestly, how many of us can consider ourselves as fully-grown up, and NO longer need working on, by God? In God’s eyes we are all still children, still likened to be clay or unfinished pottery pieces.

Of course, Isaiah 64, in terms of chronological order, came subsequent to the earlier mention of the subject of potter and clay, but it is being put right in the beginning here by me for the reason we are able to more simply see the parable-placing of the 2 sets of things, as according to the definition of a parable. As to what Isaiah was trying to say (to the LORD), I will cover it, a little further down this article.

If we read Isaiah 29:13 (before Isaiah 29:16), we can see the LORD was expressing His disapproval that the Israelites were NOT properly regarding Him as their Father, the one who gave rise to them, and endowed them to be who they were. At that time, the Israelites only honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God; they did NOT worship or revere God in truth, but their worship of God was made up of only rules taught by men. In other words, they had turned things upside down; it should have been they were to do according to what God had dictated and NOT they did what they thought they knew better.

Isaiah, in verse 15 of Isaiah 29, spoke woe against the Israelites then, who thought they were above God, that they could hide their plans from God; they could do evil in darkness and thought that no one would see, and no one would know. It was and is of course, the other way round, God is entitled NOT to reveal some of His plans, and He sees all and knows all, for He is the one who formed us and He is in charge.

Although initially Isaiah 29:16 was spoken against the Israelites, we can note that it can be speaking to us, too. Are we treating things the other way round, we think we are the “father”, and God, the “charge”? Metaphorically, the potter was thought to be like clay, and the clay, potter. Isaiah posed if we could think the Father God did NOT create us, Man; or we considered God as knowing nothing. Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “He did not make me”? Can the pot say of the potter, “He knows nothing”? The Isaiah 29:16 text is exhorting us to examine our attitude toward God’s involvement, His work in our lives? Are we critical of what God is doing? Are we disapproving, are we resisting?

If we think that way, as described in the Isaiah 29:16 text, we are in fact, quarreling with God, our Maker (Isaiah 45:9-10). Isaiah said, “Woe to us”, who are but potsherds, broken pieces of pottery. Can the clay question the potter? Just as the potter has all the right to make anything out of a lump of clay, and the clay cannot protest, so does God has the right to decide what He wants to shape us to be. If the potter wants to make a vase, he makes a vase; if he wants to make a spittoon, he makes a spittoon. Similarly, God has the sovereign right to decide if he will have us be a doctor or a nurse, a preacher or a teacher, or a hard laborer or a janitor. We cannot question the will of the Father God for each one of us, just as the clay has no say what the potter will shape it into.

Again addressing the Israelites, this time Jeremiah, in Jer 18:6, was saying, could NOT God do as He pleased with the house of Israel, just like the potter, the clay? Jeremiah was being referred to the re-shaping or re-moulding of a marred pot into another. Because of things that had happened in the history of the Israelites, their flawed ways and sins, and all, accordingly God was then having the full right to re-shape the house of Israel. Even though it was against the Israelites, it can be applied to us; God is entitled to reshape us to function in whatever manner He deems fit, even when we are found “marred”. In other words, God has the right to change how and what He will have us do or function in, as He deems fit, with changes in and around us. Maybe, something has happened, can be to/in us, or even just to the circumstances around us, God has all the right to tune us to function in the role that He now desires, much like the potter has the right to reshape a marred pot into something else, say, a vase or spittoon or something. In addition, implicit in that text, is God’s willingness to re-work us, and NOT just dump us; and that is a comforting revelation!

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah were underlying the sovereignty of God, His right to decide what He wants to do with us. He has all the right to decide each of our role, and to change that.

Before I move to the NT’s mention of the parable in Romans 9:21, let me cover what I said I would cover, concerning what Isaiah was trying to say in his use of the parable in Isaiah 64. In all the other mentions, as covered above and also in the NT that we will deal with after this, the parable was directed at men. The parable was used to explain, teach and even admonish us. In Isaiah 64:8, Isaiah was speaking to the LORD – “Yet, O LORD, you are …..”. In other words, even as God had previously given prophet Isaiah, this parable, and the understanding thereof, to speak, teach and admonish the Israelites, Isaiah used it in his appeal to God to turn away from His anger.

Isaiah asked for mercy from God, stating that God was our Creator, Father, the one who begotten us; we are works of His hands, likening us to the clay, and God, the potter. In other words, Isaiah was imploring God, on account of us being works of His hand, NOT to be angry beyond measure (Isaiah 64:9); NOT to remember their (Israelites’) sins forever. The historical background was that by that time, the Israelites had been sinning very badly, so badly that Isaiah said in verse 6 of Isaiah 64, all of the Israelites had become like one who was unclean, and all their righteous acts were like filthy rags, so much so that God had hidden His face from them (v7). Isaiah was interceding for God’s turning away from His anger against Israel, and he appealed to God’s personhood as the Creator, Father, and metaphorically, the potter.

To me, the NT Romans 9:21 is another way of stating Isaiah 45:9-10, although it also touched on Isaiah 29:16.

9 “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to his mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’ (Isaiah 45:9-10).

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:21)

Clearly, as in Isaiah 45, the Romans text spoke about the sovereignty of God, and that He has the right to make us out to be whatever He so desires; and we cannot quarrel with Him on that. Just as the potter has the right to make out of the same lump of clay, some pottery for noble purposes, and some for common use, so God is entitled to shape us to fit whatever role He so desires each of us to undertake, regardless we thinking if one role is nobler or more common compared with another.

Sure, some roles, in our eyes, are nobler or more common compared with others, but in God’s eyes, actually, what He assigns is noble, none is ignoble, for ignobility is incompatible with the nature of God. Common is NOT ignoble!

The incorrect and correct way of linking to 2 Tim 2:20-21
There are teachers or speakers who combine Romans 9:21 and 2 Tim 2:20-21 in one preaching. There is nothing wrong with that, except, they must NOT lump the 2 texts together and explain them similarly, often subverting the true intent of 2 Tim 2:20-21. It is wrong to do that. As stated above, firstly, common is NOT ignoble. Secondly, in 2 Tim 2:20-21, the Apostle Paul was teaching that there is a Man’s part – we are to cleanse ourselves of ignoble, and set ourselves on the noble, in order that we can be a holy vessel, useful for the Master’s use, to do any good works. Whereas, Romans 9:21, also by Paul, as we have seen above, spoke about the sovereignty of God, and He decides what He wants to make us to be, and assigns to us our lot, as He desires; that is part of His part.

For the benefit of readers, I put down here the 2 Tim 2:20-21 text:

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Tim 2:20-21).

The correct way to link Romans 9:21 to 2 Tim 2:20-21 is the answer for the question posed by verse 19 of Romans 9:

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” (Romans 9:19)

The answer is that there is still a Man’s part, and it is as stated in 2 Tim 20:21, Man has to cleanse himself from the ignoble, so that he will be an instrument for noble purpose, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. We are resisting His will when we do NOT choose to cleanse ourselves from the ignoble. A whole list of ignoble was given by the Apostle Paul in 2 Tim 2 & 3, and I did provide a summary of the ignoble in my separate article on the exposition of 2 Tim 2:20-21, you can get it here, “You must choose to cleanse yourselves from ignoble

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, I thank you for your revelation that I am NOT submitting to your sovereignty, and therefore, am resisting your will when I am NOT choosing to cleanse myself from the ignoble. I am to cleanse myself from the ignoble so that I will be an instrument for noble purpose, made holy, useful to you and prepared to do any good work.

PS 1: Of course, the proud are guilty of resisting His will, and it is being listed as one of the ignoble in 2 Tim 3.

PS 2: No, Romans 9:21 is NOT in support of immutable personal predestination (emphasis of Calvinism). In fact, if we believe God is consistent, the same imagery of potter and clay as used in Jer 18, is still applicable even in NT times; in metaphorical terms, the potter will reshape the marred pottery, in actual terms, God refashions a “marred” individual; NOT immutability.

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