A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon in which I used Ezekiel 18:20 to counter the Calvinist doctrine of original sin. After the sermon, though, a member at Jackson Heights asked me about an apparent contradiction raised by the text. Ezekiel 18 says repeatedly that the son will not die for the sins of the father, but in 2 Samuel 12:13-14, God through the prophet Nathan tells David that because of David’s sin with Bathsheba, his son with Bathsheba will die. What God says won’t happen in Ezekiel 18 apparently does happen in 2 Samuel 12. What gives? Continue reading
Many Christians don’t venture deeply into the wilds of Deuteronomy, but Deuteronomy 29:29 is a text that is relevant for everybody who thinks deeply about spiritual things. In it, Moses says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” God has all the answers, but we should never expect more of them than we need to obey Him.
This is profoundly important. By nature, I’m an intellectually curious guy. I don’t have to think very long before I can come up with a Biblical question I can’t find the answer to. Is Satan a created being? What is the precise nature of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit? Why do sinless children sometimes suffer and die? Continue reading
In Deuteronomy 7:26, Moses warns, “And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.” In context, Moses is talking about idols. The Canaanites, of course, were idolaters, so when the Israelites came into the land and dispossessed the former inhabitants, they would naturally end up with a bunch of houses and even temples containing idols.
God gave strict warning about what had to be done with those idols. They couldn’t be preserved and worshiped, obviously, but the Israelites weren’t even allowed to salvage the gold and silver of which they were made. Instead, the whole thing had to be destroyed. They were devoted to destruction, and if the Israelites transgressed God’s law in this, they too would be devoted to destruction.
Idolatry was so abominable, and exposure to it was so corrupting, that God required His people to take every precaution lest it contaminate them. Sadly, Israel didn’t listen. God’s people embraced the idols of the nations around them until they were exiled for their sins from the land He had given them. Continue reading
Numbers 32 is, in the grand sweep of Biblical history, little more than a footnote. It describes a bargain made between Moses and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. The tribes want to settle in the land on the east bank of the Jordan. Moses, though, is concerned that if given the land, they will settle there and not help the rest of the Israelites conquer their allotments.
The would-be settlers promise that if they receive the land on the east bank, they’ll still help with the conquest of the west bank. Moses agrees to this. However, he adds in Numbers 32:23, “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.”
“Be sure your sin will find you out.” The story might be unimportant, but the principle is timeless. The decision to sin is, by definition, a decision taken with the short term in mind. We sin because we are interested in some passing pleasure, not because we are considering the consequences. Continue reading
Fear is a universal human experience, and in many ways, it is a useful one. Fear is what keeps us from jumping off cliffs to see what freefall feels like. However, when it comes to serving the Lord, the same fear that normally acts to preserve us can lead us into disaster. Continue reading
For generations, members of the Lord’s church have found Leviticus 10:1-3 to be a useful, if not a particularly pleasant, text. The dramatic deaths of Nadab and Abihu illustrate a principle that we hold dear: we must serve God according to His commandments, or else He will not be pleased with us.
However, Leviticus 10:16-20 offers an apparent counterpoint. According to 6:24-30, the priests typically were supposed to eat the sin offering. However, in 10:16, Moses finds that the sin offering, rather than being eaten, has been burned up. A conversation with Aaron ensues, but by the end, Moses approves of Aaron’s decision to ignore the ordinance of Leviticus 6.
“Aha!” some critics say at this point. “This is proof that we really don’t have to strictly obey the commandments of God. Aaron disobeyed, yet Moses approved and God didn’t roast Aaron like He had his sons.” In other words, they want to use 10:16-20 to nullify 10:1-3. Continue reading
Commonly, we think of jealousy as a vice, a sin. However, even though jealousy can lead to extreme and ungodly behavior (shooting your spouse is still not OK, even if you catch them in flagrante delicto), jealousy itself is not inherently evil. After all, in Exodus 34:14, God says of Himself, “The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Jealousy is part of God’s identity. Continue reading
The crossing of the Red Sea is one of the most important events in the history of Israel. Before God intervened, any rational observer would have said the Israelites were dead meat. There they were, on a hostile shore, no means of crossing to safety, and an enemy army coming up to destroy them. However, God did intervene, and by the time He was through, it was the Egyptians, not the Israelites, who had been destroyed. Clearly, their deliverance was due to God and God alone. Continue reading
Other parts of our reading for the year will feature a fantastic cast of characters: talking donkeys, statues with balance issues, and golden mice among others. This week, however, an organ takes center stage. The lump of flesh in question is, of course, the heart of Pharaoh, which is about as soft as a manhole cover. Continue reading