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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Camels and Critics

CamelsGenesis 24:10 – Domesticated Camels:

Some Bible critics believed that there were no domesticated camels during the time of Abraham as the bible states. Archeologists later found paintings of domesticated camels on the walls of the temple of Hatshepsut, which dated back to Abraham‘s period.

Not the One who Claimed Wisdom

ConfuciusNorman Geisler:

So I cast my lot with him – not the one who claimed wisdom, Confucius; or the one who claimed enlightenment, Buddha; or the one who claimed to be a prophet, Muhammad, but with the one who claimed to be God in human flesh. The one who declared, ‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ – and proved it.

A Covenant Christmas

On this second Sunday of Advent, let us consider our covenant making God. It has always been God’s plan to create for Himself a people. We see this clearly in God’s relationship with Abraham. God comes to Abraham and establishes a relationship with him; He establishes a covenant.

A covenant is not just a mutual agreement or contract. It is a binding agreement between two parties that can never be broken on pain of death. God’s part of the covenant was to redeem his people and bring His people back to Him.

The Holy Child who was born on Christmas morning was bringing the fulfillment of God’s covenant. God had come to redeem His people and fulfill His covenant with Abraham. If our justification before God depended on us, it would never happen because we are sinful and unfaithful.

Over and over again we have rejected God and want to be independent of any relationship with Him. God, however, pursues man. God is not content to simply exist in some corner of the kingdom of heaven; He has not wound the world up like a clock and then walked away. Our God is intensely personal.

Christmas is a declaration of God’s faithfulness. Paul writes to Timothy, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV)

God’s covenant with Abraham was singularly one-sided. During the time of Abraham, the practice of making a covenant was to take a Christmas Nativityfew animals and cut them in half from head to tail. The halves were then positioned to form a path between them. The two people making the covenant would walk the path between the separated pieces; saying in effect, “If I break this covenant, may my flesh be ripped apart like these animals.”

In the covenant with Abraham, however, we see that only God walked the covenant path between the animal halves. The Bible tells us, “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.” (Genesis 15:17 ESV) Abraham did not walk between the pieces because Abraham could not keep the terms of the covenant. Therefore, God made a unilateral covenant. Even if Abraham and his descendants could not keep their side of the covenant, God would keep His.

We need to see that Christmas and covenant are linked to God’s eternal plan. We may not see it or understand it, but God is working out His purpose for each of us. Christianity teaches that history is headed somewhere and that it is “His-story”. Life has meaning and God rules over it. God is not asleep somewhere, He is watching over us. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

Most of us would like to have a god who we can manipulate. God will make good His promises and fulfill His covenant, but He will not be put into a box. When Jesus was born, people were probably not thinking much about a covenant fulfilling Christmas. Yet, the night skies were opened and filled with angels. A baby was born and His cry has echoed through the ages. Who would suspect that, through such a small child, God would fulfill His covenant and change the world?

Let us think on God’s covenant with Abraham during this second week of Advent. Remember that God saved Abraham’s son when He did not save His own Son from the sacrifice of the cross. Our God has given us an incredible gift!

 

 

We Owe Him Ourselves

The truth of Jesus Christ endures from generation to generation. He is the same gracious Savior that He was to our fathers. He is today our Savior and is the only Savior by whom our children may have any comfort. Thomas Adams writes:

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” (Heb. 13:8)

[Christ is], subjectively, in his power the same; and that (1) Yesterday, for he made the world; (2) To-day, for he governs the world; (3) For ever, for he shall judge the world.

Yesterday in the creation: ‘All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made,’ John 1:3. ‘By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him,’ Col. 1:16. All things, even the great and fair book of the world, of three so large leaves, coelum, solum, salum; heaven, earth, and sea. The prophet calls him ‘the everlasting Father,’ Isa. 9:6; Daniel, the ‘Ancient of days,’ Dan. 7:9. Solomon says, that ‘the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old,’ Prov. 8:22. So himself told the unbelieving Jews, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ John 8:58.

We owe, then, ourselves to Christ for our creation; but how much more for our redemption? … If I owe him my whole self for making me, what have I left to pay him for redeeming me? In the first work, he gave myself to me; in the second, he gave himself to me. By a double right, we owe him ourselves; we are worthy of a double punishment, if we give him not his own. (“The Immutable Mercy of Jesus Christ”)

The Field of Abram

Archaeology and the Bible:

The field of Abram in Hebron is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (now also believed to be Ramses II). He had just finished warring in Palestine and inscribed on the walls of his temple at Karnak the name of the great patriarch, proving that even at this early date Abraham was known not in Arabia, as Muslims contend, but in Palestine, the land the Bible places him.

Archaeology and Genesis

Over the centuries there have been many attacks against the Word of God. Yet, God has seen to it that His Word abides; while the attacks are vanquished and soon forgotten. Edward J. Young provides evidence of this:

Someone has aptly compared the Bible to an anvil against which the hammer blows of unbelief are constantly beating. But although the hammers crack and break frequently, and must be replaced, the anvil stands. It cannot be shattered. . . .

Toward the close of the last century there lived truly gifted and brilliant German scholar by the name of Julius Wellhausen. . . .

Wellhausen’s assaults upon the book of Genesis were extremely severe. He was particularly insistent that the background of the patriarchal narratives did not represent an accurate picture. He considered this background, as it is presented to us in Genesis, not to be an accurate reflection of the times of the patriarchs, but rather of the period in which it was written down, several hundred years later. . . .

In 1925 excavations were carried on at a place in Mesopotamia known today by its Turkish name of Yorgan Tepa. In ancient times, however, this place bore the name of Nuzi (pronounced Newsy), and proved to be a center of the ancient Hurrians, mentioned in Genesis 14:6 as the Horites. Incidentally this mention of the Horites [Hittites] was long regarded as an inaccuracy. Now, however, at Nuzi, a settlement of these people has been discovered.

What is of particular interest for our purpose is the fact that great numbers of clay tablets were unearthed at Nuzi, which proved to be business documents. They are now known as contract tablets, for they contain the records of ancient business contracts. . . .

As a result of the excavations it is now possible to know quite a bit about some practices of the Hurrians. For one thing, a citizen of Nuzi could not sell land. If, therefore, one wished to purchase land he could not simply go to a realtor, as we do, and buy the desired property. Instead, as a result of this restriction, there was a legal fiction by means of which it was possible to get around the difficulty. In brief, the way it worked was this. If I wish to obtain your land, I cannot buy it; I can, however, have myself adopted as your son. If I am thus adopted, I shall become the heir, and the land will be willed to me. In return for this, I can give a gift to you. . . .

Genesis 15:2, 3 has long been a difficult section of Scripture to understand. As we learn from the Nuzi tablets, it was the custom for a couple who were without children to adopt someone who in return for being made the heir would take care of them in their old age and see to it that they were given a decent burial. Eliezer of Damascus had evidently been adopted by Abraham to be his steward, to manage his affairs and possibly to give him burial. According to the practices of Nuzi if an heir should later be born, the adopted son would have to give way to the heir. In the light of this provision we may understand the language of the Lord, “This [i.e., Eliezer] shall not inherit thee, but he that shall come out of thy loins shall inherit thee.” Abraham was simply acting in accord with the customs of the time.

Not only the Nuzi texts, but also the now famous Code of Hammurabi sheds light upon the type of thing that Abraham did in taking Hagar to be his concubine. It was the custom, apparently, when the legal wife was barren, for such a wife to provide her husband with a concubine in order that a seed might he raised up. . . In providing Abraham with a concubine Sarah was simply acting in accordance with the customs of the time. The same is true of the action of Rachel (Genesis 30:3) when she provided Jacob with a concubine, Bilhah.

As might be expected, such a practice was not likely to bring about happiness, and we read that Sarah wished to drive Hagar out. In this, however, she was going contrary to practice. . . Despite the fact that Sarah was violating custom, the Lord spoke to Abraham, “Let it not be evil in thine eyes, because of the land and thy handmaid. In all that Sarah saith to thee hearken unto her voice, for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:11, 12). (Edward J. Young, The Accuracy of Genesis, [March 1957]: 23-26)

Egypt and the Famine

Archaeology and the Bible:

The Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period, depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account of the plight of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’.

Faith

According to John Calvin:

“It would be the height of absurdity to label ignorance tempered by humility “faith”!

“…a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous…”

Humility is a Grace

The following is by J. C. Ryle:

Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness and to feel our need of Christ is the start of saving religion.

Humility is a grace which has always been a distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age. Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Daniel and Paul were all eminently humble men.

Above all, humility is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All converted people should work to adorn with humility the doctrine they profess. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.

Do you want to know the root and spring of humility? One word describes it. The root of humility is right knowledge. The person who really knows himself and his own heart, who knows God and his infinite majesty, and holiness, who knows Christ and the price at which he was redeemed, that person will never be a proud person.

He will count himself, like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself, like Job, “I am unworthy.” He will cry, like Paul, “I am the worst of sinners” He will consider others better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)

Ignorance–nothing but sheer ignorance, ignorance of self, of God, and of Christ–is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance may we daily pray to be delivered. The wise person knows himself and will find nothing within to make him proud.

Are You Free?

Now he [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 13:10-17 ESV)

The verses above tell us about the power of Jesus to set us free. As He delivers this sick woman, we see an example of what He can do for us.

The woman was in severe physical pain. Her body was bent double at the waist. By her own power, she could not overcome her condition. Many are in a spiritual state like this. They are unable to see beyond dark times. This woman was an Israelite and a believer. However, she was under the attack of a demonic spirit! Even saved people can be attacked by such dark creatures (This is rare.). Satan is always seeking for ways to bind your life and to hinder you from service to God. Do you find yourself bound today?

This is one of the most powerful pictures of faith in the New Testament. She has been in this condition for 18 years! She has not been healed, still she believes in God! It looks to me as if she continued praying even when God was silent. I think she believed that God always makes the best decision for us.

Jesus saw her and called her to come to Him. Other people may have not seen her or ignored her, but Jesus loved her! Do people recognize your value? Jesus does! He sees you for what you can become through His matchless grace! Then He said, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”

I don’t know what unclean spirits may haunt your life day by day (This is rare!). I don’t know your valleys and burdens, but Jesus does! Just come when He calls and He will speak the word of freedom.

Jesus Christ cares about you and He has a plan to help you. He wants to set you free. I also want you to notice that Jesus made the first move. He called her to come to Him. She responded to His call. Is He calling you today? Is there something in your life that has you bound? He will save you if you heed His call.

The Folly of Ignorance

How often do we act or fail to act with no understanding? Undoubtedly, there are many who follow a path all their lives while in total ignorance of where it really leads. Such is the fate of the ungodly. The following is from the pen of John Bunyan (1628-1688):

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

[S]ome are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know where they are, until they come into hell. . . . There it is that they come to themselves, that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed. Thus it fares with some men that they scarce know where they are, till they lift up their eyes in hell. . . .

Truly thus, it is to be feared, it is with many poor souls, they are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience (1 Tim 4:2), that they are very ignorant of their state; and when death comes it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly, and so they are hurried away, and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes. . . .

Indeed this is too much known by woeful and daily experience; sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live, O how senseless, how seared in their consciences are they! They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a Savior; speak to them of their condition, and the state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no souls to regard. . . . Ah, poor souls! Though they may go away here like a lamb, as the world says, yet, if you could but follow them a little, to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared, you should hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell. . . .

Now, by this one thing doth the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy; when, alas! it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly, was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their consciences; yea, dead before in sins and trespasses. For, had they had but some awakenings on their death-beds, as some have had, they would have made the entire town to ring of their doleful condition; but because they are seared and ignorant, and so depart quietly, therefore the world takes heart. . . . But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus now, while they live in the world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go unto the same place; ‘and lifted up their eyes in hell.’ (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

The Mountain of God

Charles Spurgeon writes:

Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:3)

It is exceedingly beneficial to our souls to mount above this present evil world to something nobler and better. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are apt to choke everything good within us, and we grow fretful, desponding, perhaps proud and carnal. It is well for us to cut down these thorns and briers, for heavenly seed sown among them is not likely to yield a harvest; and where shall we find a better sickle with which to cut them down than communion with God and the things of the kingdom? In the valleys of Switzerland many of the inhabitants are deformed, and all wear a sickly appearance, for the atmosphere is charged with miasma, and is close and stagnant; but up yonder, on the mountain, you find a hardy race, who breathe the clear fresh air as it blows from the virgin snows of the Alpine summits. It would be well if the dwellers in the valley could frequently leave their abodes among the marshes and the fever mists, and inhale the bracing element upon the hills. It is to such an exploit of climbing that I invite you this evening. May the Spirit of God assist us to leave the mists of fear and the fevers of anxiety, and all the ills which gather in this valley of earth, and to ascend the mountains of anticipated joy and blessedness. May God the Holy Spirit cut the cords that keep us here below, and assist us to mount! We sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. May God now grant us grace, if we cannot escape from the chain as to our flesh, yet to do so as to our spirits; and leaving the body, like a servant, at the foot of the hill, may our soul, like Abraham, attain the top of the mountain, there to indulge in communion with the Most High. (Morning and Evening)

That Which Waits

We should all be fearful for the many poor souls who are so senseless and hard, that they are almost totally ignorant of the state of their souls. When death comes they are hurried away, and do not know what is happening until they are swallowed by hell. John Bunyan continues our education in this matter:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham‘s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. . . . (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)

And thou that art wanton, and dost make but a mock at the servants of the Lord, when they tell thee of the torments of hell, thou wilt find that when thou departest out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet thee in thy journey thither; and will, with its hellish crew, give thee such a sad salutation that thou wilt not forget it to all eternity. When that scripture comes to be fulfilled on thy soul, in Isaiah 14:9, 10, ‘Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they,’ that is, that are in hell, shall say, ‘Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?’ O sometimes when I have had but thoughts of going to hell, and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in thither, it hath stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from thence, than to slight it, and make a mock at it. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

[A]ll the ungodly that live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they depart this life, do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable, where Christ said, He ‘died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ As the tree falls, so it shall be, whether it be to heaven or hell (Eccl 11:3). And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’ Even so the devil in the like manner may say unto thy soul, To-morrow shalt thou be with me in hell. See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell; from the grippings of death, to the everlasting torments of hell. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Ah friends! If you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls; if you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. O what will it profit thy soul to have pleasure in this life, and torments in hell? (Mark 8:36). Thou hadst better part with all thy sins, and pleasures, and companions, or whatsoever thou delights in, than to have soul and body to be cast into hell. O then do not now neglect our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou drop down to hell (Heb 2:3). Consider, would it not wound thee to thine heart to come upon thy death-bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the comforts of his glorious Spirit: to have, first, the sight of an ill-spent life, thy sins flying in thy face, thy conscience uttering itself with thunder-claps against thee, the thoughts of God terrifying of thee, death with his merciless paw seizing upon thee, the devils standing ready to scramble for thy soul, and hell enlarging herself, and ready to swallow thee up; and an eternity of misery and torment attending upon thee, from which there will be no release. (The Groans of a Damned Soul)

God’s Perseverance

In the words of John Arrowsmith:

“Election having once pitched upon a man, it will find him out and call him home, wherever he be. It called Zaccheus out of accursed Jericho; Abraham out of idolatrous Ur of the Chaldees; Nicodemus and Paul, from the College of the Pharisees, Christ’s sworn enemies; Dionysius and Damaris, out of superstitious Athens. In whatsoever dunghills God’s elect are hid, election will find them out and bring them home.”

Christ Is Not Ashamed To Call Us Brothers

Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of those whom the Father gave him. He opened up the way of eternal life for all who are called his brothers. Martin Luther explains:

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has grasped the words of Ps 22,23 and taken them well to heart, when he says of Christ: “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.” Heb 2,11-12. If any worldly lord were to condescend so low as to say to a thief, or a murderer or to a low French character, Thou art my brother; that would be a great thing and everyone would be amazed at it; but that this King, who in his glory sits at the right hand of God, his Father, says to a poor sinner: Thou art my brother, that no one takes to heart, no one receives it in earnest, and yet on that hangs our highest comfort and courage against sin, death, Satan, hell, law, and against all misfortune, both of the body and of the soul.

Since we are flesh and blood, and subject to all kinds of affliction, it follows that it must be thus also with our brother; or he would not be like us in all respects. Therefore, in that he becomes like us, he tastes of all that we do, in order to be our true brother and save us, so that we on the other hand may become like him. This the Epistle to the Hebrews paints and brings out very beautifully when it says: “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, be is able to succor them that are tempted.” Heb 2, 14- 18.

St. Paul in a very beautiful way condensed the benefit and use both of Christ’s sufferings and his resurrection in one short passage, as in a nutshell, when he says to the Romans: “Who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Rom 4, 25. But on this theme enough has been said for the present; whoever desires may with profit meditate on it. . . . (“The Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection”)

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