On Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is the best book of the Old Testament.
Some thoughts,
My OT professor, Roger Cotton, once told his class the following.

“The heart of the Old Testament (Tanakh) is the law. And the heart of the law is Deuteronomy. If we understand Deuteronomy, we will understand why the prophets rebuked Israel and the nations,”

I would add that, if we understand Deuteronomy rightly…
We will understand:
why David sang..
why Israel responded the way she did to Jericho, Ai, Egypt, the Amorites, and the Amalekites…
We will understand also why G-d used Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and the Greeks.
My best friend once said,

“if you want to understand the blessings [of G-d through obedience] and the curses [that G-d allows through disobedience], you need intimate knowledge of Deuteronomy.”

The church does not understand grace to an extent, because the church does not understand the work of obedience, and the standards of the law.
The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
REVISION 11/15/18:
Younger David, really? This is your wise and knowledgeable thought??? “We must be more obedient? Seriously?
You are so stupid.
We do not understand the grace to an extent not only because of obedience and standards, but moreso because we do not understand the nature of the Trinity.

Numbers 17-After Balaam…an act of love

From Dr Railey’s Christian Theology class, part 1.  Concerning God
God’s Attributes
Love-that quality by which God is eternally moved to self-communication.

Because God loves, God wants to communicate Himself, since He is love, to His children. 

It would seem we sometimes perceive, as one of my pagan friends does, the God shown in the Old Testament as a trigger-happy bipolar fruit-bat, especially when we see how he handled multiple scenarios in the Torah and Joshua.  And yet we fail to do two things to help us keep perspective of the context.  1) We forget to measure his response against the attitudes of his children, Israel.  2)We fail to understand the nature of rebellion.  I would say this happens because we judge God by our standards. We make standards for ourselves and then try to apply those standards to God.  There is a problem with that though.  It frequently boils down to our misunderstanding of the nature of God’s sovereignty and holiness.  Now I know at that word “sovereignty,” the ears of some of my Armenian brothers might perk up.  However, as Armenians, we should not fear those words.  We know that God is absolutely sovereign.  When I said a couple of days ago that God “can arbitrarily set things up any way He wants”, I took for granted that my audience does not hold some of the same ideas about God’s nature that I do, which are below.

1) God is absolutely sovereign..  
2) God is the one who sets the standards.
3) God is the standard by which all things are judged.
4) God’s standards are set forth in the Scripture.  These are the explicit parameters by which he operates.
4a) If scripture is silent on how God operates in a particular matter, then as best we can, we draw applications from what is written as best we can, making guesses as to how we think God will operate in a given circumstance, but God is not obliged to adhere to those guesses of His character.  One application of this is the Lewisian concept that, “He’s not safe but he is good.”  God is not obliged to be safe as to how we rate safeness, and even int he concept of good, he is not required to live up to our standards for goodness, since our standards are well-uninformed.
5) Whereas even the most noble and integrated unbeliever cannot and does not apply the standards of good and evil consistently, and only after belief is this possible, and failure still can happen due to temptations or whatnot, God was always consistent and incapable of failure throughout Scripture in the application of his standards, which are amazingly different from ours.
6) Even though we might have certain “benevolent ideals” if those ideals conflict with what is set forth in Scripture, then those ideals are not ideals

In light of all this, God, who is infinitely awesome, holy, just, righteous, true, faithful, and incapable of failing, is infinitely concerned with us, compassionate towards us, loving with us, and is willing to help us on all points. 

That is amazing.  

He is willing even to point the way out for us and help us.

As He did in Numbers 17 following the Korah rebellion.
 1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff,

3and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house. 4Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 5And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.” 6Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. 7And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.

 8On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” 11Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did.
 12And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone.13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, shall die. Are we all to perish?”

Numbers 17 teaches something very important.  What it teaches us is that God is not bipolar.  It teaches us that God, even after the Korah matter is still vitally interested in the doings on of his people.  We see this in verse 1.  “God spoke to Moses…”.  Not “the people besought God and presented him with sacrifices and burnt offerings.  God initiated the communication with his people and told them what to do, and even actively told them that in the process they would receive a sign of whom was to carry the priesthood.  

The lessons here are as follows
1) Don’t put God to the arbitrary test or try to get him to do what you think he should do.  Don’t become as the lasagna what says to the cook, “why did you make me this way?  Why did you use this much ricotta?”  You are the lasagna, and God is the cook.  He’s pretty darn smart at what he does, so leave that domain to him, and you just do what he says.

2) God is more ready to speak to us than we are ready to listen to Him. Do not yield to the temptation to get caught up in your own thing to the point that you are unwilling to time-out of your own thing to listen for his input, about what you should and should not do.  What often happens is we refuse to listen to him, because we are more interested in setting our own agenda.  This always brings danger and negative consequences.  Just ask any child who yammers, does his or her own thing, and pays no attention to his or her parents.  

3) Don’t serve God because of what He won’t do.  That’s fear.  Serve God because He is and in response to His amazing love for you.  Serve Him because He is faithful and true, not as a response to His power.  Understand that His faithfulness and his truth back His power, which is what makes Him infinitely powerful, that’s fine.  But power is no motive in and of itself.  There is more to life than just a response to power.  If you but know the kind of love He has for you, and the way He enjoys being with you, then you might think twice about not getting involved with him, even if it means you have to turn from a sinful lifestyle.  There is more to life than a lifestyle that revolves around us.  We were hardwired for more than a self-focused existence.  

4) Realize that the Old Testament demonstrations of God’s power were fueled by a much deeper motive.  Exodus 2:23-25.  His motive was a remembrance of his covenant, which was itself motivated by his intense love for his people.  He made a promise to Abraham, and He intended to keep it.  And He used that covenant to turn the world upside down.  For it was to that people, Israel, that “a child was born, and a son was given,”  and to Him the government would revert. (Isaiah 9:6).  

Numbers 17 was therefore an act of love.

Listening to God, and waiting on Him

God, am I leaping ahead of your plan?  Or have I contented myself with the discipline you have set aside for me while you are preparing your plan for me. Lord, may I never leap ahead of your plan or turn aside from it.  Help me today, since your mercies are new every morning, to stay singularly focused.  Help me to take the counsel that is from you as I wait on you, so that my waiting does not turn into sloth.

Numbers 16: Korah's Rebellion

The nerve.
You would think that they would be greatful.  You would think they had learned to trust God after the seven, eight, or ten times (depending on which events you counted in the Torah) that they rebelled and the Lord punished.  From death by quail, to plagues and heathen Canaanite troops.  However, here is the oncoming foolishness of yet another rebellion, this time among the Levite tribe.  Moses’ near relative, Korah, whose clan was responsible for the holy things, including the Lampstand, Incense altar, Presence table, plates, utensils, dishes, bowls, and the ark (Numbers 4:1-20).  Yet, they want more.  Let’s read

1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.

Leadership has an internal breakdown.  Leadership of the nation of Israel gathers together.

 3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron,

They gathered against Moses and specifically against Aaron, who had the role of Priest.

and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”

Arguing for the priesthood of all the Jews.  I mean that sounds pretty fair, given the rest of the Levites equality to appear before God.
However, there was something deeper at work here.  What Korah was doing was much more devious. He was violating what was already set down in Torah.  He wanted to rewrite his duties and he wanted more than God had called for him to operate in.  God had already set a process down just a few chapters earlier, and other aspects of the same process were set up in Exodus.

4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face;

A sign of humility in Moses (Numbers 12:3).

5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him.

As if they were needed any other confirmation.  Even in their rebellion, God was willing to give them more proof.  Nevermind that they were about to lose their lives in the process of God’s establishment of the priesthood.  However, that is what happens when you speak against an actual anointed person.  God guards his true priests and his true prophets.

That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.

This was what God was going to do anyway.  He was going to cause Aaron and his descendants after him to come before Him.
Another thing that this demonstrates is the following.  Korah was challenging God, who can arbitrarily set things up any way He wants.  God does respond well to questioning when it arises from a heart of honest humble inquiry.  Nevertheless, God does not respond kindly to questioning when it arises from a heart that wants to challenge His authority and holiness.  This challenge from Korah and his associates arises not from humility and honest inquiry but from a heart that seeks to challenge the authority and holiness of God.

 6 Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one.

Moses is saying, “You want to function as a priest, and pretend to be holy and set apart for that task.  God ahead and try.  See what God does when we choose to flagrantly disregard what He has told us to do.”

You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”

8 Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; 10and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also? 11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?”
As if Aaron was something that they should complain against him.  What they were really doing, if you read the Torah to this point, and saw the duties assigned to different groups, was to violate God, and assault His order, and to gather together against Him.

12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up! 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? 14 Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”

The promise of a land flowing with milk and honey did not come from Moses, but from God (Exodus 3:8).

15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the LORD, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.”

God respected Moses’ plea, even though it could have come from a heart of anger and vengeance.  Thoughts?

16 And Moses said to Korah, “Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the LORD—you and they, as well as Aaron. 17 Let each take his censer and put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the LORD, two hundred and fifty censers; both you and Aaron, each with his censer.” 18 So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

So, here is the process by which they were going to decide who was the priest set apart by God for God.

Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.

The judge gets ready to fulfill His role.

20 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”  22 Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”   23 So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’”  25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” 27 So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children.
28 And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 29 If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.”

If…then….   So many of us do not understand if/then statements.  Rather, we take them as accusations, when they are not.

31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.

Wow! So they really were challenging the Lord.
34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” 35 And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense. 36 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 37 “Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away.
38 The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the LORD, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.”
Signs are useful for caution, for dangers, for warnings, for direction, for locations, for marking routes, and for setting limits.
39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, 40 to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the LORD, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the LORD had said to him through Moses.
Even though they violated God’s order, they did things that caused their tools, the censers, to become set apart.  God still respected the use of the tools, and incorporated them into the work of the temple, and to function as a reminder of God’s judgement that day.  And Judson Cornwall tells us in “Incense and Insurrection” that bronze was used in the tabernacle in places that dealt with judgement, most notably the brazen altar, where God dealt with and judged the sins of Israel on all days, except for once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  He judged and acquitted at the brazen altar.  He judged Korah, and had that bronze attached to the brazen altar.  It was a memorial and a testimony that God had confirmed his word.


Okay, Lord, so I am ready to hear what you have to say, so say it.  Am I too late for this thing.  No, nothing is too late for You, and nothing is impossible for You.  I haven’t done certain things, and You know what is still lacking.  So, I ask you, to help me out here, and do what I cannot do.  If I am supposed to take that test and move or transfer because I am supposed to be in a different area, then let me know.   Help me, and lead me, instruct me in the way I am to go. If I am supposed to be in this realm, then let me know.  Finally, if I am doing the right thing right now, then please let me know that too.  Thank You for Your amazing patience and for Your grace in my life.  I appreciate what you have done for me.  I am very excited about what is in store for me.  Your will is to be done.

Yale, Sunday School Class and other thoughts.

Today was a really weird day…

Okay, so after choir, I found myself in Sunday School class and made a little bit of a fool of myself.  Got into a heated disagreement with the teacher over the nature of people following their salvation.  I took one of my teachers’ positions on the nature of our identity in Christ.  A segment of people at our church, it seems, appear to believe in the existence of a dual redeemed-spiritual/fleshly-sinful nature in the believer, and use Romans 7 as their basis.  I was asked to leave the class.  May God forgive me for not conducting myself with more humility and temperance.  I will eat the humble pie given me.  God, I felt like such a hypocrite today.

You have no idea how frequently I deal with and fight those thoughts.  And how frequently that happens to believers.  We need to learn as believers, the measure of potential within us, and learn an attitude of consistency. We also need to give thought to the fact from Scripture is that, once redeemed, we are not this twisted, dualistic person with two natures.  This still fallen carnal sinful nature and this spiritual holy nature, both residing inside us.  Rather, from Scripture, it would seem, that the sins are erased and we are transformed into a new creation.  The blot of original sin and our nature is erased, and we are given a new nature.  The nature “in Christ.”  We are now reworked trash cans, or poor old sinners save by grace.

Now when the temptation to sin comes, that temptation comes from without, and we still live in the carnal world.  However, in the moment of our temptation (which is not the act of sinning), we have a choice.  We choose how we are going to respond to that temptation, which is external to us.  And we can choose every single time to sin, or not to sin.  Every single time.  And we can choose to live a life of humility in Christ 100 percent of the time, or we can choose to…whatever the temptation is, to yield to it.

The question is, as my friend Matt Barksdale used to say, when we co-led a bible study, “Whatcha gonna do?”

See this day, I have set before you a choice, living or dying, blessing or cursing.  Therefore, choose life.  Choose it, every single time.

On another topic…

I am somewhat convinced that some of my friends think I have gone off the deep end, applying to Yale Divinity School and all.  Some people have told me to “only go where the truth is preached.”  Odd thing about that advice is there is only one place where the truth really is preached, and that is at the throne room of Christ.  Others have said, “why Yale? Do you know how liberal it is out there? Do you know how many professors out there are ready to yadda yadda?”

On the other hand, I have had some very supportive people who have said that they always knew this about me, and like the idea of my application.  I have always known something since 2001 when Dr. Witek, my British Modernist Poetry professor said to me that I would make a great teacher.  I have known I would make quite a fit in the lecture hall, ready to mold the next generation of young minds who were going to go on to become the leaders of the world to come.

To those of you who have supported me, I appreciate your support.  To those of you who have questioned my intents or choices, I appreciate your willingness to be honest with me.

I hope we both like what we see, should I get accepted and a good scholarship, on the other side of this experience…

I am so ready and glad to step out into my calling that I can hardly wait another minute, let alone three months to find out if I have been accepted.

The New Year….what is going to be different.

Besides the usual resolutions…

To the left is a picture of my wife, Kresha, and me at the home of a friend of ours.  We had just celebrated our 5th anniversary and my 30th birthday (both on the 14th).  

Last Sunday morning, she told me about some conviction she was experiencing in our life.  That is, she was planning all of these various good resolutions, which in and of themselves are good.  While preparing them, the Lord said to her, “these resolutions may be good to you, but this year, I want you to focus on Me.  Make your one resolution to know Me this coming year.”

This is what we have been failing to do in the past year.  We have been failing to make the Lord and our communiity’commmunion with him a priority.  Instead, we were chasing things like, “beat debt” and “burn fat.”  We have been seeking a revolutionized marriage without including him in the equation.  The focus had become the resolutions.

This year, our resolution is Psalm 27:4, as we have been hearing reiterated from the multitude of witnesses, not the least of which has been each other, our church, and Mike Bickle, among others.  It is our desire to “dwell in his house, and to gaze upon his beauty, and to inquire at his temple.” Our intent will be to make that the context for our other activity, and for me, not the least of which includes my blogging.  

I appreciate the few and far between visits my blog receives and trust it is as much a blessing to my readers as it is to me to publish it. 

I am honored to know several in the blogging community, notably Brian Fulthorp, Joel Watts, and to a much lesser extent, Jim West.  Their valuable insight has pushed me to the furthest ends of reflection on the things which matter most, and I am honored to call two of these friends.  

I look forward to the New Year, and the new challenges that come alongside it. 

May this year be the best yet, and in the words of one list, may we “live life to the fullest.”  Jim, my condolences on the loss of your grammatical sanity, as I know what constitutes this rankling.