Saturday, October 31, 2015

Living on the Edge of Sodom

In our Torah portion for this week (Genesis 12:1-17:27) we are introduced to Lot, Abraham's nephew, who travels with Abraham and Sarah to Canaan. He is called "righteous" Lot in Second Peter.

2 Peter 2:7 (NIV)
7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men

Yet, as we come to our next Torah portion we will find Lot LIVING in Sodom! How did this righteous man, distressed by the filthy lives of those in Sodom, come to dwell among such lawless men?

In chapter 13 of Genesis, we find that Abraham and Lot had prospered greatly to the point that the two could not live closely together any more because of their large flocks, herds, and tents (13:6). Abraham graciously offered Lot the first choice of land.

Genesis 13:9 (KJV)
9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Lot looked around him and saw that the plain of Jordan was well watered, similar to the garden of Eden and the land of Egypt (13:10). Lot chose to go east and to "pitch his tent toward Sodom" (13:12).

From what Lot could see, he chose what he thought would be a good land for his flocks, herds, and family. However, verse 13 confirms that the reputation of Sodom was already known to be wicked. Even so, Lot pitched his tent facing Sodom.

Genesis 13:13 (KJV)
13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

The goodness of the land tempted Lot into ignoring the wickedness that encroached. This was a serious mistake on Lot's part. Next we read that Lot and many others in and near Sodom get kidnapped by kings from lands beyond Sodom. Abraham and the trained men of his household track them down and rescue the kidnapped people. Perhaps a sensible person, at this point, would have steered clear of Sodom, but not Lot. In chapter 19 God begins his destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 19:1,2 (KJV)
1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;
2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.

Not only is Lot not in his tent facing Sodom, but he is sitting in the very gate of that city and lives in Sodom, too!

Eventually, God rescues Lot and his family out of the city before it is destroyed, but at what cost?

James 1:15 (KJV)
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

The account of Lot demonstrates the insidiousness of sin. We think we can flirt with sin and still stay out of trouble. But this is not what happens! Flirting with sin will only lead into more sin. It is inevitable! And once we take that first step, backing out is very difficult. We must recognize sin immediately and stay as far away as possible. No matter what sin entices us, we must learn to flee!

However, we are not alone in our struggle. The Holy Spirit, who indwells believers, can help us to be alert to sin and to its power. He can strengthen us and help us in our battle against sin. He can help us stay away from living on the edge of Sodom and more!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Righteous Noah

This week's Torah portion covers Genesis 6:9 to Genesis 11:32.

Immediately we read:

Genesis 6:9 (KJV)
9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

What does it mean to be just or righteous? We could look to the dictionary at this point, but if we read a little further in Genesis we can ascertain why Noah was considered righteous.

Genesis 6:22 (KJV)
22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Noah was obedient to all that God had commanded him. This is what made him righteous. But what had God commanded him to do? The answer is certainly that he built the ark that saved eight people from the killing flood that was to come. Despite the fact that there had never been any rain, or that there was no nearby body of water large enough to float the ark, Noah obeyed. However, this was not all that Noah apparently accomplished according to God's will.

In Genesis 7:14,15 we read about how the animals came to the ark.

Genesis 7:14-15 (KJV)
14 They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort.
15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.

Even small children know the account of Noah and his ark and how the animals came two by two. Not all know that some animals came by sevens.

Genesis 7:2 (KJV)
2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

The animals that came by sevens (most likely seven pairs) were the "clean" animals. Why were there more of some animals than others?

Genesis 8:20 (KJV)
20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

After the flood the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. The first thing that Noah did was to build an altar to God in thanksgiving and praise for his and his family's safety. Part of the reason for the extra clean animals was for making burnt (or elevation) offerings. The other reason was for a food supply. But what are "clean" animals?

The Bible doesn't give us this answer until Leviticus 11 where it describes which animals are clean and which aren't. This has caused many to have the idea that the Law of God was not known, nor required until Moses. But the fact that Noah offered and later only ate clean animals proves otherwise. This is not to say that revelation wasn't progressively given. It is difficult to fully comprehend how much of the Law Noah actually knew. But his knowledge of which animals were clean and unclean is clear.

This also demonstrates that the requirements of the Law were not restricted to the Mosaic Covenant. Perhaps other theological notions are just as erroneous. It behooves us to be very careful in constructing theologies.

Lastly, does Genesis 6:9 really mean that Noah was "perfect?" From Genesis 9 we read about the incident of Noah's drunkenness. He obviously was not perfect in the way that we normally view perfection. But just as Noah was righteous, he was perfect. The description conveys Noah's leanings. His striving to do all that God required made him a righteous and perfect man. This does not take away from the imputed righteousness that the believer receives at the new birth in Yeshua, but it does point to our obligation to follow God's commands to the best of our ability. This makes us righteous, too.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Link Between Creation and Romans.

As we roll back the scroll and begin our annual reading of the Torah, we begin with Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 6:8. In this post I want to focus on chapter 1 of Genesis. It is in this chapter, of course, where we read about the days of Creation. As Christians we all believe that the overall point of the chapter is to specify that God is the Creator, the One Who spoke all things into existence. However, from this point forward Christians are greatly divided in how chapter 1 is to be read. There are those who take the six days of Creation literally and there are those who believe that chapter 1 is to be read symbolically. Those in this second camp are willing to accept that God is indeed Creator, but that He used long periods of time in his Creation. In other words, they believe that the Hebrew word for "day," which is yom, doesn't have to mean a 24 hour period of time.

Let's examine what we have. Creation through the process of long periods of time seems to be consistent with what we normally hear regarding the fossil record. There are examples of trilobites, dinosaurs, and other living creatures, that in death, ended up by leaving an imprint of their body shapes. Consistent with various dating methods these creatures lived perhaps millions of years ago, long before mankind. Many Christians today stand on this view because this is supposedly science.

However, it is first important to remember that evolution is a theory and not scientific fact. In order for something to be science it must be observable. No one was around during the days of Creation to testify as to how Creation occurred. Therefore, neither a literal six day Creation or evolution (theistic or otherwise) can be considered science. Also, even though the majority of scientists lean towards evolutionary thinking, there are scientists who are in the literal six day camp. (See In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation edited by John F. Ashton, PhD. Master Books, Green Forest, AR. 2000)

But rather than getting into a discussion of the pros and cons of each position, there is one simple fact that Christians who believe in long periods of Creation must consider. When did death enter into Creation? According to Genesis 2:17, death entered into Creation when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:17 (KJV)
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This is corroborated in Romans 5:12 and 17.

Romans 5:12, 17 (KJV)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

In this passage of Romans Paul was making an analogy between Adam and Yeshua. He pointed out that just as sin and death entered the world by one man (Adam), grace and eternal life entered by one man (Yeshua). In order for this analogy to "work," death could not have been a part of life prior to Adam's sin. If it was, then Paul's analogy falls apart and Yeshua then is not reliably the only way to eternal life!

Evolution and long periods of Creation require death! The fossil record, as how it is normally interpreted, reveals countless numbers of creatures dying long before Adam. This is NOT what Scripture says! As Christians are we going to stand on a pseudo-science that contradicts Romans 5? Or are we going to believe that the God who supernaturally raised Yeshua from the grave was able to supernaturally speak forth a mature Creation? Is it that difficult to believe that the evolutionists have interpreted the fossil record incorrectly?

One last thing to consider is that my statement about there not being a witness to Creation was not totally accurate. There actually was a witness to Creation. That witness was God and the record that He left tells us about a literal six day Creation. Why would any believer want to believe a pseudo-science over the Creator of the Universe?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Let's Celebrate!

It's getting to be that time of year again. We will soon be in the midst of all the hype, decorations, store displays, and sales that surround the coming of Christmas. Although there are some who despise the commercial aspects of the season, most are truly excited to enter into the special peace and joy that Christmas represents. We love the traditions, the smells, the gifts, the sounds, and the time of family sharing that come with the holiday. God made us that way!

But God didn't give us Christmas to satisfy those cravings. Christmas developed around a date that was traditionally celebrated as the birth date of a number of pagan deities. The date of December 25th was specifically chosen in order to co-opt a pagan holiday and somehow turn it into the celebration of the Son of  God's birth. Unfortunately, no matter how you dress up and change the language of pagan idolatry, that day remains corrupted.

But God didn't leave us without days of celebration! In His Word He gave us many feast days to celebrate over the course of the year. All we need to do is turn to Leviticus 23. Here we find the days that we are commanded to observe.

Leviticus 23:1-2 (KJV)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.

The following are listed: the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath, Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, the feast of Weeks (or Pentecost), the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonements, and the feast of Tabernacles (booths).

Each one is unique and serves various purposes for celebration. But it is the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot in Hebrew) that reminds us most of the joy and peace of Christmas.

Leviticus 23:34,40-43 (KJV)
34 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.
40 And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.
42 Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:
43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This week of celebration comes on the heel of the days of repentance, which is culminated by the Day of Atonements. We are confronted by our failures, our sin, and our wretchedness before God. But then we put up our sukkot (our tent-like booths with branches for roofs). We truly and joyfully celebrate that God forgives His people. We gather with family and friends. We eat and maybe even sleep in our sukkot, watching the stars overhead through the roof. We party and thank our dear God for His blessings and love.

And guess what? It is very likely that Yeshua was born on the first day of the feast of Tabernacles (which falls in September or October). Isn't this when we should celebrate His birth? Plus, when we look to God's future fulfillment of the fall feasts, we find that the feast of Trumpets represents Yeshua's return, the Day of Atonements represents the day of judgment, and the feast of Tabernacles represents the wedding feast of Yeshua and His bride (Israel).

Compare this with Christmas and we find it a poor substitute for the celebrations that God has commanded in His Word. God wants us to celebrate, but let's celebrate what He has provided for us!