Old Testament Theology Class Notes
The underlying is a repository of highlights from the Old Testament Theology class from Reformed Baptist Seminary. Lectures and notes are spoken/written by Robert P. Martin.
[Exegesis] is eminently a process in which God speaks and man listens.
Exegetical Theology is made up of the following disciplines:
(1) Biblical Introduction–the study of the origin of the biblical writings (authorship, date, occasion, integrity, sources, etc.). Also within this discipline, textual criticism seeks to discern what the inspired writers actually wrote.
(2) Exegesis–the study of the actual content of the Scriptures. Of course, the study of biblical languages and hermeneutics is a necessary preparatory discipline for exegesis.
(3) Biblical Theology–the study of the progressive self-revelation of God via special revelation.
Biblical Theology deals with the historical process of the self-revelation of God. God’s self-revelation has a history. “God did not reveal himself to man inonegreatandall-embracivedisclosure.
God does not give new revelation when someone is saved or when ordinary events happen in the life of his people. This point must be pressed because the idea is embraced by many in our generation that revelation is continuing. Charismatics claim to be receiving continuing special revelation from God. This cannot be, because God is not performing objective-central redemptive acts in our day.
the biblical theologian, in his study of any given point in redemptive history, is not so much concerned with the whole of what God has revealed in the Bible but with what had been revealed up to the point in history that he is examining.
In Biblical Theology we do not seek to view special revelation from the perspective of the completed whole; rather, we seek to describe what is revealed at particular points in the history of redemption.
If Scripture is wrong about history, it has nothing to say to us regarding eternity.
On one end of the spectrum we see dispensationalism, which professes to see historical progression but has little appreciation for the theological unity of the Bible. On the other end we see our paedobaptist brethren, who press theological unity beyond the biblical boundaries and miss some important elements in the historical progression of redemption/revelation.
a “divine covenant is a sovereign administration of grace and promise.
O. Palmer Robertson (The Christ of the Covenants) gives the following definition of a covenant: “A covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered. When God enters into a covenantal relationship with men, he sovereignly institutes a life-and-death bond.
Summary: What elements seem to constitute the essence of Divine- human covenants?
1. They are always sovereignly established. They are unilateral, not bilateral, in this sense–although in some cases men are commanded to accept the terms of the covenant, if they do not accept, the stipulations of the covenant still are in effect. Refusal to accept terms means that man receives covenant curse instead of covenant blessing; but in no sense is the arrangement voided because man does not wish to accept the terms.
2. They are always gracious. The recipients do not deserve to be taken into covenant with God. The only obligation on God arises out of His own character and counsel.
3. They always express the will of God. There are no negotiations; God’s covenants always express His sovereign dispositions. God expresses His will in both promise and law (obligation). In some covenants, God’s will is expressed as pure promise (e.g., post-diluvian Noahic covenant with the animals); in other covenants, God’s will for the recipients also includes, to a greater or lesser degree, the performance of obligations or conditions for enjoying the covenant’s blessings and avoiding the covenant’s curses (e.g., Mosaic covenant).
4. They all form a bond or union between God and the recipients, i.e., a covenant of peace.
They all constitute a sworn commitment from God to carry out the promises (and the threats) made. A formal covenant oath is also given. 6. The purpose of all God’s covenants is to foster the well-being of the recipients; and, especially in view of the Fall of man, they are all part of the unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes (Gen. 3:15).
God’s revelation of himself in creation is intended to call forth from man the creature at least six things: (1) reverence, (2) worship, (3) humility, (4) submission, (5) holiness, and (6) faith. This will be our focus when I am with you next.
How is man the creature to respond to God the Creator who has revealed himself in the things that he has made? According to the Bible, the proper response is to be marked by at least six things: (1) worship, (2) reverence, (3) humility, (4) submission, (5) holiness, and (6) faith.
Man was created for the purpose that he would bear the image of God, i.e., that he would be the living and visible representation of God his Creator. In this man is unique among all things created.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with a consciousness of personhood (i.e., an awareness of self, “I” and “me”), which exists in the context of an awareness of other persons (i.e., “you”–including an awareness of God) and an awareness of the rest of creation.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with a mind or intellect, i.e., the ability to think, to observe, to reason logically, to deduce, to understand, to know.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with the ability to do and accomplish, including the ability to innovate (which probably is a reflection of God’s power to create).
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with the ability to will, i.e., to plan and purpose, to desire and choose.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with the ability to feel, i.e., it is to have emotions (e.g., anger, love, compassion, grief, jealousy). God is not emotionless. He feels; and man is a reflection of that aspect of God’s character. Before the fall, all of man’s emotional life was an accurate reflection of the emotional life of God.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with the ability to appreciate beauty and order and to hate ugliness and disharmony–i.e., to be the image of God means that one has been endowed with aesthetic sensitivity.
To be the image of God means that one has been endowed with the ability to communicate verbally, in language capable of expressing truth across the full spectrum of human experience.
To be God’s image means that like God, man’s consciousness of personhood, intellect, ability to will and to do, emotions and aesthetics, and communication exist in a framework of morality.
Marriage is an institution ordained of God for the completion of man and, therefore, it is to be highly esteemed and not taken for granted. We ought never to regard our mate as a necessary evil associated with procreation, or merely as a means for the lawful expression of our sexual desires, but otherwise, as an evil to be tolerated. Your mate is much more than that in the plan of God. And especially, men, we ought never to regard our wives merely as a keeper of our homes (as a maid and baby sitter); rather, she is an expression of God’s compassion on us.
The lesson for you, wives, is that you are an integral part of your husband’s commission (i.e., the sum total of his obligations before God–in the home, the work place, the church, and community). This makes you a person of great significance; and, therefore, you ought to regard yourself as occupying a place of great importance in God’s created order. Your task is to help your husband (as the head of the family) to fulfill his commission to the best of his ability.
Man has been appointed by God to the place of headship in the home. And this arrangement is expressed in three ways
The chronological order of creation. God made man first and gave him dominion before the woman was created. When the woman was created, she was placed under Adam’s headship.
The purpose for the woman’s creation. It was in the exercise of the dominion given to Adam that the need for a helper arose. Eve was created to help Adam fulfill his God-given mission. See 1 Cor. 11:9.
The substance of the woman. She is made for the man “of” the man. She was not created as an independent creature, but dependent, even materially, upon the man.
The naming of the woman. In line with Adam’s exercise of his God- given authority, she is named by him. She is not called upon to name herself.
For the believer, one source of authority alone is sufficient to establish doctrine and practice–the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures.
Now, my point in taking you to these texts is to underscore that when Moses says that God hallowed the sabbath day, his Hebrew readers understood him to be saying that God made the sabbath different from the other days of the week, that he claimed the day as his own in a way that he did not claim the other days (i.e., as “the Lord’s Day”), and that he separated the day to special use.
God’s creation of the sabbath for a perfect world shows us what a blessed day it is for those of us who live in a fallen world. And it ought to doubly convince us of the day’s continuing validity. Until we are ushered by Christ into our heavenly sabbath, we ought to treasure this day as the blessing of the Lord, meant to be a foretaste of that day when we shall enter into his rest.
Occupation was a necessity of his [Adam’s] nature – both physical, mental, and spiritual. He was not left in Paradise to indolence, but he was blessed with employment, by which his frame might be pleasantly exercised, and his min engaged, and his soul expanded. Labor, in itself, is not curse, but a blessing. Thus man was held accountable to God–as to his Father, and in the garden, as in a temple, he was to worship God–offering the sacrifices of praise, and doing the daily work allotted to him, (ch. 13:10). He was to keep the garden with a jealous care, by industry and fidelity, from intrusion and depredation, as of the serpent, and from his own transgression, whereby he might lose it.92
A. The Privileges Enjoyed by Man Prior to the Fall 1. The primary privilege was that man was made to be the image of God 2. God gave man physical and spiritual life 3. God gave man the very best of the creation as his abode 4. God gave man dominion over the earth and a task to perform
The tree was simply the instrument of trying the human will; and if, instead of the knowledge of good and evil, you call it the tree of the choice of good and evil [or, the choice of obedience or disobedience], you will have what I take to be the precise import of the inspired appellation.
The issue at stake in the prohibition against eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was this, Is the mind and will of man to have moral independence? As Jacobus (Genesis, 1:100) so eloquently states the point, the tree was . . . a symbol of the Divine knowledge to which man should not aspire, but to which he should submit his own judgment and knowledge. . . . Man was to have life, not by following out his own opinions and counsels, but by faith and the unqualified submission of his intellect and will to God.
The point is that in this kind of prohibition there is the truest test of faith and the truest confrontation of two wills. The other commands did not deeply test man’s faith and will to obey. He was told to do that which was patently self- serving. But here is a pure test of whose will is supreme. Let me illustrate this point by relating it to the obedience of our children.
The test of our child’s obedience is not in those things where (1) the child obeys after concluding that the thing forbidden is not good for him to do anyway or (2) after he concludes that the thing commanded is good for him to do anyway. For example, a child reasons that it’s a good idea to obey Mom and look both ways before crossing a street because if he doesn’t he might get run over by a truck. He is disposed to obey because obedience is clearly self-serving.
But the real test of will comes when you insist on obedience in an area where the child cannot see the reason for your insistence–where, perhaps, it isn’t possible that their judgment will be carried by the realities that you are dealing with as an adult. At that point it becomes a matter of one will against another.
God’s response to the sin of our first parents is recorded for our instruction. The text seems to divide naturally into five subsections: (1) God’s interrogation of Adam and Eve, 3:9-13; (2) God’s cursing of the Serpent, the woman, and the man, 3:14-19; (3) the man’s naming of his wife, 3:20; (4) God’s clothing of the man and the woman, 3:21; (5) the banishment from Eden, 3:22-24.
Perhaps in Adam’s subsequent giving to his wife the name Eve (havvah, life), there is a reflection of his faith in God’s promise (3:20). Perhaps by faith he now sees coming through her the remedy to the death which his sin has brought. Perhaps in Eve’s words at the birth of Cain and Seth are an expression of hope (4:1,25). Perhaps Lamech’s words at the birth of Noah are also to be explained in this way (5:29). In any case, this is all that men will know about Jesus Christ until God next speaks on the subject of the seed of the woman at the time of his covenant with Abraham
First, Adam listened to the voice of his wife when his first responsibility was to listen to and obey the voice of God. His sin was not that he listened. Gentlemen, a man ought to listen to his wife and her opinion ought to be the most valuable counsel that he seeks, especially when we consider that she is the one who has to live most intimately with our decisions. Adam’s sin was that he submitted to her enticement when it was contrary to the revealed will of God. He regarded her opinion and judgment and desire over the clearly revealed will of God.
Instead of justifying God in the sentence, he condemns him, not accepting the punishment of his iniquity, but quarreling with it. Note, impenitent unhumbled hearts are therefore not reclaimed by God’s rebukes because they think themselves wronged by them; and it is an evidence of great hardness to be more concerned about our sufferings than about our sins. . . . He thinks himself rigorously dealt with when really he is favorably treated; and he cries out of wrong when he has more reason to wonder that he is out of hell.
The notations about the vocations of Lamech’s sons is significant because though Moses mentions accomplishments in the realm of common grace (i.e., agrarian, cultural, and industrial accomplishments), he makes no mention of special grace, as he does with the descendants of Seth.
Lamech’s triumphant song indicates that he is devoid of any sense of sin concerning what he has done to the young man; and, unlike his ancestor Cain, no sense of the fear of God remains. Nor apparently does he fear the avenger of blood. Perhaps he believes that he is capable of defending himself and, therefore, doesn’t need God’s protection. Or perhaps he is emboldened by the protection offered to Cain.
One simply cannot maintain a one flesh relationship with more than one person at a time. The intimacy required by a one flesh bond clearly implies exclusivity.
Often we are wronged in our relationships with others. Do we display the temper of Lamech? not seeking to resolve conflict righteously? not content with leaving vengeance to the Lord? not even content with an eye for an eye, but ready to exact as much as we can from our perceived adversary? Do we govern our spirits or react with excess, giving back more harm than we have received? Very often our tongues are the greatest offenders. For every hurtful word said against us, we spew back a dozen full of venom and wrath. And so our spouse or children or neighbor becomes like Lamech’s young victim. Friends, it ought not to be so.
In contrast to the testimony of the Bible concerning the character of Noah, we have the record of the character of his generation. Perhaps the most marked feature recorded by the text is the reality of the religious and ethical degeneration of the Sethites to the point that they are morally indistinguishable from the Cainites.
The generation destroyed by the Flood is described in terms of its universal wickedness. See 6:5-7,11-13. Vos (Biblical Theology, p. 51) notes four ways that the sinfulness of that generation is characterized:
1. As to its intensity and extent–“the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (6:5); “the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (6:11); “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (6:12). There was only one righteous man in that generation, even among the Sethites; God said to Noah, “for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (7:1).
2. As to its inwardness–the wickedness of that generation was not only external, but also internal–“every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was . . . evil” (6:5).
3. As to its absoluteness–the dominion of evil in the hearts of the men of that generation excluded everything good–“only evil” (6:5).
4. As to its habitualness–“continually” (“lit. all the day”).
Since Moses calls these sacrifices “burnt-offerings,” it is probable that (writing as he does to a people living under the Mosaic Covenant) he means the reader to understand these sacrifices in terms of the significance of burnt- offerings under the Mosaic Covenant. In which case, Noah’s sacrifice would have symbolized a confession of his unworthiness as the object of God’s grace and his commitment to personal (and probably corporate–i.e., acting as the head of his family) dedication to God in view of the mercy received.
The dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Covenant were part of the means by which God determined that Israel would show in a tangible way that they were separate from the pagan nations around them (like the prohibition against trimming the corner of their beards).
The manner of Ham’s report to his brothers is not described, perhaps he did so in a mocking way–“The old man’s in the tent drunk and naked.” In any case, his act dishonored and shamed his father and likely revealed that in his heart there was rebellion against his father’s authority and his general example of godliness. Apparently Ham delighted finding his father in such a compromised state. Was he emboldened from this incident to throw off Noah’s preaching and his otherwise spotless example of righteousness? Did Ham find the excuse he was looking for to turn a deaf ear to his father’s exhortations and a blind eye to his example? Was he hoping that his brothers would mock Noah with him and make it easier for him to comfort himself in his rebellion?
The first thing to note about chapter 10 is that Moses records only the most significant nations descended from Noah (significant, i.e., from Israel’s perspective). We shouldn’t assume that he gives an exhaustive list of all the nations derived from Noah’s sons (see the chart provided). For example, among Japheth’s sons, only the sons of Gomer and Javan are given. Therefore, as Aalders (1:213) observed, “All efforts to fit all known nations and tribes into this ‘tree of nations’ are therefore doomed to failure. This simply was not the purpose of the record.” Instead, Moses focuses on the nations which either had in the past or would in the future figure prominently in Israel’s history
Fourth, taking Israel as our geographical reference point, the descendants of Japheth generally are situated to the north, of Ham to the south, and of Shem to the east. In this way the three grand divisions of the ancient world are distinguished, i.e., Europe, Africa, and Asia, though, as Bush rightly observes, “not precisely according to the boundaries of modern times”
We are further told that “he was a mighty hunter before the Lord.” At first glance this may appear a curious thing to mention, yet Edersheim tells us that the title “mighty hunter” is a traditional title found in Assyrian records, favored by the warrior-monarchs of the Assyro-Babylonian empire, who the Assyrian records characterized as “hunting the people.”
The general approach which is taken to the question of the rightness of capital punishment, even in many Christian circles, is to deal with the subject philosophically rather than exegetically. From this approach, the attitudes and opinions of men are given priority over the revealed mind of God in the Scriptures.
First, consider that we ought always to obey God rather than men wherever our duty to God requires it. This is the example here and in other cases in the Bible. Joseph must obey God rather than his master’s wife. Daniel and his friends must obey God rather than the King of Babylon. Peter and John must obey God rather than the Jewish Sanhedrin. And the lesson is that whatever the authority which God has placed over us, they may not require us to sin against God–we must in every case obey His voice rather than theirs and commit ourselves to His keeping. As the Lord Jesus says to us, “I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).
In the rest of the OT, the conditional aspect of the Mosaic Covenant provides the background against which everything takes plac. In the rest of the OT, we are reading about Israel either in the realm of blessing, curse, or the promised restoration. These conditional aspects set the tone for the rest of the OT period. All the rest of the history and religious consciousness of Israel is framed by these perspectives–that those who obey the Mosaic law will be blessed, those who disobey will be cursed, those who repent will be restored. It is very important to get a feel for these passages and for the impact of the provisions of the Mosaic Covenant. The history of the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, the statements of Ezra and Nehemiah, the ethical emphases of the books of the Prophets–their denunciations of judgment and promise of restoration, all is set against the background of the provisions of the Mosaic Law. Without an understanding of this, you simply will not be able to understand the history of Israel.
Our Confession, following the Westminster Confession and the opinion of its Puritan framers, divides the law of Moses into the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law. The moral law refers primarily to the Ten Commandments. The ceremonial law has specific reference to ritual worship (e.g., laws having to do with the tabernacle, priesthood, sacrifices, feast days, ceremonial washings, etc.). The civil law refers to ordinances which established judicial sanctions (punishments) for violations of the moral and ceremonial laws and which otherwise regulated the affairs of the people. See 1689 Conf. 19.1-5.
we acknowledge that a single law may have moral, ceremonial, and civil ramifications. Such certainly was the case with the fourth (i.e., the Sabbath) commandment, which is found in the moral law, and yet concerning which certain ceremonial regulations and civil sanctions are attached. Other examples could be given of moral laws (e.g., the seventh and eighth commandments against adultery and stealing) to which specific punishments were attached under the civil law.
we need to recognize that an Israelite living under the Mosaic Covenant was obligated morally to obey the ceremonial and civil law as much as to obey the moral law (more narrowly defined). There is no difference in the binding nature of the divisions of the law when it comes to those obliged to live under them. Every law is an absolute requirement to those under it as a rule of duty. We must not think that for an Israelite the moral law existed at one level of duty but the other laws brought one onto some lesser ethical plane. All of the laws of the Mosaic code were urged on the Israelites with the same motives, i.e., the love and character of God, the redemption which had been accomplished for them, etc
The rest of the laws are an application of the Ten commandments (the moral law) to Israel’s particular historical, cultural, and redemptive setting, in accord with God’s peculiar purpose for the nation. This, of course, presupposes that the Ten Commandments are eternal verities which transcend the Mosaic Covenant. Again, the first table of the moral law embodies basic principles concerning God’s worship. The ceremonial law gave the Israelites specific direction as to how they were to worship God under the terms of the Mosaic Covenant. So also the eighth commandment, in that the civil law contained specific ordinances concerning how to deal with thieves.
E. Hopkins (An Exposition of the Ten Commandments, pp. 7-8), considering the human side of the equation, says, Two things in general are required to perfect a Christian; the one a clear and distinct knowledge of his duty, the other, a conscientious practice of it . . . . Knowledge, indeed, may be found without practice; and our age abounds with speculative Christians, whose religion is but like the rickets, that makes them grow large in the head, but narrow in the breast; whose brains are replenished with notions, but their hearts straitened towards God, and their lives black and deformed. . . . But, although knowledge may be without practice, yet the practice of godliness cannot be without knowledge. For, if we know not the limits of sin and duty, what is required and what is forbidden, it cannot be supposed but that, in this corrupted state of our natures, we shall unavoidably run into many heinous miscarriages.
These summaries of the moral law, which express the core (marrow, heart) of what God requires of us, are linked by our Lord’s use of the word “love,” so that the Ten Commandments are nothing other than the basic ways in which God requires that men love him with all their hearts, souls, and minds (nos. 1-4) and love their neighbors as themselves (nos. 5-10). As the Scripture says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
If we ask, “Why did God give the moral law again at Sinai, when he had already written it on men’s hearts?”–the answer is–when God made Israel a covenant nation, he also committed the covenant to writing. And as part of the revelation then committed to writing for the instruction of his people, he again gave the moral law, or the Ten Commandments, which was the essence of the covenant which he made with them and a summary of their covenantal obligations.
Now, of course, the giving of the moral law on tablets of stone and their being included in the Holy Scriptures served a purpose beyond that of a written summary of Israel’s covenant obligations. It also made clear on tablets of stone what was no longer clear in men’s hearts because of the effects of the fall. And though we don’t live under the covenant made at Sinai, yet the Ten Commandments still serve this purpose for us, whose natural understanding of the moral law is darkened by our indwelling sin.
Do you (from the heart) acknowledge God’s right to oblige you to obey his law? If not, your heart is not right and you do not yet understand who God is or who you are in relation to “the Lord of all the earth.”
Consider third, by way of seeing the regard you have for God’s law, do you recognize that God’s law is inflexible, i.e., that it doesn’t change its demands according to your circumstances? God’s natural laws are inflexible, aren’t they. E.g., the law of gravitation has no regard for your person or circumstances, whether you are high or low, wise or unwise, well-informed or ill-informed. Let the richest king (who may be wise in a great many things, who understands the consequences of disobeying the law of gravity) walk off a cliff and he will fall at the same rate of speed as the most ignorant peasant in his realm. In the same way, God’s law may be broken, but it will not bend to fit our wishes, lusts, or circumstances. And yet, though this is true, we want to be excused from our duty and from the law’s sanctions as though the law was as accommodating to our wishes as a piece of clay
Now, how is it with you? Have you treated God’s law like a catalog or a cafeteria line, so that you keep only the commandments which please you? Or, could it be that you a one table person, i.e., (1) that you are religious in your relation with God but immoral in your relations to with men, or (2) irreligious in your relation to God but moral in your relations to men. If this is who you are, then your attitude is wrong both towards God and his law.
Men regard themselves as righteous because they keep some of the “Thou shalts” and the “Thou shalt nots” of the law. But this kind of obedience may in fact be given with no regard to God himself. Some men tell the truth, are honest in their business dealings, or avoid sexual sins; but belief in God or regard for him has nothing to do with their obedience. They act on the principle of self-interest only. Some benefit or profit comes from obeying the law. Telling the truth is better than lying and honesty is more profitable than stealing because people don’t trust liars and thieves. So they don’t lie and steal. Abstinence is healthier than promiscuity in a world where venereal disease is rampant. So they’re chaste. But none of this has anything to do with God. Self-interest alone is the root of this kind of obedience. “Men find infractions of the commandments oftentimes inconvenient and troublesome. To avoid vexation they outwardly conform, but this is not obedience to God” (Plumer, p. 26).
Sin left alone will not long dwell alone, but in time will call nine more sins to join it. Now, my point is that if you tolerate violations of God’s law in yourself, if you aren’t alarmed by this, if your attitude is that this is O.K., then you have reason to believe that you are capable of committing any sin prohibited by God’s law. Some sins now seem unthinkable. You can’t imagine circumstances where you would yield to their enticement. But mark it down, many a man who began his career of sin as a liar (in “small things” as he regarded them) finished his life at the end of a rope as a murder.
Consider first that God’s law governs all that we do. This is but to say that there are no secular pockets of life. All of life is religious, i.e., to be lived in service to God under the rule of his law. Every act is moral in its nature. There is nothing that we can think or feel or do that is amoral. All has reference to an absolute standard of right and wrong–and that standard is God’s law. The Bible says that “God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14). In other words, God treats every deed as a moral action and designates it as either good or evil. If this is so, then everything in this life is moral and regulated by God’s law. To deny this principle is to refuse the plain sense of Scripture and to overthrow God’s government in the world.
Furthermore, in speaking of the extensiveness of the law’s requirements, consider that there is no sin which it does not forbid or duty which it does not enjoin. All that God requires of man (in whatever form he may require it) is included in one way or another in the commandments of the law. Indeed, by definition this must be the case, for “where there is no law, neither is there transgression” (Rom. 4:15; cf., 1 John 3:4); therefore, if the law does not forbid a thing, it cannot be sin, and if the law does not command a thing, it cannot be duty.
In other words, there’s more law present in the Ten Commandments than the words themselves express. For example, the 5th commandment requires us to honor our parents. Obeying this command requires not only that we do things that honor them but also that we refrain from things that dishonor them. The 6th commandment forbids murder. Obeying this commandment requires not only that we abstain from taking our neighbor’s life, but also, e.g., that we act to preserve his life by warning him of danger
Perhaps the most grievous voiding of God’s law in this generation is the justifying of murder under the claim to be serving love and mercy. Millions of women have been persuaded by the most twisted reasoning possible that aborting their babies, given the circumstances, is the most loving and merciful thing that they can do for themselves (and even for the baby, who is spared being unwanted and resented, or being raised by a parent who is unfit or unable to be a good mother). But no such torturing of logic can justify ripping a child from its mother’s womb contrary to the 6th commandment.
Solomon says that “the prudent man looks well to his going (carefully considers his step)” (Prov. 14:15). In the path of life, he watches his step. He knows that his decisions have consequences, that he can put his foot in the wrong place and end up in serious trouble. Therefore, he’s eager to have a lamp to show him where he may safely place his feet. He wants to see every false step before he makes it, and so he wants the best lamp that he can get. Solomon’s point, of course, is that God’s law is such a lamp, so that even as a lamp lightens a dark path so that we may traverse it safely, so God’s law gives light in a dark world so that we may pass through it secure from harm.
Now, my point is that in the preface to the law, by reminding the Israelites that “I am your redeemer,” the Lord is underscoring their obligation to obey him. He has redeemed them, delivered them from physical and spiritual bondage, and thus has all rights to their service. If we may borrow Paul’s words, the Lord is saying to them, “You were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Every time they heard God’s law, they were to remember that they were a redeemed people whose duty was to glorify God by keeping his commandments. Now, again, what’s does this have to do with us. We weren’t redeemed from Egypt. That’s true. But, if we’re Christians, we’ve been redeemed from what Egypt symbolized, which is spiritual slavery. From this point on, the redemption from Egypt distinguished the Israelites from all the peoples of the earth. So also, from our conversion onward, the event that distinguishes us (as Christians, as New Covenant Israelites) from all other men is God’s redeeming us from our sins in the blood of his Son.
Now, the blessing which the Bible promises if you acknowledge God in all your ways is healthful guidance. “And he,” Solomon says, “will direct your paths,” i.e., he will guide you in the way that you should go. Sound moral decisions are the paving stones of the road which leads to blessing and happiness and away from calamity and disaster. Right moral choices are one of the keys to a blessed life. And the Lord promises that those who trust him (not leaning to their own understanding), who acknowledge him as their God in all their ways, who fear him and depart from evil–he promises that he will (lit.) “make straight their paths.” He will guide his trusting people (who acknowledge him as their God) in the way of safety. By his Word and providence he will make plain a straight path for you. Henry says, “Those that faithfully follow the pillar of cloud and fire shall find that though it may lead them about it leads them the right way and will bring them to Canaan at last.” Wardlaw says that . . . He who, in lowly reliance, and in earnest, acts this part, will not often fall into very erroneous or hurtful measures. God, by his word, and Spirit, and providence, will lead him in a right way,–will “make darkness light before him and crooked things straight.”
A. That Jehovah’s uniqueness is the foundation of the first commandment (and, indeed, of the whole law). He alone is the living and true God, and there is none else besides him. B. That the first commandment requires not just that you have no other gods before Jehovah but also that you actually acknowledge Jehovah as your God. We saw that if he is not your God, you are living in violation of the first and most basic commandment of his moral law! C. That if you would have Jehovah as your God (and thus keep the heart of the first commandment), you must seek to know him, you must acknowledge him in all his ways, and you must love, fear, and obey him.
Under the restrictive rule (i.e., regulative principle), only those things expressly commanded in the Scriptures as being applicable to New Covenant worship will be found, i.e., prayer, reading the Scriptures, preaching and hearing the word of God, singing to the Lord, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This of course doesn’t mean that there are no differences among churches which claim to follow the regulative principle. As our Confession says in chapter one, “there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God . . . which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence” (1.6). Differing judgments are followed by brethren in many matters which fall into this category, i.e., concerning not the essence but the circumstances of worship (e.g., order of worship). Moreover, not all are agreed as to what is permitted under the regulative principle, e.g., the debate over exclusive psalmody vs. the use of hymns, the use of wine vs. grape juice at the Lord’s Table, the mode and subjects of baptism, etc. Nevertheless, though there is some variance in practice among those who claim to be following the regulative principle, all are agreed that the inclusive principle is contrary to the mind of God and unsuitable as a guide for his worship.
Now, when we inquire into the meaning of the expression “the name of God,” we must understand that it refers to many things and is broadly applied in the Scriptures. It refers, of course, to God’s personal name Jehovah or YHVH (Exod. 6:3); and this certainly is in view in the expression “the name of Jehovah thy God.” It also refers to all those titles and designations given to him in the Scriptures and which men use to refer to him, e.g., God, the Most High, the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, Creator, Redeemer, King, Father, etc. Moreover, it refers not just to the Father, but also to the Son and the Holy Spirit (against whom blasphemy, a violation of this commandment, is unpardonable, Mark 3:28-29), and to all the titles and designations given in the Scriptures to the second and third persons of the Trinity, e.g., Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, Lamb of God, Savior, Comforter, etc. The “name” of God also is expressed in his glorious attributes (Exod. 33:19; 34:5-7), in his Word (Psa. 138:2; Acts 9:15), in his mercy shown to sinners through the giving of his Son (John 17:6,26), in his power and help given to his people (Psa. 20:7; 44:5-8), in his works (Psa. 8:1), and in his worship (1 Kings 5:5; Exod. 20:24 mg; Psa. 34:1-3). In a word, “the name of Jehovah thy God” refers to the Lord himself, his character, and those means by which he has made himself known. Plumer (p. 238) says, “Any thing relating to the true God, his being, his nature, his will, his works, his worship, any thing relating to the service rendered him, or to the doctrine concerning him, pertains to his name.”
It is a violation of the third commandment for a Christian to live in a profane, careless way–in a way that is inconsistent with his profession. Paul says to the Jews, who had a calling from God to be a holy people, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24). In not living up to their calling, they had been the occasion not of God’s receiving the honor that was rightly his but of his being blasphemed by unbelievers. In not living up to their calling, they had broken the third commandment. Is this true of you?
Following the truth for me meant that my flesh had to be mortified, that self had to be denied, and that God’s will had to be consciously chosen over my own will. In the end of the day, believing in the Sabbath meant that I needed to give the whole day to the Lord. Now, I think that it’s fair to say that there are Christians who see the issues and know what the Bible teaches, but who aren’t willing to endure the pain of mortifying the flesh when it comes to how they’ve been using the day. Instead, they begin to make excuses for their disobedience or latch on to an allegedly enlightened anti-Sabbatarian argument, in order to persuade themselves that keeping the Sabbath isn’t their duty after all
Now, you may ask, if the fourth commandment was written on man’s heart at creation (as part of the moral image of God), why then does the voice of conscience in most men not now say “Keep the Sabbath holy”? Most people’s consciences, even those who know nothing of the Christian religion, show an acute awareness of such commandments as “Thou shalt not murder” or “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Why then isn’t “Keep the Sabbath holy” known universally? That’s a reasonable question. I believe that the answer is that, as with the other commands of the first table of the law (the first four commandments), the fourth commandment is so much intertwined with the recognition and worship of Jehovah, the true and living God, that where he is not known or where he has been forgotten, the voice of conscience concerning his day is weak if not silent. In this way, most men’s consciences in our day do not say to them “Keep the Sabbath holy.” Having refused to have God in their knowledge, i.e., having stifled the voice of conscience regarding the first commandment, it is no mystery that men’s consciences are silent regarding the fourth commandment as well.
- Numbers 11:1,10-17,24-29. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that the seventy elders were engaged in proclaiming the word of Jehovah. What is clear, however, is that the Spirit’s resting on these men displayed itself in an outward, vocal manner. Most likely what is referred to is elevated or ecstatic giving of praise to Jehovah–though not prophesying in the more formal sense of the word, i.e., speaking the word of God under divine inspiration, yet still “utterance prompted by a divine influence” (Bush, Numbers, p. 163). This abnormal state of divinely prompted speaking gave evidence to the people that the Spirit indeed had endowed these men for the task of aiding Moses with the oversight of the nation. And on the heels of the wicked and rebellious grumbling reported in 11:1ff., grumbling which gave rise to Moses’ complaint, which in turn led to the Lord’s setting apart the seventy elders, Moses wishes that all the people instead were engaged in the praise of Jehovah in the way exemplified in the seventy (11:29).
- 1 Samuel 10:1-13. It is difficult here to think of prophesying as preaching or as proclamation of the word of Jehovah; rather, the term most likely signifies the lively singing or chanting of praises to Jehovah. This is confirmed it seems by the reference to musical instruments. When the Spirit came upon Saul, he acted in a different way; he was “turned into another man,” so that, under the influence of the Spirit he acted as one completely devoted to Jehovah–a fact which surprised those who knew him. Now, as with the cases of the prophesying of the seventy elders noted in the preceding example, on this occasion also prophesying was a sign–in this case, a sign that God was with Saul as king, i.e., that he was the Lord’s anointed (10:7).
- 1 Samuel 18:10-14. Here an evil spirit, not the Spirit of God, comes upon Saul. The influence of this demonic spirit caused Saul to act like a raving madman. Note also that the vocal manifestation of Saul’s changed condition may have been in singing of some sort, since David was playing music for him at the time. However understood, Saul’s vocal activity is called “prophesying”–not that Saul was acting as a true nabhi’ of Jehovah, but that he acted like a man under the influence of a supernatural power. It seems probable that God ordained the change in Saul’s behavior as an indication to all of the reversal of the sign recorded at 10:7 and as a token of the truth noted at 18:12, i.e., that Jehovah’s Spirit was with David, and departed from Saul.
- 1 Samuel 19:18-24. On this occasion, prophesying is a group activity, as seems clear from verse 21. Again, the most likely meaning is that they were singing, in this case as a body. See William Deane, Samuel and Saul: Their Lives and Times, pp. 175-76. Thomas Kirk (Saul: The First King of Israel, p. 187) suggests that “the complete control which the Spirit of God wielded over the proud and rebellious will of Saul on this occasion, may have given rise to the proverb: ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will’ (Prov. xxi.1).” Here Keil and Delitzsch comment, “Saul and his messengers . . . ought no doubt to have learned, from what happened to them in the presence of the prophets, that God had the hearts of men in His power, and guided them at His will; but they were also to be seized by the might of the Spirit of God, which worked in the prophets, and thus brought to the consciousness, that Saul’s raging against David was fighting against Jehovah and His Spirit, and so to be led to give up the evil thoughts of their heart.”39 Here again, however, the point is that prophesying at times is associated with abnormal behavior. Note that the text does not say that laying down naked was part of “prophesying.” It only states that on this occasion, Saul did both things. Saul’s messengers only “prophesied.” They did not lay down naked as Saul later did.40
- 1 Kings 18:20-29. Here “prophesying” is associated with the frenzied activity of the prophets of Baal. The association again seems to be with ecstatic behavior or with emotionally elevated religious fervor. Cutting oneself with stones, crying aloud, and dancing around an altar are not part of the activity of Jehovah’s prophets, though they seem to be part of the ritual of the prophets of Baal. It seems evident, or should seem so, that the twisted perversions of a pagan order of prophets are not characteristic of the biblical model of prophesying.
- 1 Chronicles 25:1-7. This passage shows how broadly the term “prophesying” could be applied. Note especially the equating of “prophesying” with playing musical instruments, with “giving thanks and praising Jehovah” (25:3), and with “singing unto Jehovah” (25:7).
Now, although we do not want to cloud the distinction between the office of prophet and that of pastor-teacher; nevertheless, much of what is here said about the false prophet is also a clear description of the character traits of a false shepherd, i.e., of one who is an uncalled minister of the Word. Too many pulpits in our land are filled with uncalled men whose message comes from no other source than their own deceitful hearts.
- By their prophesying they cause the people to err. They do not rebuke sin; on the contrary, their prophesying promotes evil. Here we see the impact of the ministry of the false prophets on the morals of the people. See Isa. 9:13-16; Jerem. 23:13-15,21-22; Ezek 13:22. This is the exact opposite of what a prophet was called to do. 5. By their prophesying they seduce people with false hopes, promoting a sense of false security among those living in sin and rebellion against God. See Jerem. 6:14; 14:13; 23:17; Ezek. 13:6,10-16. Those perishing in their sins were not called to repentance but given mere band-aids for their wounds. The people of Judah stood on the verge of the captivity, and what is the message of the false prophets? “Peace, peace.” The false prophets promised the people that they would not see the sword or famine but rather assured them of peace. In so speaking they contradicted the message of the prophets of the Lord who were made to look like gloom and doom preachers. They say continually to those who despise the Lord, you will have peace and no evil will befall you though you walk according to the imagination of your own hearts. To use the image found in Ezekiel, the wall is about to collapse and the false prophets are trying to patch it up so that it looks secure. The foundations are crumbling, the reinforcing rods are rusting away; and, instead of warning men to flee before the wall collapses, they are repointing the stone work. Even their mortar is untempered; even if a patch job would do, they use worthless mortar. Here is false prophecy at its worst.
A. General Hermeneutical Principles and Perspectives Suggest Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, pp. 241-75 and Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, pp. 148-54 and Milton Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, pp. 405-499. 1. We must begin with careful attention to the linguistic and historical elements of the prophetic passage, i.e., we must give attention to the meaning and significance of the words used by the writer, to the identity or reference of proper names or events mentioned, to references to geography, customs, culture, etc. For example, we must know something of the political relations of the Assyrian Empire and her neighbors in order to interpret Isaiah 7-12. Some understanding of the history of Ninevah is necessary to interpreting Nahum, and of Edom to interpreting Obadiah. The standard lexical works, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, works on biblical introduction, backgrounds, and history, as well as commentaries, of course, are the source of this kind of information. Commend esp. Edersheim, Old Testament Bible History. This principle is especially important when we consider that much of the prophetic description of the future is in the language and imagery derived from past, historical events–e.g., future blessedness is described in terms reminiscent of Eden; future judgment in terms of Sodom and Gomorrah; deliverance in terms of the Exodus. Another way of expressing this principle is that we must determine the linguistic and historical background of the prophet and his prophecy. Dispensationalism too often passes this by in its leap to the future. 2. The words of the prophets should be taken in their literal sense, unless the context or the manner in which they are fulfilled indicate that they have symbolic meaning. For example, what shall we do with the imagery of Joel 1:1-7? Given that the context is a prophecy concerning the captivity, the locusts, etc. probably are symbolic of the Babylonian army. The issue, of course, is where to interpret literally and where to interpret symbolically? Read Ramm, pp. 253-55, 268. 3. Determine the essential character of a passage. Ask . . . Is it didactic or predictive? Compare Zech. 1:1-6 and 1:7-21. Don’t treat purely didactic prophecies as though they were predictive. Much damage has been done by finding predictions where there are none. Is it conditional or unconditional? Conditional (e.g., Jonah 3:4; Jer. 4:1-4). Unconditional (e.g., Isaiah 53; Jer. 31:31ff.). 117
If predictive, is the prophecy fulfilled or unfulfilled? Does the Bible itself indicate that there has already been a fulfillment of the prophecy (e.g., the return from exile is the fulfillment of Isaiah 10:21; the promise of Canaan to Israelis said to be fulfilled in Josh. 21:43-45)? We will take up the question of multiple fulfillment at a later time. Seek to discover and focus your attention on the fundamental idea expressed by a passage (e.g., the fundamental idea of Isa. 11:6-9 is that Messiah’s reign will be a reign of peace–that fundamental idea must govern your understanding of the text). In one sense, prophecy should be treated like parables, i.e., the central idea is to dominate our understanding and use of the materials. 4. Careful attention must be paid to context and flow of argument. Note, for example, the context of Isaiah 10:21 (the time of Assyria’s destruction). Compare F. C. Jennings on this passage (Studies in Isaiah, pp. 138-40). Jennings wants to understand all of this in a future framework. 5. We must keep in mind the nonsystematic character of the prophetic writings. The prophets were preachers, not academic lecturers. The whole of the prophetic perspective on a given theme must be gleaned by comparing the various passages on the subject in question. This requires, of course, a careful consideration of which passages truly are parallel to one another.
In our discussion of these special principles for interpreting prophecy, I will be teaching you nothing original. Originality in prophetic interpretation is not something to be desired or admired. Originality is this area generally means error. If your approach to the prophets and the resulting “prophetic truth” is new (or only about one hundred years old), beware. God has not blinded our forefathers and revealed the truth only to our generation.
Thus, in speaking of the near, i.e., the judgment of Israel and the nations, the prophets speak in terms of the far, i.e., the final judgment of the earth. See Isa. 2:1,10-12,19-21; 3:1,8. The context is God’s judgment upon Israel for her idolatry. In that day the people will be looking for a place to put away their idols, to cast them into the caves of the earth in an attempt to hide their sin from God. But this is the same language used of the great and final day of the Lord in Rev. 6:12-17. The question to be asked then is, Which day of the Lord did Isaiah see? Did he see the Babylonian invasion and captivity or did he see the final day of the Lord when God will shake the heavens and the earth? The answer is that he saw both. He did not see a near day of the Lord distinct from the far (and final) day of the Lord. Seeing them both in the same flattened field of vision, he spoke of the near judgment in terms that would be true of the far judgment. In the prophetic vision, God’s immediate historical visitation of judgment merges with the eschatological judgment
A Survey of the Development of the Kingdom in the Vision of the Prophets 1. Prophecy is addressed to a people who are living (as a present reality) in contradiction to their divine election and in violation of God’s covenant with the nation. This is the occasion of most of what we encounter in the prophecies of the writing prophets. Israel has forsaken its calling. Instead of testifying for the true God before the heathen, Israel’s character testifies against him. See Isa. 52:5 with Rom. 2:24. 2. God’s holiness obliges him to do away with this contradiction. The means by which he accomplishes this end is by judgment upon the nation of Israel. 3. Now a new contradiction arises. Israel was chosen in the first place to realize God’s redemptive purpose among the nations of the world. The nation of Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles. Now that Israel has been judged, the heathen powers suppose that in their triumph over Israel that they have triumphed even over Jehovah himself. 4. This new contradiction also must be done away with, for it impugns the very sovereignty of God over all the earth. Again, God’s method of removing contradiction is judgment. As Habakkuk tells us, after the heathen serve as God’s instrument of judgment, they too will be judged with the same wrath. However, a remnant of the nations is to be preserved through the judgment. 5. The remnant of Israel preserved through the judgment is restored under the Messiah, the great Son of David. This takes place in such a way as to enable the restored remnant to fulfill the mission of the nation of Israel–i.e., to be a light to the Gentiles. 6. Light goes forth from the restored nation to the Gentiles; and then the remnant of the nations is incorporated into the Israel of God. 7. The ultimate result of judgment and restoration is that throughout the whole world every knee bows before the living God and every tongue confesses him. At this point, his kingdom has come and the history of the present evil age comes to an end. The prophets saw this sequence but not the chronology involved. For the prophets this was all one complex event except for that little bit of the nearer picture which was clarified for them
Conclusion Within the framework of these perspectives on the interpretation of the prophets, our interpretation and preaching can avoid the great errors of dispensationalism and will permit us to bring God’s word through the Old Covenant prophets directly to bear on the New Covenant people of God. Dispensationalists have great difficulty in doing this very thing because they ignores or fail to see these three perspectives on the framework of prophecy. Because dispensationalists don’t recognize the flattened perspective of the prophets, which merges Old Covenant and New Covenant realities into the same vision, they feel a constant constraint to assign every prophecy to either an Old Covenant, New Covenant, or literal millennial time frame. A prime example of this tendency is the Scofield Reference Bible. See also J. B. Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. These folk do at the point of prophetic fulfillment what the JEDP folk do with pentateuchal sources, i.e., they atomize the text. Beware of losing sight of the flattened perspective of the prophets; those who do so fragment the text in interpretation. Because dispensationalists do not recognize the analogical nature of prophetic revelation, anything ideal and Jewish (e.g., the lion lying down with the lamb, references to the land, temple, sacrifices) is pushed into a literal Jewish kingdom still to come in the future. For example, according to the Scofield Reference Bible (p. 885), Ezekiel 40-48 speaks of “Israel in the Land During the Kingdom-Age” with reinstituted animal sacrifices at a rebuilt temple. Because the imagery found in these chapters (which really speaks of the great temple, i.e., the heavenly Jerusalem) is so Jewish and Old Covenant, Scofield felt obliged to interpret the chapters in this manner. And because dispensationalists, at least in their popular writings, tend to emphasize the evidential over the ethical elements of prophecy, the prophets are permitted to say little to the New Covenant people of God of an ethical nature. Supposedly, these writings (along with other portions of scripture, such as the Sermon on the Mount) are for the “Kingdom-Age.” From an understanding of the principles and perspectives outlined above, our study and preaching of the prophets takes on another shape altogether. We are able to preach the prophets to our people with a clear conscience, because the prophets themselves addressed our people as part of the remnant of the beacharith hayyamim. It is not that we are taking messages intended for a certain people and lifting those messages out of their proper framework and applying them to a foreign people or framework. Instead, the prophets themselves addressed us and our people as part of the remnant of “the extremity of the days.” The prophets spoke of the Messiah, and the redemption, and the judgment with which we have to do. Read Fairbairn, p. 52. Truly “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The purpose of all Old Testament and New Testament prophecy (beginning with Gen. 3:15) is to point us to Christ