Monday, December 9, 2013

Daniel and his prayer – Part Three

 In the previous article, we saw the two great pillars of prayer: acknowledging who God is, and confession of personal sin. Now, Daniel covers the final pillar of intercessory prayer – pleading for mercy. Being a special people set apart to God means taking responsibility. Responsibility means abiding in truth, abiding in truth means abiding in the Spirit of truth. Abiding in God and His Word is all important to knowing God. The more one abides in the Word of God, the more one grows in the grace of God.  

Notice, how Daniel when he pleads for restoration, addresses responsibly, God’s Word, compassion, and mercy.

Daniel 9:16  O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us.

The time is coming soon when they will be released from their bondage in Babylon and return to the land as Daniel understands the timing. He requests God to act “as” or “like” (hence, the NASB’s translation “according to”) God’s righteousness. The addition of “all” reflects the fact that God is righteous in all He does. He is right in sending them into exile, and He is right in delivering them. It is time for God’s anger (nostril is the root word in the sense of breathing through the nose in anger)  and wrath (lit. heat) to turn away from Jerusalem and God’s holy mountain. Again, God’s reference is Jerusalem and the Temple. Daniel is moving back through the ideas of sincere worship and faithfulness, repentance and acknowledgement of the sins of their fathers, Jerusalem (as the place where the offense occurred) and the people.  

The righteous acts that Daniel speaks of is consistent with what Samuel said when he addressed the nation at the coronation of Saul in 1 Sam. 12:7. The righteous acts referred to here were a cycle of the people’s unfaithfulness, resulting in bondage; their repentance, resulting in deliverance. What is left for Daniel and the nation is deliverance.

Daniel’s request for God to turn away His anger and wrath will serve to make right and reverse the reproach they had become to the surrounding nations. The word for reproach is ‘cherpah’, meaning reproach (that is, “resting upon a condition of shame, disgrace”), or scorn (“taunt, scorn upon an enemy”). Some have said they had become the object of scorn, or shame as Gill writes, “their neighbors, the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Tyrians, and Philistines; who rejoiced at their destruction, and jeered at them and their religion, and scoffing said, ‘where were their temple of which they boasted, and their God in whom they trusted?’ The cause of all this is owned to be their own sins, and the sins of their ancestors, which they their posterity continued in; and therefore do not lay the fault wholly upon them, but take the blame to themselves.” (John Gill)   Others interpret, as Dr. Unger writes, “Reproach on His people brings reproach on God, for the pagans would say that the Lord was not able to save His people. So he pleaded for help ‘for the Lord’s sake’.” (Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

Daniel 9:17  So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.

The plea for God to hear his prayer is in sincere desperation as Daniel uses the adverb now along with the chain of imperatives (listen! cause to shine!) here and continuing in verse 18.  Daniel is God’s servant. Darius in desperation, rushed to the lion’s den after a sleepless night saying, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions? (Dan. 6:20)”  Daniel’s actions and faithfulness to God have shown him to be a servant of God, even to those who are the captors.  And because Daniel is a servant of the Lord, his prayer is for the Lord’s sake. It is for the desolate Temple. May God’s face again shine upon the Temple, the sacred place of God. Daniel uses this metaphor “to shine” as is used so often in the poetry books (particularly, Job & Psalms) to mean “to invigorate”, “be glorious and bright”, “be bright and renewed.” 
Daniel 9:18  O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.

The chain of imperatives continues as Daniel pleads, “Give ear! Hear! Open your eyes! See!” Hear my plea! See our desolations and the city which is called by your name! One of the saddest events in a person’s life is when one’s sin becomes so great that it overtakes them. To look upon someone who has fallen to the bottom because their sin controls them. That is the picture we are given on a very personal level here. What makes it more of a shame, is if that person professes to be a servant of Christ and their sin has overtaken them. It is a reflection upon God. How terrible is the picture of a Christian caught up in the world, and the world knows the Christian should not be in the world, but should be separate, set apart from the world. The offense against God is an attack against his name. Daniel’s plea is not on account of their merits (lit., For [it is] not about our righteousness [that] we present our supplications before you).  Daniel’s plea is on account of Your great compassion (lit., but on account of your many mercies).  God had spoken through his prophet Joel about these mercies, “Yet even now, declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12-13)”  
Daniel 9:19  O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.

 Daniel’s last plea culminates in another set of imperatives – Hear! Forgive! Take action! Which is introduced by intense personal crying out. “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive!” Then, as if to clarify his prayer, Daniel says, “O Lord, hear (attend the ear) and act!” Again the purpose is given, and is stressed in the Hebrew by placing “by your name,” first. It literally says, “For your name has been called upon your city and upon your people.” The plea is for God’s good name.

The Seventy Sevens Prophecy

While Daniel was intensely praying, the angel Gabriel came to him in a vision. There are two angels spoken of by name in the Bible, both are spoken of in the book of Daniel - Gabriel and Michael. Gabriel is mentioned by name only here in the Old Testament and Luke in the New Testament (Dan. 8:16; 9:21; Lk. 1:19; 1:26). Likewise, Michael is spoken of only here (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1) and in Jude 9 and Rev. 12:7. It is significant that Gabriel is here giving understanding about this prophecy.  Gabriel is known as the messenger of God, whereas Michael is known as the archangel, the protector or guardian angel of Israel. The messenger of God is about to give Daniel an extraordinary message. 

Daniel 9:20-21  Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.

It is at that very moment when Daniel was speaking with God, that the angel Gabriel (“warrior of God”) came to him. Previously, in chapter eight, the angel Gabriel had interpreted the vision for him, Gabriel, it appears, was in the vision. Gabriel is referred to as “the man” indicating he presented himself to Daniel as a man just as before, so that Daniel knew that it was him. Angels, when they take on human form are often represented as men. In chapter eight, when Daniel first saw Gabriel, the appearance was so dramatic that he was afraid and fell to his face (Dan. 8:17). After the interpretation of the vision, Daniel became sick for several days. It appears that both the message and the messenger, were too overwhelming; taxing every bit of strength Daniel had. Daniel was now ready for the conclusion of the seventy-sevens interpretation that is about to be presented. In chapter eight, a horrifying prophecy was revealed to Daniel that no one could understand without interpretation (8:27). Then after a time of rest, study, and contemplation in the scriptures, Daniel comes to understand the 70 week captivity. Now, the time is right for Daniel to be given the incredible historical timeline of Jerusalem – the seventy-sevens.

It was about the time of the evening sacrifice that Gabriel came to him. Though, they were in captivity, and the Temple was destroyed, making sacrifices obsolete, Daniel used this established time for study and prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day (6:10), one more than prescribed by the law (Ex. 29:38-39; Num. 28:3-4).

As Dr. Unger writes,
The ninth hour, or 3 p.m. (c.f. 1 Kg. 18:36). The evening offering consisted of an unblemished lamb, one year old, offered as a whole burnt offering, accompanied by meal and drink offering, prefiguring the future sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the spotless Lamb of God (Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:18-20).     

The restrictions their Babylonian captors placed upon them made it impossible for the Jews to offer sacrifices as in their former days, and this paved the way for the development of that non-sacrificial type of worship. Instead of a burnt offering, Daniel offers up his prayers. R.K.Harrison writes,

From the beginning of the Exile, open-air meetings had been held by the mud flats of the Kabar canal, at which the law was read and opportunities for confession and prayer were provided. Because the absence of a Temple robbed the populace of a central meeting place, it became necessary to improvise in this respect. As a result, house gatherings for instruction in the law (c.f. Ezek. 20:1) came into being, and the sabbath assumed a position of particular prominence as the weekly day of worship. In a prophetic utterance Ezekiel advised the elders of the community to enforce the proper observance of the sabbath (Ezek. 20:20), and because it was impossible to indulge in animal sacrifices as part of the worship of that day, he stressed the place of prayer, confession, and instruction in the law. This became the basic pattern for that type of worship which took place in the synagogues of the postexilic period. 

We come now to the problem of a translational disagreement. There is a difference of opinion between two camps of translators based on one word’s traditional interpretation. The NASB reads, “then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”  Whereas, the KJV (and NIV, NKJV, NLT) reads, “even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”  The problem is in the root of the Hebrew word ‘yaaph’ meaning “to be or grow weary, be fatigued, faint.” Although, the root may be from  ‘uph’ meaning “to fly.”  Without the traditional interpretation this would read literally, “who being made weary in weariness.“ If, in fact the traditional translation is correct then it is possible that the word is derived from ‘yaaph’ as is proper, and the sense of the word with respect to this angel’s flight is a picture of weariness. How does one fly wearily? With a bouncing slowness, much like a butterfly. It looks like it might fall before it very casually strokes its wings up before resting again, then the down stroke.  The LXX uses the Greek word ‘petomai’ meaning ‘to fly’ which had a large influence on past translations such as Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and the King James Version. The LXX is an excellent reference source due to its age (300 B.C.), but the Hebrew is our source. Whether it is Gabriel, who, as a man has wings and flies, or it is a wearied Daniel, it is the angel, Gabriel, who comes to Daniel for a purpose.  Gabriel either ‘comes’ to Daniel or ‘touches’ him. The word ‘naga’ means, ‘to touch, reach, strike’.

Daniel 9:22  He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.

Gabriel gave Daniel instruction and talked to him. If you want to know the language of this angel, it is Hebrew. Daniel makes it plain (lit., And he understood and intensely talked with me and said, Daniel, now I come forth to cause you to have insight of understanding). Gabriel talks to Daniel in the intensive mood (c.f. Dan 8:18). Notice the comparison to 8:16-19. Gabriel always talks to Daniel in the intensive mood! Gabriel was given a command back in 8:16, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” Here, as it was there, the intensive and causative moods are used. There is no wonder Daniel was so sick! The Hebrew, even without the vision, is so intense it is exhausting. Daniel’s encounter with Gabriel ends in an abrupt way. It is much different from the previous encounter. On the previous encounter, Daniel records a completion of the encounter as he reports his sickness; here, there is no completion to the encounter. The end of the message ends the chapter and the encounter. The ending of the encounter in verse 27 is so abrupt that it says, “this is the end!” Consider it, ponder it.  
Daniel 9:23  At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.
It is revealed that God heard the request and acted immediately, for a command (lit., ‘the word went forth’) was given to Gabriel to give Daniel a message.  Daniel is caused to understand. There is no misunderstanding or hidden thing here, for the causative imperative is given, “so understand [the] word and learn [the] vision.” It may better be understood as, “know [the] message and understand [the] vision.”  The previous vision he is told to seal it up (Dan. 8:26), here he is commanded to “cause to understand, give understanding, or teach it.”

What happens next is one of the most important prophecies in history. The seventy weeks of Daniel provides Israel a detailed overview of all of history. This prophecy started with Daniel abiding in God. Daniel’s prayer is an example to us of intercessory prayer. The answer we receive today is not this detailed. God’s answers prayer to with yes, no, and not now. God’s word was not complete so Daniel receives a most incredible answer and had to be delivered by an angel. Daniel’s prayer is answered in history and involves history.

Daniel 9:24-27: 24 Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Daniel and his Prayer , Part Two

In the previous article, the context to this great prayer was presented. In this article, Daniel begins his long prayer. It is here we find the heart of Daniel as he goes before God with all his heart. We see with Daniel that there is abiding in God and His Word as he seeks out what God commands them to do in Deuteronomy 6:4 in what is called the ‘shema’ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God is One!” The hearing aspect is followed by the ordinance of keeping Scripture on the forehead and hand (6:8). They are a special people set apart by God to listen to God’s Word – they are the people of the ear. This is the heart of abiding in God, abiding in His Word. Daniel has just read why they were in captivity and how long they would be there. As a result, he is deeply moved and calls out to God. 

Daniel’s Prayer (9:4-19) 

Daniel 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 

In verse 3 Daniel sets his face before ‘Adonay’ (my Lord, Master), here he says he prayed to ‘Yahweh’ (“the existing one”). The term ‘Adonay’ is used ten times in the book of Daniel. It is used nine times here in chapter nine! This is appropriate for Daniel whose Lord is Yahweh, as he pours out his heart. This is equivalent to the Greek word for Lord, ‘kurios.’ Though the Greek of the Septuagint lacks the Hebrew clarity, there is no mistaking who Daniel’s Master is, as he recounts, I prayed to the Lord my God (lit., and I intensely prayed myself to ‘Yahweh’ my God). Daniel continues in the intensive reflexive, And I intensely confessed myself and said, pray now, O ‘Adonay’, the great and fearful God. This is the same ‘Adonay’ Daniel introduces in chapter one as the one who gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his (Nebuchadnezzar) hand (1:2). 

Daniel first acknowledges God’s greatness, and His awesome power. He experienced God’s greatness and awesome power, first hand. Nebuchadnezzar himself acknowledged this, but now Daniel recalls the God who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. This statement is found in the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses who also had been fasting when God told him: 

Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Ex. 20:1-6). 

Notice Daniel’s two great prayers in this book. In the prayer of chapter two, Daniel’s prayer focuses primarily on praise. Notice the outline of the prayer: 

A. God’s name be praised (2:20)
B. God is all powerful and wise (2:21)
Power over heaven and earth (2:21a)
Power over kings and kingdoms (2:21a)
Power over individual’s knowledge (2:21b-22)
C. Daniel acknowledges God as source of his blessings (2:23)

D. Daniel acknowledges God gave him understanding of the dream (2:23)

In chapter nine, Daniel’s prayer is more a model of intercessory prayer. It starts out with praise, then confession, and then he pleads for mercy. The prayer’s outline is as follows:

A. Daniel acknowledges who God is (9:4).
Great and awesome – Sovereign, Omnipotence (All powerful) God (9:4a).

God keeps His covenant – Faithful, Immutability (Unchangable) (9:4a).

God has lovingkindness – Mercy, Love (9:4b).

B. Daniel acknowledges the nation’s sin (9:5-7).

Their rebellion (9:5).
They departed from His precepts and judgments (9:6).
They did not heed His prophets (9:6).
All Israel is guilty (9:7).

C. He acknowledges the curse written in the law (9:11).
D. He confirms God’s prophecy of judgment had been fulfilled (9:14).
E. He pleads for mercy (9:16-19).
Upon Jerusalem (9:16b).
Upon Your holy mountain (9:16b).
Upon the Temple (9:17b).
Upon Your people (9:19).

Daniel 9:5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 

Daniel’s confession is not a generic prayer, simply stating, “we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled.” Daniel is specific, he points out exactly what the problem is, as he had come to the understanding that they “turned aside from Your commands and ordinances.” Daniel acts here as the national leader of the nation as he is the top leader of the three supervisors of the providence (6:1-3). His prayer, as he comes before God confessing the nation corporately saying, “we have sinned.” They have missed the mark, and are twisted, distorted (Hebrew ‘avah’ – committed iniquity, distorted, twisted). The English word iniquity is from the Latin ‘Iniquus’ meaning unjust. ‘Iniquity’ is the traditional translation, but the better sense of the word is to pervert. They have twisted or perverted what is right, and have done wrong (NIV’s translation). They have acted wickedly, literally, ‘caused wicked acts’, as the Hebrew causative is used.
There is a scribal addition noted here. The original literally says, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, and we have caused wicked acts.” Conversely, the scribal note says, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity. We have caused wicked acts, and rebelled.” That is, the Scribes thought the wicked acts were the result of them having twisted what was right and just in God’s law. 

Daniel acknowledges the source of what is true and holy as he says, “even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.” This is the law that was given to them by God. It is not only the Ten Commandments given to Moses, but all the commandments (Hebrew – ‘mitzvah’, commandment, with the meaning of a charge, or given orders) and ordinances (Hebrew – ‘mishpat’, judgement, ordinance, from the verb to judge). In verse four, Daniel acknowledges God as merciful to those who love him and keep His commandments. Here, he acknowledges their departure and turning aside from God’s commands. 

Daniel acknowledges God is just and righteous with their captivity in Babylon. What is the source of their trouble? The source of their trouble is their sin. This is true repentance that we see in his confession. 

Daniel 9:6 Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
For some 300 years the nation did not listen to the prophets that God sent. We have a record of some of those prophets and their message preserved for us today, but there were many more who were sent that we have no record of. The pre-Exilic writing prophets started in the ninth century B.C., these were Obadiah and Joel. Then God sent the eighth century prophets – Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Isaiah and Micah. All these writing prophets left a record of God’s message to their respective generation. Daniel includes himself with the nation, and confesses the sins of the nation. Even though he was not alive for most of that turning aside, he includes himself as a participant in the crime. Indeed, he was there in Jerusalem as a boy of royalty before the nation was taken captive. He acknowledges the legal commands given (9:5), God’s loving kindness to those who keep the legal commands (9:4), and the kindness and patience God has for them in sending prophets for so many generation (9:6). God’s law given through His prophets are true, and God is immutable. 

Daniel 9:7 Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 

Daniel proclaims ‘Adonai’ as righteous. The Hebrew word for righteous is the same as justice. This is a legal, just, judgment of captivity for seventy years. They, however, are open shame (lit., “unto us [is] shame of the face”). The addition of “as it is this day” reflects the shame they are experiencing in captivity even to that day, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against God. The same belongs to the divided nation (Judah and Israel), Jerusalem and all who have been scattered throughout the far lands. John Gill writes: 

To every man of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; who once dwelt in that land flowing with milk and honey, and now in a strange land for their sins; and to every inhabitant of that renowned city of Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, the seat, of the kings of Judah; yea, the city of the great King, where the temple stood, and divine worship was performed, but now lay in ruins, through the iniquity of its inhabitants, and therefore had just reason to be ashamed... shame and confusion of face also belonged to the ten tribes of Israel; to such of them as were mixed with the Jews in Babylon, or were in those parts of Assyria that lay nearest to it; and to those that were at a greater distance, in Media, Iberia, Colchis, and other places; yea, in all kingdoms and countries where they were dispersed for their trespass against the Lord; particularly in worshiping the calves at Dan and Bethel, and other acts of idolatry and impiety 

Daniel 9:8-11 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.

Daniel repeats the statement of shame to them that day, then the shame of the past. To the kings, princes and fathers, because of sin against God. There has been generation after generation of shame upon the generations of their fathers because of the sins of the nation. They were given covenant blessings and curses based upon obedience to the law (Deu. 28-30). God had upheld his word and the fathers have experienced shame. This should be a lesson for us today. We can bring shame upon our family, upon our father’s good reputation by our bad actions, our bad reputation. 

In verses 8-11 all the verbs are perfect tenses (completed act) except for the curse which continue to be poured out upon them. This is an imperfect (incomplete act). Their curse will continue to be poured out upon then until the seventy years are up. 

Daniel 9:12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 

The sense of the incomplete verb tense means that God is still pouring out the curse and this pouring out of the curse continues in verse 12. God continues to confirm His words (incomplete act – of Jerusalem’s destruction), which He had spoken (completed act - His word which was spoken by the prophets) against us, and against our rulers, who ruled us in the past (completed act), bring us (causative infinitive) to this great miserable state we are in. 

This is a tremendous verse, for Daniel confirms God’s characteristic of immutability. Immutability means that God is unchangeable and hence, unchanging. It means that He is never inconsistent. What the Lord says never changes. There is a problem with this characteristic. If God is unchangeable, how can He repent (Gen. 6:6; Jon. 3:10)? The root meaning of the Hebrew word ‘nacham’ used there is “to be sorry, be grieved, comfort, repent.” By context there is no change in mind of God, so He does not repent in the sense of changing the mind, but shows emotion, hence, He is grieved. This unchangeable quality of God serves as a comfort and assurance to us, as God’s promises will never fail. 

Immutability with respect to sin, reminds us that God’s attitude towards sin does not change, and, just as the covenant people had a covenant promise and curse, we who have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit today, must not grieve the Holy Spirit by continuing in our sin, but we must be transformed, by the renewing of our minds. We must repent! We who are saved and continue in our sin face consequences. These consequences range from a damaged relationship with our Lord and those who we sin against, to separation from our church family and even physical death (1 Cor. 5:5). Israel experienced separation of corporate fellowship with God as the nation no longer having access to the Temple and the land. 

This revelation is given to us today as an example (1 Cor.1:10). We should read Daniel’s prayer and be convicted. This and all the Old Testament is given for an admonition. These events should make us sober minded. All of Israel sinned. How? They were into the world, seeking those things which looked good, sounded good and felt good. They were to be separate from the world, but the world was too enticing. The lust of the flesh was too much for them. They worshipped Baal, participated in the ritual sex, ritual killing of the first born children, even offering up praise to foreign gods for what the fields brought in! We today are called to be separate. What worldly sins do we participate in? Do the examples given us serve as a warning? Do we praise God for what we have? 

The nation’s sin was so great that Jerusalem’s destruction is described as “for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.” Jeremiah recounts the destruction of Jerusalem, recording his lament in the little book of Lamentations. The destruction was terrible, the Babylonians cruel, as they sacked the city. This is a bold statement though. Is it to be taken as, no city has ever been plundered as Jerusalem had been by the Babylonians? Or, are we to take this to mean that no city which had so much truth and patience ever had this happen to them before? Since whole cities have been destroyed before (e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah). The Lord God was patient with them in sending prophets describing their sins and how they could properly return to the Lord. For 300 years God sent His prophets. 

Daniel 9:13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 

Daniel points to the law of Moses as the source of their calamity. It is not known which books of the Old Testament Daniel had. Daniel as a young lad was brought up with the books of the law and the rest of the sacred writings. He knew the law. He knew the source of the law and Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles served as the source of this great prayer of repentance as he either searched the scriptures he possessed or reflected upon those he knew by heart. Either way, Daniel knew what Moses had written and the result is great emotional mourning. 

Daniel understands what is required by God, “yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God.” Daniel writes in the intensive because repentance must be sincere (lit., We have not intensely prayed before ‘Yahweh’ our God). The word for pray is ‘chalah’ meaning “to be sick, be grieved, become weak, be sorry, to pray”. The idea is to pray with grieving or sorrow for what has been done. There was not a turning from their twisted ways (Hebrew ‘avon’ – perverted, iniquity, what is twisted or bent), and there was no “wise understanding” of God’s truth, or as the causative would imply, they did not “give attention, or heed” God’s truth. Abraham left the land of Ur (this very land) some 1000 years before heeding God’s truth. 

Daniel 9:14 Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. 

As a result of the nation’s lack of faithfulness, they turning from ‘Yahweh’ the ever existing true God, to the gods of the world. Thus, the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us. Daniel acknowledges the source of their calamity and declares ‘Yahweh’ God as having justice (Hebrew - ‘tsaddiyq’, just, lawful, righteous) in the deeds which He had done (their deportation from the land, plunder, and separation from Temple worship), and he acknowledges they did not obey his warnings. The reason the writing prophets are called ‘the word of God’ is because that is how Daniel understood them to be. Daniel calls it His voice. The Hebrew literally says, “And ‘Yahweh’ shall watch all the evil and He brought it upon us.” In other words, since they wanted to worship foreign gods, let them be in bondage with them! The word for watch is ‘shaqad’ meaning to “keep watch”. God kept watch over them in their idolatry all those years and continues (incomplete act) to keep watch in their bondage. What they desired in the land was false gods, so false gods they received. 

Idol worship extended to many generations, but the number and diversity listed in the Old Testament is astounding. Most of the gods are not named, we only know of them by a statement like “the gods of Syria (Jud. 10:6),” and etc. The following is a short accounting of the surrounding nations of Israel: 

1. The gods of the Ammonites (Jud. 10:6).
2. The gods of the Amorites (Josh. 24:2, 15; Jud. 6:10; 1 Kgs. 21:11).
3. The gods of the Assyrians (Nah. 1:4).
4. The gods of the Babylonians (Isa. 21:9; Ezr. 1:7).
5. The gods of the Canaanites (Jud. 3:5, 10:6).
6. The gods of Egypt (Ex. 12:12; Josh. 24:14; Jer. 43:12-13; 46:25).
7. The gods of the Edomites (gods of Seir; 2 chron. 25:14, 20).
8. The gods of the Hittites (Ex. 23:23-24; 34:11-15; Jud. 3:5-6).
9. The gods of the Moabites (Num. 25:1-2; Jud. 10:6; Ruth 1:15; Jer. 48:35).
10. The gods of the Philistines (Jud. 16:23; 1 Sam. 5:1-7).
11. The gods of the Syrians (2 Kgs. 17:31; 18:34; 2 Chr. 28:23; Isa. 36:19).

The offense that idol worship has upon the Lord can only be seen by His own words. In the following passage, God likens Israel to a prostitute in the harshest of ways: 

Then it came about after all your wickedness (’Woe, woe to you!’ declares the Lord GOD), that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square. You built yourself a high place at the top of every street and made your beauty abominable, and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry. You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry. Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct. Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied (Ezek. 16:23-29). 

Daniel 9:15 And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 

The freedom from bondage in Egypt is so great that the Hebrew God was known throughout the region. His name continues to be made as the incomplete act of the verb mood, ‘making’ suggests. His name is great and continues to be made great as the events of this book reflect that building of a reputation through great miracles presented in Babylon and the eventual conclusion of the captivity. Even the Babylonian kings acknowledged the great name of God. The term “great name” implies a mighty God with a “mighty hand” (often translated “great power”). 

The contrast between God’s act of mercy (deliverance from bondage in Egypt) and their sin is prominent here. God’s act of mercy results from His great name. Their sin is seen as wickedness. As before, their wickedness brings shame. 

Daniel’s great confession here saying, “we have sinned,” serves as the second great pillar to prayer – confession of personal sins. In 1 John 1:8-9 the apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Greek word for confession means to “call it like another.” That is to say, we come before God and call it like God calls it. This is what Daniel does and as a result, he speaks of their deliverance and the satisfaction of their time in bondage that is approaching. 

Their sin caused a loss of completeness in fellowship with God and others in Jerusalem. But God is faithful to His word and He will bring them deliverance from their bondage. Just as with Egypt, their release from Babylon will be by the hand of God alone and they will return with the help of the foreign power. In the next article we conclude with Daniel’s final aspect of prayer – recalling the righteousness, faithfulness, and goodness of God.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Daniel, a Man of Prayer

What does it mean to abide in Christ (John 15:17)? God created man for fellowship. It is His desire that we worship and fellowship with Him. For the man of God, it is essential to be in communion with God by being in His word and in prayer. The Bible is full of examples of great men of God who seek Him first before acting. Abraham learned to be a great man of prayer. Moses learned to seek God in prayer before taking action. And Joshua seems to have learned to seek prayer before going into battle from Moses (Ex. 17:9).  

This series of articles will look at an Old Testament example of a great man of God who seeks after God – the prophet Daniel. There is no better example of a man that seeks after God with his whole being as Daniel does. One of the longest prayers in the Bible is found in Daniel chapter 9.      

Daniel 9:1-23  Daniel’s Prayer

 We find Daniel in chapter nine reading from the books of the law as well as Jeremiah.  Studying these books leads to his understanding of the plan of prophecy. This section of Scripture reveals to us not only the historicity of how Daniel comes by this understanding of the 70 weeks of Jerusalem’s desolation, but it also reveals to us in our day the character of Daniel. As he reads the Scriptures, he comes to a deep conviction as he understands why they are in captivity, how long they would be held captive, and what was required for mercy. He is found coming before the Lord confessing the sins of the people and pleading for mercy.  Daniel’s prayer seems to be a true model of the prayer of national repentance requested by God in Joel chapter 2. Except here there is no temple, only an old faithful man on his knees.

Daniel’s Understanding of Scripture

 Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent.  Daniel specifies the date which this great prophecy occurs.  So great and precise are the dates and times presented in this book that there is no mistaking the prophecy contained herein. The times presented by Daniel are referenced to reigning kings. These are political events. They are international in scope. This is how the ancients dated events. The book of Daniel presents four great political dates, but this date is 539-537 B.C. placing Daniel in his seventies.

The ruler of chapter 9 is identified as Darius(“lord”). The name is of Persian descent and he is identified as being of Median descent (lit. “from [the] seed of [the] Medes”); the same as mentioned in chapters 5 and 6. He is identified as the son of Ahasuerus (“I will be silent and poor”), the title of the king of Persia, probably Xerxes. Darius was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans. It seems Darius “had been made” king, as the passive voice is used. Unger writes, “after the capture of Babylon by the armies of Cyrus, [Darius] exercised interim kingship until Cyrus returned from further conquests.” It is Gill, however, who says,

[he was made king] by Cyrus his nephew; who having taken Babylon, and settled his affairs, undertook a journey to Persia, and made Media in his way; where he met with his uncle Cyaxares, the same with this Darius, and delivered the kingdom of Babylon to him, and married his daughter, with whom he had for her dowry the kingdom of Media, as Xenophon relates.

The date varies here as most scholars place the date between 539-537 B.C., with most using 539 B.C., making Daniel about 70 years old. Daniel had steadily progressed up the ladder of leadership all the way to the position ruler over rulers (6:1-3).
This kingdom of the Chaldeans (“clod-breakers”) is the territory in lower Mesopotamia bordered by the Persian Gulf. It is also a reference to the inhabitants of Chaldea, the area of the lower Euphrates and Tigris. Notice Daniel’s change back to the term ‘Chaldeans’. We first find a reference to the Chaldeans in chapter 1 as Daniel is taught the learning and language of the Chaldeans (1:4).  Then in chapter 2 as some of the Chaldeans speak to the King about the dream (2:4). It is believed that the term is often used synonymously with Babylon. In fact, the region is observed to be referred to as upper, middle and lower Euphrates.
Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 

Daniel gives another emphatic  I, Daniel. This phrase is used 7 times, starting in chapter 7 and used in every chapter after, except chapter 11 (chapter 11 continues the angel’s testimony of chapter 10). This emphatic wording speaks of the testimony he gives. This testimony is important because it indicates he had a collection of Scripture which he possessed that he read and understood himself.  

Daniel had observed in the books the reason why they were in captivity. Notice that there is more than one book with which Daniel claims he came to this understanding. The Hebrew word ‘biyn’ means “to discern, understand or consider.” He came to an understanding from these books, that is, from the “writings,” the holy scriptures. The Hebrew word is ‘cepher,’ meaning a “writing, document or scroll.” The verb means “to count or recount.” We get our English word  ‘cipher’ from this word meaning to compute arithmetically, or a technique of writing in secret which is “deciphered” with a key. There is, however, nothing hidden here; it is plainly written by the prophet. In the Old Testament, the word census and secretary come from this word and so Daniel uses the word twice, as he understands the number of the years from the accounts (books).    

The number of the years that he understood is that which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet.  There are two sections in Jeremiah which reveal the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. These two sections that prophesy this are, Jer. 25:11-12; and 29:10. It is not clear whether Daniel had all of Jeremiah, but chapter 29 is a special letter written “to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive – to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon (29:1).” 

This letter to the captives, instructs them to:
(1)   build houses (29:5)
(2)   take wives (29:6)
(3)   have children (29:6)
(4)   and increase there (29:6)
(5)   seek peace (29:7)
(6)   pray for the city where they are captive (29:7)
(7)   beware of false prophets and dreamers (29:8-9)

Then this is what Jeremiah wrote:

For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD,  plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile (Jer. 29:10-14).

One of the most incredible things about the word of God is the number of times He uses exact numbers. God gives His people a requirement, and He keeps an accounting. Their disobedience in not observing His precept, results in their punishment by a just amount. In this case, because they did not observe the Sabbath rest of the field (Lev. 25:3-5; 26:33-35; 2 Chron. 36:20-21) their punishment is desolation of the land.

Notice, the focal point of the judgment. It is not their captivity, but rather the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. The focus is on Jerusalem! The great Babylonian kingdom is God’s instrument which He uses to enact His judgment. Jerusalem, the place where the Temple lies in desolation is the place that God holds important. It is His holy city. It is where they are to worship their God. It is where they are to bring their offerings. All this has been cut off.

This is the unique thing that sets God apart from the Babylonian gods. Their gods are impersonal, created beings, resembling animals, and nature. Their offspring are other gods, all having limited sovereignty, and communication with them is not through direct revelation as it is with the God of the Bible, but by seeking “wise men” (divination), who interpret signs.

Daniel’s God is unique, personal, all powerful, and merciful, revealing His will through Himself and later through His spokesmen the prophets.  At first He walked with Adam in the garden, but the sin of disobedience separated them. Then a holy God was in their presence, though veiled, in His tabernacle and Temple. Because of their sins, this relationship too ended. But His mercy is great, and His word true. Their punishment is one of separation from Him and His holy Temple. It is of utmost importance to recognize that if one is not saved, eternal punishment is separation from God forever (Dan. 12:2; 2 Thes. 1:9). What makes this separation unbearable for the unbeliever? Whether they acknowledge it or not, God’s mercy and goodness is enjoyed by them today, but they do not acknowledge it. In the future, His goodness will not be present for them. They will be separated from His goodness, only torment will remain.   
The time of completion (lit., “to fulfill the desolations of Jerusalem”) is almost over.  The great Old Testament scholar Unger writes:

The phrase “desolations of Jerusalem” probably refers to the destruction of the city and the Temple in 586 B.C., and so the period of seventy years would end approximately with the dedication of the Temple in 515 B.C. If the period is reckoned from the beginning of servitude to Babylon in 605 B.C., then Daniel realized in the recent fall of the Babylonian Empire that the time was approaching when the Israelite captives could return and that the restoration of the city and Temple was at least not a too distant prospect. If the period of captivity is reckoned from the date of the first major deportation in 597 B.C., then the date 527 B.C. would mark extensive rebuilding on the part of the returned exiles. (Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

The number of the years is seventy. This punishment is not more nor less than what is prescribed. It is exactly what is prescribed. God is totally sovereign and just. The book of Daniel is a testimony to this fact. He will work with the Babylonians, the Medes, the Greeks, and the Romans. He will do in His creation what He wills. And Daniel will acknowledge that in the prayer that follows. One must also notice that while Daniel and his people are still held captive in Babylon, his prayer is for mercy upon Jerusalem, God’s holy mountain, the Temple, then and only then, does he pray for God’s people (9:9). 
Concerning the number seventy and Daniel’s understanding of it from the books. This implies that Daniel came to an understanding of “why they were in captivity.” His reference to the Law of Moses (9:11,13) would suggest he understood the years, that is, he counted (Hebrew – ‘cepher’) the years, and he was deeply moved.  He must have read Leviticus 25-26 which describes the Sabbath rest of the land, and understood why they were out of the land. 

Daniel 9:3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
After Daniel reads the Scriptures he gives his attention to the Lord God (lit., “I set my face to the Lord God”).  Daniel is a praying man. He would have his prayer time three times a day (6:10). It seems his routine was to read the Scriptures then turn to the Lord God. Daniel turns to ‘Adonay’ (literally, “my Lord”). This is the term Daniel uses for the Lord. He does not address him here as ‘Yahweh’, but rather, “My Lord, the God”. In verse two, the ‘word of Yahweh’ is read, but throughout this prayer, Daniel will use, “my Lord”, or “my Master”.   This is notable because of the Israelites captivity. Their masters are the Babylonians, but Daniel acknowledges God as his Master and all his actions reflect this. His diet and his prayer life reflect who his Master is.

Daniel turns his attention to the Lord to seek Him by prayer and supplications (lit., “to intensely seek prayer and supplication”). All his attention is now given to the Lord as the intensive infinitive “to seek, desire or request” is used. This intensive form is further realized by Daniel’s fasting, wearing sackcloth and ashes.  This type of prayer reveals that this prayer is something that is emotionally driven. Fasting implies an extended time of attention paid to this subject.  To pray and fast at the same time is to pay special attention and all focus is upon the subject at hand. For example, fasting was used to prepare Moses to receive the law from God (Ex. 34:28; Deu.9:9,18), fasting and sackcloth was used to show sorrow for sin (1 Kg. 21:27); and though the prophets of the Old Testament were criticized for abusing it as an outward show, it is used at times of national need (2 Ch. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21). It is possible Daniel had read the prophet Joel, who had written some 200 years earlier. God had told the nation through Joel to repent from their evil ways and deeds as they worshiped foreign gods, even thanking them for their prosperity (Joel 1:13-16). The call to repentance is so sobering one must not pass through Daniel’s prayer without listening to the Lord first:

Yet even now, declares the LORD, Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will notturn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, Even a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God? Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not make Your inheritance a reproach, A byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the LORD will be zealous for His land And will have pity on His people. The LORD will answer and say to His people, Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied in full with them; And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations (Joel 2:12-17).  

Daniel then starts his heartfelt prayer in verse 4.

Daniel 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
In the next article Daniel, asking as the spokesman for the people will show us how a leader prays for their nation. A national leader that prays in sincerity, truth and in the will of God will find favor.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Answers To Your Questions

Question:  Who made the choice to use the word "Christ", which is the Greek word for Messiah? Would not "Jesus" have been more appropriate for translators in translating the epistles of the Apostle Paul?  

 Answer: The word  “Christ” comes from the Greek ‘christos’ meaning “anointed.” The Hebrew Old Testament word for anointed is ‘meshiyach,’ and is only translated Messiah in 2 of the 39 places in the King James Version of the Bible (both in Daniel 9). In the New Testament, Andrew, upon finding Jesus, tells his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah (Greek ‘messias’ from the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’)” (which is translated the Christ) (John 1:41; cf. 4:25). The term “the Anointed One” in time become a proper designation for Jesus – He is the anointed Savior (and at times the name is "the anointed one, the savior," other times simply "the Christ," and others, "the Christ, Jesus.").

The fact that the original Greek of the New Testament calls Him the ‘Christos’ not the ‘Messias’ is significant. The writers of the New Testament under the inspiration and superintending by the Holy Spirit made an effort to identify Jesus with the Old Testament Messiah but also to distinguish Him by using the Greek word “Christos.” As a result, all translators use the proper Greek translated term Christ and do not substitute Messiah for it. We understand that Jesus is the Messiah, because the Scriptures say so, but at the same time we understand Jesus is the Christ because Scripture makes that clear also. In fact, the apostle John writes his gospel so that we may know Jesus Christ. He writes, “these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

Thanks for asking,
John Pappas, ThD  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Answers To Your Questions

Who made the choice to use the word "Christ", which is the Greek word for Messiah? Would not "Jesus" have been more appropriate for translators in translating the epistles of the Apostle Paul, who wrote to we non-Jews? 

The role of the translator is not to change the words of the original text. The Greek word for Christ is “Christos” meaning, “anointed” which is equivalent to the Hebrew “Mashiyach” or in English “Messiah.” In the New Testament we find that Joseph is told to name Mary’s child Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins“ (Matt. 1:21). This was done, as the angel explained, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah. The prophecy was that “the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Matt. 1:23). Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”)!

Now, Jesus is the Greek “Iesous” meaning, “Jehovah is salvation,” and comes from the Hebrew “Yehowshuwa’,” meaning the same – Jehovah is salvation. Sometimes Paul uses both names “Jesus Christ,” sometimes just “Christ,” sometimes “Jesus,” and sometimes “Christ Jesus.” The significance of the name used in the text is important to the context – that is to say, when Jesus is used alone the emphasis us upon salvation, “God in the flesh,” and Christ’s humanity. Whenever the name Christ is used the emphasis is placed upon “the anointed of the Old Testament.” When the word order is Christ Jesus, the emphasis is placed upon the first name.

For example, in Ephesians 2:6, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”    The emphasis is placed upon His Messianic work. You can tell by what is said in verse 7:  “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” The expression “ages to come” expresses the Messianic Kingdom.

Thanks for your question,
Dr. John Pappas

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wealth Inequality and the Bible

 I received a forward recently with a link to a video titled “Wealth Inequality in America.” I usually ignore such links but this time I thought I would see what this group was up to, so I had a look. There was nothing new in their message, it was the same old covetous message – “we need to redistribute the wealth,” and “something must be done as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” As is always the case the leader sets the tone for the nation and the current president is pushing this agenda by demonizing the rich and promoting a culture of favoring the poor.  

How do we as Christians respond – with a Biblical based view. It is common for natural man to covet what another has so God lists covetousness as part of the big Ten in Ex.  20:1-17 (cf., Ten Commandments of Deut. 5:6-21). Fallen man is so self-centered, consumed with self-love, self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, and control of everything and everybody. 

This is the characteristic of natural man, and particularly, a characteristic of the last days government. Today there is a movement to control all the money, not just all the banks, but all money regardless of where it is. The humanist wants to control everything - even my money, removing my freedom and responsibility all in the name of social good and social justice.

This attitude is not new; indeed Jesus encountered this attitude in His day. In the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), Jesus encounters this attitude and gives an answer:

The Parable of the Rich Fool:

Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. "And he thought within himself, saying, `What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' "So he said,`I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. `And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'  "But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'  "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:13-21)

Jesus was telling the man not to covet others money and goods. The man wanted his brother to divide up their inheritance and to do it now! He wanted money now and asks Jesus to act on his behalf by persuasion and mediation instead of handling it according to proper law. The man is asking, in essence, to receive a part of his brother’s inheritance, it ought to be, he seems to imply, "a more equitable distribution."

In Jewish law, the oldest son receives a double portion in order to compensate for all the time spent with taking over the responsibility of the property and the family business (Deut. 21:15-17). Jesus corrects the man (the man commands Jesus to talk to his brother) and tells him, "man, who made me a judge or divider [of the inheritance] over you?" Jesus then calls the action of wanting another's stuff covetousness (Greek ‘pleonexia’. "one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others"). 

He then tells a parable of a rich man who has to have more at the expense of everything. The Old Testament is full of proverbs connected to this philosophy of dishonesty in order to gain more money, property, and things. It is not that having, desiring, and earning lots of money is a bad thing, but if your life is consumed with money it turns into an idol. The money turns into an ends in itself, it overtakes the person and one is left in the end with nothing but things. One’s things are left to the next generation – you can’t take them with you when you die. It ends up being another's inheritance.

In the same way, this younger brother seems to think that the oldest brother's double portion is not fair and he demands more of his share. Forget about what rightfully belongs to his brother, he wants more of it. He wants more of the money but not more of the responsibility. This is the teaching of the socialist - they want more of everyone's money - they will divide it as they see fit, and they will see to it that they remain in the ruling class and not have to live by the rules everyone else has to live by.

What do I call “wealth inequality in America”? The same thing God calls it – covetousness - sin. This call for more wealth equality is a call by the natural man, the humanist will eventually take over the governments of the end times and in the end their collection of wealth will not save them.  Natural man does not want a Savior, he wants to trust only in himself, so he collects wealth, horses, and chariots (representing a nation’s war strength – Isa. 31:1-2). Natural man, however, needs a Savior not more money and things. That is the message of Scripture:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. 2:8)  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Answers to Your Questions

In Ephesians 2:7, Paul talks about the ages to come. How many ages are to come?
ANSWER: The word age is the Greek word ‘aion’ meaning “forever, an unbroken age.” An age is a period of time characterized by a specific manner or mode of life. Age has more to do with what takes place in the period, than how long the period lasts. The word ‘aion’ also can be translated “world” in the Greek sense meaning, “the historical context of a period of history,” that is, the age of evil, corresponds to the world of evil, and the age of righteousness to the Messianic age. An age should not be confused with a dispensation, for a dispensation contains a specific working of God with a set of rules in place, whereas, an age speaks of a specific characteristic of the period.

Ephesians 2:7 uses the plural “ages” to come, which means there is more than one age (e.g., the Messianic age) to come. I do not know how many ages there are yet to come, but I can point to three: the age or time of Jacob’s Trouble (dispensationally speaking, the Tribulation), the Messianic age (dispensationally speaking, the Millennial reign of Christ on earth), and the age that follows – the new heavens and earth – the final state or age.

We are currently in the Church age. For example, in John 14:16, the comforter, advocate, or helper (Gr. Parakletos) will be with believers in the “age to come” that is, the Church age. 

In Scripture there seems to be several ages:
  1. The current age, i.e., the Church age (1Tim. 6:17; Tit. 2:12), which is characterized by the words believe and grace and where the gospel is preached in a fallen world.
  2. An age of tribulation. The Tribulation period is an age where the nations will be judged for their treatment of Israel (Isa. 24:21-23; 59:16-20), God will purge the earth of wicked people (Isa. 13:9; 24:19-20; Ezek. 37:23; Zech. 13:2; 14:9; Isa. 11:9), and both judge Israel and produce a national revival among the Jewish people (Deut. 4:27-30; Isa. 6:9-13; 24:1-6; Dan. 12:5-7; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 20:34-38; 36:25-27; 37:1-14; Zech. 12:9-13:2; Isa. 59:20-21; Rev. 7:1-4; Mat. 24:14). This age is characterized by the words judgment and justice.
  3. An age to come where Jesus reigns (Eph. 1:21; 2:7). In Luke 1:33, the work refers to the Messianic reign of Jesus, therefore, the Millennium is a distinct age. Sometimes the word means eternal, or forever, and can refer to eternal life of the redeemed (Rev. 22:5), or eternal torment of those separated from God in the second death (Rev. 14:11; 20:10). The age is characterized by the two great words of righteousness and peace.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. John Pappas

Monday, April 29, 2013

Replacement Theology and Galatians – Part 4

In the previous article, I showed that Replacement Theology regards the Church as existing throughout human history. The Church as defined by Reformed theologian Dr. Reymond is, “composed of all the redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 805).

I showed, however, on the contrary, that the Church is a new thing, a mystery – something not found in the Old Testament but is now revealed (Eph. 2: 14-18; 3:1-7), and that OT saints are called “the remnant” (Isa. 1:9; 46:3; Jer. 23:3; 31:7; Joel 2:32; Mic. 7:18; Rom. 9:27; 11:5), whereas those that are associated with the Gospel of Christ are called members of the Church (Acts 11:26; 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; Col. 1:18) – the “ekklesia,” and “Christians” (Acts 11:26). It is of utmost importance to associate the Church with Jesus Christ, hence, Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, defines the period of the Church as an age and a dispensation (Eph. 1:10; 3:5, 9-10).   


The problem with Replacement Theology’s interpretation is one of motivation – the desire to prove some presupposition throughout Scripture, that is, their desire to say the whole of Scripture concerns the history of redemption, the continuity of the OT and the NT. One of the prime presuppositional errors comes from Covenant Theology which was born in the early 1600s by Johannes Wollebius (1586-1629 - though some trace its origin to Heinrich Bullinger 1504-1575) who added additional covenants which are not found in the Bible called the covenants of works and grace (and/or redemption). 

The covenant of works teaches that God made a covenant of works with Adam in which God ruled over man before the fall. “Wollebius defined the covenant of works as it has usually been defined: ‘the promise of eternal life for obedience and the threat of death for disobedience’” (Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, p. 504). The covenant of grace was made through God’s mercy after the Fall. The covenant of grace extends across all ages after the Fall and is mediated by Christ.

What is the problem with this and Covenant theology in general? Dr. Couch puts it well when he writes, “Dispensationalists respond that nowhere does the Bible call Adam’s obedience a kind of covenant. Nor would they agree that obedience was a form of works salvation” (Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics, p. 159). Indeed, adding a covenant of works to Scripture violates two fundamental protestant calls – Scripture alone (no made-up covenants), and salvation by Christ alone (no works-based salvation, a covenant of works means a works-base salvation!).

The hermeneutical problem identified with covenant theology has been called prooftext or dogmatic issues interpretation. “In this procedure, the interpreter tries to find biblical support for everything he or she is saying, even if the supporting verses must be taken out of context to prove a doctrinal or contemporary teaching.” In one form of this error, the interpreter takes one verse or phrase and builds an entire doctrine or sermon from it. This approach usually neglects the context and authorial intent. The resulting doctrine is almost always unbiblical, or true and solid textual support would be found for it.” (John McLean in Mal Couch, gen. ed., The Fundamentals for the Twenty-First Century, p. 82)        

The text of Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Gal 5:6)

This text is teaching that being a Jew does not give anyone an advantage in being a Christian,  since the Church is made up of both Jew and Gentile. Just as the previous article showed that in Galatians 3:27-29 there is no advantage with God with respect to salvation because salvation is a gift of God. Paul concludes his argument discussing the false claim that the Christian can gain a spiritual advantage if only one would get circumcised! Paul starts out saying, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing” (Gal. 5:1-2).

There is very little disagreement among expositors concerning this verse, but the extreme replacement people use this verse to back-up their claim that the Jew, as a national entity, has rejected the Lord and thus God has given them up forever. That is not what is taught in Scripture for God will save “all” [Gr. ‘pas’, sg., “every one”] Israel because of the covenant made with Israel (Rom. 11:26). The claim is also not consistent with how God works. If it is true that God will throw away Israel for rejecting Him, what about mankind in general? Has not all mankind rejected God? Unless God transforms man, he cannot accept the things of God. No, this verse re-enforces the truth that in the Church age, both Jew and Gentile are on equal ground when it comes to salvation, for this is the dispensation of the Church.         

The Text of Galatians 6

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16)

In verses 11- 18, Paul returns to the subject of circumcision and specifically, circumcision of Gentiles. Should they make gentiles get circumcised? Paul’s response is – God forbid (cf., 6:14)! God shows personal favoritism to no man (Gal. 2:6). The book starts out describing what circumcision is (of the Promise), and describes the difference between the Mosaic system and the Promise. The Promise is identified as the Abrahamic covenant (cf., 3:16, 18) which is still in effect (3:17, 21) and circumcision is the sign of that covenant, as such, ethnic Jews should still be circumcised because the promise is still in effect. A descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is still that – a member of the covenant people. Another question is raised, is there conflict between the Law and the promises of God? Paul’s answer is – may it never be, or perish the thought. God gave both the Law and promises, but for different purposes, and it was not the purpose of the Law to give life (Donald Campbell, Galatians, in the Bible Knowledge Commentary). However, the Mosaic Law had its purpose while it was still in effect (3:22-25), as it served as a tutor to those under the Law. The Law prepared the way for the gospel for it proclaimed all are sinners (3:22).  

Notice the subject of circumcision reaches a high point here:

13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through  which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.  (Gal 6:13-17)

Only the cross of Christ is all important. Notice what Dr. Witmer writes, “The life of the child of God centers around the work of the Savior on the cross. Everything else fades in importance. As a result, ‘neither is circumcision [a male Jew] anything, nor uncircumcision [a male Gentile]’ (v. 15). With this verse Paul destroys all distinctions of race and entitlement. Before God all peoples stand equally, either as sinners or as the redeemed… The only thing that counts is a new creation, being a new person with eternal life in Christ.” (John Witmer, Mal Couch, Galatians, p.96).

Verses 16 seems to use a traditional Jewish synagogue prayer to highlight the point “Peace be on Israel,” – the final benediction of the Jewish Amidah (cf., Ps. 125:5; 128:6). (Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary, p. 536). This section serves as a contrast between Jews and them – the Gentiles! The expression “and upon the Israel of God” is said by the Replacement Theologian to be epexegetic, that is to say, “and” should be translated “namely,” or “even.” However, the great NT Grammarian Dr. Vincent strongly denies this saying, “[even] is at best doubtful here, and is rather forced, although clear instances of it may be found in 1 Cor. 3:5; 1 Cor. 15:38.” As Dr. Vincent points out this is there is no real case for the use of “even” here. What is important is our participation in the new creation that we enjoy in the cross of Christ, so that circumcision is irrelevant.   

Dr. Benware writes, “Galatians 6:16, is seen by all replacement theologians as establishing the fact that Israel and the Church are interchangeable terms. At issue is the meaning of Paul’s statement, ‘peace and mercy by upon them, and upon the Israel of God.’ Replacement theologians base their claim largely on the translation of the word ‘and’ (kai); the word that appears before the term ‘Israel of God.’ They set aside the primary meaning of ‘and’ in favor of the secondary meaning of ‘even.’ All agree that ‘them’ refers to believing Gentiles. So the verse is said to declare that mercy be upon them (believing Gentiles), even upon the Israel of God. This translation essentially equates believing Gentiles with the Israel of God. But this interpretation is weak both grammatically as well as contextually.” (Paul Benware, The Gathering Storm: Understand prophecy in Critical Times, p.300)   

 There is identified a difference between the Promise given to the Jew and that which the gentile benefits from. The Abrahamic covenant is unconditional, eternal, and provides Abraham and his physical offspring the following (Gen. 12:1-3):

  1.  A seed (physical offspring from Abram and Sarai) known specifically through the line of  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).
  2.  A land identified and located with of the modern nation of Israel.       
  3. A blessing: (a) Israel will bless the world (Gen. 12:2d, 3); and (b) God will bless Israel in both a spiritual and physical sense.

The Abrahamic covenant is further expanded in detail as follows:

  1. The seed clause is expanded to include the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:4-16; 1 Chr. 17:3-15). Israel will have the seed of David to rule forever over Israel (2 Sam, 7:12-14, 16).
  2. The land is expanded to include the Land Covenant (Deu. (8-30). Israel will possess the land as an everlasting possession. 
  3. The blessing is expanded to include the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-33). The New Covenant has two aspects. It is given specifically to Israel and speaks of a future day when all Israel will be saved (NT: Rom. 11:26). Secondly, it is through the New Covenant that the gentile finds inclusion into the blessing and is spiritual in nature. The Church is not promised a physical blessing, that is reserved for Israel.

So it is that Paul describes that what we have today is something new! Both the Jew and Gentile are in this new body called the Church, the ‘ekklesia.’ Dr. Tom McCall puts it well when he writes, 
“If Israel has been condemned to extinction and there is no divinely ordained future for the Jewish nation, how does one account for the supernatural survival of the Jewish people since the establishment of the church for almost two thousand years, against all odds?” (Tom McCall, in Mal Couch gen. ed., Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, p. 194)    

What then can we say about national Israel? In the past Israel was chosen by God to be set apart to Him and they were the keepers of the Word of God (cf., Deu. 4:5-8; 6:6-9; Rom. 3:1-2) and the Messiah would come through the seed of Abraham. In the Church age, the Jewish heart is hardened (cf. Rom. 11:25), but this does not mean that Jews cannot be called of God and believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. In the future, however, all Israel will be saved, all Israel that survive the Great Tribulation will call upon the name of the Lord as promised in the New Covenant (Jer. 3:18; Ezek. 37:1-23).