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Week 7 Application

Introduction:

This is our last week of our study of “Living By The Book” At the end of the presentation by Doctor Hendricks, you will be given a passage of Scripture to Observe, Interpret and to Apply. If you will recall, we had 4 learning objectives we wanted to incorporate so as to fully appreciate the value of Application. Remember Application is “How does it Work”.

Our learning objectives are:

  • We need to Know
  • We need to Relate
  • We need to Meditate
  • We need to Practice.

Our focus today is the last two points of our Learning Objectives: Meditate and Practice.

  • Meditate
    • Daniel Webster defines this as: To dwell on anything in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind; appropriately but not exclusively used of pious contemplation, or a consideration of the great truths of religion.

In our culture we often think of some far eastern swami or philosopher.

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  • The world’s form of meditation tells us to empty ourselves, whereas the Scriptures tell us to fill and feast upon the Word of God.
  • Doctor Hendricks wants us to look at several passages of Scripture when we consider meditating on the Word of God.
    • Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
  • Notice here we are to meditate on the Word of God both day and night. Notice also that when we meditate on the word of God, it makes our lives prosperous. This is not to condone the Wealth and Prosperity Gospel, but rather to make our lives fruitful. The Israelites were about to go into battle and Joshua was giving them this encouragement. We are engaged in a spiritual battle. Battles against our own sin nature and the temptations the world intends to throw at us.
    • Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.
  • Our thought processes are what we are and how we nourish those thoughts are going to directly reflect our walk, our attitude and the fruit we produce.
    • Psalm 1:1-2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
  • Our lives, our behavior, our thoughts need to make an impact on our society. Our behavior needs to be diametrically opposed to the world’s system of conformity.  The more we meditate, the greater will be our impact on those around us. Just a note here. America’s problems will not be solved in DC. America can only be saved if we the chosen of God choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
    • Psalm 119:97 O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
  • We like to waste time. How often have we neglected to Study and Meditate on the Word only to replace that study with watching or reading the news? I know I am guilty of that. We should be striving to meditate on God’s word whenever there are free waking moments in our lives.
    • Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
  • We need to have our minds programmed by the Scripture. Every Computer programmer will tell you that when you your programming is off, the software working with the hardware will not function properly. In other words, “Garbage in = Garbage out.” In order to have our minds programmed by the Word of God, we need to memorize scripture. Remember what Dr. Hendricks told us at the beginning of this series, we will either be squeezed into the world’s mold or we can memorize scripture and allow the Word of God to mold us into the image of our Lord. Scripture memory provides us with the ammunition we need to go into battle with the enemy.
  • Practice
    • Part of application in Bible Study is to equip us to do battle. In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us that God gave us teachers to equip us to do the work of the ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-12) Here in the American culture, the office of Pastor-Teacher is more often than not considered to that of an employee and the church to be the employer. When brother Allen feeds us from the Word or God, he is equipping us for battle and to carry out the work of the ministry. When sheep are well fed, they reproduce.
    • Biblical Application often provides us with examples to follow.
      • Avoiding Sin. The Bible is full of examples of people who succumbed to the temptations of this world. These examples were recorded so we can avoid both the circumstances and outcome of their transgressions.
      • Promises to claim. God’s word gives us a multitude of promises within its pages. We do have to be careful though in applying those promises. Make sure the context of the promise is for say a nation or the church and not for the soldier of the Lord.
      • Prayers to repeat. Within the pages of scripture there are many prayers offered by many saints who have received their eternal reward. I think specifically of Paul and his deep abiding love for the churches and how often he remembered them in prayer. Prayers for our national leaders. When Paul encouraged prayer for those in authority, (1Timothy 2:1-2), the king at that period in church history was Nero and we all remember how he treated Christians. So when the current administration makes some ruling to curtail freedom of worship, should we not be praying for them rather than complaining about the ruling on Facebook or some other social media?
      • Commands to Obey. When Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, that is not an option for us. When the Bible tells us as men to Love our Wives in the same way Christ loved the church, these are commands. Anything in the Imperative mood in the scriptures are commands and not options.
      • Conditions to meet.
      • Verses to memorize
      • Errors to mark
      • Challenges to change
  • Your passage to Observe, Interpret and to Apply is: Mathew 28:19-20

Application Week Seven

Week 7 Application

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Application: How Does It Work (Week 6)

Application Week 6

Being an engineering type, I have always been curious about how things work. While Bible Study Application is not the same as Engineering, there are principals that are the same. Consider if you will the Rube Goldberg Machine.

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Even though the machine is complicated, if you don’t know how it works, it is fun to look at but of little use. So it is with Bible Study. If you do not apply the Scriptures to your life, all the work of Observation and Interpretation will simply make you an intellectual and not a person who is Living by the Book.

So Howard Hendricks has some learning objectives for us.

  • We have to Know
  • We have to Relate
  • We have to Meditate
  • We have to Practice

When Dr. Hendricks uses the concept we have to know in order to apply, he is saying that if your interpretation is faulty, your application will be faulty. There is only one interpretation but how we apply that to our lives will be diverse. Dr. Hendricks reminds us that is we have completed the process of observation and interpretation, but failed to apply the scriptures, we perform an abortion on the Word of God. The Bible was not written for intellectual discussion, it was written to change our lives and help us to grow in our relationship to God.

Dr. Hendricks wants us to understand that when applying the Word of God, we need to be able to apply it such that it relates to our everyday life. Take for instance the passage 2 Corinthians 5:17. Here Paul explains to us that when Christ when we become a Christian, a change takes place in our lives. There are changes in our Home, in our thought processes, in our social life, in our sex life, in our business and in our community. People can see these changes. We sometimes refer to these applications as fruit in the believer’s life. Jesus gave a very powerful warning to his listeners when he gave His Sermon on the Mount in the Parable of the Sower. If no fruit is produced in a person’s life, that person is not a believer.

The more we examine our Relationship with God, the more changes in our life will become apparent not only to our friends and co-workers, but to our family members. You will find as you grow closer to God in relating and applying the Scriptures, the greater the world will see you as an enemy and the more you will become the object of derision.  Next week we will discuss the second part of Application: (Meditation and Practice)

Application Week 6

Application Week Six

Application Week 6

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Interpretation Week 2

One of the great truths of the Protestant Reformation was the right to private interpretation. If you will recall, one of the things that Martin Luther did was to translate the Bible into German.

luther1(1)Martin Luther was protected by a German prince where William Tyndale was not so blessed. William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake for translating scriptures into English so that every man woman and child could have the Bible in their native tongue.

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  • Private Interpretation is no substitute for inaccurate interpretation.
  • Private Interpretation never allows us to distort the scriptures or their meaning
    • Content – What we discover during the process of Observation (terms, tenses etc)
    • Context – Before and after
    • Comparison – Comparing Scripture with Scripture will more times than often will explain the passage best. This implies that you will need a Concordance or at the least a Chain Reference Bible.
    • Cultural and Historical – Understanding the backdrop of a passage often reveals the most light
    • Consultation – Study Materials (Study Bible with no Commentary, just cross references and wide margins for notes, a concordance that is exhaustive either Young’s or Strong’s, A good Bible Dictionary, a Bible Handbook and an Atlas.

    We are the most blessed with Bible resources and we neglect to utilize those resources to both our detriment and to the detriment of the next generation. We as believers have a solemn obligation to not only study to show ourselves approved, but to also train up other so that they can pass what we have learned to the next generation. To hoard this knowledge makes us no better than the Vatican that went out of its way to prevent everyday people from knowing the scriptures.

    The use of these study tools are only aides and not a substitute for doing your homework. Relying too much on a Commentary can be your detriment because we have to realize that Commentators are men just like us and they are subject to the same passions as we.

    The order should always be the Bible 1st and secondary sources later.

Interpretation Week 2

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Interpertation Week One

Interpretation Session 1

In this part of Bible Study we are going to build upon the foundation that we previously laid in Observation. Remember in Observation, we ask the question “What do I see?

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Now we are going to ask the Question of What does it mean? As any good detective will tell you, you cannot reconstruct the elements of a crime without having all the evidence compiled and laid out in a logical format. So when we come to our puzzle of understanding “What does it mean?”, we have to have all the facts. It is a lot like Clue. Was it Colonel Mustard with the Candle Stick or the Maid with the Gun?

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I am reminded of an actual case that is on the books in Abilene Texas. Police were called to the scene of a home where a gunshot was heard. Upon entering the living room, the patrolmen found a man with a single gunshot wound to the head. A single action revolver was lying in the mantel with the hammer cocked.

Let’s open this up now. How many of you believe that this was a murder? How many of you believe this was a suicide?

The case was ruled a suicide. You may ask, “How can this be?” The gun’s hammer was cocked. What we did not see that forensic evidence reveled was that when the man fired the 1st shot, the arm of the man recoiled back. The checkering of the hammer on the revolver caught the wood of the mantle and cocked the revolver. In the mantle were found tool marks that matched the checkering on the revolver. The man had also left a suicide note found later after an extensive search of the property.

I tell you this story for a reason. When we attempt to interpret the scriptures without doing good Observation, the results will lead to an incorrect conclusion.

Bad Observation leads to Bad Interpretation! Whole denominations have been established because of this and the results lead to confusion and the sheep being fed poison instead of sincere milk of the Word.

The more careful time we spend in Observation, the less time we spend in Interpretation and the more accurate our results.

Doctor Hendricks wants us to use these principals when doing Interpretation.

  • Content
  • Context

In Content we want to understand the author’s intent when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write those most precious words handed down to our generation. In short, we want to walk in the shoes of the writer to understand what he is trying to convey to us.

Context is very important in Interpretation. I cannot over-emphasize this enough. Read the Scriptures in context. It is absolutely essential that you read the passages before and after to understand the context of the passage. Failure to do this often leads to an erroneous conclusion.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Observation Week 2

In observation we are always thinking of ourselves as a Biblical detective. We always ask the question. What do I see?

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In order to effectively utilize the tool of Observation, we need to ask the following questions when observing a passage of scripture.

  • Who is the author of the Passage?
  • Whom is the author addressing? (God’s People? A specific church? Unbelievers?)
  • What is the most important term or concept in the passage?
  • What are the main verbs? What are the tenses of those verbs?
  • Are there terms you need to define to better understand the passage?
  • Are there people or places you need to identify?

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  • Like Where’s Waldo?
  • What do you know about the people or places mentioned?
  • Can you identify any cause-effect relationship in the author’s writing?
  • In what ways does the passage apply to your own personal life? (If there isn’t an obvious one, is there a more subtle one?)
  • What things from this passage might want you to study later in further detail?

Observing a passage

Psalm 93:1 The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

It is a good idea to utilize the about mentioned questions when observing a passage of scripture. Not all of them will always apply but we should ask them anyway.

Who is the author of the Passage? We know that a Psalmist wrote this passage but was the Psalmist David? The passage does not tell us specifically. What we do know is that all Scripture is inspired so we can deduce from 2Tim 3:16 so we know for sure that God is the true author.

Whom is the author addressing? Since we know that the time of the writing of this Psalm is before Christ’s 1st advent, we have to conclude that the author is addressing the Hebrew people who have come to worship God. We also know that Psalms were sung by the choir of priests during the worship of God in the Temple so the Psalmist is exhorting the people with God’s royal majesty.

What is the most important term or concept in the passage? The most important term is the subject of the Passage: “LORD” The word is mentioned twice so the LORD is the most important term or concept in the passage.

What are the main verbs? What are the tenses of those verbs? The main verbs in the passage are; “reigns, is, has and will not” The verbs “is and reigns” are in the present tense but  do no infer that they are now in the past tense. The verb “has” is in the past tense and looking at the passage suggested that at some point in the past the LORD did wrap himself in strength and that strength has a lasting effect to this day. When the passage says that the world is firmly established and will not be moved, the tense would indicate that at some point in the past this took place and will have a lasting effect into the future.

Can you identify any cause-effect relationship in the author’s writing? Did you notice that the LORD is the one who girds himself? Normally royalty have servants who dress the king. Why is it only the LORD is the only one who can dress himself?

What other key terms do we see? What comes to mind when we think about the word majesty and strength? Webster defines “Majesty” (Greatness of appearance; dignity; grandeur; dignity of aspect or manner; the quality or state of a person or thing which inspires awe or reverence in the beholder; applied with peculiar propriety to God and his works.) What comes to mind in the term “strength”? Is it physical strength that is attributed to God? Certainly that is part of the meaning. The context says that God himself girds himself with strength. One of the definitions of strength is Power. One thing to keep in mind that how a term is defined will also be contingent upon how that term is used in the context of the sentence. So based upon the context does God gird himself with physical strength or does he gird himself with power?

In this passage does the term “world” indicate the earth or something else? We know that the earth turns on its axis and is slanted in its rotation around the sun. So based upon the context, is the Psalmist speaking about the physical earth or the something more spiritual in nature? One of the definitions of world can mean realm or kingdom. Based upon the context, which definition best describes the world over which God reigns?

What types of emotions (both positive and negative) would this passage of scripture present to the reader?

I think Chris Tomlin best described this verse in the Psalms with his song, “How Great is our God?”

Here is the PDF Manuscript for this week. Observation Week 2

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Session 1 Living By the Book: Why Christians do not Study the Bible

Session 1: Why Christians do not study the Bible

The Bible is the bestselling book throughout History and yet the least read. How many of us have gone to church on Sunday to be fed and nourished by our Pastor and then leave our Bibles in the car or on the table and do not pick it back up until the next Sunday morning when we head out to church again? I know I have been guilty of that. How many of us check our faith at the door of our place of employment and then forget who we are truly working for? George Barna did some research and come up with some interesting statistics about people in America and what they think about the Bible 1.

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[1] Barna.org: What do Americans really think about the Bible

 

 

 

 

 

 

In today’s lesson we will look at some of the reasons given to Howard Hendricks why people in his group are not studying the Bible.

 

  • People need something that works to help them with the everyday stressors of life. People are looking for something that works for them.
  • People lack a technique or method to study the Bible. Society today has become so Visually stimulated with movies, Ipads, computers, software programs and the like that we are losing our ability to read and comprehend what we are reading.
  • People feel that only their pastor is qualified or educated enough to study the Bible. They feel that because they do not know Greek or Hebrew, they are not qualified or smart enough to study the Bible. They consider themselves laity and unqualified.
  • People say they just do not have enough time to study the Bible. We always have time to eat, sleep, watch Fox News and go to work, yet we do not have time to study the Bible.
  • People doubt the reliability of the Scriptures.  With the pervasiveness of Humanism in American Universities coupled with the indoctrination of Darwinism as true science, young people raised in the church often leave the faith once they leave home. So is the Bible reliable? Can we trust its pages? Stay tuned and we will see.
  • Bible teachers are finding it difficult to make the subject matter interesting of the people under their care. Ray Russ, one of the elders at Faith Bible Church in Canton Ohio once said. “If there is a mist in the Pulpit, there will be a Fog in the Pew”

Why Christians do not study the Bible.

Session 1 Why Christians do not Study the Bible

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Living by the Book Series

Many years ago when Cindi and I were among the 1st families attending Tidewater Evangelical Free Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a dear friend of mine taught a series by Dr. Howard Hendricks called Living by the Book. That forever changed my way of studying the scriptures. Howie has since gone home to his eternal reward but his legacy lives on. Before he passed, He and his son revisited the work pioneered so long ago. So Prof, I humbly make a feeble attempt to pass along to others what the Lord laid on your heart so long ago.

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Before we begin “Living by the Book”

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why should Christians be able to study and apply the Scriptures on their own?
  2. Are these valid reasons why members should study the Bible on their own when their Pastor Teacher is a gifted scholar?
  3. Are there Scriptural references commanding believers to be students of the word?
    1. 2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
  4. What can happen if we neglect to study the Word of God?
    1. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
    2. b.      Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
    3. c.       Marriage is a lifelong work at developing and keeping strong a relationship with your spouse.  In the household texts of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, we see these commands given to husbands:  Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. How can we as believers truly strengthen  our relationship with Christ if we do not communicate and listen to him?
    4. d.      Jesus said: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Ask yourself this question: How can I truly express my love for the King if I do not know his commandments?
    5. e.       So Bible study should help us grow in our relationship with Christ. Bible study will teach us to accurately handle the word of God and Bible Study will keep us from Sin and help us to be good Bereans. Acts 17:10-11 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
    6. f.        We need to be well equipped so we can pass on to others what we have learned in our walk with Christ.  2 Timothy 2:2 “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
    7. 5.       Dr. Hendricks has laid out a simple means whereby any believer can study the Scripture with a three tiered approach: (Observation where we ask the question:  “What do I see?”  Interpretation where we ask the question: “What does it mean?”  Application where we ask the question: “How does it work to change my life?”
    8. 6.       Let’s open up the discussion now and let each one of us share what we hope to accomplish from this series?
    9. 7.       There is a work book available through either christianbook.com or Amazon.com. I highly recommend you get the workbook.

    Before we begin

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

From Herod the Great to the Birth of Christ

Week 1 New Testament Survey

Herod the Great 73 BC to 4 BC

  • Herod the Great was the son of Herod Antipater. Remember, Herod Antipater had been appointed King by Pompey, Roman Proconsul and co ruler with Julius Caesar. Antipater had started his career as a Military General and was a close friend of Mark Anthony. Herod I or Herod the Great rose to power shortly after his Father was poisoned by a supporter of the old Hasmonean dynasty. Herod the Great was a great friend to Mark Anthony. Mark Anthony appointed Herod the Great Tetrarch of Judea after the death of Julius Caesar.
  • The account of Herod’s rise to power comes to us mainly from Flavius Josephus. In book 14 of Josephus’ Antiquity of the Jews, Antipater had married an Arab woman by the name of Cypros. She was the Mother of Herod. Antipater had appointed his two sons Herod and Phaselus governors of Galilee and Judea respectively. According to Josephus, Herod was 15 when he was appointed governor of Galilee. If you will recall from previous discussions, Pompey had appointed Hycranus the high priest and Antipater the procurator of Israel. According to Josephus, Hycranus was fearful of Herod. According to Josephus, Herod’s brother Phaselus prevented his brother from marching against Hycranus. The time frame would put this around the death of Gaius Julius Caesar on March 15 44 BC. Around this time frame also, Herod would marry the granddaughter of John Hycranus, Mariame. He did this hoping to placate some of the Jews and add legitimacy to his claim to the Throne after his father’s death. According to Josephus, Herod loved Mariame deeply and had four children by her, but she despised him for having murdered her brother. After Octavian and Mark Anthony defeated Cassius and Brutus at Philippi in 42 BC, a delegation of Jews went to Anthony to petition that Herod and Phaselus be removed as governors because they were interlopers and had no legitimacy to the throne of Israel. According to Josephus, Anthony questioned Hycranus, the High Priest, who was better at running the government, the Hasmoneans or Phaselus and Herod. Hycanus replied that Herod and Phaselus were better at Government. This coupled with the fact that Mark Anthony had been given bribes by Herod cemented the declaration that Herod and Phaselus would be declared tetrach’s of Galilee and Jerusalem. Around 40 BC, a conflict between Rome and Parthia or Iran broke out. One of the Hasmonean family Antigonus, Mariame’s brother sided with the Parthinians. He was able to capture Hycranus, the High Priest and Mutilate him in such a way that would prevent him from performing the duties of the High Priest. Upon hearing of this, Phaselus committed suicide. Antigonus seized the throne upon the death of Herod’s brother. Herod, in the mean time managed to make his way to Rome where he addressed the Roman Senate and persuaded Octavian and the Roman Senate that Mark Anthony should reinstate Herod as king. Mark Anthony, had driven the Parthinians out of Israel, Herod with the assistance of two Roman legions defeated Antigonus and assumed the title of basileus.
  • After assuming the role as sole ruler in Judea, Herod sent a delegation to Babylon to retrieve Hycranus. The Parthinians were only too happy to oblige Herod. The old man was becoming very popular among the local Jews in Persia and Babylon. Even though Hycranus could no longer serve as High Priest, Herod was fond of Hycranus and kept him in high regard.
  • After the internal strife was settled in Judea, Herod set upon a massive building campaign. His 1st project was the reconstruction of the walls around Jerusalem and the Temple. This fortress was named Antonia, (After Mark Anthony).
  • Herod sent very lavish gifts to Mark Anthony and the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. This almost became his undoing when civil war broke out between Octavian and Mark Anthony in 31 BC. In an effort to save his political hide, Herod has his “Father in Law Hycranus executed and then proceeds to Rhodes where he meets with Octavian. There he boldly proclaims his loyalty to Mark Anthony, but swears that he will show the same loyalty to Octavian. Octavian confirms Herod as tetrarch. Herod is also given Samaria and the Judea coastline.
  • Because the Jews never considered Herod a real Jew, Herod attempts to “win them over” with his ambitious building campaign. After a devastating earthquake in 31 BC, Herod built a new market in Jerusalem, a new amphitheater, and a new judgment hall for the Sanhedrin. In 20 BC, he started to rebuild the Temple. He also built Masada.  This fortress was 1500 feet above the Dead Sea. Herod would store weapons and provisions there in store rooms. Herod even had wine from Italy stored there. . But Herod was not about to do without everyday comforts. He even had a Bath House there.  with its own furnace to heat the water. Masada also had a Synagogue there for worship. . Masada would be last stand for the Jewish Rebels in 70 AD. Probably the most crowning achievement of Herod’s building projects was the port city of Caesarea.  It was called in Greek Sebastos which means Augustus. He named the city after Octavian. Herod built the harbor from “Portland cement” which hardened underwater: . At the time of the Harbor’s construction up to 300 ships could be handled at that time. Herod built the city to rival that of Alexandria. He wanted the trade from Arabia to rival that of Egypt. In the city, he built a theater that would accommodate 3500 people. . According to Josephus and Acts 12, this is where his grandson Herod Agrippa would die. In order to accommodate the demand for fresh water, Herod would have an aqueduct constructed that covered over 10 miles to carry water from the Carmel mountain range to the new city. .
  • For all his accomplishments, Herod was bitterly hated by both the Hasidic Jews and the Sadducees. The Hasidic Jews hated him because at heart, Herod was a Hellenist and his building projects and form of government expressed itself in his bureaucratic style. The Sadducees hated him because he brought an end to the old Hamonean dynasty. He had Hycranus and Mariame murdered. In 8 BC, there was a fire that destroyed house of worship in Qumran. It is generally accepted that he was responsible. Herod the Great was paranoid from the onset and saw threats on all fronts. In addition to having his wife Mariame executed, he had many of his own children executed. Octavian once commented that is was better to be a pig than one of Herod’s children. According to Josephus, Herod would suffer a form of disease that would cause his scrotum to be infected with worms. Most Historians believe this malady to be Fournier’s gangrene. (Fournier’s gangrene, sometimes called Fournier’s disease, is a bacterial infection of the skin that affects the genitals and perineum (i.e., area between the scrotum and anus in men and between the vulva and anus in women).The disease develops after a wound or abrasion becomes infected. A combination of anaerobic (living without oxygen) microorganisms (e.g., staphylococcal) and fungi (e.g., yeast) causes an infection that spreads quickly and causes destruction (necrosis) of skin, tissue under the skin (subcutaneous tissue), and muscle. Staphylococcal bacteria clot the blood, depriving surrounding tissue of oxygen. The anaerobic bacteria thrive in this oxygen-depleted environment and produce molecules that instigate chemical reactions (enzymes) that further the spread of the infection. Fournier’s gangrene can be fatal if the infection enters the bloodstream.)

The birth of the Messiah.

  • In 6 BC an event would take place under Herod’s watch. At that particular time, the Roman army and the empire had grown to the point that the Roman Treasury was no longer solvent to cover the expenditures of all of Rome’s expeditions. According to the Roman Historian Dio Cassius, Augustus issued a decree that a census be taken for the purpose of taxation. The decree went out in 6 BC to be collected directly by Roman Soldiers. The Tax was 5 % inheritance tax.[1]. God would take on human flesh. God would be with us. His name would be Jesus.
  • The name Jesus means Savior. The Hebrew word Joshua is same word. It means Jehovah saves. In the exact moment in time, God would send forth his son. (Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. The fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2 and Daniel 9:25 were now coming to fruition. The redeemer of God’s kingdom people would be born in the city of David. Both Mary and Joseph would come from the lineage of David. The exact date is not really known. There are arguments both for and against a birth of December 25th. Here are some arguments both for and against the December 25th date of 6 BC.
  • Was Jesus really born on December 25th, as the Western Christian Tradition maintains, or does Scripture allow us to infer a different time for His advent here on earth? Two cases will be presented below: one case for a Tishri (Sukkot) birth, and the other for the traditional late December date.

 

  • Background: The “Courses” of Temple Service

 

  • As you will see, the crux of the arguments both for and against the late December dating of the birth of Jesus depend upon the date assigned to the “course of Abia” and the precise time that Zacharias — John the Baptist’s father — was in the Temple when he was visited by the angel Gabriel. But what is the “course of Abia” and why is it important?

 

  • King David (1 Chr 28:11-13) divided the sons of Aaron into 24 “courses” or groups
  • (1 Chr 24:1-4) to create an orderly schedule by which the Temple of the Lord could be staffed for the year. Once these courses were established, lots were drawn to determine the sequence each group would serve in the Temple (1 Chr 24: 7-19). Each of the 24 courses of priests would begin and end their service on the Sabbath for a tour of duty of one week (2 Chronicles 23:8, 1 Chronicles 9:25).

 

  • The issue turns on the date assigned to the “course of Abia”and the precise time that Zacharias was in the Temple when he was visited by the angel Gabriel.

 

  • The Jewish calendar begins in the Spring (Nisan), so the first course of priests (Jehoiarib) would serve for seven days. The second week would then fall to the family of Jedaiah. The third week would be the festival of Passover, when all priests would be present for service, so the schedule would resume with the third course of priests (Harim) on the fourth week. By the tenth week, since both Passover and Shavu’ot had occurred, the 8th course of Abia (Abijah) would be called for temple service. By means of this arrangement, after the 24th course was completed, the cycle of courses would repeat, so that in a given year each group of priests would serve in the Temple twice per year (in addition to the three major festivals).

 

  • Argument for a Tishri (Sukkot) Birth

 

  • There are several reasons to believe that Jesus was born during the Fall, in particular, during the festival of Sukkot. Among the reasons cited are as follows:

 

  •    1. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was conceived in mid Sivan (May/June) and born 40 weeks later on Nissan 15, the Passover.

      

  •  John’s father (Zacharias) was a Levite who was assigned to serve in the temple during the course of “Abia,” the 8th course of the year.
  • (Luke 1:5, 1 Chronicles 24:10)
  • Since the cycle of service began on the first Shabbat of Nisan but both Passover and Shavu’ot require all priestly courses to serve, the actual time the 8th course would serve would be during the 10th week of the year. This places Zacharias’ service in the Temple as beginning on the second Sabbath of the month of Sivan (May/June).
  •  It is written that John was conceived shortly after this tour of duty
  • (Luke 1:23-4). Therefore, John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the third Sabbath of the month of Sivan (i.e., late Sivan).
  •  Therefore John the Baptist was born around Passover (Nisan 15). (Recall that Jesus said that John the Baptist was a type of Elijah the prophet
  •  (Matt 17:10-13, cp. Luke 1:17). Even today it is customary for Jews to set out a special cup of wine during the Passover Seder meal in anticipation of the arrival of Elijah for the festival.)

            

  •    2. Jesus was conceived in late Kislev (Nov/Dec) and born 40 weeks later during Sukkot.

      

  •  Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:24-27, 36). Note that the “sixth” month refers to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, not the month of Elul (cp. Luke 1:36).
  •  Six months added to late Sivan is late Kislev, which is the time of the conception of Jesus (note that the first day of the Jewish festival of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev, and Jesus is called the Light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46)).
  •  From the 15th day of Nisan (John’s birthday), we add six months to arrive at the 15th day of the 7th month, Tishri – the first day of the festival of Sukkot.

 

  •  If the day of his birth were the first day of Sukkot, the day of his circumcision would be the eighth day, Shemini Atzeret/Sinchat Torah, which, like the first day, is a day of sacred assembly (Leviticus 23:39). On this day the Jews complete their annual cycle of Torah readings and start again from Bereshit (Genesis). Simchat Torah is considered to be a time of “fulfillment” of the Torah. The circumcision of Jesus at this time indicates how he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17-18)
  •  3. Circumstantial Evidences:

      

  •  John 1:14 states that the “Word became flesh and “dwelt” with us. The Greek word “dwelt” [skeinao] comes from the word skeinos, which the LXX (Septuagint) uses for the mishkan (tabernacle). The name given for the feast of Tabernacles itself is called Herotei Skeinon in the LXX.
  •  King Herod most likely would used the opportunity of the Festival of Sukkot (in Jerusalem) to perform the census (certainly not Chanukah, since he detested and feared the Hasmoneans).
  •  Shepherds would not be out with their sheep in the dead of winter in Israel.
  • The angel who appeared to the shepherds said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Since Sukkot was known as both a festival of joy and also as the “Festival of the Nations,” the angel was actually giving them a greeting for the Festival of Sukkot. This is the only festival where the nations are positively encouraged to participate (Zechariah 14:16-19).
  •  After Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom on earth, it is written that only one festival will be celebrated by the nations: Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16) Why is that? Could it be that this will be a worldwide birthday party for the LORD Jesus? (all the other festivals would have been fulfilled – Passover, FirstFruits, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, but the remembrance of His birth would remain as a celebration).

 

  •  The Catholic church (in 336 AD) declared December 25th (on the Julian calendar) to be Jesus’ birthday in order to replace a pagan Roman holiday, Saturnalia. Ironically, December 25th was a celebration of the birthday of the sun god. The early church, in an attempt to get rid of the pagan holiday, declared December 25th to be the birthday of the Son of God.
  •  We know that Jesus was 30 years old when He started His ministry (Luke 3:23), and, assuming (as many Bible scholars do) that He ministered for 3 1/2 years, we can count backwards from the crucifixion (during Passover in Nisan) 6 months to discover his birthday in Tishri.
  • Since Zacharias served during the tenth week and Elizabeth conceived shortly thereafter, we can place the date of Jesus’ birth during the festival of Sukkot.

 

  • Argument for a late December Birth

 

  • The argument for assigning late December as the rightful date of the birth of Yeshua is based on further reflection on the time Zacharias was told that Elizabeth would conceive a child.
  •  Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was conceived just after Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) and born 40 weeks later in Tammuz (June/July).
  •  John’s father (Zacharias) was a Levite who was assigned to serve in the temple during the course of “Abia,” the 8th course of the year. However, the 8th course would serve both on the 10th week of the year (see above) as well as on the 34th week: 24 (first complete cycle) +2 (festivals) + 8 = 34. 
  •  This places Zacharias’ service in the Temple as during the High Holiday of Yom Kippur, and this agrees with the description given about how Gabriel spoke to Zacharias in the narrative (Luke 1:8-23).
  •  It is written that John was conceived shortly after this tour of duty (Luke 1:23-4), perhaps on 17 Tishri. Therefore, John the Baptist was probably conceived shortly after the Yom Kippur and would have been born on the 17th of Tammuz (June/July).            
  •  2. Jesus was conceived in Nisan (Mar/Apr), near Passover, and born 40 weeks later during late December.
  •  Jesus was conceived six months after John the Baptist (Luke 1:24-27, 36). Adding 6 months to Tammuz 17 leads us to Nisan 17 (two days after Passover).
  •  Since Jesus was born six months after John, we add six months John’s birthday (the 17th of Tammuz) to arrive at the 17th Tevet (late December).        
  •  3. Circumstantial Evidences:
  •  Church history since the time of the late first century has attested to a late December birth. Hippolytus, in the second century AD, argued that this was Christ’s birthday. In the fourth century, John Chrysostom (347-407) argued that December 25th was the correct date. Chrysostom taught that Zechariah received the message about John’s birth on the Day of Atonement and John the Baptist was born sometime in June or July, and the birth of Jesus took place six months later, in late December (or early January). There was never a question about the period of Jesus’ birth either in the East or in the West; only in the recent years this date was challenged.
  •  Early Jewish sources suggest that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside year-round. In the normal traffic of shepherds they move around and come near Bethlehem from November to March of the year. But then these were a special class of Levitical shepherds who kept the sacrificial lambs. They do not move around because they supply the lambs for daily sacrifice from whom people bought their approved lambs, which are blemishless. The fact that the Angels announced the arrival of the perfect sacrificial lamb to these shepherds indicates this.
  •                 o Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.”
  •                   Edersheim notes that Megillot Taanit states that the 9th of Tevet is considered the day of Christ’s birth, and that puts the birth of Yeshua sometime during late December.
  • Since Zacharias served during Yom Kippur and Elizabeth conceived shortly thereafter, we can place the date of Jesus’ birth during the month of Tevet, in late December.
  • Conclusion
  • Besides the two arguments given above, you are likely to hear of other arguments for the “exact date” of Yeshua’s birth. For example, while reading up on this subject, I came across an article that insisted that Mary brought Jesus into the Temple to be purified on Yom Kippur; I read another article that purported to “prove” (by means of Bible Codes) that Jesus was born on Rosh Hashanah; and I read several others arguing for a Fall birth date based on various forms of astrological and astronomical evidences.
  • It is apparent, however, that since we cannot definitively date the time of Zacharias’ service in the Temple, we cannot be dogmatic regarding the date of our LORD Jesus. And even if we could decide if Zacharias was visited by Gabriel during his first course of service (during the 10th week), we are faced with the textual ambiguity regarding the statement “after those days” (given in Luke 1:24). How much time is meant by this phrase? Is it a day? a week? a month?
  • In light of these uncertainties, it is perhaps advisable to take a humble attitude and confess our ignorance of the matter.
  • The important thing, of course, is that our LORD was indeed born and ransomed us from the wages of our sins.
  • In other words, Scripture seems to be more focused on the life, death, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus, rather than His birth. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
  •       “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3-5)
  • Every day, then, may we celebrate the Life of our LORD and Savior, Yeshua the Mashiach!  Amen.

Week 1 New Testament Survey

Week 1 New Testament Survey

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Inter-Testament Period 408 BC to 4 BC

Introduction

                The period between the Old and New Testaments covers a span of about 400 years. Depending upon which timeline you consult, the period can begin as early as 424 BC or as late as 408 BC. Personally I consider the date of 408 BC to be the starting point of the inter testament period. This is because the book of Malachi was written in 408 BC.  One may ask why we should study History in the 1st place. If we consider the 1st answer to the Westminster Confession of Faith, (What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end to glorify God and enjoy him forever) History is in reality God’s Story. The story of how God would glorify Himself throughout time by calling a people to Himself that those people might enjoy Him forever. So our learning objectives for this class will be:

 

  1. Examine the political events and how God would use pagan rulers in the ancient world to bring Glory to himself.
  2. Examine how God sovereignly used this period of time to prepare the coming of the Lion of Judah.
  3. Have a deeper appreciation for Galatians 4:4-5 (But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.)

A great source for any Christian Reformed Library is “The Illustrated Guide to Biblical History” by Kendell H. Easley.  Normally I would need 4 weeks to teach this portion of Biblical History, but with God’s Grace, we will attempt to cover this information during the next 45 minutes. Note sheets will be available along with a copy of the Power Point Presentation. Should there be an interest for an extended study in Old Testament and New Testament History, I do have a 26 week course offering. Any desire to have that course taught should be addressed to the Elders of the Church. If the desire is there, then with their guidance and care, we will offer the entire course. Be forewarned though, there will be examinations given should the entire 26 week offering be made available.

 

After Cyrus allowed the Jews to return from captivity in Babylon, as period of two rulers would oversee the Persian Empire from 530 BC to 522 BC. Darius would rule the Persian Empire from 522 to 486 BC. It was during this time that Darius would allow the Temple to rebuilt (Ezra 4:24-6:22). Darius was burdened with two notorious satraps one by the name of Aristagoras and the other by the name of Histiaeus. These two men would instigate the Greco-Persian wars by their oppression of the area known as Ionia or modern day Turkey. In 498 BC, the Greek city states of Athens and Eretria would come to the aide of the Ionians and would burn Sardis.  After Darius’ reign, Xerxes would rule Persia. Esther would eventually be his wife and queen. (Esther 2: 4-17).  Esther was born in Susa Persia. God would sovereignly use this Jewish maiden to not only capture the heart of Xerxes but also use her to save the Jewish people from treachery of Haman. (Esther 7:1-10). Xerxes, like all men had a heart that often contemplated revenge. He wanted to punish the Greeks for the burning of Sardis during the Ionian revolt.  The Greeks had successfully prevented his father Darius from conquering Greek at the battle of Marathon in in 490 BC. Xerxes would begin his campaign to conquer Greece in 480 BC. The Greek city states of Athens, Sparta, Thespia and Thebes would unite together to attempt to stop Xerxes.  In 480 BC two battles would take place in Greece. One was the battle of Thermopylae and the sea battle of Artemisium. At the battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans would battle the Persian Army. Under the leadership of the Spartan king Leonidas, the 1400 Greeks would stand against Xerxes to the last man.  They would hold the pass to Athens for two days. During this same time, the Athenian General Thermisticles would inflict significant damage to the Persian Navy during the battle of Artemisium. These two battles would allow time for the city of Athens to be evacuated before Xerxes army could reach the city. Xerxes would burn the city, but he could not burn the idea and seeds of democracy.  This portion of the Greco Persian conflict would later be recounted by Aristotle to one of his charges by the name of Alexander, son of Phillip of Macedon. One other Persian king would have great influence on the Jewish people. The son of Xerxes was Artaxerxes I. He would be the king when Nehemiah was the cup bearer of the Royal Court. It would be this king would order the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The effects of Persia on the Jewish People:

  • Cyrus would allow the people to return to the Land.
  • Xerxes would be influenced by Esther and thereby save the Jewish People
  • Artaxerxes I would allow the rebuilding of the wall.
  • The native language of Aramaic of Persia would become the common language of the Jews in
    Galilee and Judea.

The decline of the Persian Empire would begin in 423 BC and be conquered by the Alexander the Great in 330 BC. The last king of the Persian Empire would be Darius III who would reign only 6 years. His reign was from 336 BC to 330 BC.

 

Alexander the Great

Alexander’s Father Phillip was born 382 BC. Phillip was both a brilliant manipulator/politician and a brutal conqueror. Phillip’s assent and legitimacy to the throne of Macedon was secured both through political marriages and the development of the Macedonian Phalanx. The Macedonian infantry was equipped with a 6 meter spear (19 ½ feet)

 

This new development in warfare would give the Macedonians a decisive edge over the Greek infantrymen known as Hoplites. The other factor that enabled Phillip to raise and maintain such an effective military force was that Phillip was able to secure two natural resources;  the forests and silver mines of Amphipolis.  Phillip consolidated his power and brought the Greek City States under Macedonian rule after the decisive battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. The Greek army consisted of 35000 Greek infantry. The Hoplites carried the Dory ( a 10 foot spear). The Greeks had 2000 Calvary. The Macedonian infantry consisted of 30000 infantry armed with the 20 foot Phalanx along with 2000 Calvary. During this battle, Phillip had his son Alexander, who was 18 at the time serve as one of the Generals. On August 2nd 338 BC, the Macedonians defeated the Greek army and effectively brought Greece under Macedonian rule. Phillip, in the peace terms, formed what he called the Greek League. Under the terms, the Greeks would consolidate their armies under the control of Macedonian Generals. Athens would suffer the greatest number of losses during the battle. Phillip had his sights set on Persia. Officially, he had stated that he wanted to punish Persia for the burning of Athens, but in reality, he wanted to be the ruler of the world. Tens of thousands of Greeks sailed from Greece to Asia to align themselves with Persian in 337 BC. The only Greek City state that refused to come under Phillip’s control was Sparta. Greece would not regain their independence until the 19th century. After the armistice with the Greeks, Phillip would make a strategic blunder in both diplomacy and local rule. Up to this point, Phillip had married women from other countries to secure his political allegiance, After the conquest of Greece, Phillip would marry a woman from Macedon named Cleopatra. At the wedding feast, her uncle under the influence of strong drink, made a rash public statement that now Phillip could sire a legitimate Macedonian heir to the throne. Phillip’s son Alexander took personal offence and threw his wine at the man. Phillip demanded Alexander apologize. When Alexander refused, Phillip drew his sword and lunged at Alexander. Phillip lost his balance and collapsed on the floor. Alexander is quoted as having said, “Here is the man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and who cannot even cross from one table to another without losing his balance.” In 336 BC, Phillip would be assassinated at a wedding feast by a young nobleman from Macedonia. Alexander and his mother were rumored to have been part of the plot, mainly because Alexander’s friends would kill this young man after giving chase. Because the assassin was not captured alive, Alexander was rumored to have taken part in the assassination.

Alexander the Great

Alexander was Phillip’s son and at the age of 20, he ascended to the thrown of Macedonia. After Phillip’s death, he had to quell rebellions at home and in Greece. After securing his right to rule, he set out on the endeavor to conquer Persia. There were two battles in Persia for the kingdom. The 1st battle was at Granicus (May-June 334 BC) near the ancient city of Troy. 40,000 Persians along with 20000 Greeks would come up against Alexander’s army of 34600 Macedonians, Greeks and Thracians and Illyrians. The Historian Arrian writes “the cavalry charged in a wedged formation. [The Persian cavalry was arranged in a line 16 deep; the Macedonian phalanx was arranged 8 deep; Alexander’s cavalry unit was arranged 10 deep.] Alexander led the cavalry in an oblique attack across the water so that the army would not get flanked: oblique to the current. This enabled him to prevent a flank attack as he emerged from the water and to engage the enemy with a front as solid as he could make it. The Persians were arranged with mounted troops in front and infantry to the rear…it was a cavalry battle with, as it were, infantry tactics: horse against horse, man against man, locked together. The Macedonians did their utmost to thrust the enemy once and for all back from the river bank and to force him into open ground; whereas, the Persians fought to prevent the landings or to hurl their opponents back into the water.”  In the heat of the battle, the Greek’s who fought on the side of the Persians fought to the last man. 2000 of the surviving Greeks under the command of the Persians would be sold into slavery and forced to work in Macedonia. Darius’ wife and family would be captured by Alexander. Alexander would treat the Persian queen and her children with dignity and respect. The decisive battle for Persia would be the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC but prior to that battle Alexander would make his way to Egypt. This would take him through Israel, Tyre and Sidon. At 1st Alexander offered peace to Tyre if they would allow him to make a sacrifice in their temple. The people or Tyre scoffed at Alexander would reply by Building a causeway to the island city and burn the city with the exception of the temple. Alexander would make his sacrifice there. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in Chapter 23 and Amos 1:10. There is no record about how Alexander was received by the Jews when he was on his way to Egypt. Neither Plutarch or Arrian record anything about Alexander’s encounter with the people of Israel, but Josephus does (Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but that God who hath honored him with his high priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.” And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him (23) wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreared him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired. And when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army, on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars. Flavious Josephus Antiquities Book 11 Chapter 8) Indeed Alexander the Great did fulfill God’s Revelation to the prophet Daniel concerning the kingdom of the Greeks. This prophecy is fulfilled in Daniel Chapter 8.

After Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, the final battle for Persia occurred at Gaugamela in 334 BC. It was here that one of Darius’ generals would kill Darius. Alexander was furious. He pursued the assassin into Bactra. After dispatching the individual who had robbed Darius of the honor of battle, Alexander would marry a beautiful oriental princess named Roxanne. She would eventually bear him a son. Alexander would order his men to marry Asian women. This did not set well with the Macedonians. Some historians have even speculated that this might have caused his generals to secretly poison Alexander. Alexander would press his campaign into India. At the battle of Hydraspes (326), the Macedonians would battle against Elephants. The Indian king, Porus would lead his forces against Alexander. The Macedonians would win the battle. According to the Roman historian Arrian, Porus would be honored by Alexander because of his bravery and loyalty to his men. Porus would be allowed to continue to rule. The place of the Battle is part of modern day Pakistan. Bactra is part of Afghanistan. It is noteworthy that the ancient city of Kandahar receives part of its name from Alexander. Alexander would lose his faithful war horse Bucephalus during this battle. The Macedonians would found a city in honor of Alexander and Bucephalus. . The Macedonians were war weary and wanted to return back to their homeland and their families, but Alexander wanted to press on further into India. Finally Alexander agreed but not without making a great many enemies within his ranks. The Macedonians would march back to Babylon but this long trek was through the dessert and during summer. In June of 323 BC, Alexander would be stricken with a high fever. When it became apparent that the King was about to die, his generals gathered around his bed and according to legend, he was asked, to whom will you leave the kingdom, to which he replied “to the strongest”

Some parting thoughts about Alexander the Great:

  • For all his brilliant achievements in Battle, Alexander was a poor ruler. Often he governed more with emotion rather the reason.
  • He spread Koine Greek throughout the known world. This is the language that both the Old Testament Septuagint and the New Testament would be written.
  • He would be the one who would spread Hellenism throughout the whole world.

The kingdom would eventually be divided by Alexander’s Generals. The southern Kingdom would go to Ptomely, Cassander would rule Greece, Lysimachus would rule Macedonia and portions of Turkey. And Seleucus would rule Asia. This would fulfill Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 8:8 and Daniel 8:22.

The major conflicts between the four generals would eventually affect the people in Israel. The battles between Seleucus and Ptolemy.

The Ptolemy dynasty would rule Egypt from 323 BC to 30 BC.

The Ptolemy empire and the Seleucid empire would struggle quite a bit over the land of Israel.  The Seleucids would rule Syria and Asia from 311 BC to 65 BC.

Because of the struggle to control the trade routes from Asia to Europe and coupled with the fact that at this time in the ancient world, Egypt was the bread basket of the world. The effect on Judaism from Hellenism was profound. Hellenism cultivated two philosophies that would affect the Jewish People. With the increasing influence of Hellenism upon the Jewish Communities, there were two Greek Philosophies that would affect Jewish Communities throughout the Persian Empire. Those philosophies would be Stoicism and Epicureanism. The Stoics were from the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle. They tended to be fatalists. The Epicureans were believers in pleasure and happiness but not at the expense of lustfulness. The Epicureans believed that when people died, there was no afterlife and that the body and soul returned to atoms. The Stoics believed in pantheism but also believed in life after death. In resistance to this influence two forms of Judaism would arise. The 1st school would be that of the Pharisee. The Pharisees would be the ones who would add additional man-made philosophies to the Levitical Law in order to “earn more favor” with God. Their often hypocritical way of life often put them at odds with the common everyday Jew. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection from the dead and tended to accept the view of predestination. The second school of Jewish thought that developed was the school of the Sadducees. They tended to come from very wealthy families and claimed their lineage from the priest Zadok.

Ptolemy Soter would defeat the Seleucids over the land of Israel in 301 BC. Part of Ptolemy’s strategy was to have Jewish people transported to Alexandria. Most historians see this more for economic reasons rather than Political. Hellenism would creep into Jewish culture through interaction and intermarriage. It was not Ptolemy’s intent to impose Hellenism on the Jews and in fact both the Seleucids and the Ptolemies viewed Israel as a Temple State with the High Priest as its ruler. But because of the cultural interaction between the Greeks and the Jews, Hellenism became firmly entrenched in Jewish society by the time the Seleucids would take control of Israel in 201 BC.

Because of Ptolemy’s action of relocating Jews to Alexandria, he would unknowingly be part of God’s sovereign plan—to have the Old Testament translated into Koine Greek and to have a Jewish community in place where Joseph and Mary could flee with the infant Lord Jesus. (Matthew 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”)

As we mentioned before, Israel would fall to the Seleucids in 201 BC. The Seleucids would continue the policy of the Ptolemies with one exception. They granted the Temple State complete autonomy including the freedom from Taxation. The Seleucid general defeating the Ptolemies was Antiochus III. He had developed a new type of armored cavalry called (cataphract) . Antiochus had set his designs on some of the Greek colonies along the Mediterranean but there was a fearsome opponent who already controlled that region. This was the Roman Empire.

The Rise of Rome

Most historians cite the founding of Rome in 753 BC. From 753 to 509 BC, Rome had been ruled by kings. In 509, the Romans overthrew their king and formed an entirely new form of Government. The Romans did not want a Democracy nor did they want a Monarchy. They decided they wanted a Republic. The Republic would have checks and balances to prevent one branch of government from overtaking the other. The Republic would have a  Senate and two councils. Each counsel would have veto power over the other.

Rome intervenes in the Seleucid and Ptolemy conflict.

Antiochus III or sometimes referred to as Antiochus the Great would align himself with a General from Carthage, named Hannibal. The Romans would defeat Antiochus III in 191 BC at Thermopylae. Rome would pursue the Seleucid King and take the Tarsus Mountains in the process. The Seleucids would continue to meddle in what Rome had considered their realm of influence. The most ruthless of the Seleucid kings was Antiochus Epiphanies or Antiochus IV. He would attack Egypt in 170 BC. He would kidnap the young Egyptian king Ptolemy VI Philometer and install a regent in his place. When the regent decided to rebel, he would once again invade Egypt in 168 BC but this time, he would be met by a Roman Calvary officer by the name of Popilius Laenus. Antiochus IV knew the Roman General and had met him in Rome. The Roman General had a terse warning for the Seleucid king. Rome would no longer tolerate Syria interfering the affairs of Egypt and Rome demanded the return of young king back on the throne of Egypt. Antiochus said he would think about it. The Roman General then drew his sword and drew a circle around Antiochus IV. He then informed him that Antiochus would not be allowed to leave the circle until he had made up his mind. Antiochus yielded to Roman demands. The action by Popilius Laenus would be forever known as the line in the sand. This incident enraged Antiochus. On his way back to Syria, he vented his anger upon the Jewish People. He ordered a halt to daily sacrifice, had priests who refused to sacrifice pigs upon the altars executed. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple of Jerusalem and sacrificed a sow on the altar of God. This came to be known as the “Abomination of Desolation”. He outlawed circumcision and according to the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees he had women executed along with their babies who refused to comply with the edict. He destroyed the walls of Jerusalem and employed a mercenary Macedonian garrison to enforce his decrees. This was a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophesy in Daniel 8:9-14. Jesus, himself would allude to this incident just prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 24:15) but as a future event when the Antichrist would come to power. Paul would call this future type of Antiochus IV as the man of lawlessness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.) In 165 BC, Matthias Maccabees would begin a revolt against the Seleucid ruler. After an alliance with the Romans, Judas Maccabees would finally throw off the Seleucid yoke but not before costing him his life. The Syrians would be driven out in 141 BC. The only son of Matthias to survive was Simon. This would begin a period in Israel’s history known as the Hasmonean Dynasty.

There are three figures in the Hasmonean Dynasty that are noteworthy. One is John Hyrcanus. He would force the Edomites to convert to Judaism and he exchange ambassadors with Rome in 130 BC. The fact that John was part of the priesthood and the fact that he had been appointed ruler of Israel by Rome did not set well with the Pharisees. During this period of time a great deal of political intrigue took place. One of the interesting was the conflict between Hyrcanus II and Aristobolus. Hycranus II was aligned with an Idumean by the name of Antipater. Hycranus would appeal to one of the Roman Proconsuls named Pompey. Pompey would defeat Aristobolus and name Hycranus High Priest. This would leave Antipater the virtual king of Judea. Soon Pompey would be defeated by Julius Caesar and when the Roman Republic ended, the occupation of Israel would soon follow. This would be the world that Christ, the king of Creation would enter to redeem a people for himself so that if he would be lifted up, (on a cross), He would draw all sorts of men to himself that they may Glorify God forever.Intertestament Period 408 to 5 BC

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Attibutes of God: The Decrees of God

The Attributes of God

by Arthur W. Pink

The Decrees of God

The decree of God is His purpose or determination with respect to future things. We have used the singular number as Scripture does (Rom 8:28; Eph 3:11), because there was only one act of His infinite mind about future things. But we speak as if there had been many, because our minds are only capable of thinking of successive revolutions, as thoughts and occasions arise, or in reference to the various objects of His decree, which being many seem to us to require a distinct purpose for each one. But an infinite understanding does not proceed by steps, from one stage to another: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

The Scriptures make mention of the decrees of God in many passages, and under a variety of terms. The word “decree” is found in Psalm 2:7. In Ephesians 3:11 we read of His “eternal purpose.” In Acts 2:23 of His “determinate counsel and foreknowledge.” In Ephesians 1:9 of the mystery of His “will.” In Romans 8:29 that He also did “predestinate.” In Ephesians 1:9 of His good pleasure.” God’s decrees are called His “counsel” to signify they are consummately wise. They are called God’s “will” to show He was under no control, but acted according to His own pleasure. When a man’s will is the rule of his conduct, it is usually capricious and unreasonable; but wisdom is always associated with “will” in the divine proceedings, and accordingly, God’s decrees are said to be “the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11).

The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time was foreordained before time began. God’s purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil, although with reference to the latter we must be careful to state that while God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of it in the same way that He is the Author of good. Sin could not proceed from a holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive permission and negative action. God’s decree is as comprehensive as His government, extending to all creatures and all events. It was concerned about our life and death; about our state in time, and our state in eternity. As God works all things after the counsel of His own will, we learn from His works what His counsel was, as we judge of an architect’s plan by inspecting the building which was erected under his directions.

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close. He did not merely decree that general laws should be established for the government of the world, but He settled the application of those laws to all particular cases. Our days are numbered, and so are the hairs of our heads. We may learn what is the extent of the divine decrees from the dispensations of providence, in which they are executed. The care of Providence reaches to the most insignificant creatures, and the most minute events—the death of a sparrow, and the fall of a hair.

Let us now consider some of the PROPERTIES of the divine decrees.

First, they are eternal. To suppose any of them to be made in time is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred; some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High to form a new resolution. This would argue that the knowledge of the Deity is limited, and that He is growing wiser in the progress of time—which would be horrible blasphemy. No man who believes that the divine understanding is infinite, comprehending the past, the present, and the future, will ever assent to the erroneous doctrine of temporal decrees. God is not ignorant of future events which will be executed by human volitions; He has foretold them in innumerable instances, and prophecy is but the manifestation of His eternal prescience. Scripture affirms that believers were chosen in Christ before the world began (Eph 1:4), yes, that grace was “given” to them then (2 Tim 1:9).

Secondly, the decrees of God are wise. Wisdom is shown in the selection of the best possible ends and of the fittest means of accomplishing them. That this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their execution, and every proof of wisdom in the works of God is a proof of the wisdom of the plan, in conformity to which they are performed. As the Psalmist declared, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! in wisdom have You made them all” (104:24). It is indeed but a very small part of them which falls under our observation, yet, we ought to proceed here as we do in other cases, and judge of the whole by the specimen, of what is unknown, by what is known. He who perceives the workings of admirable skill in the parts of a machine which he has an opportunity to examine, is naturally led to believe that the other parts are equally admirable. In like manner we should satisfy our minds as to God’s works when doubts intrude themselves upon us, and repel any objections that may be suggested by something that we cannot reconcile to our notions of what is good and wise. When we reach the bounds of the finite and gaze toward the mysterious realm of the infinite, let us exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33).

Thirdly, they are free. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counselor has taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14). God was alone when He made His decrees, and His determinations were influenced by no external cause. He was free to decree or not to decree, and to decree one thing and not another. This liberty we must ascribe to Him who is Supreme, Independent, and Sovereign in all His doings.

Fourthly, they are absolute and unconditional. The execution of them is not suspended upon any condition which may, or may not be, performed. In every instance where God has decreed an end, He has also decreed every means to that end. The One who decreed the salvation of His elect also decreed to work faith in them (2 Thess 2:13). “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa 46:10): but that could not be, if His counsel depended upon a condition which might not be performed. But God “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11).

Side by side with the immutability and invincibility of God’s decrees, Scripture plainly teaches that man is a responsible creature and answerable for his actions. And if our thoughts are formed from God’s Word, the maintenance of the one will not lead to the denial of the other. That there is a real difficulty in defining where the one ends and the other begins, is freely granted. This is ever the case where there is a conjunction of the divine and the human. Real prayer is incited by the Spirit, yet it is also the cry of a human heart. The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, yet they were written by men who were something more than machines in the hand of the Spirit. Christ is both God and man. He is Omniscient, yet “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). He was Almighty, yet was “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4). He was the Prince of life, yet He died. High mysteries are these, yet faith receives them unquestioningly.

It has often been pointed out in the past that every objection made against the eternal decrees of God applies with equal force against His eternal foreknowledge. “Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that He knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either does approve of them or does not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them” (Jonathan Edwards).

Finally, attempt, with me, to assume and then to contemplate the opposite. To deny the divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns regulated by undesigned chance or blind fate. Then what peace, what assurance, what comfort would there be for our poor hearts and minds? What refuge would there be to fly to in the hour of need and trial? None at all. There would be nothing better than the black darkness and abject horror of atheism. O my reader, how thankful should we be that everything is determined by infinite wisdom and goodness! What praise and gratitude are due unto God for His divine decrees. It is because of them that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Well may we exclaim, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

 

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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