|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #278, 279 and 280|
16 March, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, began several years ago with God's call to Abram. We have followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and bondage from which the Israelites were led out by the miracles of The Exodus under the leadership of Moses. At Mount Sinai, they have become a national wife to The Almighty God, and are receiving sundry laws and regulations. Today, we have reached Leviticus 18:17 in our progression of lessons; a chapter which designates those relationships which are prohibited within a family of close relatives. On Part I, we noted that no one was to "approach" in a sexual relationship "to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness." This, of course, preserved a legally contracted marriage under God's Law.
As we study these passages, do please keep in mind the relationship which we, of the British-Israel-World Federation continually state, namely that the vast majority of the modern day descendants of these ancient Israelites are now to be found as the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world, and that their generally Christian heritage links them to the moral and Scriptural aspects of the Biblical account. Our Scripture passage now continues at verse 17:
17. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.
18. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.
Reverting to The New Bible Commentary, which we discovered last week to have useful information on the passage, we read: "The general principle involved is stated in verse 6: None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him (lit. 'the flesh of his flesh'). Consanguinity or affinity is referred to repeatedly (12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; cf. xx. 19); and it is stressed by such expressions as 'she is thy mother' (7), 'it is thy father's nakedness' (8), 'for their's is thine own nakedness' (10). That this phrase 'uncover the nakedness of' refers to actual marriage is made especially clear by the words 'in her lifetime' (18). Illicit intercourse would come under the general heading of adultery or harlotry and be condemned as such (Dt. xvii. 13-30). On the other hand the use of such an expression, instead of the usual phrase 'to take a wife', is probably intended to stress the fact that such unions as are condemned here and in chapter xx cannot be true marriage, and that they are due to passion rather than natural and holy affection. No other reason is given for these prohibitions, however, except the fact of kinship. This may imply that the intimacies which result from near kinship or affinity are such as to render marriage unnatural or improper. But it also seems to be well established as a fact of experience that marriages between near relations are likely either to be barren or to result in unhealthy offspring. The prohibition which has occasioned the most discussion and controversy is marriage with the deceased wife's sister (18), and it is only comparatively recently that it has been made legal in England. Yet the meaning of the law seems to be clear. The words 'to vex her' (18), 'to be a rival' (RV), 'to be a secondary wife' (all three are possible renderings), taken in connection with the words 'in her life time' (18), indicate that such a marriage is not barred on grounds of affinity; it is lawful, but only after the death of the wife. This is intended to prevent a man from divorcing his wife in order to marry her sister, a temptation which might easily result from the intimacies of family life. It is to be noted that only in one case is a moral judgment passed on these practices which are prohibited (17)."
The Companion Bible notes, regarding verses 19-30, that these pertain to "unlawful lusts." We now continue at verse 19:
19. Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
20. Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.
21. And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
22. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
The Companion Bible notes here, "Referring to the sin of Sodom (whence its name)"; abomination = a thing to be abhorred." I feel constrained to stress that the commandment is to the end, as verse 5 states, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, HE SHALL LIVE in them: I am the LORD." We shall shortly read verse 29 which makes the same point. The Companion Bible notes, with reference to the next verse, which mentions animals, that "This was part of the religious worship of the Egyptians."
23. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.
24. Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
25. And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
26. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
27. (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
28. That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
29. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
30. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.
Here, at the ending of the chapter, as at the beginning, the author of the Laws is stated to be The God of Israel.
The New Bible Commentary continues: "Verse 19 apparently refers to the contracting and consummating of marriage. Cf. xx. 8 and xv. 24. Verses 20-23 deal with particularly heinous sins. Adultery violates the sanctity of the home. It involves the breaking of two of the ten commandments (Ex. xx. 14, 17). It undermines the foundations of human society. In verse 21 follow RV 'Thou shalt not give any of thy seed to make them pass through to Molech'. This rendering makes it plain that the prohibition refers to the abhorrent practice of infant sacrifice ad that this awful sin is the sin of the parent (cf. xx. 2-5). For an Israelite to do this is to profane the name of his God. Other monstrous and unnatural sins are particularly denounced (22, 23). They are abomination and confusion. Yet most, if not all of them were widely practiced among the cultured peoples of antiquity. Verses 24-30 form a concluding summary. These things are heathen practices which Israel is particularly to avoid. The promise to dispossess the Canaanites is coupled with the solemn warning to Israel of similar treatment in case of similar conduct. The sequence of tenses is difficult. 'Which I cast out' (24) is a participle and would be better rendered, 'Which I am casting (or going to cast) out'. It refers to the (imminent) future. AV and RV render most of the verbs in verses 25, 27 in the present tense. But the sequence of tenses would favour making them refer to the past, especially in view of their rendering of the last verb in verse 28, 'as it spued out' (RV, 'vomited out') the nations (RV 'nation") that were before you. It is to be noted, therefore, that this verb is ambiguous. If accented on the penult, it is the perfect tense (AV, RV, LXX, Vulg., Syr.). If accented on the ultima (the Massoretes), it is a participle, and may, like the participle in verse 24, refer to the future. The former rendering seems definitely preferable. Unless the use of the past tense is regarded as a proleptic, which is unlikely, we must then face the fact that past and premonitory judgments are here referred to. We have very little information on this subject. The fact that ten nations occupied the land in the days of Abraham (Gn. xv. 19ff.) may mean that it had been a bone of contention for centuries; and that these nations lived peaceably together seems highly improbable. Situated at the bridge-head between Asia and Africa, the land was singularly exposed to the ravages of invading armies. The words 'the iniquity of the Amorites in not yet full' (Gn. xv. 16) suggest that there may have been severe visitations of judgment in the past. Famine, pestilence, the sword, and evil beasts (Lv. xxvi; cf. Ezk. xiv. 21) may have already taken a heavy toll. There may be more truth in the evil report of the spies than we might be inclined to suppose: 'a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof' (Nu. xiii. 32). 'Eat up' and 'vomit out' suggest disorders that would decimate the inhabitants of the land and drive many of them into exile. But however severe these former judgments may have been, and they must have been sufficiently severe and also recent to be referred to here, they are only a foretaste, so to speak, of the judgment which is about to fall on the Canaanites, and which surely will be visited on Israel also if she follows their example. Those who regard the command to exterminate the Canaanites as 'cruel' should consider carefully the reason which is given for it. The impressive sanction, 'I am the Lord (your God)' appears in 2, 4, 5, 21, 30.
In closing, may I point out that reminding people of things which they don't like to hear is not an enterprise of those indifferent to the safety of such people, but of those who are concerned that warning be heeded. This is to the end that safety shall be found. Wisdom dictates that we do not rebel at being directed to verses which speak of such relationships.
23 March, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, began several years ago with God's call to Abram. We have followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and bondage from which the Israelites were led out by the miracles of The Exodus under the leadership of Moses. At Mount Sinai, they have become a national wife to The Almighty God, and are receiving sundry laws and regulations.
In the normal course of events, we would today be moving forward to study Leviticus 19. However, in view of the celebration of Palm Sunday at this time in the calendar, I want to postpone that study for a couple of weeks, and instead, digress from the usual sequence in order to deal with topics which I believe to be appropriate on this occasion, although, especially on the second of these two digressional studies, it will not, perhaps, devolve into the usual treatment for such a sermon outline.
On Palm Sunday Jesus, as the sinless Lamb of God, and being the culminating fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover ritual, mounted an ass, and also its foal, in succession as He rode into the city in full view of the massing crowds who were making their way towards Jerusalem and the temple, in order to observe the annual religious ritual called in Hebrew pesah, or, as we would call it, Passover.
We may visualise the scene as the multi-coloured robes of the massed throngs, - probably the most costly and least-worn of their entire wardrobe, mingled with the more orthodox finery of the devout and the tatters of beggars, to make a festive and colourful panorama in constant motion against the time-worn and weather-stained stone walls and gates of the great city of Jerusalem. At strategic points near gates and on the walls, the occasional glint of light, shining a spark of reflected sunlight from helmet, spear or armour, would draw attention to the robe of a centurion or a leather-and metal armoured squad of troopers, and would place a sharp reminder before us that this was a city under occupation, and its cultural and religious observances were permitted by sufferance of an austere alien empire. This was the fourth power in Daniel's prophetic vision which was to continue the Babylonian succession of government during the times of Israel's punishment for departing the worship of her God. The populace was constantly aware of their demeaned status, and popularity awaited any leader of Israel who would arise to fulfil the prophetic expectations of the patriotic zealot and the religiously fervent alike.
Most had at least seen some glimpse of Jesus during His time of ministry, and many would now have turned to see the simply dressed prophet and teacher as He rode forward amidst the throng, accompanied by his followers and disciples. Doubtless they saw in Him the fulfilment of national aspirations, and a hint of the regal would be all that was needed to ignite a hope that the day had now come for national release. Robes and palm branches were flung down before him, in hope that some of the mystic glory yet to come might hallow these tokens of adulation for each who was thus moved. Christ rode on in lonely glory, but not as military conqueror this day. He was the Passover-lamb being shown, according to The Law, that all might see a spotless character yet to fulfil His role as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).He alone saw the strain of opposition to evil in the nation, His trial, the scourging, the bleeding and the pain which lay immediately before Him, and then the agony of The Cross whereon He was to hang, like the brasen (copper) serpent in the wilderness to heal all who might look towards Him (Numbers 21:9). He would within the week be despised and rejected, scorned and in the agony of death. His expression would doubtless have reflected that knowledge, and display the fortitude which would face all, and win the victory, even for those who would spurn or flee from Him in that dread hour. If we do not see this, we do not see what is truly afoot this day. It is the greatest love binding the greatest sin through submission to bondage and nails. We do well to contemplate it well, for our own future existence depends upon the blood to be shed in place of our blood.
According to The New Bible Dictionary item "Passover", the Hebrew word comes from a verb meaning "to pass over", in the sense of "to spare." The term is used both for the ordinance and for the sacrificial victim. Abib, later called Nisan, the month of the ripening ears and of the first Passover, was made in honour the first month of the Jewish year, according to that reference. [Here I believe the word "Israelitish" ought to have been used by the editors of The New Bible Dictionary for it seems much more appropriate in this context than the word "Jewish", the use of which term appears to be an unfortunate anachronism. I ought to explain that there were many Israelites in existence at The Exodus, but only the descendants of about one one-hundredth of those Israelites might, centuries later, belong to that tiny branch of Israel which returned from the Babylonian captivity, a remnant of a remnant of a remnant, to be known to subsequent generations as "Jews." (The very much larger Assyrian captivities were of Israelites who were not, and never have been, Jews. Most of these, we of the British-Israel-World Federation evidence to have developed into the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today.)]
The Dictionary mentions that no bone of the Passover victim was to be broken, a typological detail "fulfilled when it is reverently applied to the crucified One (Jn. xix. 36)."
That means of transport used by Our Lord, in contrast to use of a war-horse, would symbolise a peacefully intentioned entry to the city of Jerusalem. All this He did, in fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover as described in Exodus 12:2-6. That passage reads:
2. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Thus, the ritual required that the chosen Lamb which was to become the sacrifice a few days later might be inspected and watched, during the intervening days to see that it was indeed perfect, and without blemish. When Jesus got to the Temple (Herod's Temple, I might point out), he entered it, and began to cast out the money changers, and those that sold doves and other sacrificial animals for profitable gain on the monetary exchange which was imposed on those who came to worship.
In that regard we might profit by reading the account, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21:1-13.
1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2. Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
10. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Here we may point out that, in cleansing the Temple of all those who were making it a place of financial enrichment, and cheating the public through a monopoly on the traffic in sacrificial animals and birds, Jesus was clearly demonstrating His own fitness to be chosen as that perfect, and unblemished "Lamb of God" which "taketh away the sins of the world", and to become the Redeemer of His people, Israel, and The Saviour of the world.
Thus was the Old Testament prophetic enactment of the Passover blood to be played out in this subsequent event, the culminating focus of history as far as The First Advent was concerned. May your meditations this week reflect the understanding which appreciates that greatest of gifts which was at Christ's expense, and may none who understands neglect to receive the offering thus made. There is to be a sequel, at the Second Advent, when the joy, which has been long delayed, at last replaces the sorrow of that dread hour so long ago, yet so near to every contrite heart.
30 March, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with God's call to Abram has followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and bondage from which the Israelites were led out by the miracles of The Exodus under Moses. At Mount Sinai, they have become a national wife to The Almighty God, and are receiving sundry laws and regulations. Normally, we would today be moving forward to study Leviticus 19. However, as we are now in the season of Passover and Easter, I have chosen to make one of those occasional digressions from our regular course to examine some topical thoughts relating to the season of "Holy-week", or "Passion-week", as it is commonly termed in England according to Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary.
I believe today's study will be appropriate to the occasion, although, as I intimated in last week's study, it will not, perhaps, be the usual pattern of treatment for such a sermon. I ought, perhaps, to explain that last week we reviewed the Biblical passages which relate to the Palm Sunday observances and the cleansing of the Temple by Christ, and although it might seem to offer a digression to the normal treatment of the story of the events of Holy-week, I now want to bring to the attention of our listeners the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3. These words were spoken to His disciples during the hours of The Last Supper immediately prior to the Crucifixion. Christ spoke to the disciples regarding the house of His Father. Let us hear the words of the Biblical passage. It says:
1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Here, Thomas says "we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" to which Jesus replies "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."
Now what is the usual interpretation which the average church-goer or even minister of the Gospel places upon that passage? From the many hymns which speak in verse of a general departure of "the church", or "God's people" out of this earth to go to some heavenly country to occupy glorious palatial mansions allotted to each by way of regard for services rendered on earth, one might expect that Christ was not destined to return at all! Hymns which are introduced by lines such as "There Is A Blessed Home Beyond This World Of Woe..." (#615), "There Is No Night In Heaven; In That Blest World Above..." (#623), Around The Throne Of God In Heaven Shall Countless Children Stand..." (#706), "Jerusalem On High..." (#608) and "When The Trumpet Of The Lord Shall Sound", with its refrain, "When the Roll is called up yonder", are all apparently in large measure based upon this mistaken interpretation, and, while we may sing them in fellowship with our friends, I might question whether the theological thrust of the wording is in strict accord with Scripture. Let us see what our study reveals.
I would venture to suggest that such a concept of a heavenly abode in some distant realm vaguely assumed to be "somewhere altogether parted from the earth" is a common misconception, and that the true meaning of that passage is quite startlingly at variance with it. I herewith offer an alternative interpretation of the true meaning of this passage, but one which I shall relate to Scriptural cross-references, and which I believe will be consistent with Christ's intent when He uttered the words of this teaching.
Let us review the words and phrases in this teaching, and see if other scriptures will throw some light upon what Christ was actually stating to His followers. I will begin by asking the question "What constitutes that Father's House" wherein all those "places of abode" are located? The Companion Bible has a marginal notation which offers an alternative rendering of the term "many mansions." It reads "abiding places." That reference goes on, in the same note, to state the words "Gr. mone (from meno, a characteristic word in this Gospel). Occurs only here and in v. 23." Young's Concordance also agrees with the explanatory word "abode."
That marginal notation tips off the careful reader to look up the rendering of this word in Vine's "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" where we find under the term "Mansions" the following information: "MONE... primarily a staying, abiding (akin to meno, to abide), denotes an abode (Eng., manor, manse, etc.), translated 'mansions' in John 14:2; 'abode' in vers. 23. There is nothing in the word to indicate separate compartments in Heaven; neither does it suggest temporary resting-places on the road." I think, therefore, that it will repay us to consider carefully the indication that is made clear in that reference, to correct the vague misconception that there are many huge palaces being prepared by a divine carpenter for each person, somewhere "away beyond the blue" in some heaven far away, as so often superficially thought!
Let us consult the words of St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul writes: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Again, in 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul makes the point in the words: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
In Ephesians 2:19-21 St. Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus in these terms: They are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Paul makes it quite clear to those who read his words in all these Scriptures that "ye are the temple of God... ." So we are to be the "abodes" or "mansions" of God!
Revelation 3:12 confirms this interpretation in the words " Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."
Let us note there also the fact that the whole design of this new Jerusalem is said to come down to earth from God Who dwells in heaven. It is Christ's "departure" through Crucifixion and death which is the pre-condition which, so to speak, "sets the stage" and by that means facilitates the building of those "mansions" in His followers!
Now another matter may be of interest. In Matthew 21:12 we read: "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves." This was the second time that that had happened. In John 2:13-17, we read that Jesus had done the same thing at the beginning of His ministry, and on that occasion, it had led to a dispute wherein Christ stated "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", to which the Jews who opposed Him argued: "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?" The passage continues "But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."
While we see that the opposition remembered the words Jesus had spoken, and repeated them with derision but without understanding their meaning in Matthew 26:61, Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:58 and Mark 15:29, let us place three or four scripture concepts together to observe a possible double meaning therein. The "temple" of His body was raised up in three days. Jesus' followers are, as we have seen, also "the temple" being built and, in II Peter 3:8 we read "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." It is therefore possible to construct a scenario in which, just as the Israelites followed the Ark of the Covenant towards Jordan as they were entering the Promised Land, but were to remain about two thousand cubits behind it (Joshua 3:4), so the "body of Christ", His "temple" of living stones, may likewise follow Him into the "Promised Land" of His Kingdom within three one-thousand-year "days" through a similar experience, so that Christ will be "the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29)! Revelation 21:22 states in the symbolism of that Book "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." As Christ is the head of His body of followers that combination would be just what Revelation describes. That may provide some food for thought and meditation during the coming week!
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