BIBLE STUDY SERIES #461, 462 and 463

24 September, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE, PART XII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. That land had been promised to Abraham, and hence down through Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), and now to the descendants of that Patriarch, the Tribes of Israel who are gathered for this, the last and one of the most important messages the aged Prophet, Moses, will be giving to them before he passes into the history of his people.

Today, we are approaching the Scripture passage beginning with Deuteronomy 4:25, wherein the review of the recent events in Israel's history has been sufficiently completed, and Moses is now to begin giving an introductory comment to the statute laws which he wishes to review for this younger generation of Israel. In a sense, it is a preparation which includes a review and warning concerning the various spiritual perils which Israel has experienced during their wilderness wanderings. The words of the chapter had begun with "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you." Back in verse 21, Moses had indicated that God had sworn that Moses would not, himself, be allowed to cross over Jordan into The Promised Land, a statement which was occasioned by Moses' failure to adhere strictly to instructions regarding the striking of the Rock to bring forth water for the people. Moses had then gone on to state that God is a consuming fire in verse 24: "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God", and Keil and Delitzsch explain concerning the term, that the words have special reference to the manifestation of His glory in burning fire.

The New Bible Commentary yields this thought on the fiery nature of God: "The fire which purifies precious metals consumes that which is worthless or corrupt, and is therefore a symbol of God's holiness and righteous judgment. Now let us begin reading today's Scripture portion from Deuteronomy 4, starting at verse 25:

25. When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:
26. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
27. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.

Here, The Companion Bible notes that "nations = peoples", while "heathen = nations."

Keil and Delitzsch carry the thought of God's fiery holiness and His jealousy forward from verse 24 in stating "To give emphasis to this warning, Moses holds up the future dispersion of the nation among the heathen as the punishment of apostasy from the Lord... . If the Israelites should beget children and children's children, and grow old in the land, and then should make images of God, and do that which was displeasing to God to provoke Him; in that case Moses called upon heaven and earth as witnesses against them, that they should be quickly destroyed out of the land. 'Growing old in the land' involved forgetfulness of the former manifestation of grace on the part of the Lord, but not necessarily becoming voluptuous through the enjoyment of the riches of the land, although this might also lead to forgetfulness of God and the manifestations of His grace."

The New Bible Commentary gives the explanatory statement of the words "heaven and earth", "The silent witnesses of all our vows and all our sins." Keil and Delitzsch state that the term does not "stand here for the rational beings dwelling in them, but are personified, represented as living, and capable of sensation and speech, and mentioned as witnesses who would rise up against Israel, not to proclaim its guilt, but to bear witness that God, the Lord of heaven and earth, had warned the people, and, as it is described in the parallel passage in chap. xxx. 19, had set before them the choice of life and death, and therefore was just in punishing them for their unfaithfulness."

28. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
29. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
30. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
31. (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

Here, as in so many passages of Holy writ, there are several thoughts drawn together in a most concise sequence of statements. Of verse 28, The New Bible Commentary adds a note that service to the gods mentioned therein would mean being in bondage to heathen nations, which are represented by their gods. The reference indicates of the words "with all thy heart and with all thy soul" that "The words ... cast a clear light upon the wholehearted consecration which God expects from His own." Moving to the words "And shall be obedient unto his voice", it says "This is part of the covenant relationship."

We ought, here, to note that, in this Scripture passage, Moses sees, prophetically, far down the corridor of time, through the years when Israel will have successfully occupied the Promised Land, and therein fallen into idolatry, been overtaken by the consequent disaster of invasion and dispersion which God has, through Moses, pronounced upon that idolatry, and then, after the further subsequent movement to distant lands, the descendants of Israel are, once again, and in the latter days, be it noted, afforded the gracious covenant of God's revival of their remnant populace and national status. It will come about when they become sick of the oppression of those times, that God will move to rescue and revive His national Israel by means which are altogether beyond their own power to exert. This prophecy will be consistent with the announcement of God's purposes for His people stated in II Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. It might be of interest for those who wish to take a few moments to do it, to compare this verse with the words contained in The Lord's Prayer, which begins by recognizing "Our Father, Which art in heaven"; that is to say, turning back to the true God. It then proceeds to yield honour to Him by "Hallowed be thy name" and requesting that "Thy kingdom come", and "Thy will be done" on earth, as it is continuing to be done in heaven. This brings us to consider the being "obedient to his voice" of verse 30. There follows the request for our needed sustenance (bread) and to "forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass against us", which embodies the proper attitude for such forgiveness. A request to be released from the time of stress or trial, with a concluding reaffirmation of the status of the Almighty God of Israel to whom that prayer is addressed. Perhaps you will wish to re-examine the two verses in a parallel format to see how they match. We continue our reading now at verse 32:

32. For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
33. Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
34. Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

We might note that God's statutes and commandments form a part of the covenant arrangement whereby Israel is mercifully extracted from their latter-day predicament.

We shall move to the subsequent Scriptures on the next Study.

1 October, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE, PART XIII

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. That land had been promised to Abraham, and hence down through Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), and now to the descendants of that Patriarch, the Tribes of Israel who are gathered for this, the last and one of the most important messages the aged Prophet, Moses, will be giving to them before he passes into the history of his people. At the end of the last study, we had read to Deuteronomy 4:34, but perhaps we might introduce the next passage by including the thought contained in the last two verses of the previous study. It stated:

33. Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
34. Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

Those two verses quite well summarise the activity of The Almighty in drawing the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage to the freedom, and therewith the responsibilities of nationhood, under His omnipotent hand. It bears repeating that it was not by their own skill, power or planning that they had been released, and moreover that the release also came with the effective payment of back wages in the form of the wealth which their years of bondage had earned. Their release was entirely through their God Who listened to their groaning under the murderous oppression wherewith the Egyptians had extracted their labours to build Pharaoh's treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. Their male children were ordered to be slain at the banks of the Nile river wherein the babies were to be drowned by order of the Pharaoh.

Have we not, today, seen the latter-day children of these same Israelites labouring under the financial pharaoh's of an equivalent modern-day Egyptian bondage, imposed along the financial river-course of monetary liquidity which flows through the banks by the manipulation of money and the revenue generated through high rates of taxation in order to build treasure cities, the use of which they, themselves do not enjoy. Even the names used for physical restraint, placing men in the stocks, and binding them in bondage in that ancient time are today reflected in the modern equivalents Do we not see financial papers which are, in many cases, actually called "stocks" and "bonds"! As we stated in ending the last Bible Study, we might note that God's statutes and commandments form a part of the covenant arrangement whereby Israel is mercifully to be extracted from their latter-day predicament.

The Almighty did, indeed, speak to our Israelite ancestors out of the fires of Sinai, and grant them that offer of national marriage to Himself at Sinai. This, when it was accepted through the officiating officer, Moses, had formed a peculiar privilege but it also included an awesome attendant responsibility, laid upon those upon whom that national status thereupon descended. With the realisation of the identity of modern-day Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred tribesmen as the descendants of the vast majority of modern-day Israel, we are becoming aware of strange and wonderful impending parallel developments with a like awesome responsibility.

Today, we are approaching the Scripture passage beginning with Deuteronomy 4:35. Let us read it, conscious (perhaps for the first time) of the identifying prophetic marks which yield clues to our status and the application of these words to ourselves, in this modern world.

35. Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
36. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
37. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
38. To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
39. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
40. Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.

The Companion Bible at the words "for ever" notes "= all the days: i.e. for all time." Keil and Delitzsch remark of verses 32 to 40 "But in order to accomplish something more than merely preserving the people from apostasy by the threat of punishment, namely, to secure a more faithful attachment and continued obedience to His commands by awakening the feeling of cordial love, Moses reminds them again of the glorious miracles of divine grace performed in connection with the election and deliverance of Israel, such as had never been heard of from the beginning of the world; and with this strong practical proof of the love of the true God, he brings his first address to a close. This closing thought in ver. 32 is connected by ... (for) with the leading idea in ver. 31, 'Jehovah thy God is a merciful God,' to show that the sole ground for the election and redemption of Israel was the compassion of God towards the human race."

With regard to verse 32 which they translate in the words: "For ask now of the days that are past, from the day that God created man upon the earth, and from one end of heaven unto the other, whether so great a thing has ever happened, or anything of the kind has been heard of" they say "i.e. the history of all times since the creation of man, and of all places under the whole heaven, can relate no such events as those which have happened to Israel, viz. at Sinai (ver 33; cf. ver. 12). From this awfully glorious manifestation of God, Moses goes back in ver. 34 to the miracles with which God effected the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt."

They continue, referring to verse 34, which they translate thus: "Or has a god attempted (made the attempt) to come and take to himself people from people (i.e. to fetch the people of Israel out of the midst of the Egyptian nation), with temptations (the events in Egypt by which Pharaoh's relation to the Lord was put to the test;... ), with signs and wonders (the Egyptian plagues, ...), and with conflict (at the Red Sea: ... ), and with a strong hand and outstretched arm ... and with great terrors?" Here, they note of the last three (the signs and wonders, the conflict and the terrors), that therein "all the acts of God in Egypt are comprehended, according to both cause and effect. They were revelations of the omnipotence of the Lord, and produced great terrors (cf. Ex. xii. 30-36)." Passing on to verse 35, they add "Israel was made to see all this, that it might know that Jehovah was God [(HaElohim)], the God, to whom the name of Elohim rightfully belonged), and there was none else beside Him... ."

Moving on to verse 36, Keil and Delitzsch comment: "But the Lord had spoken to Israel chiefly down from heaven ... and that out of the great fire, in which He had come down upon Sinai, to chastise it." Explaining that the Hebrew means "to take them under holy discipline, to inspire them with a salutary fear of the holiness of His ways and of His judgments by the awful phenomena which accompanied His descent, and shadowed forth the sublime and holy majesty of His nature", they say with reference to verses 37-40 "All this He did from love to the fathers of Israel (the patriarchs)."

We have about reached the end of the time for today's Study so perhaps I can give the sense of what we have been reviewing by these words: There have been specific times throughout history wherein God has moved with salutary miraculous signs of a remarkably dramatic and unmistakable character. At other times, for many hundreds of years His influence has been present and silently working out His purposes without the obvious showing forth of His power. He gave prophetic notice to Abraham that there would be such a display four hundred years after He spoke. It came to pass at the time specified at the Exodus from Egypt. We ought to look at other similar dramatic events, some much more recent, wherein like manifestations occurred, and not let the intervening years of apparent silence mislead us into a mistaken idea that He is no longer working towards a great World-shaking Crisis at His Second Advent. A word to the wise is said to be sufficient. Let us pray that it is so in our generation.

We shall move to the subsequent Scriptures on the next Study.

8 October, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE, PART XIV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. That land had been promised to Abraham, and hence down through Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), and now to the descendants of that Patriarch, the Tribes of Israel who are gathered for this, the last and one of the most important messages the aged Prophet, Moses, will be giving to them before he passes into the history of his people. At the close of the last study, we had read to the end of Deuteronomy 4:40, but perhaps before we go further I might review something which we examined back at Deuteronomy 4:12 and which was again brought before us at verse 33, in greater detail. The subject was given some attention in Part X of these Bible Studies, but a further ramification of the subject which was not amplified at that time may hold the answer to a question which has perplexed many Christians.

Deuteronomy 4:12 stated "And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heart a voice." Verse 33, as you may recall, follows the same line of thought in the words "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?" I had given some thoughts which lead out of the fact that both here, and in other places in the Old Testament, God is shown to have been hidden by fire, by darkness, by cloud, or even, as in the case of Moses himself, by the hand of God as He passed by. I had explained at that time that there was a most important legal principle involved.

A ruler and those he governs are, together, involved in a contract which we call a Code of Law. Such a contract forms a statement containing what we might term "if" and "but" clauses. If the governed do such and such which is approved, the governor will treat with them in such and such a beneficial manner, but if the governed rebel in disobedience of his authority, then there will follow certain punishments appropriate to that rebellion. The Law Code binds both the governor and the governed together by an unavoidable and inevitable response in each case. The Almighty has entered into such a contractual arrangement with His Israel People.

I explained that, should a rebel dare to appear boldly, face to face in front of The Almighty God, it is at that point inevitable that he will thus be instantly presented for judgment and upon being found guilty, immediately receive the appropriate punishment for such a verdict, lest the authority of The Almighty God be tarnished or subverted by delay, God must execute the mandatory punishment instantly. However, in mercy, there is available to The Almighty a legal step through which the immediacy of that reaction can be postponed until a suitable future occasion. The legality is dependent upon the openness of the confrontation. If the sinner be hidden or screened from the direct sight of God by fire, cloud, thick darkness, or a similar veil, the immediate act of judgment and executed punishment can be postponed for a Sinner cannot be punished prior to presentation in court with true witnesses in attendance in order to be judged. The judgment must be postponed as the Sinner is not yet exposed in open court and tried before his Judge. By means of the screen, the Sinner is not exposed to the direct view of his Judge. This is a merciful provision by God for it permits time for a sacrificial substitute to take the Sinner's place. God can thus avail Himself of the legal position that the sinful rebel who would have been deserving of immediate punishment by death ("the wages of Sin" Romans 6:23) had not yet boldly and openly faced God in open court, so to speak, and thus the deserved punishment could be postponed until a later occasion.

I only had time to indicate that at His First Advent, Jesus was God veiled in flesh, and that when He died on the Cross, the veil in the temple was torn. There is a further aspect to this whole topic, however which I would now bring before you. I will begin by asking the question, "What was Jesus' essential task as He was hanging upon the Cross?" Most Christians will agree that He was passing through the sacrificial act to which all the Old Testament animal sacrifices down the centuries had pointed forward, as though they were a teaching device to bring us to that crisis hour, to show us all the Love and Mercy of God, Who would thus act to present a substitute to take our punishment, that we might be considered to have met the debt which our sins imposed. We are thus in a state of legal "right relationship" with God through His Grace. But let us consider what the legal position of Jesus was, in regard to the Law during the final three hours in particular before his blood was fully drained from his body and He "gave up the ghost" (Mark 15:37). As Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin...". That is to say, He was legally being treated as if He was Himself the summation of all sinners.

Let us now consider what must immediately happen if God as Judge saw the summation of all sinners boldly exposed and openly displayed before His face in the most public crucial act of all time, while Christ was yet alive. The blood destined to be "shed" had not yet totally passed from His body. He was destined to fulfil the task of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), but the blood of those sacrificial animals, which formed the "type" of this sacrifice was required for the altar and the cleansing of the people. There was not yet the completed act of substitutionary bearing of the punishment for the Sins of the whole world. Immediate execution of the sinner must be prevented by the merciful provision of the veil of darkness until that blood was fully shed. Matthew 27:45 says "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour."

But there is more. On the Cross, Christ repeated words which He was quoting from the prophetic Twenty Second Psalm, the first verse of which says "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" Here, we see that not only was the Judge prevented from looking directly upon the exposed sinner, but the one Who had been made "sin for us" hanging on the Cross could not see the Judge. This permitted those hours to pass until the atonement blood was shed, and capable of then being "presented", as described in Hebrews 9:12, which explains "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." Could He have done that if he had died condemned in immediate judgmental wrath with His blood not yet fully shed? He had to die after the blood was shed, for "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).

From the first instant of all Creation's Plan, it had been decided that a sinless Lamb of sacrifice would be an essential element of the entire concourse of time and space. This would be so because man, who would be free to make decisions which would permit expression of Love, would also, among his choices, make those which would stumble. God would supply Law to guide him, but lack of wisdom would carry man into transgressions against God's merciful Laws, and in the flouting thereof, incur the penalty of such Sin, which must be death. As the design was to bring life, there must be a door of escape, which would involve acceptance of the death penalty by an aspect of God Himself, veiled in flesh, called Jesus Christ. Herein is the essence of The Gospel. At this point we must explain that the redemptive act of Christ for His national wife, Israel, the people descended of The Patriarchs, married to Yahweh at Sinai, divorced as shown in Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8, and to be once more joined in the marriage of Revelation 19:7 required the death of Israel's husband, to comply with the Law of Deuteronomy 24:4, as explained in Romans 7:2: "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth, but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband."

May you find much food for meditation in these thoughts.

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