BIBLE STUDY SERIES #488, 489 and 490

1 April, 2001

DEUTERONOMY 7: WARNINGS - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our series of Bible Studies on the Great Plan by which The Almighty God is steadily drawing His Creation towards the perfection of His Kingdom reveals that this plan centres upon the formation of one selected line of people chronicled in The Scriptural Record, which descends through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thence through the whole history of the nation of Israel, and therein to provide, in the person of Jesus Christ, the focal point of His mighty purpose. This series has brought us from the call of Abram in Genesis 12, and the formation of a national entity through which it has pleased Almighty God to work in accomplishing that task, down to Deuteronomy 7, and the prospect of The Promised Land upon the borders of which Israel now stood.

Today we are going to be reading from a passage found in Deuteronomy 7, and, as is our custom, we shall be inserting comments which we trust will serve to illuminate the verses as we come to them. However, first, we should perhaps review what was said when ending the last Study, concerning the last two verses of chapter 6. Those verses, 24 and 25, of chapter 6, state:

24. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
25. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.

Concerned that the words "it shall be our righteousness", Keil and Delitzsch had explained that these words do not actually conflict with the gospel of the righteousness of faith, as the command to love God with all the heart "... is altogether impossible without living faith." This may be better than a note contained in The Companion Bible, which comments on the same matter. The note in The Companion Bible says of those words, "our righteousness", "This is superseded by Rom. 4, 5, Gal. 3:12. That true then: this true now. No discrepancy if the Dispensations are rightly divided according to 2 Tim. 2. 15." Listeners may choose which comment seems to accord most suitably with their own religious tradition.

We now approach a study of Deuteronomy 7, starting with verses 1 to 5, and in the first verse, we will find a list of Israel's opponents in Canaan, of which we will find some notes to follow.

1. When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;

Of verse 1, The Companion Bible supplies two commentary notes. On the words "the LORD thy God: it explains "Jehovah thy Elohim." "Yahweh", ("Jehovah") is that name under which God generally treats in His covenant relationship with Israel, to whom He bears the relationship of husband to wife in an ongoing succession of their generations. God's name in connection to the whole of Creation can be of a more general application, and thus is often stated as "El." Appendix 4 in that reference supplies information on "The Divine Names and Titles" in this regard.

Of those many named "nations" which Israel is to "cast out" of the Promised Land, that reference notes: "Ten altogether are mentioned by name, here seven only. Other lists name six. Girgashites generally omitted. In the days of Ezra (9. 1) five were still in the land. In the Tel-el-Amarna Tablets eight are named."

We receive some indications of their identities if we turn to the BibleWorks Hermeneutika for such information. Hittites were "descendants of Heth, the second son of Canaan; once inhabitants of central Anatolia (modern Turkey), later in north Lebanon." Girgasite means "dweller on a clayey soil" who were "descendants of Canaan and one of the nations living east of the sea of Galilee when the Israelites entered the promised land." Amorite means "a sayer." These were "one of the peoples of east Canaan and beyond the Jordan, dispossessed by the Israelite incursion from Egypt." Canaanite refers to a descendant of the land of Canaan, and the name Cana to "zealous." This name indicates "a merchant, trader." Perizzite means "belonging to a village" and they were "a people who inhabited southern Cannan prior to the conquest. Hivite means "villagers." These were the "6th generation of descendants of Canaan the son of Ham, who were living in northern Canaan near Mount Hermon at the time of the conquest." Jebusite, meaning "descendants of Jebus" were thus "descendants of the 3rd son of Canaan who lived in or around the site of Jebus, the early name for Jerusalem." Continuing at verse 2:

2. And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
3. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
4. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
5. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.

Moving to those verses 2-5, The Companion Bible notes "destroy them = devote them to destruction. Heb. haram." But that reference also points us to its note on verse 16 where that reference states of the command "shall consume" that "this command never fully obeyed", and to substantiate that statement it points us onward to Ezra 9:1, in which Ezra says "Now when these things were done, the princes came to me saying, The People of Israel and the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites."

We ought to note that if Israel does not obey God in these things, God, at verse 4, states that they themselves will be subject to "destruction", which means "extermination" or "devastation". Now let us read on to verse 11, then examine the words of Keil and Delitzsch on that passage.

6. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
7. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
8. But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
10. And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
11. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.

Keil and Delitzsch introduce their thoughts on these eleven verses using these words: "As the Israelites were warned against idolatry in chap. vi. 14, so here are they exhorted to beware of the false tolerance of sparing the Canaanites and enduring their idolatry. - Vers. 1 5. When the Lord drove out the tribes of Canaan before the Israelites, and gave them up to them and smote them, they were to put them under the ban ..., to make no treaty with them, and to contract no marriages with them." The words "cast out", in the phrase "hath cast out many nations before thee" is Heb. "nashal", "to draw off", and they address this with the explanation "to draw out, to cast away, e.g. the sandals ...: here and ver. 22 it signifies to draw out, or drive out a nation from its country and possessions."

Reviewing those seven Canaanitish tribes presently in the land at the time, they continue "The prohibition against making a covenant, as in Ex. xxxii. 32 and xxxiv. 12, and that against marrying, as in Ex. xxxiv. 16, where the danger of the Israelites being drawn away to idolatry is mentioned as a still further reason for these commands." Having in view the words of verse 4, "For they will turn away thy son from following me", they explain that the Hebrew means "from behind me" i.e. "tempt him away from following me." The words also apply to Moses, who "is speaking in the name of Jehovah."

The Israelites were bound to destroy the altars and idols of the Canaanites "by virtue of their election as a holy nation, the nation of possession, which Jehovah had singled out from all other nations, and brought out of the bondage of Egypt, not because of its greatness, but from love to them, and for the sake of the oath given to the fathers. This exalted honour Israel was not to cast away by apostasy from the Lord. It was founded upon the word of the Lord in Ex. xix. 5, 6, which Moses brought to the recollection of the people, and expressly and emphatically developed."

concerning the words "for yea are the littlness of all nations" (the least numerous). Keil and Delitzsch continue "Moses could say this to Israel with reference to its descent from Abraham, whom God chose as the one man out of all the world, whilst nations, states, and kingdoms had already been formed all around... ."

We shall continue with our meditations on this passage in a forthcoming Study.

8 April, 2001

PALM SUNDAY THEME REVIEW #1

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 The Exodus under the leadership of Moses. At Mount Sinai, they had become a national wife to The Almighty God, and received sundry laws and regulations.

In view of the celebration of Palm Sunday at this time in the calendar, I want to take a partial digression within that general topic, in order to accord our thoughts with that appropriate specific theme on this occasion. I shall recall passages from the broadcasts given on 23 March, 1997, and repeated last year, for today's address, because it has much which is worth repeating.

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 heedless of the point that the oppressor was, in fact, God's scourge upon them, 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 possible 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 a 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 His 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.

15 April, 2000

PALM SUNDAY THEME REVIEW #2

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 received their National Law Code, becoming thus the nucleus of the Kingdom of God yet to develop upon the earth, together with sundry regulations and Ordinances. As we are now in the season of Passover and Easter, and as a partial digression from a subsidiary topic of recent days, I have chosen to digress 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 it will not, perhaps, form the usual pattern of treatment for such a sermon. Last week we reviewed the Biblical passages which relate to the Palm Sunday observances and the cleansing of the Temple by Christ, a recapitulation in part, of the Study given on 23 March, 1997, and repeated last year, 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 our listeners passages from the talk delivered on 30 March, 1997, and also last year, beginning with 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 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, to which the true meaning of that passage is quite startlingly at variance. I herewith offer an alternative interpretation of the true meaning of this passage, related to Scriptural cross-references; one 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!

After I had presented the theme in 1997, I later discovered the same approach in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, for Foxe states that before his fiery martyrdom St. Lawrence faced an avaricious tyrant bent on acquiring church treasure. Indicating the poor Christians, St. Lawrence said "These are the precious treasure of the church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath his mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have than those in whom he hath promised to dwell?"

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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