BIBLE STUDY SERIES #539, 540 and 541

24 March, 2002

DEUTERONOMY 34: 1-12 - DEPARTURE

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, down to today's study which is comprised of the last chapter of Deuteronomy, namely, Deuteronomy 34. You might wish to have your Bibles open to that 34th Chapter of Deuteronomy, and follow as we read today's Bible Study Scripture, the better to understand the comments based thereon.

In the Plains of Moab, east of The Jordan River, Moses, has addressed the assembled Tribes of Israel gathered there, prior to their entry into The Promised Land. He has delivered to them an ode designed to reinforce an understanding of their situation before The LORD. The Almighty, had brought them out of Egyptian Bondage by great signs and wonders, and had led the nation to the foot of Mount Sinai, there to make the proposal of national marriage to Himself. In consequence of the national acceptance of this offer, The Law of The LORD had been delivered to Israel by the hands of Moses in the contract of marriage which followed, between the nation and Yahweh, their God. The LORD had guided them towards The Promised Land, but upon their fear-filled refusal to attempt to enter it on that first occasion, this sinful lack of faith on the part of that former generation had resulted in that generation being consigned to live out the remainder of their lifespan until claimed by death, in the Wilderness of Sinai. Yahweh, their God, veiled in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, had led the nation of Israel therein, to fill out the national sentence of forty years of trial and testing. Now, with Moses' final oration, recorded in Deuteronomy, followed by the ode to be taught to the people as a witness against them, the nation was to understand and remember that God would grant them and their descendants national blessings for reverence and obedience to Him, but would rain curses upon them for their rebellious disregard of Him and His Laws. The Ode which Moses had written would witness against them and their children in the years to come. Prophetic blessings have been assigned to each tribe, and now, in this, the last chapter of Deuteronomy, will be recorded a concluding account covering the transfer of authority from Moses to their new leader, Joshua, who will provide the inspired leadership needed in the campaigns ahead. Recorded herein will be included the manner in which Moses was called to his hour of death, but before which he would be permitted a final, mountain-top foreview of the Land of Promise, to which he had been the human instrument used by The Almighty to lead the children of Israel for so many years. Let us read the Scripture portion from Deuteronomy 34:

1. And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,
2. And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,
3. And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
4. And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
5. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
6. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.
7. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
8. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
9. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.
10. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
11. In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land,
12. And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.

The Companion Bible notes, when introducing this chapter: "This chapter is editorial and historical. Always part of the Pentateuch. Probably by Joshua, Samuel, or School of the Prophets." Verse 4 names all three Patriarchs. In 6, Moses was buried by Jehovah. In 7, Moses died at 120 years, the youngest of any of his kindred., e.g. Levi was 137, Kohath 133, Amram 137, Aaron 123, Miriam 126 or more In verse 8, thirty days of mourning lasted from the thirtieth day of the eleventh month (Sebat) till the twenty-ninth (and last) day of the twelfth month (Adar). ... Thus the forty years were completed.

The New Bible Commentary draws attention to the words in verse 1 "Moses went up", saying "The writer records Moses' last act of obedience, as he ascends to the appointed place. All but two of his own generation had passed away, and his mission was accomplished. Before he dies, his prayer to see the land is granted. He next appears, in the sacred history, on another mount, again speaking 'face to face' with his Lord (Mk. ix. 4). Pisgah (1). Lit. 'the pisgah'. The word (lit. 'broken') denotes any jagged ridge, and would describe the mountain's highest peak, Jebal Osha ... All the land (2). The view seen from Jebal Osha on a clear day agrees exactly with this description in every particular, from snowcapped Hermon, Galilee, the mount of Olives, Bethlehem, to the Dead Sea and beyond. ... Thirty days (8). Moses had appointed thirty days' mourning for Aaron (Nu. xx. 29)."

Keil and Delitzsch note that the eyes of the Israelites probably followed the figure of Moses as he ascended the mountain, and that they "could also see that when the Lord had shown him the promised land, He went down with him into the neighbouring valley, where Moses was taken for ever out of their sight." The assumption is that the valley where Moses was buried was one near the peak of the mountain. They devote some final summary pages to a defence of the integrity of the Mosaic record of the Pentateuch.

There is much that could be said, in terminating our studies in the five Books of Moses, and we shall have to be selective for our time is passing swiftly. This broadcast is set to be played on or near Palm Sunday, so it might be a fitting point at which to contemplate the words of Moses in some verses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 which he had addressed to Israel:

15. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
16. According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
17. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

In Acts 3:18-26, we read the words of testimony by St. Peter, following the healing of the lame man at the gate of the temple:

18. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21. Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
22. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
25. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

We shall continue our studies next week.

31 March, 2002

TESTING TIMES - PART I: QUESTIONS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting a series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now, starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point. We have followed the Biblical theme through to our last week's Study, which concluded the series at the end of Deuteronomy 34.

We have thus followed the history of one line of Biblical Patriarchs, from Abram who was called to leave his home and kindred in Ur of the Chaldees, for a new land, and to become there the means through which God would prepare a blessing for all of mankind. We progressed to Isaac, then to his son, Jacob (re-named Israel), and to the tribes descended from each of his sons, called The Tribes of Israel. We saw how God used Jacob's favourite son, Joseph, as a servant in Egypt, in order to prepare the way for the members of his family to enter that lush land of the Nile. We watched as they were settled in Goshen, and to enjoy the benefits which Joseph, as the Prime Minister of Egypt under Pharaoh could bestow upon his relatives, even though the brothers had been responsible for so cruelly selling him to bondage there.

We saw, further, how there arose in Egypt a Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph", and how the children of Israel, formerly favoured, were forced into fierce bondage under Egyptian taskmasters. We followed the course of their history as recounted in the Books of Moses, through the mighty signs and wonders whereby The Almighty God forced Egypt to let Israel go free from that land. We studied how they met with Yahweh, their God at Mount Sinai, and agreed nationally to become a nation married to God. Failure caused a whole generation to wander until death claimed its members in the Wilderness of Sinai, and another generation took its place in the ranks of historic descent, capable of entering The Promised Land of Canaan. Within this sequence the mighty purposes of God have unfolded, even down to our own times, and in the central focus of that mighty plan is the Person and Work of The Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, and on some following Studies, I wish to initiate some thoughts relating to the theme of God's planned times of trial or testing for humanity down through history. This is not a new or sudden experience relating only to our own day. Indeed it is important to realise that we are but joining a long concourse of the cavalcade of unfolding history, wherein we may suggest that every single member of the races of mankind has at some point been "tested", in some manner and to some extent, both individually and collectively.

James Russell Lowell, in The Present Crisis [1844] Stanza 5, wrote his poetic view in these words: "Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side."

"Once", or perhaps many times? We might assume the meaning to be "at least once" for each man and for each nation. Indeed, this can be stated as a continuous operation.

Theologians and humanist philosophers alike have attempted to come to terms with some ancient questions, and I trust that Scriptural insights, which I will suggest, can aid our resolution of such questions.

Major stumbling blocks have arisen in the thinking of many people over the matter of the existence of Sin and Pain in our world, and of the presence of Evil in, and among, its inhabitants, all down the millennia since Adam and Eve first tasted the forbidden fruit.

They have asked "How can a righteous God permit Sin to exist; a God Who must, by definition, have the power to eradicate it?" This is often spoken in the context of a supposition that there is, active in the world, a contest between two theological personalities of somewhat equal power, representing "good" and "evil", but this loses sight of the complete picture.

True, Peter wrote of Satan in descriptive terms as a lion roaming the earth, seeking whom he may devour, in I Peter 5:8, where we read: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour". Also, Christ spoke of him as "the prince of this world" in John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11, and Paul, in Ephesians 2:2 talks of the "prince of the power of the air", but this is only a temporary assignment by default in Scriptural exposition. Nevertheless, Adam and Eve were dispossessed from such status as rulers through the temptation offered by Satan, the consummate "con-artist".

People have asked "Why does God, if He is, indeed, "Almighty", allow such terrible things to happen as we have seen, even over the course of our own lifetime? And here, they may at once relate, as just one example, their horror in observing the fall of those twin towers as they burned. Indeed, even more puzzling to many, is the Scripture in Isaiah 4, which tells us that God has spoken a proclamation through that Prophet which includes the words "I create evil"? Can it be conceivable that an holy God, who is Creator of all things, could actually have contrived a plan which would cause evil, and wickedness to plague mankind? Yet that is plainly what the Prophet is telling us! If Scripture is truthfully reporting the circumstances of our existence, then The Almighty God did create, and is ultimately responsible for, Sin, and wickedness. By what devious mental gymnastics can He have done such a thing? Why would it have been necessary? What possible conceivable good might He have planned in doing it? Perhaps we have missed a vital long-term aspect in our deliberations. There is a reason, and a very necessary one it is too, but I shall have to present some preliminary logical foundations to accord the culminating explanation its true value.

We keep in view the words of John 1:1-3:

1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2. The same was in the beginning with God.
3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

And we also read the words of Paul in Colossians 1:12-19, noting particularly verses 16-19 as we read it:

12. Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

And here are verses 16 to 19:

16. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

Then considering that revelation, the puzzle deepens further, for these passages assure us that Jesus Christ is the one "without whom nothing was made that was made", and "by whom all things consist." They thus tie Jesus to the same proclamation of intent. Let us read that passage in Is. 45:5-7, which speaks of God creating evil, to find the words in their context.

5. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
6. That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
8. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.
9. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
10. Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
11. Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.

So God, not only proclaims that He is the Creator and the only God, but that the potsherd or the clay (God's creation) cannot question the motives of God Who made it! We can understand that this is because the clay does not have the knowledge of the whole of God's Plan. Satan, himself is but a creation of The LORD. Hence, some have argued that God cannot be perfect, for he did not foresee the corruption that would ensue, within His creation, or He does not care, being a distant observer to what has unfolded. Alternatively, He cannot control events that were not foreseen, without a fight in which He is a contestant with the Adversary.

In the next two Studies, we shall look at some examples wherein Scripture details times of testing for people of all classes and types to find out more about the Evil which God has created before attempting some answers in Part 4.

7th April, 2002

TESTING TIMES - PART II: EARLIER EXAMPLES

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting a series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now, starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy.

On our last Bible study, we began a short series of studies on the topic "Testing Times", and in Part I, we reviewed some causes of questions which have been mulled over for centuries, and millennia. We saw that The Almighty God, in the passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 45:7, claims that He is the creator of Evil, and we are looking for the answers to some of the questions which such a statement raises. That quotation from Isaiah reads: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." Such a concept forms a puzzle that should receive some form of answer.

Now we might think that we today have certain problems and temptations or tests which find no specific parallels within the pages of holy writ. However, let us compare our experiences with some of the following Biblical times and characters. I would, first, take you back to the story of Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden. We realise that the story contained in the first chapters of Genesis is considered, by some, to be but ancient myth, but the Scriptures are exceedingly clear in affirming support to the reality of the account.

Not only does Adam appear in the Books of Moses, but he is also named significantly in the first verse of I Chronicles, in Job 31:33, and verified in the New Testament genealogy of Our Lord, found in Luke 3:38, while St. Paul affirms his importance in theological approaches in Romans 5:14, I Corinthians 15:22 and 45, and in Titus 2:13-14, and Jude names him in Jude 1:14. We are constrained to accept the reality of our forebears Adam and Eve, and their position at the head of the genealogical lines which descend through Biblical account.

Symbolism is not excluded from the realities of the scene, as the concepts "good and evil" are not physical. Rather, They are products of intent of the thought process. Let us not concentrate on the physical fruit if by so doing we miss the significance of the decision in the minds of the first named couple in our account.

Certainly, it was a great temptation for Adam and Eve to ignore God's words when the Serpent stated that it would open their future to becoming as gods, knowing good and evil, and, moreover, having a rich tasting fruit as the means for its acquisition! If they had no previous experience of what it meant to disobey God, this was at least a test of how greatly they could show that they loved Him and trusted His words. But like the mystified viewers before an adroit magician, they found themselves concentrating their attention on only the immediate part of the total picture, while missing the important aspect altogether.

They were innocent, but were induced to take a "short-cut" to total power of choice while lacking the omniscience of their Creator. In our self-confident independence, do we ever do essentially the same? Do we, perhaps, start to assemble some parts of a kit taken out of the box from the manufacturer, without first consulting the planned sequence on the worksheet? "Lesson number one" usually hits us when we find that we have broken or lost an essential part, and must obtain a replacement from the manufacturer! In terms of humanity, Christ, the "Second Adam" must serve as replacement for the failed "First Adam."

Then let us travel down the concourse of time to some others of the Adamic progeny. We might stop at the lifetime of Noah, in order to observe that this aging head of a family had to withstand what, we must conclude, amounted to great ridicule. Imagine spending all his time for 120 years in witnessing to an unmoved multitude of a mixed multitude of generally Adamic descendants. Doubtless his money was expended, to say nothing of the eventual amount of labour, in constructing an ark of the size described. There must have been temptation indeed, during the 120 years of his witnessing to all that represented Adamic mankind around him, but he sustained the effort, knowing that God could not bring a flood as judgment without first issuing that warning to the wayward. He believed God's word, and, though others must have ignored or derided him, he kept on doing what The Almighty had told him that he must do. In practical terms, he was "politically, religiously and racially quite incorrect" by the standards of that day, but he persisted in spite of opposition and indifference. We, today, can judge our own progress in society using the same criteria. Can we feel strong enough in God's calling that we stay our course without yielding to public disapproval?

Let us travel further down the line, to a man called Abram, and his wife, Sarai. He had no children when, in his advancing age, God called him from the civilization of his past life, with the riches and comforts to be had therein. He must go out to a land that was new and strange to him, there to become a blessing to all the families of the earth. Genesis 12:1-5 states:

1. Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

He believed God at 75. He, at 86, had Ishmael (Genesis 16:16), and, being re-named Abraham at 90 (Genesis 17:1-5), was to live another 10 years before a son, Isaac, was born to him by Sarai, renamed Sarah, when she reached the age of 90 (Genesis 17:15). Thus the passage of the years did not deter Abraham from believing God's promises, although he did question the seeming lack of direction and progress towards the outcome he was expecting. The passing years, as they were counted off, held a vital meaning in their tally, not only for Abraham, but for all subsequent history, and also for ourselves, for they demonstrate the control of God through all the concourse of time and world events. We too may be tempted to turn away from God as the years pass, seemingly unfulfilled in some aspects of life in which we supposed that we had reason to expect God would act more swiftly. Time's passage can cause us to be tested.

Moving down the years of this family, we find that God requires Abraham to sacrifice his and Sarah's only son. Both the old father and the young son must be tested by the preparation to perform this act, but they both met the test, which must have been an awesome one, and found God's release and reward. Abraham had, in faith, told the young men waiting at a distance, that they would return. But what came before that, he would not determine until the angel spoke, and the ram was provided. He did not have our Bible to grant him assurance of the end of the story, which we can read in Genesis 22:

1. And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8. And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
9. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
15. And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
16. And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17. That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Where Abraham offered his seed-line son, so also did The LORD offer His Only Begotten Son nearly two millennia later. We shall continue this Bible Study next week.

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