BIBLE STUDY SERIES #578, 579 and 580

22 December, 2002

FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had brought us, in the last Study, to consider the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 9. While we do plan to continue with the series of those Bible Studies from that point shortly, the season at which today's message is to be broadcast moves us to review and to consider some matters which bear upon the whole topic of the Advents of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Scripture, we have a number of references which appear throughout the Bible, and which, in one aspect or another, draw the attention of the reader to that one common theme of "Advent", to which all lead, and upon which all focus. Indeed, musicians have gathered numbers of those appropriate Scripture passages into beautiful services of one kind or another, in order to review the facts and to celebrate in unison the love expressed therein.

It is common at this time in the year, for example, for vast throngs to enjoy the music contained in The Messiah, or to hear, and perhaps to participate in, a service of nine lessons and carols from some church or religious programme scheduled to be heard at this season on television or radio. There are many variations on the theme. The Bards in earlier history, among the Celts, and British used poetry and music in a somewhat similar unity of purpose, so it is not a new phenomenon among our peoples. Alternatives are presented by Christmas recordings on tapes or CD's, and for those of a certain quite advanced age, perhaps even the old vinyl long-play record of a well-loved event from many years gone by might serve to revive the spirit of the heart within a depleted household familiar with a time less bent to current vogue. Advent is celebrated in many ways, some of which are ardently devotional, while others are quite commercial, and in the quest for monetary gain, they seek no particular religious content at all.

But among those observances which are prepared by the more devout elements of our society, such services are generally for the most part based upon those Scripture passages which focus upon the relationship of Our LORD to His people.

There are those which follow the theme of God's preparations for a Doorway to Salvation, which the Fall of Adam and Eve necessitated, and which eventuate in a happy and glorious outcome when Christ makes His people glad at His appearing at the time of The Second Advent.

At His First Advent, as some have pointed out, "He came to die." Along the pathway which He must traverse at that time, there was laid the dread Sacrificial interposition of Himself in the affairs of His people, to effect a legal doorway by which the sinner might be drawn once again into the presence and fellowship with The Father which the Edenic fall of Adam and Eve had precipitated.

I think that many who approach the season do so out of a sense of weariness as they contemplate the obligations entailed, and the "extras" which they might willingly avoid if they could do so with a clear conscience. Such people move through the ritual with a sense of some exhaustion at the customary details which observance requires, and, balancing this, with the social pleasures of the occasion. Others, with true devotion sense the spirit of the remembrances cultivated, and indeed such people do draw nearer to their Lord on the days marking this occasion.

How will you be observing the season? What motivates you as you prepare for the day? Does the season mean anything at all to yourself, in your personal and private life? Does the fact that it marks the coming of The Lord Jesus Christ make a difference in your daily round as the time approaches?

Perhaps we might note a point, which even religious Christmas cards do not usually define, let along the more pagan representations of salutations. The time of the actual birth of Our LORD must have occurred in the fall of the year, at about the time of the Feast of Trumpets, for shepherds would probably not be keeping their sheep out in the open fields in the middle of winter. However this fact need not turn us away from an observance of the theme, for a nine-month period of gestation to that date of birth must have been initiated within the span of calendar days which we mark by the customary Christmas. Thus, Christmas-time, as we mark it, would more probably be the date of the Annunciation by the angel to Mary of the glorious and wondrous event which our calendars note for special observance.

There is something which I believe most who mark the occasion may not have paused to consider. It might be called a theological basic, which underlies the whole matter. What some might not see in the occasion is the appearance among the sons of men of a personage manifesting the fullness of the Godhead bodily, for a purpose greater than the simplicity which is portrayed on most religious Christmas Cards.

Why was Christ pictured in Revelation 13:8 as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"? What part did the Old Testament ordinances of ritual sacrifices of countless clean animals have in preparing His people to see what would come with that First Advent? And why did the Old Testament prophets place, sometimes together in the same passages, references to sacrifice and kingship? One clue might be seen in the Name which Jesus Christ spoke concerning Himself in the Revelation passages to John "in the isle that is called Patmos", (Revelation 1:8, 11, 21:6, 22:13). He used a most unusual name stating "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." This, of course, has meanings on a number of levels, but one which I have explained before draws into our view those two Greek letters, and when we note the origin of each we may be surprised to see the two Advents of Our Lord, for the Alpha was a relative of the Hebrew Aleph, and that was derived from the drawing of the head of an Ox or head of an heifer or other cattle-beast. Such a beast was the sacrificial choice on occasion when sin was to be covered. This speaks to the observant as a signature theme of Christ's First Advent. The second Greek letter, "Omega" or "great O" was developed from "Omicron" or "little O." But it came via the Hebrew Ayin and relates to the Hieroglyphic for the Eye, which is the symbol for seeing, and also for observance and judgment. Thus Christ, at His Second Advent will Judge His people.

The name, "Alpha and Omega" can thus be taken as defining the two works of Jesus Christ at His two Advents. They had to occur at separate times within the history of the people, for otherwise there would be the death of the king bound up in the same appearance with His glorious appearing. Thus Resurrection was required after the death, so as to permit the risen and glorified being of Our Lord to approach us in the Second Advent as King.

Moreover, again, we must ask, Why "slain from the foundation of the world?" This moves us into deep theological regions, for it means that even as the first flash of Creative activity began, there must have been a plan which involved God's Law, His Judgment, and His payment of the penalty for Sin. We have, in past Bible Studies, looked into this, but perhaps we can briefly summarize the chain of thought.

God, The Creator, loves His Creation. That Creation would bring forth intelligent beings with independent ability to make choices for themselves and every choice bears within it the expression of a love and a hate attitude, like two sides of one coin. As Christ explained, the thrust of all desirable choice is to Love God, and Love one's neighbour as oneself. This freedom to make choices is the fundamental requirement without which no Love can exist, and it must be preserved no matter what damage such a prerogative may cause. The desired end is that, using those choices with wisdom, all such beings will reciprocate God's love and reflect it among themselves. Immature understanding of the potent ability to make unwise use of the possible choices allowed, however, forced a merciful Creator God to outline by Law the wisdom which would guide all choice to adopt a safe direction. The Guide was in the form of Law, with the authority of God behind it. Thus, to resist the Law also required imposition of penalty, and rebellion to God must be punished by death of the rebel. Only one way was possible for those who, with immature choice, staggered into sin which is the transgression of that Law. Death was the penalty, but a door of escape must be found. It is in the legal union of repentant beings with a perfect sinless sacrifice. The penalty is met, and the united body of Christ risen from the death He suffered can then be regarded as sinless in terms of that requirement. A lamb of sacrifice must be a part of the whole Plan of God from the very beginning of Creation, and thus we find Him so described in that verse of Revelation 13:8, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Let blessings circulate as the Truth is welcomed to our hearts and lives. May your Christmas season be enjoyed with that appreciation which the gift of Christ merits. The gift was real. The reward is real when that gift is taken and appreciated.

29 December, 2002

MOVING TO 2003

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had brought us, two Studies back, to consider the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 9. While we do plan to continue with the series of those Bible Studies from that point shortly, the season at which today's message is to be broadcast moves us to review and to consider some matters which bear upon the topic of a perspective on our present times in the context of another year.

In Scripture, we have a number of references which appear throughout the Bible, and which, in one aspect or another, draw the attention of the reader to the theme of the passage of time as the Great Plan of God unfolds. Particularly when our years turn from one calendar to another containing a higher designation, we are constrained, perhaps more so than at other times, to review what has transpired during the last year, and to consider what the "New Year" might hold in store for ourselves, for our family, and for the nations of the world in general, when we consider matters in a wider scope.

Times and seasons are mentioned in Genesis 1:14, where we find these words: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years." This shows that when God, the Designer and Creator of all the Universe, made its constituents of every nature and in all their variety, He held in view, as He planned and set the whole of space in motion, that the display must be viewed and observed to be meaningful from one tiny speck which we call The Earth, upon which He would set the descendants of Adam. This is so because these celestial bodies appear to us to form the meaningful pattern of cyclic lights and corresponding prophetic events of our history, which would not be thus apparent if seen from any other point of view found elsewhere in the entirety of His Creation.

Daniel 2:19-23 says, in relating events concerning Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which Nebuchadnezzar could not recall, but of which he demanded the interpretation on pain of death, of the wise men of Babylon:

19. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21. And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
22. He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
23. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.

That king's prophetic dream was of the now famous image of gold, silver, bronze and iron which was smashed on its iron and clay feet by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which then, in turn, became a world-filling kingdom. That stone cut out without hands would have to be the kingdom based upon the Ten Commandments.

Keep before us as we read that passage, that Jesus Christ made reference to the prophecies of this same Prophet Daniel in Matthew 24:15 and a parallel reading in Mark 13:14. In order to give the context of the Matthew 24 reference, I should read some of the surrounding verses. Indeed, in light of world events which daily are impressed upon us in the news at this time, perhaps it might not be outside the scope of our present topic if I were to read the whole chapter from verse 3 to 39. There is much to contemplate herein, as we look around ourselves at what is happening at this time. The passage conveys a quotation of the words of Jesus Christ as He developed a prophetic picture of the times and events which would immediately precede His reappearance in His Second Advent. It says:

3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olive, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
4. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
15. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
16. Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
17. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
18. Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
19. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20. But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
21. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
24. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
25. Behold, I have told you before.
26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
36. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only.
37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

We can see that Jesus wished to convey to those living just prior to the Second Advent certain definite signpost prophetic marks, in order to forewarn those who would be vigilant of what they ought to expect as the count-down continues to that culminating event of our own days. Other passages reinforce the theme. After His Resurrection, Acts 1:6-8 says "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Indeed, for the first disciples, in their day, it might have been just a little disheartening to be informed that at least two thousand years would pass prior to the day when they would again see Him! The Holy Spirit could enlighten later Christians to some extent as to what they might expect in the way of signs to mark His return.

I Thessalonians 5:1-2 says "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

That might well be a mark for our own time. Those described as saying that they have "peace and safety" are the same who are designated as finding themselves in a condition describes as "destruction", and I find it interesting that one of the meanings given for the word can describe the money some have saved up! Certainly, it is not a picture which one would wish upon oneself or anyone else, but it is indicated as the description of those who proclaim that they have arrived at a condition which they call "peace and safety"! Perhaps this will serve our purpose for the present as we pass to a new year, and herein we might meditate upon what lies in store for ourselves as the days come forth out of the future, and engulf us in their "present days", one by one as time counts down to that Great Day of Christ's Appearing. May you have with suitable preparation, true peace as you move with others of our company, into that New Year which is to unfold before us day by day during the year ahead. We shall return to our Bible Study sequence in the weeks ahead.

January 5, 2003

Joshua 9 - COMPOUNDING OBLIGATIONS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had been left for the last two weeks in order to devote some attention to matters more particularly relating to the time of Advent and of the New Year. Today, we pick up our sequence of Studies, which had covered the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 9.

For new listeners, we should note that we had previously examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, and circled Jericho until the walls fell and the taking of the city was complete. They had not noticed that one of their number, Achan, had secreted booty in his tent which had belonged within the Treasury of the LORD or, in the case of the Babylonish garment which he took, ought to have been burnt, and with that sin in their camp, God had allowed the forces of Ai to overcome them. Achan was revealed by God's procedure and they had dealt with that sin. Thereafter, Ai was taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward. Joshua had led Israel to the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal where the Israelites carrying out certain of the orders of The LORD, which were delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses back in Deuteronomy 11:16-32 and Deuteronomy 27:2-3. We had then moved on to Joshua 9 which had begun with the words:

1. And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;
2. That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4. They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5. And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7. And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

Thus, at Israel's recent victorious moves, the Canaanites living next in line of advance had, under false pretenses, created the situation in which Israel was then brought into a league with them, through a mistake in judgment which unfolded certain consequential obligations. Had Joshua and the leaders of Israel checked first with their LORD, they might have discovered the trickery involved. However, the covenant, sealed by eating of a meal together, demanded compliance even if the terms were not to their liking, as they later discovered further along in Joshua 9.

The law in Numbers 30:2 had stated: "If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." In consequence, while Israel might not smite them for their trickery, Verse 27 had noted the result. "And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose."

Now this, although it was intended as a general punishment upon those Gibeonites, with the assignation of a demeaned status by way of obligation for their falsehoods, was later used by The LORD as a blessing. Joshua 10, which forms the Scripture text for today's study, will unfold a part of the consequences of that contract made with the Gibeonites.

Joshua 10 states:

1. Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them;
2. That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.

At the name "Jerusalem", The Companion Bible notes it is the first occurrence of the word, and that the word "= vision of peace." But it goes on to point out that at this first mention of the name is connected with war, and the next, in Judges 1:8, is connected with siege and fire.

At this point, before moving forward, I feel it will be advantageous to read the first portion of the comments found under the heading "Conquest of the southern confederacy" in The New Bible Commentary. That reference states: "The news of the treaty between Israel and the Gibeonites was the signal for war. Five kings of the Amorites resolved not only to punish their former allies for their treachery, but to crush Joshua at a point where defeat would be fatal to his plans. The confederacy was led by Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem (cf. Melchi-zedek in Gn. xiv. 18), which had for long been a city of great influence; the other members were the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. Their united forces laid siege to Gibeon, whose inhabitants urgently appealed for help. Joshua, encouraged by a reminder of his original commission (8; cf. i. 5), made a forced march by night from Gilgal, and fell upon the allied force at Gibeon."

Here, the Commentary mentions of the words in verse 10, "The Lord discomforted" "i.e. sent a panic among them, and they broke and fled, past Upper and Lower Beth-horon, which were linked by a pass, called at its upper end 'the ascent of Beth-horon' (10, RV), and at its lower end 'the going down (or descent) of Beth-horon' (11. RV), and leading down from the heights of Gibeon to the western plain, towards Makkedah and Azekah. But they were not destined to escape, for the Lord intervened once again to help His people, and a great storm of hailstones killed multitudes of them and completed the rout." Let us now pick up the actual Scripture passage thus described from verse 3, as follows:

3. Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying,
4. Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.

We should remember that the fall of Jericho, Ai, and the submission of the Gibeonites had left vulnerable the whole central part of Canaan to Israelite advance. These kings to the south were intending to "close the gate", so to speak, on Israel's advance, for Israel would be cutting the land in half if they continued on their present path.

5. Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.
6. And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.
7. So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.
8. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.
9. Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.
10. And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.

We can see that Joshua is not a military leader who fears to move through the dark hours of the night to achieve his tactical advantage. The whole force had apparently retired from Gibeon to Gilgal, leaving the people of those four cities to their peaceful pursuits, but when Joshua received news of the attack being brought against their new acquisition, the military requirement, seen independently from the acknowledgment of their contractual agreement with those Gibeonites, would have made such a sudden push through the night militarily necessary, and indeed advantageous to themselves. Surprising those who were mounting the defence of Canaan in this way would "slam the doorway wide open" so to speak, and it was designed by God's leadership, for He had, as we see, embolden Israel to come against their opposition without fear. Perhaps we ought to leave the study at this point and pick up our account next time.

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