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Bible Interpretation IV

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Question #1:

Dear Professor,

I appreciate your prayer and swift response regarding the issue I wrote about. At the college where I teach sexuality is rationalized and indirectly promoted to teen students and values are driven by political correctness - and I go there to work and earn the money to pay my bills. Also, apart from the autonomy I will be given (which may not always be full, but will certainly involve not having to promote any values I don't want to promote), there is one significant advantage of this offer - it is given to me be someone who gave me an opportunity to work the way I want and saw the results of it - at many clubs the staff are not receptive and not willing to listen. It is certainly a big positive being able to talk and cooperate with people who want to listen. The content of my training programme is quite innovative and has been often rejected outright by many people working in football, but their trust resulted in good results achieved.

One conclusion that can be drawn from this situation, and one that makes me sad, is that compromise is inevitable in this world, particularly when one like myself needs to follow, at least for some time, the path chosen back in the days of lack of understanding of God's Word. No option is now perfect. I wouldn't choose now the career I have chosen a few years ago and one of my biggest desires is to be able at some point in my life to devote all my time to Bible study and ministry. We have to put up with this world, but through all these things I long even more for being with our Lord, which I hope and pray will become reality.

Another recent issue relates to Easter, during which family and friends paid me a visit. I had no, or very limited time to devote to my spiritual growth, I spent time with people who are not really interested in growing spiritually themselves and the meaning of Matthew 12:46-50 became as clear as a crystal. Back in the day these words by our Lord struck me as harsh, but now I see that this is the truth and one I can recognize in my life. The importance of our correspondence and relationship, albeit not face to face, has outgrown and 'outvalued' the relationships with my family and people I have known for a long time, as these relationships are not founded on the truth. At the end I felt a relief that I can come back to my work and do what is necessary to learn and apply the truth of God's word. If at least my relatives showed receptiveness to the truth, maybe things would be different, but as it is, I feel a strong need to reduce the time spent on such endeavours to a minimum, as from the perspective of faith often nothing is gained and I felt like looking back (Luke 9:62).

As to the questions:

I want to arrange my life in its every aspect so that I can serve the Lord better. Last months brought some changes and your ministry, continuous support and replies have made the difference. Although, there is, as always will be, much to be done - I am spiritually a toddler and very far from being what God wants me to. An important part of the journey, which in my case needs focus is prayer and I wanted to ask about it.

I read your installments on prayer and, as always, they have been very helpful and gave me some direction. As to some specific aspects of prayer that I would like to hear your guidance on:

a) Regarding the wording of the prayer, I certainly struggle sometimes - I've been repeating the Lord's prayer often and there are many 'relicts' of my catholic past in my prayer life. What recommendations would you give? Do you word the prayer yourself, is it best to use some prayers from the Bible (i.e., Psalms), have you got some daily 'routines', or is it better not to have any? I certainly feel my prayers need revival in order to harmonize with other spiritual commitments - for example reading your resources, although it takes time and focus, is the best thing for me to do (definitely at this phase of my spiritual growth, when I'm not ready for a ministry myself) - and it's a commitment that brings 'tangible' spiritual fruit. I find it a little bit more difficult with prayer at times and think what I should and shouldn't say and how I should say that.

b) When praying for other people (or, in fact, with any other intention), would you repeat the requests daily, or maybe even more frequently, or less frequently? I don't want my prayer to be 'babbling' on one hand, on the other hand I don't want to be lazy and think that if God knows my intentions then I don't need to take time and express them. I'm aware that there might not be a clear cut answer to this question, but any direction would be very helpful.

c) Somewhat linked to the two above is the question regarding continuous prayer. I would like to have the Lord on my mind at all times. As you know, it's not easy - the world with its vanity and empty concerns, all the emotions and other issues constantly creep in, bother and entangle. Nevertheless, God is listening to the prayers (and I'm forever grateful for you keeping me in my prayers) and just as some time ago and I would be easily distracted, it's not that much the case any longer. There is certainly room for improvement there, and a lot of it, and I would like to ask you about any recommendations regarding praying in our thoughts - when we cannot pray in private and are surrounded by other people. I know that different things will work for different people, but any guidance here would help, particularly with regard to the 'how'. Do you just 'let it happen', do you follow any routine, are there any things contemplating which you benefit from?

Response #1:

Dear Friend,

I am very pleased to hear that things seem to be working themselves out for you on the job/business issue. As we both agree, there is no possibility of absolute separation from the secular in this corrupt world without "going out of the world" (1Cor.5:9-10). But if the Lord opens a path for us through the sea, we will rejoice and be glad in it. I went through a similar "crisis of conscience" after my first year of seminary when it became crystal clear to me that I could not accept the compromises which came with a traditional ministry in a traditional denomination. That led to much angst about how I would earn my bread. Blessedly, the Lord opened up a way for me in secular teaching and research, and it has been closer to perfect for my particular purposes than I had even imagined it could be back when I committed to this course many years ago. Of course, nothing is absolutely "perfect" in this imperfect world, and there have been and continue to be struggles. But the Lord has always been faithful in providing "a way out" so as to be able to "stand up under" the testing (1Cor.10:13). It is good and proper that we continue to keep each other in prayer on this matter through trial and deliverance. Life in the world continues to be life in the world even for those as dedicated to Jesus Christ as yourself. Continuing to fight the good fight day by day and exploit the opportunities He gives you day by day is what it is all about. We cannot run a perfect race, but we can run a good one, and we can endeavor to do better day by day.

a) I do have a personal routine. I think it is very important to have a systematic approach to something as important as prayer, and my "list" has certainly grown over the years. Finding a set time to pray through all of one's concerns is sometimes a challenge. Jesus felt it important enough to miss sleep entirely in order to stay true to His prayer responsibilities (e.g., Lk.6:12; cf. Matt.14:23), and Paul anticipates this as a significant enough issue to mention as well (1Cor.7:5). The Lord's prayer is packed with meaning which is not necessarily obvious to everyone, focusing us on eternity, then focusing us on time with petitions for today (provision), yesterday (our forgiveness), and tomorrow (our deliverance) sharpening our one day at a time approach. And besides our "everyday prayers" we will certainly want to make maximum use of this fantastic "weapon" at various and sundry times as we walk through the world. In doing so we strengthen our relationship with the Lord and improve our God-centered perspective over the otherwise all too natural world-centered perspective. The wording, in my view, is not that important; the content and motivation and general attitude of heart we have in prayer is of far more importance than the precise words or formulae of which we may make use.

b) We are specifically encouraged to keep at prayer (Lk.18:1-8; 1Thes.5:17; cf. Matt.26:41; Eph.6:18; 2Thes.1:11), so as long as what we are praying for is legitimate, keeping at it is not only something we can do but something we should do.

c) Being mentally occupied with the Lord and "thinking of the things above" is, as I often say, in many respects the "high ground" of spiritual maturity. I don't think it is necessary to be praying 100% of the time, but we still certainly can keep the Lord in mind most of the time (potentially -- this is an area where, life and the human mind being what they are, achieving consistency is difficult). Prayer requires concentration and a certain amount of privacy – it can't really be done when we are doing something else that requires concentrated thinking or speaking. But we can have the Lord and all things heavenly in mind much more of the time than is usually the case.

Question #2:

Could you please explain:

Isaiah 53:2: He had no [particular] handsomeness that we should take note of Him, no [obvious] charisma that we should be taken with Him.

In some terms, our Lord could be perceived as 'charismatic' - He performed miracles, taught better than anyone every did or ever could and is the ultimate inspiration.

As to 'handsomeness' I don't know if Isaiah here relates to our Lord's physicality or the fact that he was not a rich man. When it comes to physicality, one thing that I gather from the gospels is that Jesus' body must have been 'endure' enough to put up with all the trials, travelling and hardship.

Let me know your take on these things.

Response #2:

I take this verse to mean that our Lord very deliberately in God's plan was not of imposing stature or exceptional comeliness. He seemed entirely ordinary to the naked eye in order that the truth of His words might be the issue and not His personality or appearance. In keeping with this, in all of His teaching there are none of the devices human beings normally use to gain a hearing, no rhetoric, no jokes, no "fun" or "funny" stories. In other words, there was never anyone more unlike a "famous preacher" in terms of appearance whose words were more unlike "great sermons" than our Lord, and we can all learn a lot from contemplating these facts. In His earthly ministry, Jesus made the Father's truth the issue, not Himself:

"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."
John 7:18 NASB

Question #3:

You wrote: (e.g., David in Ps.11:5 makes an absolute distinction between the righteous and the wicked though we know from his rare lapses that no one is completely perfect in conduct, even a great believer like David).

a) Could you please clarify this passage? What is meant by 'those who love violence, he hates with a passion', if God wants all to be saved and welcomes 'prodigal sons'?

b) Also, since, as you said, no one is completely perfect in conduct, should we understand this passage as referring to what you describe as 'position' as believers and unbelievers?

Response #3:

God is love. He does not actually "hate" anyone nor is He actually capable of "hate". This is an anthropathism, the attribution to God of a human emotion in order to explain His actions in terms human beings can more easily relate to. The result of evil violence is God's judgment; the result of rejection of Him and His Son is condemnation (e.g., "Esau I have hated"). Until we get to a certain level of spiritual growth and understanding the idea that a loving God judges and condemns out of righteousness and justice – and also as the only way to lead many to salvation – is not as easy for most people to understand as the way it is actually put here in this verse. And, yes, I would say that this is a case of the very common scriptural stance of describing righteousness and the wickedness as absolutes corresponding to believers and unbelievers. This certainly has a salutary effect for believers: if ever we find the wicked described as engaging in conduct in which we too have a tendency to dabble, it serves as a "wake up call" for us to get back on the strait and narrow road ASAP.

Question #4:

Could you please clarify:

1 Tim 2:15: But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Why is 'bearing of children' listed as one of the conditions required to be 'preserved'? What is specifically meant here by 'preserved'?

Response #4:

Another hard passage. You can find what I have written about it previously at the following link: "Deliverance through Childbearing in 1st Timothy 2:15?". The operative phrase, sothesetai dia tes teknogonias, means, somewhat literally, "she [sing.] will be saved/delivered through childbirth". The "through" is part of the difficulty here. In my opinion, it does not express the channel through which deliverance/salvation is given, but the "thing passing through which" she will be delivered from. That is to say, this verse is meant to reassure women in Corinth (who were just upbraided for their behavior by Paul through his reference in verse 14 to the Genesis curse on childbirth) that God does concern Himself with their deliverance in their childbirth in spite of the curse and pains it brought. This is a difficult concept to understand, but the other two interpretations which have been advanced, namely 1) that childbirth is necessary for a woman to be saved, or 2) that the reference is to the birth of Christ, are both problematic: the first is impossible because, of course, women are saved exactly as men are by grace through faith in Christ; the second is almost as bad (though perhaps not obviously so) because when Paul then says "if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety" (NIV), it likewise makes female salvation seem conditional upon good behavior: making salvation depend upon faith is biblical, but the other items in the list are a stretch. One would have to understand "love and holiness with propriety" in the sense of persevering in faith with resulting comprehensive good behavior, and that would be unprecedented.

Question #5:

Regarding 1 Tim 2:3-15 you wrote: Paul, in verse 15, finds it necessary to provide a bit of reassurance for all the Corinthian women that the Genesis 3:16 curse on women of painful childbirth which he has mentioned to shore up Timothy's position of authority should not occasion fear about having children.

a) Could you please explain the relationship between shoring up Timothy's position and Paul's mentioning of the curse of 3:16?

b) I'm still unsure about the meaning of the word 'deliver' here. You said it is not to be understood as 'salvation' in this passage, and that's fully understandable. If this is simply suppose to mean that God will deliver a woman from death that could result from childbirth, particularly at the time (hopefully this is what you meant), then why does Paul upbraid Corinthian women using the Genesis curse in the first place?

Response #5:

These are two separate issues, but in this long encyclical Paul runs many things together from one point to the next in his effort to cover everything necessary to cover. Women are not to be allowed to "run the church" and take charge of the teaching (in effect). Timothy, from what we can tell of him from the two epistles and in Acts, was not as adept at defending his authority as Paul was. Everyone has a slightly different leadership style, but there comes a time in the life of the most affable leader or permissive parent that one must "put one's foot down", as we say in English, and Timothy seems to have had a difficult time doing so. Paul therefore steps in and uses the Genesis curse as scriptural back-up for his command that the Corinthian women should stop interrupting, correcting and supplementing Timothy when in the process of teaching the Bible. After bringing up the Genesis curse in this forceful way, however, Paul (who knew this group and their tendencies very well) seems to have felt that it was necessary to stop these women from over-reacting to his statement so as to become fearful. Whenever I am compelled to point out the falsehood of absolute eternal security, by way of a comparable example, I always try to emphasize the security that we do have in Jesus Christ, and that losing salvation is no easy or flippant thing. Paul, in order to head off the false conclusion through over-reaction that because of their error in this they would be facing death in childbirth (his Genesis curse example taken too far), assures them that they will be "brought safe through" (delivered) that ordeal as women of good Christian conduct (second half of the verse).

Question #6:

You provided a translation of James 4:5 and it makes the passage understandable, although your translation seems quite different from the others I've read:

(yours) Or do you assume that the Scripture (i.e., Gal.5:17) says to no purpose "The Spirit" which dwells in you "sets its desire against" [such] envy

versus

(NIV) Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?

Why is there such a significant difference in how this passage is rendered?

Response #6:

In order to translate any difficult passage from any language or literature, one first has to understand it correctly. The key to getting this one right is to first realize that James is paraphrasing Paul here. If that is missed, correct translation is impossible (and most if not all the versions miss that point). Part of the reason for the failure is the misunderstanding of assuming that the date of James is early (whereas it is fairly late in the chronology of NT books, following and not preceding the Pauline corpus; see the link: Chronological Order of the Books of the Bible II).

Question #7:

Regarding Corinthians 3:18 you wrote: In other words, becoming more Christ-like is the objective of the teaching of the truth which Paul is contrasting in this section of chapter three to the hardness of heart in not being willing to accept the truth among most of contemporary Israel – which Moses' veiling of himself exemplifies.

Could you please explain what is 'Moses' veiling of himself'?

Response #7:

Moses veiled himself (literally put a veil over his face) so the Israelites would not see the glory his face temporarily beamed forth fade away. Paul modifies this and uses it in a comparison to show that contemporary Jews do not see the glory of God at all because of the veil – which in Paul's analogy is now their hardness of heart and their spiritual blindness which prevents them from seeing / accepting God's glory in Jesus Christ.

Question #8:

Could you please clarify:

Acts 19:13-16: But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches."14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Why didn't the seven sons of Sceva succeed in adjuring the evil spirits in the name of Jesus?

Response #8:

As far as scripture is concerned, legitimate exorcism has only been accomplished by our Lord and by His apostles. That is to say, it is a special and rare gift. These "sons" were not only not apostles; they were apparently not even believers. The remarkable thing about this passage is the light it sheds on demonic activity. Please see the link: "Exorcism".

Question #9:

What is the best translation of the word used by Paul in Titus 1:5:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,

The Polish translation uses 'presbyters' instead of 'elders'.

Response #9:

Either one is fine (a "presbyter" is literally "an old man" – and that is literally what an "elder" is too), as long as one understands this to be a group of older men of good spiritual standing whose job it was to provide governance for the local church, especially in spiritual matters. Of course this was also before the cessation of many miraculous gifts which plugged the gap between the development of a large group of men prepared to teach the Word and what was by contrast the case in Paul's day: a large number of converts and a small cadre of necessarily itinerant professionals. You can find out more about these issues at the links: "Church Polity: Elders and three other passages" and "Some Questions on Church Polity".

Question #10:

You wrote: John's baptism: Those who came to be baptized by John offered public confession of their sins (Matt.3:6; Mk.1:5), and we do find one somewhat similar occurrence during the apostolic revival in Ephesus (Acts 19:18). Both John's baptism and the apostolic direction of the Church have been discontinued, yielding, in the case of the former, to the baptism of the Spirit (Matt.3:11), and, in the case of the latter, to the sovereignty of the local church after the passing of the twelve apostles (cf. Tit.1:5). Moreover, in each of these two cases the confessions are "once and for all" events taking place in close conjunction with salvation (and taking place in a unique, corporate setting at that), rather than what the Bible now requires of us, namely the individual prayer of confession for cleansing and forgiveness of sin after salvation on each occasion of personal sin.

You wrote that the public confessions took place in close conjunction with salvation, but Acts 19:18 talks about 'many also of those who had believed'. Please clarify.

Response #10:

I don't think the Greek necessitates any such temporal gap. The word "believers" is in the perfect tense here, but we also see the aorist sometimes used. One could legitimately translate "many of the believers". Also, the perfect could be serving to link the time to that event: "many who had believed on seeing this, came forward and confessed". Finally, Luke is relating what happened. It was surely not only at Ephesus that new believers had all sorts of paraphernalia that related to pagan activities and non-Christian practices – but this is the only place we see any public display of ridding themselves of it, and that display seems to be the result of a sort of fervor. Scripture is merely recording the truth of what happened here without commending it or condemning it. There is nothing to suggest that, for example, "Paul told them to do this".

Question #11:

Could you please explain the act of 'laying hands':

1 Tim 5:22: Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.

Also, how should the hierarchical structure of the church be arranged today (overseers, deacons, etc.)?

Response #11:

Beyond saying that there should be authority in the local church composed of one or more qualified men, church polity is not spelled out in scripture – and deliberately so: this matter is to remain flexible in order to accommodate what must be inflexible, namely, the orthodox teaching of the Word of God. It is ironic that what we have historically instead is usually exactly the reverse: dogmatism and lack of flexibility over issues of church polity (which are not specifically spelled out in the Bible) but a lack of attention to the teaching of the Bible which is the entire point behind the assembling of believers together. The apostles had special authority to appoint and, as in the case of Timothy, to empower those who would govern the churches / teach the Word. No one has that authority today. So no one can legitimately "lay on hands" to convey apostolic authority – much less impart some spiritual gift! However, the principle is still good. If I recommend someone to a local congregation as a good potential pastor-teacher, I had better be very sure that he is a person of character, dedication and adequate preparation to teach the Word as it should be taught. Nowadays, however, the number of groups even interested in having this sort of ministry is very small indeed.

Here are some links that go into these matters in a little more detail:

"Church Polity: Elders and three other passages"

"Some Questions on Church Polity".

Question #12:

Could you please explain the relationship between . . .

1 Cor 5:3: For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.

and

Matthew 7:1: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged".

Later in 1 Cor 5 Paul says he judges members of the church, but in Matthew 7:1 Jesus doesn't specify that.

Response #12:

Everyone should refrain from evaluating the sinfulness or lack thereof of our fellow believers in the normal course of events. Those in leadership positions, secular or spiritual, do have to exercise their judgment as to the quality of work or behavior of those under their authority. The issue is one of authority. Person A is a free person with free will, my brother/sister; I would do well not to judge him/her even if I think he/she is acting sinfully (except to steer clear if I recognize that his/her conduct has passed beyond everyday peccadillos and into gross sinfulness). However, if I am in authority over person A in church (as the pastor) or in a business (as the boss), then there are definite responsibilities which fall to me that require that I not only have a well-informed opinion about person A but also occasionally that I act correctively. This is less true in a church (where, barring conduct that deliberately and aggressively makes an issue of sinfulness and so defies authority, person A retains his/her freedom – as long as he/she is not violating that of person B), but in a job or the military or a family, all manner of negative behavior has to be corrected (and positive behavior rewarded).

Question #13:

You wrote: James 5:16 is frequently misunderstood because it is generally read and applied out of context. In the context (i.e., verses 13-18), we see that confessing our sins to others is being recommended (rather than required) in cases where we are approaching the sin unto death on account of excessive sin and therefore desperately in need of the prayer support of others.

I wanted to ask if we can assume that it's only the sin unto death that is discussed in James 5, as the passage says:

and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

I was wondering - if it says 'and if he has committed sins', that can mean that it's possible that he hasn't committed them and is just physically unwell, hence it says: 'and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up'. Please clarify.

Response #13:

I would say that since there is prayer in question here that it is a case of serious sin resulting in serious discipline but not the "sin unto death" – as evidenced by the fact that the person has "called the elders" for help in this matter (cf. 1Jn.15:16: "I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that" NIV).

Question #14:

Regarding Colossians 1:20 - could 'things in heaven' be understood as people who died before the death of our Lord on the cross?

Response #14:

I don't believe so, since before the ascension believers were in paradise below the earth, not in heaven (see the link: The Transfer of Believers from the Subterranean Paradise to the Third Heaven).

Question #15:

Could you please clarify:

2 Corinthians 4:11: For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

What does Paul mean by saying 'we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake'?

Response #15:

As he often does, Paul is graphically representing the incredible opposition he faced as the apostle to the gentiles. He is being gradually "poured out as a drink offering" (Phil.2:17) in the service of Jesus Christ, but instead of despairing when he sees his life ebbing away on account of his ministry to the Body, he exults in it (keeping his gaze fixed fast upon the reward). Here is what I say in comparing his life of self-sacrifice to that of the 144,000 witness/martyrs of the Tribulation (in CT 2B, FN #74).

The apostle Paul's life of ministry is also strikingly similar in this regard (1Cor.4:8-13; 2Cor.4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:16-33; Phil.3:7-11; et passim in Acts and the Pauline Epistles), a fact that should not surprise given his close "imitation of Christ" (1Cor.11:1).

Question #16:

Isaiah 52:10-11: The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out from there, touch nothing unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD.

Verse 11 starts with a sudden 'depart' - could you clarify what is meant by this? Depart from where, to where?

Response #16:

The "to where" is to land of Israel after the second advent. The "from where" varies as the Jewish community will be, still at that future time, largely dispersed around the world. The return is covered in CT part 6: "The Regathering and Purging of Israel".

Question #17:

Who does Isaiah mean by 'survivors of Israel' in Isaiah 4:2?

In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.
Isaiah 4:2 (NASB)

Response #17:

These are children of Israel who are regathered into the land of Israel after our Lord's return in order to enjoy His millennial rule (see the link: "The Regathering of Israel").

Question #18:

Could you please explain the relationship between these two passages:

Numbers 3:13 NASB: For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD."

Numbers 3:44-48 NASB: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45 "Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD. 46 For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels apiece,

What does the Lord mean by 'instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel'? What is the relationship between this regulation and the Lord saying 'For all the firstborn are Mine'?

Also what is meant by 'the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites'?

Response #18:

The Levites are "replacements" for those who should have been "set apart to the Lord" because of their first-born status. As to the 273, sometimes odd numbers like this don't mean anything of significance. I am not saying that is definitely the case here, only that I know of no obvious significance to this number. One can speculate. I would not be surprised to find out that someone has written about this something like "273 is the product of the numbers 13 x 7 x 3 which would represent the thirteen tribes including the Levites, multiplied by the number of perfection and the number of the Trinity" . . . but I would be reluctant to put too much weight on this sort of thing.

Question #19:

You wrote: Jesus Christ is also truly God (Col.2:2 Greek). Why did you specify 'Greek' here, if the English translation also says 'God'?

Response #19:

Because the KJV and some other versions which follow it read, based upon an inferior text, "the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ". This is my way of saying shorthand that the actual Greek text says here that Christ is truly God, even if a person's English Bible seems not to do so.

Question #20:

A couple of sentences are unclear for me in Isaiah 53. Could you please clarify:

a) And yet we considered Him as [the One who had been] punished, smitten and afflicted by God.

Does it refer to the Jews thinking that Jesus death on the cross was what God wanted?

Response #20:

On Isaiah 53, I am happy to answer these questions (but see also the link where this passage is translated in an expanded manner: in BB 4A Christology).

a) "we considered Him smitten of God" means that, as was the case with Job, those who watched our Lord's suffering imagined that God had abandoned Him; they did not realize that this was part of God's purpose and that He was truly being "smitten for us".

Question #21:

b) (8) By repressive judgment He was taken away, and who gave any thought to His posterity?

What is meant by 'His posterity'?

Response #21:

b) Jesus had no children, and hence no inheritance in Israel, something extremely important to the entire Jewish nation ever since Abraham (cf. the Levirate marriage rule), so that this lack was a measure of the intensity of the appalling loss our Lord incurred by undertaking and completing the ministry of ministries through which alone we have been saved. Of course our Lord has in fact through the cross won "the Name which is above every name", and has won us, the Church, His Bride, as well.

Question #22:

c) (9) And they assigned Him a grave with the wicked (pl.) and with a rich [man] in His deaths (sic).

Who is the 'rich man'? Is it Joseph of Arimathea?

Response #22:

c) Yes.

Question #23:

d) But though you make His life a guilt offering, He will see His seed, He will lengthen His days, and the good pleasure (i.e., "will") of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

What is meant by 'His seed'?

Response #23:

d) This "seed" in Isaiah 53:10 I take to be the Church, those of Israel and of the gentiles whom our Lord snatched from condemnation through His blood. Unger (UCOT) cites Hebrews 2:10, "bringing many sons to glory".

Question #24:

You wrote: We know from Revelation 4:5 that the seven spirits which represent the Holy Spirit are visibly represented by seven blazing lamps which are before the throne (cf. also Rev.3:1).

So am I correct to understand that the Spirit is not visible with regard to not being personified - as Father and Son - but can be seen or make His presence felt through the seven lampstands?

Response #24:

Yes, that is my understanding. The Son is an actual human being (as well as God); the Father represents Himself in human form; the Spirit is represented here by a symbol which can be seen, though He Himself is still invisible, at least in the third heaven presently, that is.

Question #25:

What were Jesus' words just before his death?

Matthew 27:50: New American Standard Bible (NASB) 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Mark 15:37: New American Standard Bible (NASB) 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last.

Luke 23:46: New American Standard Bible (NASB) 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT."Having said this, He breathed His last.

John 19:30: New American Standard Bible (NASB) 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

The endings in these four gospels are somewhat different, for example according to Luke and John.

Response #25:

Each gospel has a slightly different focus so that it in this as with all other commonly treated events there are some differences (based upon inclusion and exclusion of details). The best thing here would be to have a look at BB 4A where I delineate the entire chronology of the cross beginning with "The Two Robbers" and down to the end of that section with "Our Lords Final Words of Completion".

Question #26:

In Romans 8:3, when it says God sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin", Should 'in the likeness' be understood here as it is in Genesis?

Response #26:

The word and preposition are the Greek equivalent of what is found at Genesis 5:1 (which is discussed at length at the length) – although the LXX for that passage does not follow suit. In Romans 8:3 Paul means that to all appearances Jesus was a human being just as we are, and indeed He was (now He is resurrected, of course) – except for the critical fact that being virgin born He did not possess a sin nature (and since He never sinned He remained qualified to be sacrificed in our place all the way to the cross). The element of "similarity only" thus applies to His lack of a sin nature alone.

Question #27:

You translated: For a Star will march forth from Jacob, and a [Ruler's] scepter [will arise] from Israel. Numbers 24:17b (Matt.2:1-13; cf. Gen.49:8-12; Deut.33:7; Lk.1:78; Rev.12:5)

Could you please briefly explain the inclusion of Gen.49:8-12 and Deut.33:7?

Response #27:

Genesis 49:8-12 is Jacob's prophecy about Judah, and is Messianic in nature, especially in this respect in regard to the "ruler's scepter" in v.10; Deuteronomy 33:7 is analogous, being Moses' corresponding prophecy about Judah, likewise Messianic: "bring Him [back] to His people and may His hands contend for them" in particular looks toward the second advent.

Question #28:

One more question regarding your rendering of Genesis 49:10-11:

(10) The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. (11) He (i.e., Judah, and thus the Messiah) will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine (2nd Adv.; cf. Rev.19:13-15), his robes in the blood of grapes (1st Adv.; cf. Rev.7:14 with Lk.22:20).
Genesis 49:10-11 NIV

a) How do we know that the first reference - 'he will wash his garments in wine' - is to the 2nd Advent and the second reference - ' his robes in the blood of grapes'? What allows us to draw this distinction?

b) Also, why is the 2nd Advent mentioned first, not in a chronological sequence?

Response #28:

Clearly, these two clauses are closely parallel. This is an interpretation, and interpreters may differ. My preference is as stated on account of the particular phraseology in use of the word 'blood'. There is certainly literal blood at the second advent too, but the Blood of Christ is of such fundamental importance to everything I would prefer that order. If one chooses to reverse these, then the "wine" of the first phrase will refer to the Blood of Christ. In any case, the dualism of the entire passage should be the point not missed: cub/lion, staff/scepter, donkey/colt, garment/robes, wine/blood of the grape, eyes/teeth. The two advents of Christ are so clearly prophesied here in this the first book of the Bible so as to remove any serious questioning of the absolute integrity of purpose and message of the entire scriptures – for all believers who believe them, that is.

Question #29:

You wrote: then presenting Him to the crowd dressed in purple but wearing a crown of thorns (symbolic, though unbeknownst to Pilate, of the curse He was about be made for the sake of the whole world: cf. Gen.3:18).

Since you link Genesis 3:18 to our Lord's crown, do you think it was a prophecy relating to your Lord that was to be fulfilled in that way?

Response #29:

There is clearly a connection, but the main one is to the curse of sin about to be born by our Lord in our place.

Question #30:

Why does Jesus say 'My cup you shall drink' if no one could drink quite His cup?

Matt 20:20-23: 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." 22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, "We are able." 23 He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."

Response #30:

I believe our Lord meant that they would "drink the cup of martyrdom" which is the ultimate "sharing of the suffering of Christ" (see the links). It is not unusual, as we have seen, for things to be true in one sense and not in another, and vice versa, and for our Lord to refer to both aspects of a question in order to cover it fully.

Question #31:

You wrote: The disciples had a common purse (which Judas kept, Jn.12:6; and which was used to buy necessities such as the requirements of the Passover: Jn.13:29), indicating that the ministry was supported by others (most of whom were apparently women: Lk.8:3; 10:38-40; Jn.11).

Why do you think that a common purse indicates that the ministry was supported by others? Also, could you please explain the inclusion of Jn.11?

Response #31:

None of them was working, and all had "left everything". They were not begging and they had money which had to come from somewhere. Contributions would naturally come to all, not to individuals, or to the Lord who was looking out for and representing all. These would be kept in such a common purse. So just as a treasury indicates tax income, so a common purse indicates income from contributions in a ministry setting. John chapter 11 details the relationship of our Lord to the family of Mary and Martha, an apparently well-to-do family in Bethany, indicative of a stream of support from that quarter.

Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Luke 8:3 NIV

Question #32:

You wrote: Indisputably, if the Messiah is literally a "son" of David, then He must be a human being, while if He is "Lord", as David calls Him in Psalm 110:1 which Jesus quotes, then He must be God as well.

The following words of our Lord:

"Well then, how can David, speaking in the Spirit, call Him Lord? For he says, The Lord said to My Lord, 'Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' [Psalm 110:1] So if David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?"

I have interpreted this as meaning: 'If He is his son, then how can he be called Lord (meaning - He cannot be)'. Thanks to your clarification I understand that when Jesus says: 'Well then' and the last sentence ' So if David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?", which may be interpreted as: 'if x, then y is impossible', should be interpreted as: 'if x, then how is y possible? - it is possible, but the fact that x and y don't exclude each other is a great mystery'.

Should then the question '' So if David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?" be considered rhetorical, a figure of speech in order to trigger reflection on part of the listeners regarding this great mystery?

Response #32:

On Matthew 24:43 (Mk.12:36), our Lord is challenging the incorrect assumption made by the Pharisees that the Messiah, while a godly and specially empowered man, would not also be God. But of course our Lord is "Emanuel", a Hebrew title meaning "God [is] with us". The question posed by our Lord, therefore, is not impossible to answer – for those who have been listening to Jesus and accepting His claims of divinity (e.g., Jn.8:58). It is only impossible to answer for those who have actually rejected Him and the validity of His teachings. Only someone who was God as well as man could both be David's son (a position of obedience) and David's Lord (a position of worship).

Question #33:

Concerning the last judgment and lake of fire, here is how I now understand it: it will be directly visible to believers during our observation the last judgment and only during the last judgment, without its location being affected; after that, it will be visible from heaven, but it will not be a part of heave, even during the period when judgment will be taking place. Hence the 'geography' of eternal locations will not change (lake of fire will not 'draw' closer to heaven for the time of judgment, or the other way round), and the only thing that will change will be the visibility - the lake of fire will be seen during the judgment and after the judgment it will no longer be seen (without taking the effort to view it). Hopefully my understanding is now correct, please let me know if you would add anything.

Response #33:

Yes, I think that is the way things are. The heavenly geography referred to and conceptualized on the chart referenced in the previous email (see the link) is as the Bible describes the relationship between the three major areas, but of course it is just that, a conceptualization, and a "2-D" one at that of things which may best be described as "4-D". So I cannot really speak to the "moving closer" question: Hades and the Third Heaven are distinct and purposefully separated from the kosmos by specified divine barriers. For me, these would continue to be the important features rather than spatial distance (since neither place is a part of this particular "space", technically speaking). As to visibility "from heaven", again, the New Jerusalem, our eternal abode, descends from the third heaven to the New Earth at the close of history. At that point, the third heaven would seem to be unoccupied as the Father (and surely His entire court) will come and make His dwelling with us in that eternal city on earth forever afterwards (Rev.21:3-4). Also, as I say, there are indications that the lake will be visible for those who wish to make the effort to see it (i.e., they must "go out [i.e., out of New Jerusalem to some remote location] and look upon" those confined to the lake (Is.66:24).

Question #34:

Regarding Isaiah 1:2-3 and Psalm 32:9, in Isaiah 1:3, the ox and mule are used to depict positive qualities (knowing their owner and master's manger), but in Psalm 32:9 horse and mule are used to depict lack of understanding. Obviously one doesn't have to always exclude the other, but it just occurred to me that the same animal - mule in this instance - is used to depict positive and negative qualities in the Bible. What is your understanding of this?

Response #34:

I think that is a pretty standard thing in most literatures where the animal in question is not thought to have only positive or only negative qualities to use either one for the purpose at hand when writing. On the other hand, snakes, for example, are always negative in scripture for obvious reasons (although some passages like Ex.7:9 ff. and Prov.30:19 strike me as being neutral).

Question #35:

You wrote: a) Just as a (hypothetically good) human father would rather not punish his children, but does so for their own benefit even when the common phrase "This is going to hurt me more than it does you" is absolutely true, so God takes no pleasure in any human suffering (Ezek.33:11), especially not that of His true sons and daughters (Ps.116:15; Ezek.18:32).

Based on your response, I assume we can consider death as one of the ways to suffer (Ezek.33:11, Ps.116:15)?

Response #35:

Since it is not the Lord's desire to put us death (which is the ultimate punishment), then a fortiore He does not wish to inflict punishment on us at all. But God often remonstrates with His people as a father does with his sons (e.g., Is.1:5-19), attempting to wean them away from the bad and back to the good with punishment but also encouragement.

Question #36:

Also, Ezek.18:32 says: "Therefore, repent and live" - I assume this refers to believers who went astray (believers may also need to 'repent')?

Response #36:

Yes. Repentance is a much misunderstood concept among believers of every stripe (please see the link: in CT 2A: "The Meaning of 'Repent'"). Believers who fall into sin need to change their thinking and confess for restoration. This is a "two-sided coin" thing as well: true confession follows a genuine change of heart; and a genuine change of heart about sinful behavior on the part of any believer always results in confessing that sinful conduct to the Lord. Attempting to break these two down into discrete steps always seems to cause problems.

Question #37:

I've got a question regarding the Hebrew vowel system - nikkud. I've started my study using Lambdin's textbook and I'm slowly progressing. When I can see the transliteration of a Hebrew word, I know which nikkud signs to use (which signs correspond to which vowels and length of vowels), but when I don't, then unless I can remember the word with all the accents, I'm not sure which signs to use.

My question to you is whether the only method of learning to write all of the words is to memorize each by heart, or are there grammatical principles governing the usage of nikkud in all instances. I know there are some and I know a few already (for example chirik male in masculine plural), but these allow me to recognize which sign is correct in very few instances. If I need to learn each word by heart, then I'll do it. Although, if, having advanced far enough in my study, I will have a knowledge of principles allowing me to assign correct signs to every, or most words, then memorizing each word might not be necessary.

I expect the answer may be that there are some rules and some exceptions, please let me know what would be the best step for me to take at this early stage.

Response #37:

My advice would be to avoid transliterations entirely. They are helpful to some people but they are also fraught with problems (as you are beginning to experience). For Semitic languages which are only written in cuneiform, transliteration is a necessary evil, but for Biblical Hebrew, since we have all we need to know precisely how to pronounce any given word (i.e., both consonants and vowel points), it is better to rely on the Hebrew "right out of the gate". That is a bit hard in the early going, but it will pay great dividends almost immediately. My Hebrew links page has a number of sites where you can hear the Bible correctly pronounced and work on this (#6 in particular; see the link).

Question #38:

Based on your last response I assume that 'handing over to Satan' is the same thing as 'sin onto death'?

Among these [apostates] are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they might be taught not to speak blasphemously. 1st Timothy 1:18-20

Response #38:

Yes, that is my understanding both of this passage and also 1st Corinthians 5:5: "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (NKJV). One caveat here: bringing on the sin unto death in this fashion was an apostolic prerogative only; nowadays only the Lord can do this.

Question #39:

Could you please clarify:

Romans 8:28-30: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

I assume that 'those who are called' are people who God knew would use their free will to choose him (similarly as with regard to the 'drawing')?

Response #39:

Yes. Romans 8:28-30 gives the Plan of God "in a nutshell", so to speak. He knows ahead of time our choice of His Son (foreknowledge), He decrees that we believe having foreknown our free-will choice (predestination), He provides the gospel to us at precisely the right time so that we actually do believe as He knew we would (calling/election), He justifies us / considers us righteous through our faith when we do believe (justification / salvation), and He glorifies us as we "cross the finish line" having confirmed the genuineness of our faith by maintaining it faithfully throughout our lives until the end (resurrection / reward / eternal life). There is very much to say about all these topics; please see the link: Predestination, Calling and Election (in BB 4B)

Question #40:

Could you clarify on the Sin of Partiality:

James 2:1: My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

The following verses clarify this statement, but, as I understand it now, they show partiality in relation to people, but this sentence says 'do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism', I'm not sure I can correctly understand the statement 'faith in our glorious Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism', unless 'an attitude of personal favoritism' refers to other people, regardless of the faith we claim to profess. Please clarify.

Response #40:

Sometimes the NASB's effort to be as literal as possible does more harm than good. Here is what the 1984NIV does with this verse (correctly – which I think answers your question): "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism". I.e., favoritism is inconsistent with being a believer in Jesus.

Question #41:

Could you please clarify the following verses:

Romans 10:6: 6 But the righteousness [a]based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 "or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’"[b] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

Just to link what you clarified about the meaning of 'bringing Christ down and 'bringing Christ up' with the 'righteousness based on faith' - we are not required to do the former (i.e., 'bring Christ up or down'), which is impossible anyway, we only have to believe in Him, which is possible for us to do, and our righteousness is based on this faith.

Response #41:

Yes indeed. Salvation is not only possible, but easy (for us), since Christ did all the work (He came down and suffered and went down and has now ascended). Still, handing over our free will to God in accepting His Son is something most people are unwilling to do, no matter how easy it is (and for some perhaps it is too easy: they want to "earn" it, but it cannot be earned).

Question #42:

James 5:19-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB) My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Does by ' will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins' James means the sins of the sinner, who was turned back or the sins of the person who 'turned the sinner from error'?

Response #42:

Compare the identical phraseology in the Greek at 1st Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (NIV). If we act in love and mercy, we are judged by that standard (whereas if we act by way of keeping precise accounts, we are liable to being judged in the same way). So while the "covering" is in the first place the forgiveness that comes to the object in both cases, the acts of love in both instances likewise receive a "covering" for the subject that results from receiving mercy from the Lord for his/her acting in love towards the brother or sister in spiritual trouble.

Question #43:

Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is [yet] near. Let the wicked person forsake his way and the man of iniquity his [evil] thoughts. And let him return to the Lord, so that He may have mercy upon him, even to our God, for He will abundantly forgive.

Every now and then the word 'even' will be used in the Bible in the meaning slightly different than the one which we use it in today. According to contemporary usage of this word, 'Even' in this passage could suggest a different subject than the one previously mentioned ('the Lord'), but refers to the same one ('our God'). Is this meaning of the word typical to ancient Hebrew, is it something unique to the Bible?

Also:

John 1:12: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name

Response #43:

The Hebrew just has "and" (i.e., the universal connector, waw). Just as with the standard Greek connective kai, however, the Hebrew waw, in addition to meaning 'and', can "also mean also and even mean even". The latter is the "ascensive use" where an addition is made but with emphasis. NIV translates "and to our God". The problem there is that it sounds then like LORD and God are two separate objects when they are really one and the same. "Even" makes it clear that this is an expansion on what has already been said. You could translate it, "that is, to our God" (although that misses the emphasis which the word "even" brings). The John 1:12 passage has no connecter; "even" is added to smooth the translation.

Question #44:

Lamentations 3:38-40 Do not both good and bad things come forth from the mouth of the Most High (i.e., at His decree)? Why should any mortal man alive be complaining about [punishment received on account of] his sins? Let us carefully examine our paths, investigate [our behavior], and return to the Lord.

Is the divine discipline meant here by 'bad things'?

Response #44:

Yes, in the main I would say so. God never does anything arbitrarily. Of course sometimes "bad things happen to good people" by way of testing or guidance or, as in the case of Baruch above, through association with those being disciplined or cursed. One of the wonderful things about our Lord is that we can be sure that even when we would look at some event and say "bad", He is nevertheless working all things out together for the good in every way, especially for us who love Him.

Question #45:

Psalm 51:16: For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. 18 By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

What does God's change in attitude towards offerings depend on?

Response #45:

I think since this is essentially a Psalm of confession the point is that in order to be cleansed from sin what the Lord wants is true repentance of heart, not sacrifice. Once a person is restored to fellowship, then all manner of thanksgiving is acceptable and appropriate, including fellowship offerings of the sort described here (for Israel at that time).

Question #46:

Psalm 66:18 If I had been aware of iniquity [still] in my heart, the Lord would not have listened [to my prayer of confession].

What type of awareness is meant here (as we need to be aware of our iniquity to be able to confess it to God)?

Response #46:

If we know for certain we have committed some sin but are reluctant to confess it (because, for example, we either do not really want to admit that we have done it or are not willing to stop doing it), then we should not expect the Lord to hear our prayers since we are, by our own commission and omission, out of fellowship with the Lord and in a state of spiritual revolt. If we have changed out mind about our behavior and come to the Lord for forgiveness through confessing our sins, then we have nothing further to worry about in this regard. Indeed, we are better off forgetting and moving on. And even if we are disciplined for our errors that punishment will be for blessing from this point onward inasmuch as the Lord has already gotten our attention and caused us to correct our thinking and approach.

Question #47:

You wrote: Although the baptism of John was concerned with the repentance of unbelievers leading to salvation rather than to our topic here (i.e., the repentance of believers leading to forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God), it does serve to illustrate the essence of the mechanics in both processes. First, the person heeds to the call to repent (Matt.3:2; 3:5; Mk.3:5). Second, the person is cleansed as he or she owns up to the sins committed (Matt.3:6; Mk.1:5). Third, the person is now forgiven all his or her sins (Mk.1:4; Lk.3:3) and enjoys fellowship with the Lord (cf. Jn.1:35-51).

Did you use Jn.1:35-51 to show how the disciples of John (we can take they were baptized?) entered the fellowship with Our Lord?

Response #47:

Not necessarily. Many even of Jesus' disciples beyond the circle of the twelve were apparently not saved (cf. Jn.6:60-67). Salvation has always been the same, but for this generation it consisted in faith in the Messiah who had actually come (though Jesus had not yet at the point died for the sins of the world). The mechanics of water-baptism and its symbolism for the Jewish nation at that time is all I mean to explain in this section. Regardless of being water-baptized, a person could be saved through faith; and without faith in Jesus water-baptism was an empty ritual then just as it is now.

Question #48:

You wrote: Often, the worse we fail, the more pronounced this reluctance may be, even though such times are the very worst times to delay the process of admitting our errors to ourselves and then confessing them to God in a truly contrite way (cf. Elijah in 1Kng.19:1-18).

What was Elijah confessing? What sins did he commit? Was it fear/lack of faith?

Response #48:

As to his precise sins, we have to deduce these from the context, but his failure is clear enough. After one of the greatest string of spiritual victories which scripture records, he allowed Jezebel's threatening to kill him to "get to him" and he ran away. I would say that fear and lack of faith were most definitely part of the picture, and also it seems anger and self-righteousness in justifying himself and blaming God (cf. what he tells the Lord!; "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." 1Kng.19:10 NIV). We might also add self-pity ("I have had enough, LORD – Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 1Kng.19:4 NIV). I hasten to add here that Elijah was one of the greatest believers ever to live, and, indeed, his work is not yet done as he is one of the two witnesses who will be brought back (along with Moses) for an exceptional ministry during the Tribulation – and thus appears to be, along with Moses, one of the special two to sit on our Lord's right and left hands for all eternity.

It is often easy to "second guess" or, as we say in the states, "Monday morning quarterback" the errors and failings of others – whereas which of us would have been able to do what Elijah did before this failure? And which of us would have been able to stand up to the pressure better than he if we actually had found ourselves in that situation (rather than in our easy-chairs)? Of course, all scripture has been "written for our instruction" (Rom.15:4; cf. 2Tim.3:16), and it is certainly not "cheating" to reflect on Job's experience, for example, whenever we find ourselves under tremendous pressures for which we do not have a ready answer, or to reflect on David's experiences whenever we find ourselves tempted to engage in sin as if there would be no serious consequences, or, as here, to reflect on Elijah's experiences when we are hit with sudden and unexpected threats and/or feel (wrongly) that God is no longer able to protect us. We are blessed to know the answers to these hard tests ahead of time. But we still have to use and apply that information in faith and courage when we do get hit with exceptional trials of this sort.

Question #49:

Could you please clarify:

Numbers 5:7: then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged.

The last part is sometimes rendered 'to the person they have wronged', NASB says 'to him who has wronged', which sounds almost contrary - I assume the restitution needs to be given to the victim?

Response #49:

Yes, that was the procedure, namely, for the restitution to go to the offended party (cf. the next verse: "But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD" NIV).

Question #50:

Another question regarding Numbers:

Numbers 5:5-8: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 "Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty, 7then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged. 8 But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him.

I'm unsure about the meaning of the 8th verse: 'But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest'.

If 'the man has no relative to who restitution may be made', then am I correct to assume that the sin was only made against the Lord, but didn't include wronging of another person?

Is my understanding correct there, that if someone sinned against the Lord, which included wronging a person, then that person is given restitution. If someone sinned against the Lord, but that didn't involve a third party (directly), then the restitution goes 'to the Lord for the priest'?

It's just unclear to me that first the passage says about making restitution to the person wronged and then discusses a case where there is no such a person, that's what I'm unclear about.

Response #50:

My understanding of Number 5:8 is that restitution has to be made but when there is no survivor to receive it, the priest receives it instead. In a case of manslaughter or in a case of confession long-delayed – or if the person wronged died in war or through some other accident – this did not alleviate the burden of restitution.
 

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