Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God of the Impossible

It is easy to imagine that every Christian has heard the skeptical question, “Could God create a rock so heavy He could not lift it?” This question is usually asked by someone who desires to bring doubt on the existence of God or to push an evolutionist view of life. Often, such a person will smugly think that merely asking that question somehow proves that God doesn’t exist, that the Bible is not true, and that he has won the argument by default. He believes he has Christians “quaking in their boots” by merely asking a question that has, in reality, been asked and answered countless times. This question is akin to the ever-popular “Where did Cain get his wife?” and “How do you Christians explain the dinosaurs?” (See article here.)
The argument goes like this:  “If God can create a rock that He cannot lift, then God is not omnipotent. If God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it, then God is not omnipotent. According to this argument, omnipotence is self-contradictory. Therefore, God cannot be omnipotent.” (Reference here.) 
“Omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything that you can string together in words. Stringing together things in words may not be anything that is actually even possible … For example, God cannot make a married bachelor … but that doesn’t count against God. If it is not a thing that is conceptually possible, then God cannot do it.” (Reference here.)  I might add to that, “…nor would He want to.” There is nothing in the character of God to indicate that he would fool around with the absurd.
The problem here is that people assume that if God is omnipotent, that means He can do “anything.” That is, however, incorrect. There are things God cannot do. He cannot sin. He cannot lie. He cannot deny Himself. He cannot do anything contrary to His nature. As a matter of fact, I can do some things that God cannot do. I can die. He cannot. I can sin. He cannot. There are many such examples. Does my ability to do some things God cannot do make me more powerful than Him? Of course not! Such a notion is absurd. The things God cannot do speak not of any weakness on His part, but they actually speak of His great power.
For a rock to be so big and heavy that He could not lift it, then it would have to be infinite and equal to His infinite lifting power. Material things cannot be infinite, so the question really is, “Can God make a contradiction?” That question is absurd, and the logic is flawed. The simple answer to this alleged difficult question is that God can make a rock of any size He chooses, but “infinite” is not a “size.” A rock of any size would not be infinite, because it could be made larger. Larger than infinite is another example of absurdity. Clearly, God can lift anything, regardless of its size or weight, because His power if infinite, and physical things are not. The obvious answer to the question is, “No, God cannot make a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it, and that does not diminish His omnipotence. Rather, it underscores it.”
I started college in 1964 and embarked on a path that let me into the field of education. Over all those years until I retired in 2012, I have heard repeatedly, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” I understand the desire on the part of a teacher not to put down students and make them feel foolish in front of their classmates. However, it did not take me long to realize that there are, in fact, stupid questions. “Could God create a rock so heavy He could not lift it?” Now that’s a stupid question. Rather than making the point it is designed to make, it instead identifies the person asking it as being ignorant of truth, reality, and the nature of God. Such a question is a very pathetic attempt to prove a point, but it ends up proving just the opposite.
God making a rock so big He can’t lift it is not only an impossibility, but it is a logical absurdity. God cannot and does not deal with logical absurdities, which are nonsensical, such as square circles, married bachelors, numbers larger than infinity, etc. People using logical absurdities to try and disprove God’s power and therefore His existence are merely playing games with words, and their words do not prove them to be clever or right.
There is a big difference between that which is logically absurd and that which is merely impossible. Even though God cannot do things that are logically absurd, because that would put Him in a position of contradicting Himself, He can do the impossible. Notice what the Scripture says.
"Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son" (Genesis 18:14, NKJV).
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You" (Jeremiah 32:17, NKJV).
"Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27, NKJV).
"But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27, NKJV).
The life of our Lord Jesus Christ here on earth was “bookended” by two marvelous, miraculous, “impossible” events – His virgin birth and His bodily resurrection from the grave. Yes, these events were impossible, at least from man’s perspective, but they were not logically absurd. We can  believe in a virgin birth and a bodily resurrection from the dead, done by the power of our miracle-working God, but we cannot even imagine such things as a married bachelor, a square circle, or “my brother is an only child.” Those things are logical absurdities.
God is the God of the impossible. He has done many “impossible” things. He created the universe out of nothing. Yes, scientists try to tell us that the universe came about in a “big bang” in which virtually nothing exploded and became all the stars, planets, and everything else in our universe. That is impossible. Only God can create out of nothing. God made life from non-life. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7, NKJV). Scientists would have us believe that life is just chemicals that managed to get arranged in the right order at the right place and the right time in order to produce life. That is nonsense and certainly describes something that is impossible without the supernatural working of the great Creator God.
God has done one miracle after another throughout the history of the universe. The virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was no small miracle. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14, NKJV). This was impossible, but God had no trouble performing such a miracle. Even Mary had her doubts when the Angel Gabriel came to her and told her what was going to happen.  “‘And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:31-35, NKJV).
God the Son, the great Creator of the universe, came out of eternity into time and space as the sinless, perfect, holy, God-man. He was born just like every one of us – with one very notable difference. He had a human mother but no human biological father. As a result, he had no sin nature and was therefore a fitting sacrifice for our sins. If He would have had a human father and therefore a sin nature, he could not have died in our place to save us from our sins. The virgin birth of Christ is an absolute necessity to the Gospel narrative. He could not be God if He were not virgin-born, and He could not be our Savior if he were not God.
The great miracle at the other end of the time the Son of God spent on earth is the resurrection. The resurrection makes the Gospel complete. Without the resurrection, we have, like most of the world religions, nothing more than a dead prophet. However, with the resurrection, we have a living Savior who has defeated death, and because of that, we who trust in Him have the gift of eternal life.
The resurrection is one of the most well-established facts of history. It is only because of bias and unbelief that this event is not recorded in secular history books.
“…the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days…” (Acts 1:2-3, NKJV). [Emphasis mine.]
“…He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8, NKJV).
The evidence, biblical and extra biblical, for the resurrection is overwhelming. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and that fact establishes the truth of the Bible, the truth of Christianity, the truth that He is God the Son, and the fact that there is salvation only in Him. "...and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4, NKJV). Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).
As Christmas approaches, we hear so much about those who want to remove all “religious” symbols from the holiday. Some even go so far as to say Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman are “Christian” symbols and that the holiday should just be called “Winter Solstice.” I really couldn’t care less about Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, the Winter Solstice or any of the other secular symbols of Christmas, and it is ludicrous for anyone to call these things legitimate symbols of the holiday.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior into this world. There are many who are OK with that, just so long as we leave off the “virgin birth” part and see Jesus as nothing more than a baby in a manger. They see it as a sweet little story of a sweet little family who endured the hardship of the birth of a child in a stable. Their patience and enduring is a lesson in love, patience, and kindness for all of us, etc., ad nauseam. However, there is much more to it than that.
“The world’s Christmas celebration is bound up in a disturbing incongruity. On the one hand, people go to great lengths to support and sustain the legend of Santa Claus, using his mystical benevolence to leverage good behavior from their children. On the other hand, they systematically minimize the Person and work of Christ — the holiday’s rightful celebrity — to the point that the Lord is nothing more than a plastic infant, frozen for all time in the familiar nativity scene. They exchange the singular Christ for a cheap hoax” (John MacArthur, “The Fullness of God in Helpless Babe”). This entire article is available here.)
Beyond Bethlehem, there is the cross of Calvary and the resurrection. He did all of this to save us, and the Gospel message is very clear. “… I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you by which also you are savedthat Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV). [Emphasis mine.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Story of Christmas is the Story of Jesus Christ

I wrote this article several years ago when I was administrator of a Christian school. It was published in the school’s monthly newsletter.
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“And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16, New American Standard Bible).
Each year it seems more and more as if the Lord Jesus Christ is being excluded from the holiday that purports to celebrate His birth. His name is not even permitted in certain places, and anything which has any kind of a ring of being “religious” is systematically removed from every phase of official life. In some quarters, even the term “Christmas Break” has been replaced by “Winter Break.”  There are those who refuse to recognize the birth of the Savior but celebrate the “Winter Solstice” as an excuse to “party.” It has become utterly ludicrous that people celebrate a holiday but totally ignore the One to Whom that holiday is supposedly dedicated.
The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus Christ. It does not end in a manger in Bethlehem. It does not even begin there. It begins in eternity past. God the Son, Jesus Christ, is the great Creator of the universe. Yet, he willingly humbled himself to be born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and become a perfect, sinless human being. He came because of the His great love for us. There is certainly no other reason for His having done this. He lived for thirty-three years, doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching and teaching among the people. He never did even the slightest wrong thing, yet sinful, rebellious mankind accused Him of all sorts of crimes and condemned Him to death. Never in their wildest imaginations did any of these individuals realize that the hand of God was at work, even in the many lies they told about Him. God is so wise that He can use even the sinfulness of man to bring about His will, and that is just what He did in the trial and execution of His Son. Jesus Christ came to this earth to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, yet He said of Judas, who betrayed Him, The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24, NASB)  How can this be?  Because God is absolutely sovereign, and His plan cannot be thwarted. Even the rebellion and foolishness of man play right into the hands of Him Who ultimately controls everything. What a comfort for the Christian!
In the single most significant event in all of history, the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after He was crucified. This made the salvation of all believers totally and permanently secure. Nothing and no one can ever change that. Satan, sin, and death are defeated foes which are only temporarily present. They cannot ultimately do us any harm. The skeptics often claim the Resurrection is a hoax, but it is, in fact, a historical fact of absolute status. It is more provable and demonstrable, even outside of the realm of faith, than a very large percentage of other historical facts. This single fact vindicates the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It proves who He is, and it proves what He did. It proves the Bible to be true from cover to cover, from the literal creation of the universe and all it contains, to the ultimate judgment of all humans and the culmination of all temporal things into eternity future. This fact of the Resurrection totally validates the sinfulness of man, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the need in the heart of all people for the salvation which only He can provide. It makes foolish all the arguments of ungodly men and challenges them with the haunting question of the Roman Governor, Pilate, who asked the crowd, Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22, NASB). Every human being must personally answer this question. There will be no exceptions.
At this special time of year, please consider Jesus Christ and what He has already done for you. Often, people get depressed around the holidays. Yet, all that He has done for us gives us every reason to be anything but depressed. He has proven the great love of God for each one of us. Nothing further must be done in order for God to prove He loves us. It has already been done. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”(Romans 5:8, NASB). You need Him as your Savior. If you come to Him, He will give you eternal life, which is His great gift to you. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NASB). Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” (I Corinthians 15:1-4, NASB).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Can Smart People Believe Stupid Things?

All too frequently we hear someone call his or her opponent ugly names, such as stupid, dumb, insane, foolish, idiotic, or maybe even worse. While this is very common, it remains true that the last tactic of those who have no substantive argument is mocking, ridicule, and name-calling.

There are many situations in which smart people on both sides of the issue resort to name-calling as their chief strategy in the debate. For example, many very smart people believe that the way for a country to get out of debt is to spend more money, and they call their opponents "selfish," "stupid," "out-of-touch," "racist," etc.  Many smart people believe that somehow human beings have caused and continue to cause "global warming" or "climate change," and they accuse their opponents of being, among other things, "science-deniers" or "ignorant."  It is likewise true that many smart people believe that the way to stop gun violence is to disarm the potential victims so only criminals are armed, and they call those who disagree with them "gun nuts," "Neanderthals," or worse. In each of these situations, the other side often throws back equally abusive insults.

Many more such examples could be listed, but there is probably no place where this is more true than in the creation vs. evolution debate. Evolutionists frequently retreat to this tactic when they are in a place where they really have no answers. We hear that creationists are stupid, that they don’t accept science, that they ignore the evidence, that they are superstitious, and that they are in the minority and are therefore wrong. While none of these things are true, evolutionists find it necessary to keep repeating them so others will begin believing them. “No creationists are scientists, and no scientists are creationists” is frequently heard, and such a statement is, of course, absurd.
Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist and evolutionist said, “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that).”  (Richard Dawkins, “Book Review of Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey’s Blueprints.” The New York Times, April 9, 1989. Section 7, 34.)
It is very tempting to throw the name-calling right back at the evolutionists. I once read a quote from someone who turned Dawkins' statement back on him, as follows:  “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims that evolution is a proven fact, that person is ignorant, stupid, or Richard Dawkins.” While we can be amused by such things, name-calling is really not productive, because it doesn’t change anything. We who are creationists have truth on our side, so there is no reason to stoop to such tactics. Truth always comes out on top. There is no reason to fear that science will ever discover anything that proves God doesn't exist or that evolution is true. That which is false can never be proven to be true, no matter what anyone says or how the evidence is twisted.
In reality, there are many very intelligent and educated people on both sides of the argument. It is absurd for evolutionists to write off all creationists as stupid, ignorant morons who deny science. On the other hand, we who are creationists need to avoid throwing such invectives at evolutionists. Rather than making ad hominem arguments against individuals, it is far more productive to argue the merits of our position and attack the weaknesses of the other side.
If something is legitimately considered “science,” it must be observable, testable, and repeatable. Think of the things that really are not science at all that the evolutionist establishment asks people to believe. All matter came from a dot. Order came from chaos. Life came from non-life. Design came about without a designer. All of this happened without benefit of any intelligence behind it. This is nonsense and foolishness of the highest order. These things most certainly fall into the category of "stupid." Why then, do so many intelligent people believe these things to be true?
Evolution is full of holes, and it is absolutely ridiculous for evolutionists to claim they are practicing science when there is nothing remotely scientific about evolution, yet there are many very intelligent, educated people who accept it as proven science and absolute fact. How can this be? The operative words are “gullible” and “deceived.” There really is no other explanation.

When smart people are confronted with a stupid belief, the only way they can swallow it is to be deceived by it, and they can only be deceived if they are gullible. This is not a reflection on their intelligence. Rather, it speaks to their lack of common sense. Common sense should not be checked at the door when entering the science lab. If a scientist did so, it would certainly explain a great deal. When it comes to denial of the Creator God, it speaks to their spiritual blindness. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NKJV).
Please note that I am not saying such people are “stupid.” There is a huge difference between “deceived” or “gullible” and “stupid.” There cannot be a “stupid smart person,” nor can there be a "foolish wise person," but there can most certainly be a “foolish smart person,” an “ignorant (uninformed) smart person,” or even a “gullible smart person.”

Evolution is a lie. Very few of those who push evolution are outright lying, because they believe the lie they are propagating. Instead, they have been deceived into believing something that appeals to the man-centered belief system of so many today, and they do not realize they are merely repeating what they have come to believe is established scientific fact. This video is the brief story of a professor who came to his senses about evolution after really listening to what he was teaching his students.

Scientists who look at evidence and conclude it proves evolution are interpreting that evidence from an evolutionary bias. Much of this bias is rooted in a very strong desire for evolution to be true, because evolution removes God from the picture. Without God, there is no accountability, and man is free to behave as he wishes. Is it also true that creationists are biased? Of course, and thankfully so. As Ken Ham said, "It is not a matter of whether one is biased or not. It is really a question of which bias is the best bias with which to be biased." (The Lie:  Evolution.)

There is the creation model, and there is the evolution model. While neither can be directly observed because they are ideas about the past, it is wise to look at the evidence and ask, "Which model best explains the evidence?" The answer to that one is quite clear.

Can smart people believe stupid things?
The answer is obvious. All one has to do is to look at the teaching of many very intelligent and educated people who believe in evolution to see that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
“Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:22, NKJV).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Biblical View of Ferguson

Many individuals have written on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. I want to call your attention to two of them. Both of these men are in a much better position to write on this subject than I am. One is a preacher, and the other is a professional football player. Regardless of their two very different professions, they both have nailed it down to the basic truth that we have a sin problem in this nation (and this world) and the answer to that problem is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Voddie Baucham, Dean of the African Christian University Seminary and the Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas addressed the issue here.
Benjamin Watson, Tight End for the New Orleans Saints, comes at the situation from a slightly different angle but arrives at the same conclusion here.

These articles are worth taking the time to read.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Little Leaven

“Error is like leaven, of which we read, ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.”  (Exposing Error:  Is it Worthwhile? by Dr. Harry Ironside)

Friday, October 24, 2014


Genesis 38
by Ed Cardwell

One might wonder why such a story as found in Genesis 38 should even appear in the Bible. After all, a man engaging the services of a prostitute seems hardly appropriate for a book of such piety and reverence. Such a narrative appears all too shameful and indecent to be included in the same book as the great Patriarchs and early heroes of faith. Yet, there it is.

Respectable Bible teachers would not normally venture into a discussion of such an embarrassing dialogue between bargaining participants of this shameful enterprise. The script itself would mortify the average untrained leader. Of course, in our modern liberated world we entertain far worse with an air of pride and sophistication. But to see such conversation spread through an entire chapter of the Book of Genesis makes us more than abashed and uncomfortable. Yet, again, there it is.

Let us examine this story and see if we can discover some nuggets of truth as to why it may have been included.

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This story itself pivots around a law of Moses found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10:

“When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. 6 "And it shall be that the first-born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel. 7 "But if the man does not desire to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' 8 "Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, 'I do not desire to take her,' 9 then his brother's wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, 'Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' 10 "And in Israel his name shall be called, 'The house of him whose sandal is removed.'” NAS

The law raises many ‘what if’ questions, but our focus will be on the case of the sons of Judah who apparently fit this qualification.

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The story in Genesis 38 centers around Judah, Tamar, and Judah’s sons and can be summarized as follows:

Judah had taken the role of matchmaker for his first born son, Er, and chose as a wife for him a woman from the Canaanites, Tamar. Er was a wicked man, so God took his life. Apparently he had committed the ‘sin unto death’ (1John 5:16). Judah then volunteered his second son, Onan, to perform his lawful duties as Er’s brother and take Tamar for wife to raise up offspring, the first of which, according to law, would be considered to belong to Er, Tamar’s late first husband. This no doubt would have had special significance where matters of birthright are concerned. Perhaps thinking that he had found a loophole in the law, Onan went into Tamar, but stopped short of implanting her with seed. This act aroused the wrath of God and his life was taken also.

Judah, having already lost two sons, was reticent to assign his third son, Shelah, to a similar fate. Instead he told Tamar to return to her father’s house, and, presumably wanting to buy time, told her that she should wait until Shelah ‘grows up’.

While Tamar waited at her father’s house for Judah to fulfill his promise, time passed – and more time passed. ‘After a considerable time’, according to Genesis 38:12, Judah’s wife died. This would have required a lengthy time for mourning, possibly as much as 12 months, and Tamar’s impatience was growing.

She undoubtedly followed her father-in-law’s movements closely as her suspicion grew that he was going to renege on his promise, as Shelah had already grown up. So when she heard that Judah has gone to visit his sheepshearers near Timnah, and as the period of mourning has passed, she relied on her feminine instincts and devised a very shrewd plan that, if successful, would entrap Judah and exact revenge upon his deceitfulness.

Dressing up as a harlot and seating herself near a Canaanite temple by the road at Enaim, her strategy began to pay off. Judah, having been celibate as normally required during the period of mourning for his wife, succumbed to the temptation that this supposed harlot is offering, clueless that she was actually his daughter-in-law.

When Judah turned aside to her, the bartering began (in verse 16): 

Judah:  Here now, let me come in to you.”

Tamar:  “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”

Judah:  “I will send you a kid from the flock.”

Tamar:  “Will you give a pledge until you send it?”

Judah:  “What pledge shall I give you?”

Tamar:  “Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.”

And finally:  “So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him.” NAS

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We might say that Tamar caught Judah at a very weak moment because, by modern standards, she was essentially asking for his driver’s license, Visa card, and the keys to his car. The items she requested were the essentials for financial security, royal identification and registration, his status and authority, and also his weapon.

The narrative continues in verse 19 and 20:

“Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow's garments. When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman's hand, he did not find her.” NAS

Judah also learned that there was no known prostitute at the Canaanite temple. Satisfied that he had kept his promise, but fearing that he would become a ‘laughingstock’ for being so stupid, he decided to let the matter rest.

Three months later, Judah is informed that Tamar is with child by playing a harlot. His righteous indignation is aroused and he demands that she be brought out, exposed, and burned to death.

This is the moment that Tamar has been waiting for:  to humiliate Judah and to exact revenge for his treachery. She produces the items taken from Judah from the early encounter at the Canaanite temple and addresses her audience:

“I am with child by the man to whom these things belong… Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?” GEN 38:25 NAS

Judah’s shame is immediately exposed as he recognizes his belongings. He is forced to reverse her condemnation and express his own contriteness of heart:

“She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.”

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The story does not end here. From this encounter with Judah by the road to Enaim Tamar became pregnant and in the fullness of her time gave birth to twins, Perez and Zerah.

Zerah was the great grandfather of Achan, who brought a curse upon Israel when during the battle of Jericho he violated God’s command regarding the ban, whereby all the spoil of that city was to go into the treasury of the Lord.  He was discovered and, as a result, all of his household were stoned to death, and they and all of his possessions were burned with fire.

Interestingly, the other twin, Perez, is the great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather of David, and thus in the direct lineage to Jesus the Messiah.

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But the story doesn’t end there either. There is another story - within the story.

Let’s examine the word for ‘pledge’, underlined in the quoted text above.

The Hebrew word here is !Abr'[e (arabon). This word appears in this form only three times in all of the Old Testament, and all three appearances are here within the context of the encounter between Judah and Tamar.  This is likewise true of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Only here in Genesis 38 do we find this word in the Septuagint, BUT the word is NOT translated into Greek! 

The Hebrew word is merely transliterated. Why? Are there no Greek words for this Hebrew word? Yes, there are. Why, then, was the Hebrew word used instead of the Greek? It must be remembered that Hebrew is the language of religion, the heart and soul of the Hebrew people, unlike the Greek, the language of precision. The most probable answer is that this story is so significant and deeply ingrained in the Hebrew psyche that whenever !Abr'[e (arabon) is used, the listener is immediately drawn to the cardinal theme of this exchange between Judah and Tamar. Judah, himself a grand Patriarch in the direct line to the Messiah, makes a promise, and with that promise, a down payment, or earnest payment, which is in itself the tangible guarantee that the promise is literal, genuine, and sincere, and will ultimately be fulfilled to the letter.

The word is so significant that the word is used in the New Testament – also untranslated!  The true Author of the Book of Ephesians has transported the idea of a genuine, tangible guarantee to a spiritual level. Notice how the Apostle Paul uses this word in the context of spiritual transformation in Ephesians 1:13-14:

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.” NAS

We should be able to infer confidently that the ‘pledge’ in Genesis 38 is nothing less than a prophetic type which looks forward to the down payment, or earnest payment, in the believer’s life of the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This gift, the presence of God’s life in us, is Heaven’s guarantee, THE PROMISE OF GOD, THAT OUR FULL REDEMPTION IS SURE. At the same time it is God’s act of sealing each believer and branding us as BELONGING TO HIM – FOREVER!

This story is one of the most vivid examples that God’s grace and mercy is able to penetrate through even the grossest of man’s sin, to prevail over his weaknesses and frailty, to transform the consequences of his misdeeds, in order to accomplish His eternal plan and purpose, even to the end of days.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33 NAS

And finally, it should be added, that the word  avrrabw.n (arabon) is still used even today in Modern Greek. It translates into our English ‘ENGAGEMENT RING’!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Absurd and Dishonest Political Advertising, Part 2

I recently received a piece of mail that is an insult to the intelligence and common sense of anyone who might read it. Some politicians must think all voters are stupid. The content of the document is an appeal to vote “no” on Amendment 67, which reads as follows:  Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining ‘person’ and ‘child’ in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?"
Clearly, the amendment is a necessary first step in protecting unborn children from abortion by defining them as human beings, which of course, they are. It is a sad commentary on our culture that such a question is even open to debate. In reality, there is no legitimate abortion debate. It is not a political issue. Rather, it is a moral issue, and human beings cannot by a vote overrule God. Truth and morality are not determined by popular opinion or majority vote.
The tactics of those who oppose the amendment are extremely deceptive and absurd, but it seems that “truth in advertising” does not apply to politics.
The piece of propaganda I received makes several statements, as follows:

1.)  “Amendment 67 goes too far and would have dangerous consequences.”
2.)  “‘Unborn human being’ is a red flag for giving legal and constitutional rights to a woman’s fertilized egg, banning all abortions, including in the cases of rape, incest, or when something goes terribly wrong with a pregnancy.”
Notice that list of circumstances never does mention “elective abortion for the purpose of birth control,” which is most certainly the majority of abortions. I am old enough to remember when the big push to legalize abortion made the claim that it was necessary because of rape, incest, birth defects, or the health of the mother was at risk. It is interesting how those things put together make up only a very small percentage of all abortions. People were sold a bill of goods back in the 60’s. Anyone who said the "slippery slope" would lead to abortion becoming a popular form of birth control was labelled "an alarmist," but they were, in the end, proven right. The website states the following:  “Over 95 percent of the abortions performed today involve women who simply do not want to have a baby. Less than 5 percent of abortions are for the reasons of rape, incest, or the mother's health at risk.”
3.)  “Amendment 67 could cause doctors and midwives to be charged and jailed for crimes as extreme as manslaughter and even homicide … Amendment 67 turns women and doctors into criminals.” Beneath that statement are pictures of four women in a police line-up, each holding a sign.
The first woman’s sign says, “Had an abortion after I was raped.” Obviously, many people accept this as a justification for abortion. However, even though abortions performed because of rape are very few, it is difficult to understand how the killing of an unborn child is justifiable. Two wrongs never make a right. I am reminded of the statement by the main character in the movie “Rob Roy” after he found out his wife was pregnant as a result of rape:  It's not the child that needs killing.” Even though this came from Hollywood, which is not exactly a center for the pro-life position, his point is well-taken. Punish the criminal, not the victim. Even if one accepts the validity of the first woman’s sign, which I don’t, the others defy all levels of common sense.
The second woman’s sign says, “Suffered a miscarriage.” Do they really expect us to believe that a woman who has a miscarriage will be put in jail if this amendment is passed? Does that make any sense? Of course not! Such an idea is absurd, at best. Yet we are subjected to such idiotic political propaganda, and those who put it out really expect us to accept their ridiculous reasoning.
The third woman, obviously a doctor, is holding a sign that says, “Treated my patient for a pregnancy that went terribly wrong.” This implies that the amendment will criminalize any doctor who loses a patient. The last time I checked, doctors are not God, regardless of what some of them may think. There is a big difference between a doctor who performs elective abortions and a doctor who treats a pregnant woman in an attempt to save her unborn child, even though the child ends up dying. This is another example of an absurd implication that no one should take seriously.
The final woman’s sign says, “Delivered a stillborn child.” (What? A stillborn “child?” They kind of tripped over their own words by calling it a “child.” I thought it was a “fetus” or a “tissue mass.”) This is just more of the same nonsense as the first three signs. It takes quite a case of dishonesty to put out such material, and it takes quite a case of foolishness to believe it.
Even if I believed other than the obvious fact that abortion is murder, I would laugh at this piece of nonsensical propaganda. Those who favor abortion need to make a well-thought-out argument for their position and state it clearly instead of relying on scare tactics and half-truths. I do not believe such a clear-cut argument can exist, since no matter what that argument would be, the end result is the killing of helpless, innocent human beings.
There is a great deal of talk today, especially as we approach the elections, about the alleged "war on women." The only real war on women is the war on unborn women. This war extends to unborn men, too.
An unborn human is a “pre-born human,” and the killing of another human being, with a few very real and biblical exceptions (accident, war, self-defense, and capital punishment) is murder, plain and simple. No amount of human reasoning or rationalization can change God’s standard relative to human life and abortion. I understand that abortion is legal, but it should not be. Abortion is a classic illustration of the truth that “just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16, NKJV).
Part one is found here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Absurd and Dishonest Political Advertising

So why is it now supposedly true that not voting for government funding of something is equivalent to making it illegal? I am very weary of political ads that accuse opponents of wanting to make such things as birth control illegal, when the truth is simply that the opponent does not want the government to pay for it.

We all remember such statements as "Bush will outlaw abortion" and "Hobby Lobby is denying birth control to its employees." Such statements were and continue to be patently absurd and extremely deceptive. It would be morally right if the murder of unborn human beings were outlawed, but no single individual, not even a president, has dictatorial authority to make it happen. Hobby Lobby's conviction that it could not and would not p
ay for certain types of birth control does not mean those things were being denied or made illegal. People need to understand that if they want something, there is really nothing wrong with paying for it themselves.

I am fully aware that the government is not going to pay for my food, my gasoline, my utilities, my ammunition, or a variety of other things that I either need or want. This does not mean these things are illegal. The government is not responsible to pay for my stuff, nor should it be.

Anyone who would fall for such absurd and dishonest political advertising ought to do a little bit of thinking before they throw their vote away based on an emotional appeal.

Part 2 is found here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Once again, to get a sense of the importance of studying the original languages of Scripture and to look at the great benefits derived from such, I refer to the introductory paragraphs in my original article ‘ANOTHER LOOK AT CHRISTIANITY’S MOST CHERISHED PASSAGES (I)’.
I will quote from that article, however, for those who may not have access to that first article:
“Greek is the language of specificity.  Greek words are intended to convey a mental picture from the speaker to the hearer.  All language should have this innate ability, but as we can see, English is an agglomeration of languages with words whose meanings have been so obfuscated and diversified that clear communication is almost impossible.  The answer for the serious Bible student is to go to the numerous works available that elucidate the original words and their contextual meanings throughout Scripture.  There is even a better way – study and master the original languages.”
“Of course one might be accused of heresy if he were to alter revered translations.  Some might even consider it desecration of the highest order.  But I suggest that looking beyond the musty curtain of the ‘Authorized’ version(s) sometimes allows us to penetrate the limitations that these versions have proscribed to reconsider the intent of the author.”
“How much deeper our understanding of the Gospel might be if only we would lay aside the tradition of men (and the bias of the translators) and discover the intent of the true author of Scripture.  How much richer would be our appreciation for the heart and mind of the living God.”
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The first half of John 3:16 [For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son ] – probably THE most cherished portion of the New Testament – is the subject of this article.   The last half of John 3:16 [that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life] was addressed in the previous article (II).
To grasp the immediate context it is necessary to include verses 14 and 15:
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
15that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.
16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  NAS
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To help in our study John 3:16 is given below in an interlinear style with the Greek text and the identical KJV and NAS translations:
Ou[twj      ga.r        hvga,phsen     o` qeo.j        to.n ko,smon(
 So           for          loved          God          the world
w[ste          to.n       ui`o.n        to.n       monogenh/              e;dwken(
that         the       son        the     only begotten       he gave
*                    *                    *                    *                    *
In pursuit of a deeper understanding, a few Greek words need special attention:
It is generally agreed that the most important words in a Greek statement tend to appear toward the beginning of a sentence.  Not that the other words in the sentence are unimportant, but the words that are for special emphasis will normally move toward the front.  That could be said of our word Ou[twj, translated here as ‘so’.
When we hear the Bible teacher use the word ‘so’ in the context of John 3:16, we normally understand him to mean ‘so much’, implying a strong degree, as is the clear intent of the NIV translation.  But that is not its meaning.  It is an adverb describing the ‘how’ of an action verb.  Its meaning is: ‘in this way’, ‘thus’, ‘likewise’, ‘in the same way’, or ‘like this’.  It appears at least 199 times in the NT, depending on the Greek manuscript group.  When it is translated ‘so’ or ‘even so’, the actual meaning is ‘thus’ or ‘in this way’.   Interestingly in John 3:14, the first verse in the context cited above, the Greek word translated ‘even so’ is this same word Ou[twj.
A few other examples will suffice.
Matthew 19:8
KJV He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
NAS Matthew 19:8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
GNT Matthew 19:8 le,gei auvtoi/j o[ti Mwu?sh/j pro.j th.n sklhrokardi,an u`mw/n evpe,treyen u`mi/n avpolu/sai ta.j gunai/kaj u`mw/n( avpV avrch/j de. ouv ge,gonen ou[twjÅ
Matthew 24:33
KJV So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
NAS Matthew 24:33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
GNT Matthew 24:33 ou[twj kai. u`mei/j( o[tan i;dhte pa,nta tau/ta ginw,skete o[ti evggu,j evstin evpi. qu,raijÅ
Matthew 19:12
KJV For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb:
NAS Matthew 19:12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb;
GNT Matthew 19:12 eivsi.n ga.r euvnou/coi oi[tinej evk koili,aj mhtro.j evgennh,qhsan ou[twj(
If the translators had been consistent, the ou[twj in John 3:16 would have been translated the same as it was in verse 14, and at least the common misunderstanding mentioned above could have been partially avoided.  Even better, in both instances the word could have been translated with its basic meaning ‘thus’, or ‘in this way’, as it has been correctly done in some other less popular English translations, and the meaning would have been even clearer with further misinterpretations and misapplications reduced to a minimum.
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ga.r is used 1067 times in the NT, and over 96 percent of the time it is translated ‘for’.  It is also translated ‘because’ in John 3:19; 10:26; Romans 3:2; 4:15; and 3 John 1:7.  ga.r is a conjunction, a very common word that connects sentences, clauses, phrases and words. It is used to express:  ground or reason; an explanation; a confirmation or assurance. 
The context of the great statement in the first half of John 3:16 can be seen to be connected to verse 15 as the reason, or the explanatory cause of the statement in verse 15.  I believe it can be demonstrated that verse 16 is an explanation as much as a reason for the statement in verse 15.  The final translation offered in the ‘conclusion’ hopefully makes this clearer.
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hvga,phsen is from the verb avgapa,w, meaning ‘ to love’, or ‘show love’.  It is important to note that the tense here is aorist tense, not present tense.  Present tense would indicate an ongoing or continuous action, but the aorist tense gives the sense of action as punctilar – a point.  Such action may be regarded as a single whole, that is, in its entirety, or as a simple act taken place in history.
Of course God’s love is eternal and is the very essence of His nature, as John writes in 1 John 4:8 and 16, “God is love” KJV, but the aorist tense here in John 3:16 has a different focus – the demonstration of His love at a point in time.  So, this would be in perfect harmony with the statement in Revelation 13:8: “… the Lamb slain from the foundation of the worldKJV, where we understand that this demonstration of God’s love was eternally in the mind of God before time began and was a fait accompli before the creation of the world.  It is also in harmony with the statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3:  “…that Christ died for our sins according to the ScripturesKJV, where we understand this to be a focus on the historical crucifixion taken place at a point in history some 20 centuries ago.  It is possible that the writer would have us dwell on both aspects:  the eternal and the temporal.
It should be emphasized that the emotion of love is not the focal point in John 3:16.  The main focus is the fact of history in which God sent His Only Begotten to Calvary, and that fact is to be the hallmark demonstration, the singular grand declaration to all the world of his infinite love, goodness, and justice. 
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w[ste is a conjunction showing purpose or results and appears 83 times in the NT.  It is translated variously as: ‘so that’, ‘wherefore’, ‘insomuch that’, ‘therefore’, ‘that’, ‘so then’, ‘to’, ‘as’, and ‘insomuch as’.
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This word is from monogenh,j, meaning ‘unique’, ‘only one of its kind’.  It appears 9 times in the NT (Lk. 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Heb. 11:17; 1 Jn. 4:9).    Inasmuch as Jesus alone completely reproduces the nature and character of God, the apostle John uses this word in reference only to Jesus.  
[Notice how the NAS, using more reliable texts than many earlier translations, translates John 1:18:
“No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” NAS
qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w'n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ GNT]
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e;dwken is from the verb di,dwmi, meaning ‘to give’.  The verb is in aorist tense and has the same force of fact of history as the verb hvga,phsen above.  The translation is simply ‘he gave’.
*                    *                    *                    *                    *

First it would be good to see John 3:16 in its immediate context:

14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up

15that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.

16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  NAS

And now we can look at an improved translation using colors matching the English words with the Greek words that we have briefly studied:

14"And (just) as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, Likewise(in the same way) the Son of Man must be lifted up;

15 in order that everyone believing in Him may have eternal life.

16 "Because God likewise(in the same way) loved(showed His love for, acted in love for) the world, insomuch that He gave His only begotten Son, in order that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

14 “ kai. kaqw.j Mwu?sh/j u[ywsen to.n o;fin evn th/| evrh,mw|( ou[twj u`ywqh/nai dei/ to.n ui`o.n tou/ avnqrw,pou(

15  i[na pa/j o` pisteu,wn evn auvtw/| e;ch| zwh.n aivw,nionÅ

16  Ou[twj ga.r hvga,phsen o` qeo.j to.n ko,smon( w[ste to.n ui`o.n to.n monogenh/ e;dwken( i[na pa/j o` pisteu,wn eivj auvto.n mh. avpo,lhtai avllV e;ch| zwh.n aivw,nionÅ GNT

It seems clear that in verse 16 John has given us an explanation, or reason for why the Son of God is to be offered up.   In the divine plan, God’s eternal answer for man’s great need of redemption could only be that God Himself would bear the full brunt of the penalty for sin – His own death – that He might righteously offer His forgiveness to all those who would only look in faith to that wonderful Savior.  And the context here is introduced by the Old Testament type whereby Moses lifted up the serpent for salvation for all those who would look upon it.

Had the many translations been more accurate and consistent in attending to detail, the miscommunications that have arisen over the years could have been minimized, or even eliminated.

Praise Him for His marvelous works!  Amen.

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[Note:  A similar translation of John 3:16 comes from Dr. Kenneth Wuest, a noted Greek scholar who was a professor of New Testament Greek at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago during the mid-20th century and one of the translators of original New American Standard Bible (NASB).  This translation comes from his ‘New Testament Expanded Translation’:

“For in such a manner did God love the world, insomuch that His Son, the uniquely-begotten One, He gave, in order that everyone who places his trust in Him may not perish but may be having life eternal.”]