No.3 "For three transgressions… and for four" (Part 2)
Read chapter 1.1 – 2.3 again
We have noticed that chapters 1 & 2 contain some general principles of judgment and specific causes of judgment. Having dealt with the former, we come now to:
SPECIFIC CAUSES OF JUDGMENT
The eight pronouncements can be divided into four pairs as follows: crimes against national life (Damascus and Gaza); offences against brotherly kindness (Tyre and Edom); offences against the helpless (Ammon and Moab); offences against Divine revelation (Judah and Israel).
The Crime: "For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron" v.3. Threshing is something planned and systematic. It carries the idea of cruelty and unsparing destruction. It has been said that the purpose of threshing is to extract the crop, perhaps conveying here the idea of commercial profit before human welfare.
This was foretold by Elisha: "I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child" 2Kgs.8.11,12. As always, the word of God proved accurate: "In those days (during the reign of Jehu) the Lord began to cut Israel short: and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan" 2Kgs.10.32,33. We are also told that "the king of Syria... made them like the dust by threshing" 2Kgs.13.4-7.
The Punishment: "But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad. I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord" vv.4,5. This was fulfilled about fifty years later: "the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it to Kir, and slew Rezin" 2Kgs.6.9.
The expression "bar of Damascus" evidently refers to its gate, cp Jer.51.30, and therefore to its defences, indicating that the city would fall. Aven (literally ‘the valley of Aven’ or the ‘plain of Aven’) means ‘wickedness’ (possibly ‘emptiness’) and was presumably near Damascus. The "house of Eden" (‘Beth-Eden’) means ‘the house of delight’ (J.N.D.). It would prove to be otherwise under Divine judgment. Kir is unidentified, but it was apparently the place from which the Syrians originated, Amos 9. 7, leading J.A.Motyer to write, "To this unknown place, having blotted history with their inhumanities, they return".
The Crime: "For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom" v.6. The expression, "the whole captivity" could mean ‘an entire population’ in the sense of ‘whole communities’ (N.I.V.). Gaza was "the southernmost city of the Philistine Pentapolis, and the key to Palestine on the south; hence, it was viewed as the representative of the whole nation" (M.F.Unger). The words "to deliver them up" suggest slave-trading, and it is possible that Amos refers here to the invasion of Judah by the Philistines and the Arabians described in 2Chr.21.16,17, although the incident to which Amos refers could have been in the nature of "border warfare, in which defenceless Judaean villages were overpowered, and the inhabitants sold to the Oriental tribes through the medium of the Edomites" (Ellicott’s Commentary). Edom, the implacable and inveterate enemy of God’s people, was either the buyer or the middleman in this fearful traffic in human beings.
The Punishment: "But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall destroy the palaces thereof: and I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon, and I will turn my hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord God" vv.7,8. Four of the five Philistine cities are named. Gath is omitted, possibly because it sheltered David, 1Sam.27.1-3. References to judgment upon the Philistine cities are found in Jer.47.1-7; Zeph.2.4; Zech.9.5-7.
In summary, as noted above, the first two oracles refer to nations, Syria (represented by Damascus) and the Philistines (represented by Gaza), who were intent on the destruction of God’s people. They remind us of another enemy of God’s people: "the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" 1Pet.5.8.
The Crime: "For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant" v.9. The "brotherly covenant" refers to the excellent relationship between Hiram and David, 1Kgs.5.1, and between Hiram and Solomon, 1Kgs.5.12.
Tyre was "a great Phoenician coastal emporium that was famous for its commerce and wealth" (M.F.Unger). The city is likened to a ship, Ezek.27.1-11, and the passage continues by describing its markets: see Ezek.27.12-25. Judah traded there in "wheat of Minnith, and Pannag, and honey, and oil, and balm" Ezek.27.17. But the city also traded in Judean slaves: "they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom" v.9. They were "guilty of the same crime of complicity with the slave trade with Edom as were the Philistines, v.6, … in selling whole communities of captives to Edom, apparently handling the business end of the shameful traffic, and considering themselves bound by no ties of honour, disregarding the treaty of brotherhood" (M.F.Unger). Their greed for profits overruled any thought of mercy and kindness.
This reminds us of the brotherly relationships which should exist between the Lord’s people. It was conspicuously absent at Corinth, 1Cor.6.1-7. In the circumstances, two courses were open to the Lord’s people: either to rest the matter with wise men in the assembly, vv.4,5; or to leave the matter and "rather take wrong" v.7. Strife among brethren occurred in the days of Abraham, causing him to say to Lot: "let there be no strife, I pray, between thee and me, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren" Gen.13.7,8. The New Testament refers to the "brotherly covenant" between believers today as follows: "Seeing ye have purified your souls through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" 1Pet.1.22; "let brotherly love continue" Heb.13.1.
The Punishment: "But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof" v.10. The city surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar after a thirteen-year siege (585-573 BC), and was eventually destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.
The Crime: "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword (see Num.20.14-21; Deut.2.8), and did cast off (some say ‘stifled’) all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever" v.11. The figure of "the sword" describes Edom’s ongoing attitude towards Israel, rather than alluding to any specific instance of hostility. Edom’s anger burned in the heart. It was on-going malice, not a sudden outburst of temper, but a smouldering, persistent anger. He nursed enmity. The animosity of Edom reminds us that men hate what God chooses. This is clear from Obadiah vv.10-14, which refers to Edomite hatred at the destruction of Jerusalem. When Jerusalem fell, the Edomites cried, "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof" Ps.137.7.
James describes this attitude as "bitter strife and enmity in your heart" and continues, "This wisdom descendeth not from above but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is there is confusion and every evil work" Jms.3.14-16. Edom "did pursue his brother with the sword", and Paul warns us that "if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" Gal.5.15: Edom "did cast off all pity", and Paul urges us to be "kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you" Eph.4.32: Edom’s "anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever", whereas Paul tells believers, "let not the sun go down upon your wrath" Eph.4.26. If we forget "the brotherly covenant" v.9, we too may end up pursuing our "brother with the sword" v.11.
The Punishment: "But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah" v.12. Teman was named after one of Esau’s grandsons, Gen.36.11. Its destruction is described in Obadiah vv.8-9. Bosrah (or Bozrah) was evidently one of the royal cities of Edom, Gen.36.33. The Lord Jesus will evidently destroy His enemies in that region before entering Jerusalem in triumph - see Isa.63.1-6.
In summary, we have two peoples, Tyre and Edom, who had no regard at all for brotherly kindness. This is a solemn lesson for us all.
The Crime: "For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border" v.13. The books of Judges, 3.13; 10.7-18; 11.4-33, and 1Sam, 11.1-11; 14.47, refer to Ammonite incursions, and particular reference is made to Gilead in Judg.10.8; 11.5; 1Sam.11.1.
The Ammonites committed terrible atrocities in the interests of territorial expansion. Spiritual ambition is good. See Rom.15.20; 2Cor.5.9; 1
Thess.4.11, where "strived", "labour" and "study" all translate one word (phileotimeomai), meaning ‘aim’ or ‘ambition’. But the Ammonites were consumed by ambition that stopped at nothing to achieve its object. Ambition can destroy others. Even Christians can destroy the future by failing to bestow kindness and care upon fellow-believers. The Lord is so different: "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" Isa.40.11.
The Punishment: "I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah (modern Amman), and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind: and their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, saith the Lord" vv.14,15. See Jer.49.3.
The Crime: "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime" v.1. The Moabites desecrated the past. They exhibited a malice that continued into the grave. Burning the bones of the king of Edom was the final insult. Sadly, some Christians never let past matters rest. They continue to cast aspersions upon the character of fellow-believers who have been "absent from the body" for years!
The Punishment: "But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth (called ‘Kir of Moab’ Isa.15.1): and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet: and I will cut off the judge (perhaps referring to the king, or to his representative) from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the Lord" vv.2,3. According to the Moabite Stone, Moab’s national god, Chemosh, was located at Kir.
In summary, we have two peoples who were guilty of crimes against the helpless. Ammon destroyed the future, and Moab desecrated the past.
In our next study, God willing, we will consider the oracles concerning Judah and Israel, 2.4-16.
We now come to the third piece of armour in the Christian's panoply. "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." This part of the armour distinctly refers to the Christian's walk. He is to go forth in peace - shod with peace; and yet he is a man of war, and clad in armour from head to foot. The helmet covers his head in the day of battle, and the shoes his feet. And these he is to wear so long as he keeps the field against the enemy.
But in what way, may I ask, is the Christian soldier to be a peace-maker? There seems in this a great contradiction. Admitted, my soul, but the contradiction is only in appearance. The most gentle Christian must be a stern warrior. And more, would I say, in proportion to his power as a peace-maker, will be his power in conflict with the adversary. Here is a point in the divine science of Christianity, worthy of thy most patient study. But now, remember the order, the secret is this:-
When truth governs the heart, the conscience is good. We are bright and happy in ourselves, and peaceful in our ways with others. There is integrity of heart to begin with, truth in the inward parts, consistency in our conduct, and seeking the happiness of others. The salvation of the lost, the leading of such to know Him who made peace by the blood of the cross, and the happiness of the saved, become the grand objects of the peace-maker. Over such an one the enemy can gain no victory. He is unassailable. On the other hand, when there is carelessness as to the saving peace of the sinner, and laxity in our own Christian ways, the conscience becomes bad, we are unhappy, we get into trouble, we trouble others; we are exposed to the attacks of Satan, he wounds in many places, we cannot hold up our head.
In such a case, the heart is not governed by truth. The belt, as it were, is unblocked - the garments are allowed to fly loose. Where are the thoughts now - especially the affections - the painful results of such a course spread far and wide? Persons, families, the Church of God, are troubled. The seeds of discord grow apace, and many chief friends are separated. Satan, thou wilt perceive, has gained a great victory. But stay a moment, I pray thee. Tell me, what was the beginning of all this trouble - this shameful defeat? Just this, my soul, and mark it well; God begins with the heart, and so should we. We are to wear a girdle of truth. This is the first thing. Departure from the truth of God as our only guide, exposes the mind to its own resources, or rather, to the suggestions of Satan.
Alas, we have gone out of the way. Then come excuses, explanations, and exaggerations. Practically the girdle has dropped from the soldier's loins, his breastplate is lost, and in place of being shod with peace, he is shod with dissension. One Christian out of communion with the Lord may prove a root of bitterness to many. Unhappy in himself, and vexed with himself, he is soon angry with others. Whereas, when the Christian is in communion, he is at peace with God, and goes out in the sweet peace of the gospel to others - to both saints and sinners.
And now, understandest thou, my soul, how the Christian is both a man of peace and a man of war? Yes, not only so, but I see clearly, that unless he be a man of peace he cannot be a man of war. And hast thou also noticed that there is a special honour and blessing attached to the manifestation of this Christian grace. Has not the Lord Himself said, "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God." But why? Because He is the God of peace - the great Peace-maker; and they are like Him. He gave His Son to make peace. There is nothing on which His heart is more set. Peace, my son, was the language of the father's kiss to the prodigal - the first utterance of his heart. Nothing more manifests our relation to God as His children than peace-making. "Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God."
The expression, "your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," is extremely beautiful. It gives the idea of the Christian carrying peace into every scene which he enters. What a mission - Peace! What a title - Children of God! The reconciliation of the sinner to God, and the blessings of peace to the saints, are the objects of his heavenly mission, John chapter 20. Should he enter a scene which has been one of trouble, he will find out the way, if possible, to make it one of peace. But should he fail, he can look to God and patiently wait on Him. His character and mission are Peace.
Previously, we focused on doctrinal passages teaching us how we should live in light of the future. We will now see the point illustrated from the abbreviated biography of Enoch in Genesis chapter 5. The details of the others mentioned in the chapter conclude with this: "and he died". Of Enoch it is said, "he was not; for God took him" v.24, described elsewhere as "his translation" Heb.11.5. Early in history God was showing that it is possible for people to go to heaven without dying. Check the maths in Genesis chapter 5. Before the death of Adam’s son Seth, Enoch had been translated to glory without dying at all, the prototype of those who shall not sleep but be changed, 1Cor.15.51; his experience is a picture of the rapture of the saints, 1Thess.4.13-18.
There are two clear illustrations of The Rapture in Scripture, this one in the first book of the Bible and the other in the last when John was summoned to enter "a door [that] was opened in heaven" Rev.4.1. Both illustrations are consistent with the doctrine of the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church. Take the flood as a picture of the Tribulation, and Enoch was translated before it came. John was transported to heaven before details of Tribulation judgments were given.
The memoirs of Enoch are compressed into a few verses but what lessons they hold for those who anticipate rapture! The summary says twice over, he "walked with God", vv.22,24 with the New Testament equivalent, "he pleased God" Heb.11.5. Those who expect the arrival of their Lord will walk with Him presently and will strain every nerve to please Him. They will avoid being like the servant who said, "My lord delayeth his coming"; that attitude would lead to bullying fellow-believers and associating with dubious characters, Lk.12.45. Let the hope of His imminent return burn brightly; it will promote close fellowship with Him in this present life.
Oh, walk with Jesus, wouldst thou know
How deep, how wide His love can flow;
They only fail His love to prove
Who in the ways of sinners rove.
(Edwin P. Hood)
THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS WALK WITH GOD
It appears that Enoch was converted at sixty-five years of age, coinciding with the birth of Methuselah, Gen.5.21,22. Perhaps the meaning of the boy’s name supplies the reason for this new chapter in Enoch’s life. According to the Newberry Bible, Methuselah means "when he is dead it shall be sent". It seems that Enoch was given warning of the flood, with this specific information; it will come when this child dies. Every time Methuselah fell sick, the alarm bells would ring; if he dies, the judgment will fall! But it is proof that "the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" 1Pet.3.20, that Methuselah lived longer than any other mortal man. Nine hundred and sixty nine years elapsed before he succumbed, and the maths show again that in the very year he died, the flood came.
Two factors emerge; first, inevitably Divine predictions will be fulfilled. This man to whom God gave warning of the flood was privy to another Divine secret; the judgment that will accompany the second advent of the Lord Jesus, Jude 14,15. It will be effected as surely as was the first.
Second, God is wonderfully patient, and yet sadly, men still despise "the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering" Rom.2.4; they fail to realise that "the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" 2Pet.3.15.
So it appears that it was the threat of judgment that moved Enoch to commence his walk with God. Some readers will relate to that, and remember when they were awakened to the reality of "judgment to come" Acts 24.25; it stirred them to flee for refuge, Heb.6.18. Enoch’s experience teaches that the warning of judgment should be an integral part of our preaching. Christ and His death and resurrection should be the core of our message as in a winsome way the facts of the gospel are presented. However, like Paul, we have to blend with that the announcement of a "day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ", which he said, was "according to my gospel" Rom.2.16. Together, the declaration of Divine love expressed at the cross, and the pronouncement of Divine judgment for the impenitent can draw the guilty to the Saviour.
Not only did the disclosure of coming judgment encourage Enoch to walk with God, but being now a family man, his sense of responsibility was heightened. Bringing up a family is a huge responsibility and requires Divine help. Scripture does show that parental godliness does not guarantee that the family will come good spiritually. Cain and Abel had the same upbringing, as did Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau. Each of them had the same advantages and the same parental instruction, but in every instance, one brother turned out so differently from the other. However, believers who walk with God will never feel guilty at having set a bad example in the home, and the blame for any failure in the family will never be laid at their door.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS WALK WITH GOD
In broad terms, the circumstances surrounding his walk with God were conditions of general depravity with the downward spiral of evil leading to wickedness being "great in the earth", and the human mind-set being "only evil continually", Gen.6.5. In other words, the world was ripening for the judgment of the flood. To be more specific, it is significant that he is described as "the seventh from Adam" Jude 14. His counterpart in the Cain line was Lamech, Gen.4.18-24, and he and his family had launched an offensive to make life without God tolerable. This coincided with the period in which Enoch walked with God.
Lamech was the first man to deviate from the Divine ideal for marriage, a one-man one-woman relationship; he "took unto him two wives". Immorality would become endemic to humanity yet Enoch walked with God. There are two great strands of human activity, industry and agriculture, the hammer and sickle of communism. These were getting up and running, and in an age when humanity had become inventive and obsessed with productivity, Enoch walked with God. There was a surge in entertainment and the newly invented harp and organ would soothe troubled consciences and lift unhappy spirits. In an atmosphere like that, Enoch walked with God. In the development of "culture" the first so-called poem was penned, and it gloried in violence, and in an age when aggression was glamorised, Enoch walked with God.
The seeds that were sown in Lamech’s day are now in full bloom, and last day conditions are the product of these early developments. In an increasingly loose-living society, walk with God. Amidst the almost intolerable demands of employment, walk with God. In a world obsessed with entertainment that is progressively outrageous and irreverent, walk with God. In a culture where aggression constantly manifests itself in every sphere, walk with God. It won’t be long; your translation is imminent.
My Lord, my Master, help me
To walk apart with Thee
Outside the camp, where only
Thy beauty I may see;
Far from the world’s wild turmoil,
Far from its busy din,
Far from its praise and honour,
Its unbelief and sin.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS WALK WITH GOD
The main characteristic of his life is explained in the commentary in Hebrews; "he pleased God" ch.11.5. Unbelievers have not even begun to please Him for "they that are in the flesh cannot please God" Rom.8.8. Sadly, even believers can displease Him, illustrated in Paul’s comment about Israel, "with many of them God was not well pleased" 1Cor.10.5. Enoch’s ambition was shared by Paul; "Wherefore also we make it our aim…to be well-pleasing unto Him" 2Cor.5.9, R.V. This is another example of the future impacting on present behaviour. For Paul, anticipating the Judgment Seat with its intensive scrutiny fuelled his ambition to please God, v.10.
In practice, how can we please Him? We can please Him by our worship. The worshipful service of dedication, presenting the body as a living sacrifice, is "acceptable [well-pleasing] to God" Rom.12.1. Have you ever done it? The "sacrifice of praise" allied with the sacrifice of our means pleases Him, Heb.13.15,16. Avoid robbing God by appearing before Him empty with nothing to say about His Son, or by being miserly in contributing financially to meet need.
We can please Him by our witness. Paul had been "put in trust with the gospel"; in discharging his responsibility he did it "not as pleasing men, but God" 1Thess.2.4. Witnessing appears to be in terminal decline but by witnessing, you please Him.
We can please Him by our walk. Paul’s desire for the Colossians was that they would "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" 1.10. Oral ministry at Thessalonica had instructed them how they "ought to walk and to please God" 1Thess.4.1. The word to the Colossians is more specific. He refers to a walk, a course of conduct, in keeping with our association with "the Lord". It means adopting standards that approximate to those He set. The fact that He is "Lord" reminds us of His authority, and of the need to submit to that authority. Are you pleasing Him in your walk?
We can please Him by our warfare, pleasing "Him who hath chosen (us) to be a soldier" 2Tim.2.4. Soldiers on active service remain untrammelled by otherwise legitimate considerations, "the affairs of this life". They have to be single-minded, focused on the war effort to the exclusion of other issues. We can please Him by making our participation in the Christian conflict our top priority.
THE CONCLUSION OF HIS WALK WITH GOD
Enoch’s history concludes abruptly; "God took him". Suddenly, dramatically, and without warning, he was gone. Thus it will be at The Rapture. There will be no advance warning; no signs will herald His arrival; the change we will experience will be "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" 1Cor.15.52; there will be no time to tidy up any irregularities in our lives.
Apparently Enoch’s disappearance caused a stir among his acquaintances and a search was mounted, but he "was not found" Heb.11.5. Imagine the consternation subsequent to The Rapture. Family members, work colleagues, and neighbours will not be found. They will have experienced "translation". For many who are left, the abrupt departure of their friends will impress them with the horror of their lost condition. Let any unsaved reader make ready by believing on the Lord Jesus; it was "by faith" Enoch was translated. Let the earnest believer live with the conviction that their translation could be today. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" Rev.22.20.
In former papers we have shown a three-fold division of chapter 1 and in this paper we consider the last section vv.10-16.
DISORDER: v.10, "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:"
It is remarkable that the word "many" should be used. It seems there will always be those who seek to teach error. This was worse than in Ephesus where it was "some"; "thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine" 1Tim.1.3. These people are described as "unruly" or as "disorderly", J.N.D. The only other occurrence of this word in the epistle is in v.6, "not accused of riot or unruly." It is also translated as "disobedient" in 1Tim.1.9 and "put under" in Heb.2.8. It means there is something or someone that cannot be subjected to control and is deliberately disobedient. It implies No Subjection.
They are also described as "vain talkers". This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament and it conveys an idle talker or one who utters empty senseless things. It implies No Sense.
They are also "deceivers". Again this is the only mention of the word and it has the underlying thought of cheating in the mind; a mind deceiver. It implies No Sincerity.
These people, who had nothing to offer the saints and no edification to impart, appeared perfectly plausible and had the ability to make error attractive and beguiling. It was the tactic used by the serpent in Eden and can be used yet. Sometimes the unwary are deceived by mere oratory that makes error attractive, or by glossy but superficial, publications. We need a well-developed sense of discernment with regard to these matters.
The phrase "specially they of the circumcision" implies that they had a semblance of religion and had the trappings, even the ostentation, of Judaism. They looked and acted like they were real but they were not. Their external appearance made them especially dangerous and they always seemed to dog the footsteps of Paul. The same can happen today. The trappings of religious ostentation have beguiled some genuine believers. Some think because a man dresses in religious garb, or holds some ecclesiastical position or can express himself well, that such a person must teach the truth. The only defence we have and the only benchmark we can trust, is the Bible and by diligent reading and praying have convictions formed within us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
DANGER:v.11, "Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake."
The ministry of these false teachers is so damaging that the apostle directs that their "mouths must be stopped". Again this is a word that is unique here and it means "to bridle". It graphically portrays that there can be no toleration of evil teaching. This is done by teaching the truth and leaving the purveyors of error nothing to say, as is stated in v.9, "he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."
If they are not stopped they will "subvert whole houses". "Subvert" means to overthrow or destroy – see the other occurrence in 2Tim.2.18, "overthrow the faith of some." The fact that houses are mentioned may indicate that they had ‘teaching meetings’ in the privacy of someone’s home and had a devastating effect on whole families. House meetings, private Bible readings, papers circulated to an influential few and the like, can be the forum for the clandestine teaching of error. This was not the apostolic way. Paul stated in 2Tim.2.2, "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses." Teaching should be given in the assembly where it can be scrutinised. Thus we read in 1Cor.14.29, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge".
The home is ever under attack and needs to be zealously guarded. The home of an elder would have been particularly vulnerable since he was to hold his home open for the saints and especially for strangers. It was in circumstances like this that letters of commendation were so very valuable. Their value is no less in our day and ought to be carried by all who move into an area where they are unknown.
When strangers arrived and were shown hospitality in a home, their stand on Christian doctrine needed to be ascertained before they would be allowed to teach the saints. To give strangers the licence to teach could lead to the disastrous overthrow of which the verse speaks.
The things they taught were not for the glory of the Lord or for the edification of the saints but "for filthy lucre's sake", meaning "base gain". It is not necessarily money, as the other occurrences of "lucre" make clear. Phil.1.21, "to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"; Phil.3.7, "what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." They could teach to achieve place, position, influence, some perceived power etc. However, there is no doubt money is also in view. Across the world there are those who seek to use Christianity for their personal gain. Peter also warns against such a motive: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" 1Pet.5.2. When money controls the ministry we are far away from the New Testament principles. It really is the principle of clerisy. We remember the warnings of Peter and Jude: "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness" 2Pet.2.15; "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core" Jude 11.
DESCRIPTION:v.12, "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies."
The prophet was ‘Epimenides’ who was considered to be eminently wise and was deemed to be one of the seven wise men of Greece.
Notice the highly unflattering description given of the Cretians: They were unchanging, "The Cretians are always"; they were untrustworthy, "liars"; they were uncaring, "evil beasts" meaning base, wicked, injurious; they were unpleasant, "slow bellies", the R.V. translation is "idle gluttons". The apostle is saying that the national traits of the lazy, gullible Cretians were fertile soil for the false teachers. We need to understand that even yet it is hard to overcome natural and national traits. These are obviously of the flesh and are therefore no advantage in the work of God. Also we are warned that the things that are on the outside of the testimony will sooner or later affect the inside.
DISCIPLINE:v.13, "This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith"
Paul indicates his agreement with the assessment of Epimenides when he writes, "This witness is true" and so met the necessity of two or three witnesses. He affirms that the poet did not exaggerate and substantiates that statement from his personal observations and experience. How are such to be treated? "Wherefore rebuke them sharply." This is an apostolic imperative to keep on rebuking them in order to produce a sense of shame. The word "rebuke" is as v.9, "to convince", and in 2.15, "rebuke with all authority". This is to be done "sharply". This is used only elsewhere in 2Cor.13.10, " lest being present I should use sharpness", and it implies to cut off as a bad growth needing surgery. It means this is done abruptly, severely, and curtly. It could imply to cut them off while they are in full flow and interrupt them when the error is being taught. This may seem bad manners but it is the way to preserve the saints from error and ensure "that they may be sound in the faith".
DIRECTION:v.14, "Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth."
The saints seem to have become involved in "Jewish fables" that may well have been the Pharisaical traditions and fables regarding angels and spirits, which were at the heart of the error in Colosse. This word, "fables" is only used in the Pastoral Epistles and in 2 Peter, writings that are among the later epistles of the New Testament. Does this imply that error was escalating and there was an increasing interest in new and ethereal type matters? Is this reflected in our day with a turning to horoscopes, tarot cards and the occult generally? For the use of the word see 1Tim.1.4; 4:7; 2Tim.4.4 and 2Pet.1.16.
Combined with these fables were the "commandments of men". Men lay down foolish rules and regulations about dietary requirements and abstention from certain foods on certain days. They also legislate about what vessels are to be used for cooking and how these are to be prepared. This is all done to give them place and authority over those who will accept their perverse teaching and turns the hearer, "from the truth". The middle voice here employed indicates that the men who receive these things, in so doing, turn themselves away from the truth. We must be careful concerning that which is imaginative and from humanly imposed rules.
DEFILEMENT:v.15, "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
When what may be eaten or touched is considered, there is nothing impure to the pure. Their conscience will not be defiled in relation to external things. However, regarding the unbeliever all is defiled by their life and conscience. It may be asked, "What is the difference between the mind and the conscience?" The mind is the capacity for thought and understanding without considering the morality of the conclusions, whereas, the conscience is the in-built capacity of weighing the morality of the thoughts and the conclusions.
DISOBEDIENCE:v.16, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
"They" points to the Jewish false teachers who "profess that they know God" but the apostle indicates that this is only a profession. They would have set themselves above the Gentiles yet these latter are also so described in 1Thess.4.5, "even as the Gentiles which know not God". How true is the statement, "There is no difference", Rom.3.22.
Men can profess many things but the true test of all profession is the life and with respect to these teachers "in works they deny Him". Only those who live like Christians can expect people to believe that they are Christians. Instead of having a Christian testimony they are repulsive, "being abominable", meaning they are in an ongoing detestable state; they are rebellious, "disobedient" meaning they are not persuadable, not compliant and they are rejected as proven worthless, since they are "unto every good work reprobate".
The era of sacrifice and offering described in passages of Scripture, including Leviticus, did not cleanse the worshipper’s conscience from dead works, Heb.9.14. But it had not been wholly ineffectual. First, the demands of the Holy God produced in many a consciousness of the guilt of sin, Heb.10.2, that was not evident in any other nation at that time. Established in Israelite minds would also be the need for sacrifice on account of sin, the efficacy of blood and the concepts of forgiveness, acceptance and sanctification. Second, that era bequeathed to succeeding generations a vocabulary and metaphors to express the complex matters relating to a people and their God. That vocabulary and those metaphors the Lord Jesus Himself used. He spoke of:
giving His life a ransom for many, Matt.20.28; Mk.10.45
His blood as the blood of the new covenant, Matt.26.28; Mk.14.24; Lk.22.20, knowing that His own were aware that the ratifying of a covenant required the death of the covenantal sacrifice
His being sanctified, Jn.10.36; 17.19.
Under the very shadow of the cross, the Lord Himself had said of Isaiah chapter 53 with its references to the Levitical offerings: "… this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors" Lk.22.37. Later, on the road to Emmaus, He began "at Moses and all the prophets" to expound "unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" Lk.24.27. Thereafter, the New Testament writers followed His example by using vocabulary and metaphors from Israel’s religious rituals; see Paul’s use of the word "propitiation", whether in relation to the mercy seat or the animal whose blood was shed, Rom.3.25; Paul’s references to burnt offerings, Eph.5.2; Phil.4.18; drink offering, Phil.2.17; 2Tim.4.6; Peter’s reference to "the blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" 1Pet.1.19; to the bearing of sin in His own body on the tree" 1Pet.2.24; John’s use of cleansing and propitiation, 1Jn.1.8; 2.2.
The Hebrew writer’s treatise has a particular emphasis that the Holy Spirit used to touch Jewish hearts when they were tempted to let slip the things they had heard, Heb.2.1; they were being exhorted to show "diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end" Heb.6.11. In that epistle, every chapter makes reference to Christ’s sacrifice and service in the context of the tabernacle, with the exception of ch.11 which does allude to Moses keeping the passover and the sprinkling of blood, Heb.11.28. The writer uses the rituals of the tabernacle both to compare and contrast Christ’s work and that of Aaron and his sons.
The contrasts, stressing differences, include:
Christ, having purged our sins, sat down, whilst Aaron and his sons stood and offered but could never sit down with their work over, 1.3; 10.1,11,12.
Christ "needeth not daily as those high priests to offer sacrifice, first for His own sin and then for the people’s for this He did once, when He offered up Himself" 7.27.
The comparisons, noting similarities, include:
Our merciful and faithful high priest was charged with making reconciliation for the sins of the people, as was Aaron, 2.17.
"Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat to offer" 8.3.
The bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary … are burned without the camp, wherefore Jesus also… suffered without the camp" 13.11,12.
Clearly, there is New Testament warrant to consider the Levitical offerings as foreshadowings of the One Who suffered without the camp, Whose blood is more effectual than the blood of animals could be. The numerous references to the offerings in epistles written to the churches of the Gentiles would assure all saints that there is profit in meditating on the offerings: see above references from the epistles to Rome, Ephesus, and Philippi; to which we might add references to those who "minister about holy things … [who] wait at the altar [and] are partakers with the altar" 1Cor.9.13,14; and references to "the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son" and to "propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" 1Jn.1.7; 2.2. Careful study of the Levitical offerings would not only cast light upon New Testament passages, but it would provide instruction not only about the value of Christ’s sacrifice but also about His priesthood and the worshipper who approaches God on the ground of Christ’s sacrifice and through the mediatorial work of Christ, our Great High Priest. Where the lessons of Leviticus are learned carefully in the light of the New Testament, the value of Christ’s never-to-be-repeated sacrifice and of His continuing priesthood will enhance the believer’s appreciation of the privileged place that is his who offers "the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips" Heb.13.15.
The opening verse of Leviticus and 7.37,38 establish the boundaries of the section we might call "The Levitical Offerings." The two verses, 7.37,38, set out for Israel the binding nature of the commands Moses received when Jehovah called to ordain these offerings, 1.1. They also confirm for the reader that these instructions were part of the Sinai requirements. Corban, the Hebrew noun for "offering", is known to New Testament readers. It occurs in the Lord’s reproof of the Pharisees and scribes who used a cunning device to assign resources to God in order to avoid honouring their parents by providing financial support, Mk.7.1-13. The root meaning of corban is "to bring near," so we learn that the offerings detailed in 1.1 - 7.38 were brought near to God, and brought the offerer near to God or maintained him in nearness to God. Peter reminded his readers that "Christ … once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" 1Pet.3.18.
The seven chapters are sub-divided by the repetition of the phrase, "And the Lord spake unto Moses" 4.1; 5.14; 6.1,8,19,24; 7.22,28. The structure of the section would appear to be:
The sweet savour offerings, 1.1 – 3.17;
The sin and trespass offerings, 4.1 - 6.7;
The law of the offerings 6.8 – 7.38.
The dominant verb of burning in 1.1 - 3.17 is "burning as incense" (Newberry; Strong 6999); it occurs twelve times in the section and nine times in 4.1 - 7.38. In 4.1 - 7.38 a second verb of burning is used "to burn up utterly" (Strong 8313), which does not occur in 1.1 - 3.17. These verbs are not to be confused with the adjective "burnt," "to ascend, as flames or smoke," which is from a third verb (Strong 5930) which occurs nine times in 1.1 - 3.17. It is found 286 times in the Old Testament phrase "burnt offering." It is the use of the first verb "to burn as incense" that distinguishes the sweet savour offerings from the other offerings, although in each of the offerings there is some part that ascends as a sweet fragrance to God. Clearly, the section 1.1 - 3.17 deals with the three sweet savour offerings: the burnt offering, the meal offering and the peace offering.
Other classifications would distinguish the voluntary from the mandatory offerings and blood sacrifices from the meal offering which was bloodless. The offerings whose blood was carried into the holiest of all could be distinguished from those whose blood was associated with the brazen altar. The offerings may also be distinguished by the eating rights associated with them.
Hebrews 10.5,6 presents four categories of offerings: sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings and offerings for sin:
sacrifices (a term used of all kinds of eucharistic offerings, i.e. peace offerings)
offerings (i.e. the meal offerings, firstfruits, the wave sheaf of the Feast of firstfruits, and the dough of the Feast of Weeks)
burnt offerings, and
offerings for sin which included both sin and trespass offerings.
Hebrews chapter 10 continues by once more turning the reader’s eye to the One Who came to do the will of Him; that sent Him to provide God with the delight He could not find in burnt offerings and sacrifices.
One of the greatest incentives for Christians presently, in the midst of all their difficulties, disappointments and discouragements, is to consider the glorious future which inevitably lies ahead. As Paul so emphatically stated in the closing verses of Romans chapter 8; there is no person, principle or power that can deprive us of that future. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" vv.38,39. So great is the value of the redemptive work of Christ, and so precious and powerful the cleansing blood He willingly shed, that that future is unconditionally guaranteed to all who are trusting Him.
And yet every consideration of that happy home; the unmingled joy; the tearless, cloudless bliss of heaven; is calculated to have a marked impact upon us here and now. Heavenly-mindedness will impact upon our activities, our aspirations and our associations. The more we are drawn to our eternal home, the more we should be detached from earth and all its sinful and selfish associations. It has been rightly said that no man will ever trample this world beneath his feet until he sees a brighter and better world above his head. It is worthy of note that in the letter to the Ephesians where Paul presents the loftiest truth of all his epistles and where, again and again, he envisages us "in the heavenlies" and occupies us with our inheritance in Christ, that he plants our feet firmly on earth and reminds us constantly of our walk here below.
Keeping my eye on the goal will safeguard me to a great extent from stumbling and being side-tracked on the journey there, knowing that I am "in the world" but "not of the world" Jn.17.11,14. Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to "reach forth unto those things which are before" Phil.3.13, and reminded them that "our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" Phil.3.20. In Colossians chapter 3 he exhorted the saints to "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" vv.1-3. God would like heaven to be in us before we are in heaven. Contrary to what we sometimes hear; that someone is so heavenly-minded, he or she is of no earthly use, the Christian who is captivated by the celestial, will bring greater benefit and blessing to saved and unsaved than those who are earth-bound.
The starkly contrasting examples of Abraham and Lot in Genesis chapters 18 and 19, will bear out this truth most emphatically. While Abraham, the friend of God, who enjoyed fellowship with God in the lofty heights of Hebron, interceded on behalf of the righteous dwelling within the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and effected the rescue of some from the impending judgment; poor Lot discovered his words were worthless to those with whom he pleaded. He had feasted his avaricious eyes on the fertile plains of Jordan and descended to dwell with those who were described as "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" Gen.13.13. The men of the city referred disdainfully to Lot as "this one fellow" Gen.19.9, and "he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law" Gen.19.14. Abraham, on the other hand, who remained "a stranger and a sojourner" Gen.23.4, who "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" Heb.11.10; was held in high esteem and was described by the children of Heth as "a mighty prince among us" Gen.23.6.
Sadly, apart from the few references some of us make to heaven in our preaching; it would be difficult for others to observe from the rest of our lives, that we have anything more than a passing interest in the world to come. We become preoccupied with the pleasures, possessions, pursuits and pastimes of earth and fail to grasp the importance and excellence of the eternal. Is it any wonder that of those who are Abraham-like in their affections and aspirations; who "desire a better country, that is a heavenly …" Heb.11.16a, it is written "… wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city" Heb.11.16b.
God never intended His people Israel to dwell forever in Egypt; He had a better country in mind; "the good land" Deut.6.18; "the land that floweth with milk and honey" Deut.6.3; "a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass" Deut.8.7-9. Egypt is always suggestive of the world with its constant seepage of sinful influences and having redeemed them nationally by power and blood, Exodus chapters 12 and 13, He guided them ultimately, by the pillar cloud and fire, to Canaan1 and encouraged and enabled them to conquer and possess their inheritance.
Likewise, God would want us to enjoy "days of heaven upon earth" Deut.11.21 and daily manifest to a perishing world that we are citizens of heaven who can never truly feel at home in this world. Once it enthralled and entertained us but now "we’re going to the better land, by faith long since possessed". If we presently exhibited more the characteristics of heaven’s inhabitants, we would doubtlessly exert greater influence on the disillusioned and dissatisfied dwellers in this bankrupt world. Sadly, all too often, we "become like them that go down into the pit" Ps.28.1b, and the clear distinction that should be observed between saved and unsaved is not easily discerned.
That which is greatly prized by the worldling will have little appeal to the saint who is looking for and living for "a better country, that is, an heavenly..." Heb.11.16. Such a believer will not be preoccupied with labouring "for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life …" Jn.6.27. The value we place on the spiritual will be governed by the extent to which that world is real to us. A consciousness that "our nest hangs in no forest of all this death-doomed shore" will discourage us from driving our pegs in too deeply here. This world is not our home; we are merely passing through what has become alien territory. It says of Abraham in Gen.12.6 that "he passed through the land", treading with delicate footstep and finding greater delight in building an altar unto the Lord. Am I willing to relax my grasp on the temporal, trivial treasures of earth, that I might lay up for myself "treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"? Matt.6.20,21.
Am I attempting to serve two masters or is it my priority to please God and to serve Him "with singleness of heart"? Col.3.22. Do the mundane things of earth pale as I contemplate the splendour and opulence of the home God’s grace has prepared for me? Do the overstated matters of earth with their exaggerated importance shrink and shrivel before the transcending importance of heaven’s business?
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way,
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
(Sanford F. Bennett)
How often the Saviour must have thought of His Father’s house; He Who said, "I came down from heaven" Jn.6.38. What longings must have filled His holy soul constantly for the day when He would go back to the Father; back home. What a drab scene this must have been for Him. Is it like that to us or are we bewitched by its transient and fading allurements? How truly can we sing J. N. Darby’s hymn?
This world is a wilderness wide;
I have nothing to seek or to choose;
I’ve no thought in the waste to abide,
I’ve nought to regret or to lose.
The weary but intrepid sailors who embarked on those epic voyages of discovery must often have lifted up their telescopes, after tiring and tedious days on the perilous seas and scanned the hazy horizon in hope of catching their first welcome glimpse of land.
One of these days we shall arrive on that golden shore in fair Beulah land. Soon, a panorama of glory will unfold before our gaze; we shall see our Saviour’s lovely face; we shall be home at last. May it be ours presently to live here and now for there and then.
Some while ago flights in and out of Europe and elsewhere were greatly disrupted because vast clouds of ash were thrown into the sky by the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland. The various bodies that control air travel decided that it would have been too dangerous for aircraft to fly through this ash since there was the possibility that the aircraft engines may have been damaged and even ceased working, as well as the fact that the pilots could not see. There were some who criticised the decision to stop all flights on the basis that the scientific evidence was flimsy. Others considered the problem from an economic perspective and since the loss of revenue was not sustainable, they said that flights should recommence. However, the overriding consideration had to be that of safety and this gave bias to every decision - it must be safety first.
When pondering things eternal this also must be the overriding consideration. Every person is in danger of perishing for eternity under the righteous judgment of a Holy God, Whose character demands that He must and will, punish sin. It is because of our own personal sin that we are separated from God, "your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" Isaiah 59.2. This is why we need to be rescued, made safe or, in the word used in the Bible, "saved".
To be saved is not an option, it is a command, "we must be saved" Acts 4.12. The glory of the gospel message is that we can be saved, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" 1 Timothy 1.15; "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" Luke 19.10; "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" John 3.17. The gift of God’s only begotten Son displayed God’s love for lost and fallen humanity and He devised the means of salvation that allows Him to forgive our sins and save us on a basis that does not compromise His holy character. That meant that His sinless and holy Son had to bare the judgment due to sinners when He hung crucified on Calvary’s cross. It is for this reason that He is called "Saviour" - because He saves, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" Luke 2.11.
Perhaps some are thinking that they can obtain salvation by their own merit, acts of kindness, philanthropy, religious observances and many other man made schemes and devices. Let the word of God speak, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2.8,9.
The question that needs to be addressed is, "Have I put safety first?" In other words, "Am I saved?" It will be sad in the extreme if some eruption of earthly emotion, religious fervour or whatever, casts such a cloud across your mind that you can neither see nor think straight. How sad to have to cry for all eternity, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" Jeremiah 8.20. God calls you to, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" Isaiah 45.22. Preachers instruct you to, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" Acts 16.30,31.