Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Do The Ten Commandments Apply Today?

Biblegems #242

God gave the Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people, specifically the descendants of Israel, during the 13th century B.C. (Exodus 20:1-23). These statutes formed the foundation of the entire legal, judicial, military, religious and social system that God established through Moses in creating the nation of Israel. In that sense, then, the Ten Commandments were designed specifically for the Jewish people.

However, God’s purpose in creating the nation of Israel was to have a people set apart from all the other people groups on the planet who would serve as God’s representative to the nations, and as an example to all mankind of a lifestyle in keeping with God’s will and design for humanity. In fact, God’s promise to Israel was that a future day would come when that divine purpose would become a permanent reality:
         Is. 51:4   Listen to me, my people;
                  hear me, my nation:
         The law will go out from me;
         my justice will become a light to the nations.

What this reveals is that the Ten Commandments are more than ten laws; the Ten Commandments reflect God’s character and His standard for human desires and human conduct. The Ten Commandments target what we love as well as what we do. So in that sense, the Ten Commandments are universal. What God gave to Israel on tablets of stone He has also imprinted in the human conscience:
         Rom. 2:14-15 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

So the Law acts as a spotlight on the person who breaks it. It exposes sin in a very public way, because those who publicly identify themselves as people of the Law come under its judgment when they break it. Either way, Jew and Gentile—no matter what their religious views—all must answer to God for breaking His commandments. And by that holy standard, all mankind stands condemned:
         Rom. 3:10   As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one

A true follower of Jesus, however, has died to the sinful nature and has been reborn by the Holy Spirit. Such a person is no longer condemned but—under the control of the Spirit of God—willingly obeys the Law.
         Rom. 8:6-9   The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

         You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is Jesus Less Than God?

Biblegems #240

This question touches on one of the most profound mysteries ever: the nature of God. Jesus spoke often on this subject, and of His own unique relationship to God. The quote above comes from the Gospel of John:
         John 14:28   You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

Jesus frequently described His relationship with God as that of father and son, as he does in this verse. God, of course, is not a human father. So, while Jesus is the son of Mary biologically, He is the Son of God spiritually. That is, God—who is spirit—took on human form in the womb of the virgin, Mary. As the Scripture says:
         Luke 1:35   The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Taking on a human body took nothing away from who God is as Spirit. He was not diminished in any way. He did not cease to be God in Spirit; rather He revealed Himself in human form while still maintaining His eternal nature. That’s why Jesus could accurately speak of Himself as the great “I Am”—Yahweh—who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees and who gave Moses the Ten Commandments:
         John 8:58   “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

And yet, He could also refer to Himself in John 10:30 as a being separated from God by self-imposed physical limitations in His human form (“I” and “the Father”) — while still being perfectly united with God in the Spirit:
         John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

Jesus’ self-description of His uninterrupted unity with God, while acknowledging the limitations that He willingly placed upon Himself as a human being, is what captured the apostle Paul with wonder and awe:
Phil. 2:5-8   Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

The ironic thing in all this is that the very same people who say things like, “Why doesn’t God reveal Himself in a tangible, human form to prove He is God,” are often the same people who ridicule the Good News that God has indeed done just that:

         Col. 1:19-20  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself?

Biblegems #239

Question: Jesus was God and became man. So why doesn't God continue to present Himself in a more visual, physical, and tangible way?

Jesus once posed a similar question. Luke 16:19-31 describes a man who died and went to eternal torment in Hades, and another man who died and went to “Abraham’s bosom” for the righteous dead. The man in Hades begged Abraham to send someone from the dead back to his family on earth to warn them. Abraham replied: If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (Lk. 16:31).

Jesus is telling us that those who deny God, despite the evidence, are not going to change their minds just because God shows up in human form. The problem lies with a person’s unwillingness to believe, not with the evidence of God’s existence.

This is the human condition described in Romans. God has advertised Himself throughout creation, but people ignore the evidence:
         Rom. 1:19-20; 28  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

When this refusal to know God through creation is repeated, man’s ability to recognize God through creation is depleted!
Rom. 1:28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

The word “depraved” means “worthless,” rejected,” and “castaway.” It pictures the brain as having become dysfunctional through misuse, like a hotel key card’s magnetic strip rendered useless by a cell phone’s powerful magnet.

As the question above points out, God has already revealed Himself in a visual, physical, tangible way:
         John 1:14   The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And Jesus repeatedly demonstrated his divine nature. He publicly stilled raging storms:
Matt. 8:27   “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

He healed diseased bodies:
Matt. 4:24and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.

And, the most convincing evidence of all, He:
Rom. 1:4  was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Even so, the longing of the human heart to see God in a consistently visible, tangible, physical way will one day be realized by those who love and serve His Son Jesus:
         1John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The “Watchers” And “Holy Ones” Of Daniel 4:17

Biblegems #239

Question: In Daniel 4:17, who are “the holy ones,” and what is meant by “setteth up over the basest of men”?

Here is the reference:
Daniel 4:17 (KJV) "This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”

         Dan. 4:17 (NIV)   “ ‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’ “

The “Watchers” And The “Holy Ones”
The terms “holy ones” and “watchers” (“messengers” —NIV) in Daniel (vv. 13, 17, 23) refer to angels. The two words are used interchangeably in reference to the same beings. As Daniel interprets the king’s dream, he explains that Nebudchadnezzar “saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven…” (v. 23 KJV).  In the Hebrew, there is no “and” separating the two terms. Daniel tells the king that he “saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from the heavens” (23).

“Watcher” is the translation of the Aramaic word ir, whose principal meaning is “awake” or “watchful.” It is a descriptive word that conveys the imagery of God’s angels as being constantly alert, always watching over human affairs as God appoints them. These three occurrences in Daniel are the only time the word ir is found in Scripture.

The angel in Nebudchadnezzar’s dream referred to himself as a “watcher,” saying: "This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones…” Or, as the NIV translates it, “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict…” (v. 17). In other words, the angel speaking to the king through a dream represents a group of “watchers,” or “holy ones,” in heaven who have been sent by God to deliver a message. They are heaven’s ambassadors. They carry all the authority of God himself in presenting God’s judgment upon Nebudchadnezzar, that he is to be driven from his palace to live like a wild animal for seven years until he repents of his pride and acknowledges that God alone is absolute sovereign over all (vv. 17, 24-27).
“The Basest Of Men”
Verse 17 gives the specific reason for this seemingly harsh judgment:
         “…that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (KJV).

“The basest of men” refers to people of low social, economic and political standing. The message to Nebudchadnezzar is that the Most High God chooses who is to reign over nations. He may give such power and authority even to the most unlikely and undeserving of people. This same truth is found repeatedly in Scripture:
         Job 5:11 The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
         1Sam. 2:7-8 The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world.”

The message through the “watchers,” God’s ”holy ones,” is a message for us all:

         Heb. 12:28  Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”