Purim 2016

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Purim 2016 begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23 and ends in the evening of Thursday, March 24. Originally posted March 03, 2013.

The Word of the LORD:

They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more”(Ps 83:4).

The Psalms were written over a span of 900 years from the time of Moses to the post-Exilic period. Psalm 83, written by Asaph, could have been penned today as a song of lamentation (for Israel is surrounded by enemies who have publicly vowed to wipe her off the face of the map). Throughout history Satan has lifted up an enemy to destroy the Jewish people, and so it is even to this day.

Think of Herod who ordered the death of all male children under the age of two who were in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2:16), or when Athaliah destroyed all the royal offspring from the house of Judah except for Joash who was secreted away thus preserving the messianic line (2 Ch 22:10).

We cannot fail to understand that we are engaged in an eternal fight between good and evil:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ep 6:12).

The face of evil spans the ages — King Herod, Adolph Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmidenijhad — but the ruler of darkness is with whom we wrestle. Brethren, put on the whole armor of G-d so that you may stand firm against the enemy (Ep 6:11).

Haman was one such enemy who sought to exterminate the Jewish people. Had he succeeded the messianic line would have been cut off if not for the invisible hand of G-d. We read about Haman in the Book of Esther. (Ruth is the only other book in the Tanakh, Old Testament, that is named after a woman.) Esther was the orphaned daughter of Abihail. She grew up in Persia, and was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. The Book of Esther covers the period of history after the return from Babylonian captivity when the Persians were the dominant world power. Many Jews, including Esther and Mordecai, stayed in Persia after the return from exile.

It came to pass that Esther found favor in the eyes of King Ahasuerus, and he crowned her queen of the royal palace. A plot to kill the king was uncovered by Mordecai which led to the hanging of the king’s officials, and the promotion of Haman as the king’s chief advisor.

Mordecai would not bow down to Haman for there was bad blood between them dating back to the time of King Saul. To understand the feud we must look even further into Israel’s past all the way to the exodus from Egypt.

In the Book of Exodus (Ex 17:8) we read that Amalek came out to war against Israel as they were leaving Egypt. Moses commanded Joshua to lead a select group of men to fight against the Amalekites, and with the staff of G-d in hand the children of Israel prevailed (Ex 17:13). The LORD told Moses that He would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (Ex 17:14so Moses built an altar to the LORD and said, “The LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:16).

In the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 25:17) the LORD reminded Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt and attacked their women and children. Who was this generational enemy? Who was Amalek?

Remember the bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau the sons of Isaac. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Ge 25:29-34). Then, in chapter 27 of Genesis, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing by impersonating his brother before their aged and dimly sighted father Isaac thus prompting Esau to vow that he would kill Jacob.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau, and so it was that the descendants of Esau would war against Jacob (Israel) from generation to generation.

Later, King Saul was commanded by G-d to destroy the Amalekites for how they ambushed Israel on their way out of Egypt (1 Sa 15:1-3), but Saul disobeyed by sparing the life of Agag their king. The prophet Samuel slew Agag according to the command of the LORD, but the Amalekites continued to be a thorn in Israel’s flesh, and an enemy of David.

Who, then, was Haman? He was a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag slain by the prophet Samuel when Saul disobeyed the command of G-d. Haman was an Agagite.

So 550 years had passed from the death of Agag to the Book of Esther, and the hatred that was born in the rivalry between Jacob and Esau continued in the persons of Mordecai (a descendant of King Saul), and Haman (a descendant of King Agag).

Haman was enraged that Mordecai would not bow to him nor pay homage so he plotted to destroy all of the Jews throughout the kingdom. Haman deceived King Ahasuerus into signing a decree to destroy all those who did not observe the king’s law so the order was sent to the governors of all the provinces to kill the Jews and confiscate their possessions (Esther 3:13).

Mordecai learned of these events and there was sorrowful mourning among the Jews (Esther 4:1). Queen Hadassah (Esther) was in great anguish because she had never told the king that she was a Jew (Esther 2:10). Mordecai sent word to the queen that she must intercede on behalf of her people, but Esther feared to approach the king without a summons for that would incur the death penalty. Her cousin replied that she would die anyway once it was discovered that she was a Jew:

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14)

We need to examine briefly what Mordecai told Esther. Are you a silent member of the body of Christ? Are you in a position or situation that defies understanding or reason? Do you speak out against spiritual darkness? Do you stand for G-d without fearing the consequence? Are you at a place in life that makes no sense but for the purpose and will of G-d?

So Esther fasted for three days:

“And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

On the third day Esther entered the royal court, and the Bible says that she obtained favor in the sight of the king (Esther 5:2) who granted her petition to have a banquet in honor (so he thought) of Haman who went away joyously to his home even as he prepared the gallows to hang Mordecai and the Jews.

In the evening the king requested that the book of records be read in his presence. Written in the records was the account of Mordecai uncovering the plot to kill the king, and it was discovered that nothing had been done to honor him for this act.

The king ordered that Haman clothe Mordecai in a robe and lead him through the city square upon the king’s horse. This infuriated and humiliated Haman who went home in mourning.

At the banquet the king asked Esther what was her petition:

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated (Esther 7:3-4).

The long story short is that Haman’s wicked plot was exposed, and he was hung by the king’s order upon the very gallows that were prepared for Mordecai and the Jews. On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar when Haman’s plan of extermination was to be executed the Jews by order of the king exacted judgement against their enemies.

Mordecai, who had risen to a position of influence within the king’s court, issued a letter that all Jews celebrate annually the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar (usually February or March) as the festival of Purim to remember how Haman the Agagite cast Pur (or lot) to destroy the Jewish people. Hadassah (Queen Esther) issued a command that her people should celebrate Purim with fasting and lamentation.

[Purim and Hanukkah are non-Mosaic festivals that are celebrated still today. Esther is one of the five scrolls of the Megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations) that are read by Rabbis on five special occasions each year.]

The Book of Esther is not quoted in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) nor does it mention G-d, but throughout its pages we can see the providence of G-d and His sovereign will played out in the lives of Hadassah and Mordecai. John MacArthur writes:

There are no miracles in Esther, but the preservation of Israel through providential control of every event and person reveals the omniscience and omnipotence of YHWH.

It is not insignificant to presuppose that G-d enlists people to execute His divine will. Satan will not prevail, and the LORD uses men and women of courage — often the least of us — to thwart the plans of the Evil One.

Recall that Mordecai told Esther if she remained quiet then deliverance would come elsewhere. How unlikely that a harem girl would become Queen of Persia and, by the invisible hand of G-d, save her people.

Will you be that man or woman of courage who will stand with the LORD? To G-d be the glory forever.

Suggested Reading:

Amalek and the Festival of Purim 

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Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

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We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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Ezekiel’s Temple: Study Notes

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Michael left this comment on Ezekiel’s (Millennial?) Temple:

But because Revelation 21:1 says, “there was no longer any sea,” Ezekiel’s mention of two seas becomes a bit of a chin scratcher.

*** ***

More puzzling is that John, in the very next chapter, writes:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). 

If there are no seas what is the source of this river seen by Ezekiel and John? In both the Old and New Testaments, the LORD pours out (as a river) the Holy Spirit (Joel  2:28).

It is significant that the prophet and apostle were taken on high to see this vision of a tree-lined river as interpreted by Isaiah:

… till the Spirit is poured on us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest (Isaiah 32:15).

Jesus said:

The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)

It seems that the most basic rule of hermeneutics is to not interpret figurative text literally. Water is clearly a symbol of God’s spirit. The river that flows from the temple is the Spirit of God. Into the sea it goes bringing life and restoration even unto the Dead Sea. Fish are plentiful and the fishermen will fill their nets. Jesus told His disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

I wanted to discuss the two seas and river of life, but the original post was already too lengthy. So, today, I would like to follow-up with my notes. (It might be useful to read the original article.) This study has been a blessing to me and I pray that it edifies you, my readers.

The literal meaning of there was no longer any sea is the sea was no more denoting some greater truth. Ancient tradition is to interpret sea(s) prophetically. The Rabbin interpreted the sea as a symbol of tumult and separation (as it raged like a storm, dividing the nations). In the new earth there will be no turmoil and separation — from the LORD distinctly. 

Ellicott comments:

Among the more detailed features of the new earth, this obliteration of the sea stands first. It is strange that so many commentators should vacillate between literal and figurative interpretations of the chapter; the ornaments and decorations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-21) are treated as symbolical; the annihilation of the sea is considered as literal. 

The sea has played an important part in the symbolism of the book: out of the sea rose the wild beast (Revelation 13:1); the purple-clad Babylon enthroned upon many waters (Revelation 17:1); the restless, tumultuous ocean is no more to be found on the face of that earth, or near that city whose peace is as a river, and whose inhabitants are delivered from “the waves of this troublesome world.” [1]

The Treasury of Scripture (Bible Hub):

A fountain producing abundance of water was not in (Ezekiel’s) temple, and could not be there on the top of such a hill; and consequently these waters, as well as those spoken of by Joel and Zechariah, must be understood figuratively and typically. These waters doubtless were an emblem of the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and their gradual rise beautifully represents its progress, from small beginnings to an immensely large increase; and the latter part of the representation may relate to the times when it shall fill the earth … [2]

Dean Davis, Author: 

This is a vision of the Restoration of All Things. Very importantly, it pictures not only the final result of God’s redemptive work — the everlasting wholeness of the Land — but also the historical process by which that result is to be achieved.

The NT richly illumines all the symbols involved. The waters are the life-giving Spirit of God, long promised by his OT prophets. They flow forth from the Temple of God, which typifies both the Person of Christ, and the Body of Christ, his Church.

When at last Christ returns to raise the dead and renew the creation, the River of Life will entirely transform the Promised Land, even to the extent of healing the Dead Sea itself. Only the swamps and marshes — situated upon the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and so typifying hell — will be left in salt; that is, under the judgment of God. [3]

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Pastor/Author:

Dispensationalists believe that this vision is a prophesy of an earthly temple to be built within Israel during the millennial age. (They) base this interpretation upon their literal hermeneutic.

Advocates of the other main interpretations all agree that the context demands a figurative interpretation. I believe Ezekiel is giving us a picture of the new earth in the prophetic terms with which his readers were familiar. This is a picture of the new earth as the dwelling of God. Ezekiel prophesies it in earthly terms (complete with all the temple utensils), while John describes its fulfilled version (in eschatological terms).

The prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense. This is confirmed in Revelation 21:10, where John is carried away “in the Spirit” to a high mountain from which he sees the Holy City coming down out of heaven. Obviously, the visions are related to each other as type — anti-type (earthly language, eschatological fulfillment). What Ezekiel promised, John sees as a reality, and yet the reality seen by John far exceeds anything in Ezekiel’s vision. 

It is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment. In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation — something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers. The new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden. On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God. [4]

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Charles J. Ellicott, 3 vols. (London: Cassell, 1884).

2. Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages.

3. Dean Davis, author and Founder/Director, Come Let Us ReasonExcerpt:  The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time DebateRedemption Press, 2014.

4. Kim Riddlebarger, senior pastor of Christ Reformed Church and co-host of the White Horse Inn radio program, writes extensively on the subject of historic Christianity from an Amillennial, reformed perspectice. In this short essay he credits G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)INTERVARSITY PRESS, 2004 and Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and Future, WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1994.

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