Friday, September 1, 2017

Marriage (Heb 13:4)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017
It is usually a good idea for two young people about to get married to seek advice from their parents.
Although the bride and groom were deeply in love, each had a very personal problem:
The groom asked his father for advice—"I am concerned about the success of my marriage because...I have very smelly feet all the time, and I'm afraid she will be put off by them." "No problem," his father replies. "Just wash your feet before you go to bed and always wear socks." This seemed a workable solution, and the young man thanked his father for the advice.
The bride asked her mother for advice—"I am concerned about the success of my marriage because...I have very smelly breath when I wake, and I'm afraid he will not want to sleep in the same room with me." "No problem," her mother replies. "Just go immediately into the bathroom when you awaken; brush your teeth and rinse your mouth. The key is not to say a word, not even 'Good morning' until you've done that." This seemed a workable solution, and the young woman thanked her mother for the advice.
The loving couple married, and both remembered the advice they had received, he with his perpetual socks and she with her morning silence. They managed quite well until about six months later. Shortly before dawn one morning, the husband wakes with a start to find that one of his socks has come off. Fearful of the consequences, he frantically searches the bed. This, of course, wakes his wife who, without thinking, asks, "What on earth are you doing?" "Oh, no," he replies..."you've swallowed my sock!"
It is usually a good idea for two young people about to get married to seek advice from their parents. It is also a good idea to follow God's advice in the scriptures, such as "The Model of Marriage" He offers in Heb 13:4.

The biblical writers use marriage as a model of God's relationship with man. Hosea, for example, uses Gomer's unfaithfulness to the prophet as an illustration of Israel's unfaithfulness to the Lord:
The LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD" (Hos 1:2).
Paul, in contrast, uses the savior' love for his Church as an illustration of a husband's love for his wife:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives. (Eph 5:25-26a, 28a)
While examples like these in the Bible show negative and positive aspects of marriage and of what God intends for this institution, they are contrary to what society today claims:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trustworthy sayings

Dr. Paul Manuel—2014

"To Save Sinners" (1 Tim 1:15)       
pp. 02-07
"A Noble Task" (1 Tim 3:1-7)
pp. 08-12
"Value for All Things" (1 Tim 4:8-9)  
pp. 13-17
"If We..." (2 Tim 2:11-13)
pp. 18-22
"He Saved Us" (Tit 3:4-8a)
pp. 23-28
pp. 29-30
pp. 31-43

We live in a world of uncertainty where, despite our often careful planning, matters may not turn out as we expect or hope. Some times, the disappointment is simply annoying, as when the service we receive from a business is less than it should be.
A teacher was having trouble with her bank. Neither the bank's accuracy nor its mode of expression lived up to her standards. The last straw arrived in a form letter from the anonymous Delinquency Department that read: "It appears your account is overdrawn." She replied with an equally brief note: "Please write again when you are absolutely certain." (adapted from Hodgin 1994:43)
Other times our doubt reflects some urgency because disappointment would have serious consequences.
An American astronaut lay strapped in his capsule, awaiting liftoff, when a reporter asked via radio that typically annoying and irrelevant question: "How do you feel?" "How would you feel," the astronaut replied, "if you were sitting on top of 150,000 parts, each supplied by the lowest bidder?" (adapted from Hodgin 1994:309)
In this world of uncertainty, are there things of which we can be sure, especially in matters where disappointment would not merely be annoying but disastrous? Paul addresses this very question in a series of what he calls Trustworthy Sayings.
Most of Paul's thirteen letters he wrote to various churches, but four of them he sent to individuals. Those to Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles because these men served as pastors in Ephesus and Crete. These men were Paul's protégé and were known among other churches.[1] He urges them to warn people against false doctrine and to stress the importance of sound teaching.[2] Paul quotes five "trustworthy sayings,"[3] so-called because, in the sea of competing ideas, these are "a faithful presentation of God's message" (Knight 1992:99). They appear just in the Pastoral Epistles and may have been theological confessions or the words of songs. Paul repeats them in these letters because they represent important truths for the believing community, truths a pastor should stress in his ministry and communicate to his congregation, and they will be the texts for our series.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Job — Lesson 4

The Helping Hand Sabbath School Series
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004
William Blake 1823

Lesson #4: Job Chapters 38, 40

What Does It Mean?

However long Job's suspense and God's silence last, they eventually come to an end. Surely, Job should welcome the relief, but when the Lord finally speaks, it is not what Job expects and actually increases his anxiety. Instead of comforting Job, God confronts Job, berating him for challenging the divine will.

Lessor mortals might interpret God's chastening as the final insult, the ultimate proof that this deity cares only for Himself and has no concern for His creatures. They might say that Job's wife, despite her apparent cynicism, actually gave him the best counsel (Job 2:9). No matter how low Job seems to have fallen, though, he rises even to this occasion, maintaining his integrity in God's presence.

In chapter thirty-eight...
Much of God's earliest communication to man came through dreams and visions (Num 12:6), which could be quite terrifying (Dan 4:6), as Job attests (Job 7:14). Occasionally, God would make contact more overtly, couching His appearance in the form of a storm (Ezek 1:4, 28). As if hearing the voice of God were not unnerving enough, when accompanied by extreme weather—thunder and lightening—the experience is even more frightening (Exod 20:18-19). Add to this tumultuous setting the purpose of God's manifestation (theophany) to Job, not revelation but condemnation, and the effect is undoubtedly overwhelming.
Whatever Job may have assumed (Job 13:24; 23:3; 30:20; 31:35), God has not been inattentive either to Job's condition or to his complaint. When God finally does speak, it is to 'answer' (Job 38:1; 40:6). God makes no excuses for His earlier silence ("I was distracted by something else") and gives no explanation for Job's extensive suffering ("You really did deserve this because..."). Instead, He says that Job has no business questioning the creator ("Who...darkens my counsel...?") without having been present with Him at the creation ("Where were you when I...?"). What God has in mind when He refers to Job's absence at the beginning of things and to his ignorance about the origin of things is unclear. It may mean that Job is not allowed to challenge God's current activity or that he is simply not able to comprehend God's current activity. Either way, Job's charge, "God has wronged me" (Job 19:6), is an assessment man is not qualified to make.
While Job did not witness the creation, there were others who did and who celebrated that event. God uses parallelism, a feature common in Hebrew that relates the idea from one line to the idea in the next line by repeating certain elements. For example, in Ps 117:1, the two lines say essentially the same thing, with each part in the first line having a corresponding part in the second line.
Praise—the LORD—all you nations
Extol—Him—all you peoples.
Job 38:7 also seems to use synonymous parallelism.
The morning starssang together
All the angelsshouted for joy

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Job — Lesson 3

The Helping Hand Sabbath School Series
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

William Blake 1823

Lesson #3: Job Chapters 27, 31

What Does It Mean?

Because it is possible to read the book of Job in a single sitting, we may lose some perspective on his situation. What is for us a matter of minutes may have been for Job a matter of months (Job 7:3; 29:2; perhaps longer). Initially, Job just sat (Job 2:8), probably in confusion as well as in pain. At some point, though, he may have tried to pull himself together and move on. Even so, Job still faced challenges to his integrity in everyday life.

In chapter twenty-seven...
Although Job continues to lament his plight and his friends continue to doubt his innocence, he refuses to become paralyzed or demoralized. He will not stop living and, equally important, he will not stop living righteously. He may have tasted "bitterness of soul," but he does not become embittered in spirit, angry at God and at the world. For Job to do otherwise would be to admit defeat and prove his detractors right (Job 27:5).

Job certifies his intention with an oath: "As surely as God lives" (Job 27:2). A speaker uses this formula to impress his listener(s) with his resolve to act according to his word.
  • Boaz certifies with an oath his intention to redeem Naomi's property if the next of kin refuses (Ruth 3:13).
  • Micaiah certifies with an oath his intention to speak the truth regardless of the threats against him (1 Kgs 22:14).
  • King Zedekiah certifies with an oath his intention to protect Jeremiah despite the political pressure to execute him (Jer 38:16).
The seriousness of the oath is that it calls upon God to hold the speaker accountable for his promise and, should he renege or otherwise fail to keep that promise, invites God to punish him.

Job's malady precludes him from pursuing the active lifestyle he once enjoyed. His movement is now limited and painful. He is still able to speak his mind, however, and his words have become the chief indication of his spiritual condition (Job 27:4). If Job fails to demonstrate his righteousness in his speech, he invites God to make his suffering worse. It is a bold assertion that Job does not make lightly, for he has already experienced what he assumes is a taste of God's displeasure.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Job — Lesson 2

The Helping Hand Sabbath School Series
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

William Blake 1823

Lesson #2: Job Chapters 9, 13, 19, 23
What Does It Mean?

The author of this book does not indicate how long Job's condition lasted. It was certainly not a momentary affliction, like a bout with the flu. As his suffering dragged on, with no diagnosis of the cause and prognosis of a cure, Job longs to find a reason for his trouble. The four passages in this lesson depict four stages in Job's struggle, all of which testify to his integrity in seeking God.

Job knows nothing of Satan's involvement. Moreover, God has said nothing to Job, and that silence has only increased Job's misery. All Job has to work with are his own assertion of his innocence (Job 6:10, 24; 7:20; 9:20) and his friends' assumption of his guilt (Job 4:7-8; 8:6).

In chapter nine...
Job thinks that God has afflicted him and wishes that he could appear before God to resolve the problem. If only there were a judicial body to oversee such matters, a forum where Job could face his accuser and defend himself against whatever charge God has leveled against him.

Elsewhere in scripture, especially in the prophets, God uses the courtroom motif when accusing people of sin. Most of those examples depict God as the judge, ready to issue a guilty verdict (Isa 3:13-14). Occasionally, He may call for testimony on behalf of the plaintiff (Isa 41:21; 43:26), or He may call His own witnesses to certify the accuracy of the charges (Mic 6:1-2).

Job wants an independent body to adjudicate his case, one that is not predisposed against him, one that can stay God's hand until the problem is resolved. He seeks a higher authority, before which he and God could both appear and argue their respective positions. Alas, there is no such authority, for nothing is greater than God.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Job — Lesson 1

The Helping Hand Sabbath School Series
Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

William Blake 1823

Lesson #1: Job Chapter 2
What Does It Mean?

The book of Job parts the curtain, as it were, that separates the physical realm from the spiritual realm, the world in which men and women dwell from the world in which God and His angels dwell. It offers a rare glimpse of the heavenly court and of the proceedings there. Other Old Testament texts mention the existence of such a place and of those who populate it (Isa 6:1-4; Ps 89:6), but only a few passages portray the interactions that happen beyond our normal ability to perceive (Gen 1:26; 1 Kgs 22:19-23). This book also illustrates the contact that may occur between the two realms, as heavenly beings enter our world (Gen 28:12; 32:1; Zech 1:10-1 1) and influence events here (Gen 19:1; Judg 6:12), sometimes (perhaps often) without our realizing it (Num 22:34; 2 Kgs 6:17). One of these supernatural beings, Satan (also "called the devil" Rev 12:9), is a main character in this book and the chief antagonist. The name is actually a title (Hebrew ha-satan) that means "the adversary" or "the accuser," and his appearance in other Old Testament books marks him as one who opposes God's people (1 Chr 21:1; Zech 3:1-2).

The text for the lesson is chapter two of Job, which opens in the heavenly court where "the sons of God," another term for angelic creatures (Job 38:7; cf. Gen 6:2), report their activities. One of those present is Satan, who states that he has been "roaming through the earth" (v. 2). By this, Satan does not mean that he has been on vacation or sightseeing. It is, instead, a general reference to his undirected activity, that he goes where he pleases rather than where God directs. This accords with Peter's description of the devil, who "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). Despite this apparent freedom, though, Satan must still give an account of his actions to God.

When Satan finally has his audience, God raises an issue they had discussed earlier, in chapter one: the character of a man named Job. In both chapters, God describes Job in similarly laudatory terms. "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and turns from evil" (Job 1:8; 2:3; cf. 1:1).
  • To be "blameless" (Hebrew tam) is to have sound moral character. Noah is the only other person in scripture to have this title (Gen 6:9).
  • To be "upright" (Hebrew yashar) is to do the right thing. David and several of his successors to the throne of Judah bore this title because they heeded God's law (1 Kgs 15:5, 11; 2 Kgs 12:2; 15:3, 34; 18:3; 22:2).
  • To "fear" (Hebrew yare) God is to consider Him with a mixture of dread and awe. Abraham and the Hebrew midwives had this attitude, which enabled them to perform exceptionally difficult tasks (Gen 22:12; Exod 1:17,21).
  • To "turn" (Hebrew sar) from evil is to choose a different path and, thus, to avoid taking the wrong path. According to Solomon, the primary incentive for avoiding evil is another attribute (the previous one in this list): fearing God (Prov 3:7; 16:6).
While others in scripture possess one or more of these qualities, Job is the only person God describes so fully, which is probably why Job presents such a tempting target to Satan. If the devil can bring a man of Job's exemplary character to the point of forsaking God, then those of lessor character will surely fall as well, and with less effort.

In their previous discussion, Satan questioned Job's devotion to God and received permission from God to test that devotion. Satan caused Job to suffer the sudden loss of his great wealth and of his beloved children but discovered that Job was virtuous, for "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing" (Job 1:22). When next in the heavenly court, Satan refuses to admit defeat and insists that a more direct assault will surely topple the virtuous Job (2:4). God agrees to lift His previous restriction, preventing Satan from harming Job himself (Job 1:12) and, this time, Satan causes Job to suffer the loss of his health (Job 2:7).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — Ruth 1:8-22

Ruth to Naomi (daughter-in-law to mother-in-law) — Ruth 1:8-221
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

There was a time when most marriages were arranged by parents or by someone other than the couple. Today the hunt for a prospective spouse commonly uses the dating method, which does not always go well,
After being with her all evening, the man could not take another minute with his blind date. Earlier, he had secretly arranged to have a friend call him to the phone so he would have an excuse to leave if something like this happened. When he returned to the table, he lowered his eyes, put on a grim expression and said, "I have some bad news. My grandfather just died, and I have to leave." "Thank goodness!" his date replied. "If yours hadn't...mine would have had to."
There was a time when most marriages were arranged. It may have been that way for the sons of Elimelech who managed to snag two good women, at least according to Naomi, the sons' mother. Unfortunately, the three men died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law bereft of their father and their husbands. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of one daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law, the loyalty of Ruth to Naomi, of how one woman followed another despite the bleak prospect of their future.

Israel was not alone in the Ancient Near East; there were several other people groups.2 Some, like the Amalekites, were hostile and opposed Israel's passage in the wilderness.3 Others, like the Moabites, were wary of Israel but were generally friendly, yet they attempted to corrupt Israel as the people traveled through the wilderness. The Moabites had an advantage before God over other Canaanite groups in that they were descendants of Lot who lived just outside the Promised Land (east of the Dead Sea) and off limits to the Israelite conquest.4 In any case, Israel and Moab were geographically and politically separate.5 Please turn to the book of Ruth, and we will consider the first chapter together:
Ruth 1:1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man's name was Elimelech, his wife's name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. 3 Now Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
The setting for this story is the time of the judges (c. 1200-1020), a period of domestic uncertainty as there was no national political structure in Israel. This meant there was no centralized army, no national protection from invaders:

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — II Kings 2:1-15

Elisha to Elijah (disciple to teacher) — 2 Kings 2:1-151
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

In any field of endeavor it is helpful to have a goal, to have some idea what the endgame is.
The school of agriculture's dean of admissions was interviewing a prospective student, "Why have you chosen this career?" he asked. "I dream of making a million dollars in farming, like my father," the student replied. "Your father made a million dollars in farming?" echoed the dean, much impressed. "No," replied the applicant... "but he always dreamed of it."
In any field of endeavor it is helpful to have a goal. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of a student to his teacher, the loyalty of Elisha to Elijah, of how one man followed another in his quest to become a prophet in Israel.
The Bible does not indicate how Elijah becomes a prophet or under whom he studied. He appears on the scene already in office and engaging in ministry:
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word" (1 Kgs 17:1).
Elijah spends his time in the northern kingdom of Israel where he serves both king and commoner.2
Elisha has a more traceable pedigree. There are prophetic guilds, and Elisha may have begun his training in one of them.3 At some point, though, an angel tells Elijah to take Elisha as his apprentice:4
Anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.... So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.... Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.... Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. (1 Kgs 19:16b, 19,21b)
Elisha presumably trains exclusively with the senior prophet,5 although they appear together only at the end of Elijah's life.
I. Elisha is with Elijah on his travels (2 Kgs 2:1-7).
A. Elisha accompanies Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel (vv. 12).6
2 Kgs 2:1 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
The senior prophet seems to be on a farewell tour, going to places he has been before or places he has yet to visit. Either way, Elijah is following the Lord's itinerary. Elisha may sense that Elijah is nearing the end of his life, and so the student is reluctant to leave his teacher, this being the last opportunity to enjoy his company.
  • The prophets at Bethel tell Elisha about Elijah's departure (v. 3).
2 Ks 2:3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?" "Yes, I know," Elisha replied, "but do not speak of it."
Fellow student prophets confirm Elisha's suspicion about Elijah's imminent departure, but Elisha does not want to discuss with his mentor such a potentially painful subject.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — I Sam 20:1-18

Jonathan to David (friend to friend) — I Sam 20:1-181
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Nothing forges loyalty between two friends more than sharing common experiences, events both can look back on later and say, "We did that."
Jim and Jeff were two friends who got a pilot to fly them into the far north for elk hunting. They were quite successful in their venture, and bagged six big bull elk. The pilot came back as arranged to pick them up. They started loading their gear into the plane, including the six elk. But the pilot objected, saying, "The plane can take out only four of your elk; you will have to leave two behind." They argued with him indicating that the year before they had shot six and that pilot had allowed them to put all aboard, and the plane was just the same model and capacity as this. Reluctantly the pilot finally permitted them to put all six aboard. But when they attempted to take off and leave the valley where they were, the little plane could not make it, and they crashed in the wilderness. Climbing out of the wreckage, Jim said to Jeff, "Do you know where we are? "I think so," his friend replied. "This is the same place where the plane crashed last year."
Nothing forges loyalty between two friends more than sharing common experiences. David and Jonathan were also friends, and they had common experiences, like the need to deal with King Saul. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of two friends to each other as they face the machinations of Israel's first monarch.
After David's stunning victory against Goliath and his hero's welcome at home, King Saul is jealous of the boy's popularity and attempts to eliminate him.2 Saul views David as a political rival, a potential claimant to the throne, despite David's protestation that he has no such aspiration. Complicating matters for Saul is the friendship that has developed between Jonathan, the king's son, heir to the throne, and David. Jonathan refuses to believe that his father would harm David despite indications of the king's growing animus toward the boy.3 David has already escaped Saul's deadly machinations several times, so when Jonathan comes to him and assures David that the king does not wish to harm him, David is suspicious of the king's true agenda.
I. Saul is hostile toward David and wants to harm him (I Sam 20:1-4).
I Sam 20:1 David...went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" 2 "Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" 3 But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." 4 Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."
A. Jonathan doubts the king's evil intentions (v. 2).
The author attributes Saul's animosity to "an evil spirit from the Lord" (19:9). How can God use such a means? ...The answer lies in understanding the sequence of events. God did not precipitate Saul's spiritual decline. That was a decision Saul made when he twice chose to disobey Samuel, God's representative.
  • Before Israelite troops fought the Philistines, Saul sacrificed a burnt offering, which only a prophet or priest could do. Samuel rebuked him: "Now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." (1 Sam 13:9b, 14)
  • After Israelite troops fought (and defeated) the Amalekites, Saul took the spoils of war, contrary to the prophet's instruction. Again Samuel rebuked him: "Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." (1 Sam 15:23)
When Saul's disposition toward God changed, God's disposition toward Saul changed: The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him (1 Sam 16:14). Because Saul displayed a lack of devotion to God, God chose another: The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7b-c).
B. David affirms the king's evil intentions (v. 3).
The king's son is in denial about his father's deadly plans for David, which Jonathan thinks is less than an "inkling" (v. 9). How can David convince his friend, who refuses to recognize his father's extreme jealousy? The spear toss was an obvious accident. The soldiers who came to David's home must have been looking for someone else, a terrorist or a spy. There are no tapes of Saul's conversation, no incriminating film footage of the various attempts on David's life. Jonathan refuses to believe that his father would do such a thing:
"Never!" Jonathan said. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" (1 Sam 20:2)
How can David convince him? In the absence of corroborating evidence, the fugitive does the next best thing.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — Exod 19, 20, 24

Israel to God (subject to sovereign) — Exod 19:3-8; 20:1-17; 24:3-111
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

As fallen people, we know there is always room for improvement; yet that no matter how hard we try, we still fall short.
Tom was a retiree who volunteered to entertain patients in nursing homes and hospitals. He went to one hospital and brought his portable keyboard along. He told some jokes and sang some funny songs at patients' bedsides. When Tom finished, he said in farewell, "I hope you get better." One elderly gentleman replied... "I hope you get better, too."
As fallen people, there is always room for improvement. That applies to much of life, including one's devotion to God and obedience to what He has commanded. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to Israel's loyalty to God, which the nation expresses by heeding the instructions He has given.
In the second millennium B.C. the contract between a lord and his vassal was called a suzerainty treaty (Kaiser 1990:415). The Hittite treaty2 is the main model for this contract and resembles the structure of Exodus having several standard features:
  • Preamble or prologue,
  • List of stipulations,3
  • Provision for regular reading,4
  • Divine witness,5
  • Blessings and curses according to compliance,6
  • Sacrificial meal.
The covenant between God and Israel, after the nation's departure from Egypt is very much like that agreement in form and content.7
I. God's prologue introduces His covenant with Israel (Exod 19:3-8).
A. He delivers the people from their bondage (vv. 3-4).
Exod 19:3 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:8 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 9
The exodus from Egypt was just one step in God's election of Israel to a central role in His plan, a role that began with Abraham about 2000 B.C. It was not the first of God's mighty acts for His people, but it was the one event which the biblical writers cite most often as a display of His power and love.
Exod 6:7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
Israel's election is unique.10 As the psalmist writes, Israel's revelation is also unique: "He has done this for no other nation; [moreover] they do not know his laws" (Ps 147:20). The heart of God's covenant with Israel is Torah, and it is unique as well. To be sure, there are some similarities with other legal codes of the period,11 but those aspects that relate to the people's relationship with God have no parallel in other codes because the LORD has no parallel with other deities.12 The revelation of God's uniqueness was one purpose of the exodus:
Moses replied, "It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God" (Exod 8:10).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — Gen 22:6-14

Isaac to Abraham (son to father) — Gen 22:6-141
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

The relationship between a father and his son is special, characterized by moments of understanding...or not:
A five-year-old boy was eating an apple in the back seat of the car, when he asked, "Dad, why is my apple turning brown?" "Because," his father explained, "after you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple came into contact with the air which caused it to oxidize, thus changing the molecular structure and turning it a different color." There was a period of silence. Then the son asked... "Dad, are you talking to me?"
The relationship between a father and his son may be characterized by moments of understanding, but not always. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of a son to his father, the loyalty of Isaac to Abraham, and of how a boy, who is probably a little older than five when he accompanies his father to Mount Moriah, may not understand fully the reason for their trip.2
When Abraham tells his son and his servants they will be traveling together, he does not include many details, only that they are going to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. There is no indication the Patriarch made regular offerings, although he did construct altars in the various places he lived. These altars, however, may have functioned more as boundary markers or commemorative markers than as places for sacrifice. In any case, Abraham set up altars in the various places he lived in Canaan:
Abram traveled through the land as far as...Shechem.... He built an altar there to the LORD.... From there he went on toward the hills... There he built an altar to the LORD.... [Then] Abram, where he built an altar to the LORD. (Gen 12:6-8; 13:18)3
The next mention of an altar is when God sends Abraham to Moriah to present a burnt offering. God does not explain why the altar close to home at Hebron is an unsuitable site for this sacrifice. In any case, the Patriarch travels to the new location.
Gen 22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."
Abraham leaves his servants at the base of the mountain while he and Isaac make the final ascent:
Gen 22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. And the two of them went on together.
Apparently the dictum: "Children should be seen and not heard" is applicable even in the second millennium B.C., because the trip is very quiet until...
I. Isaac questions the expectation of his father (Gen 22: 6-9).
Gen 22:7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
A. Abraham assembles most items for the sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lessons from the parables of Jesus

pdf (24 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

The Playing Children Luke 7:29-35
The Two Debtors Luke 7:36-50
The Persistent Friend   Luke 11:05-13
The Rich Fool Luke 12:13-21
The Ready Servants Luke 12:35-40
The Wise Servant Luke 12:42-48
The Mustard Seed Luke 13:18-19
The Leavened Loaf Luke 13:20-21
The Great Banquet Luke 14:15-24
The Lost Items (sheep, silver, son)  Luke 15:03-32
The Temple Petitioners Luke 18:09-14

Jesus employed various methods of instruction in his ministry, elements that would engage the attention of an audience and make his words memorable. One of his favorite trope was the parable, a rhetorical device that couched a single point in the form of a fictional but true-to-life story to which people could relate easily. Each of the synoptic gospels preserves examples of this method, although the greatest numbers of parables appear in Matthew (26) and Luke (27). Mark has far fewer (9), and John has none. There is considerable overlap, with many of the same parables appearing in two or three gospels. This brief study treats the eleven parables exclusively or primarily in Luke.1 The format here will accord with a three point outline:
  • Determine the setting (or occasion).
  • Divide the story (into major and minor details).
  • Discover the significance (the single point).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How far would you go? (Gen. 22:1-19)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

One of the least favorite aspects of education for typical students is exams. Most students (as well as most teachers) would be content to omit them. They are, however, an obligatory part of the educational process.
A female college English teacher was known for being a hard grader. After receiving a B minus on an exam, and hoping to improve his grade, Jack decided to take advantage of the impending Valentine's Day holiday, and he sent her a heart-shaped box of chocolates with the inscription, "Be Mine." The following day, he received a note that read: "Thank you, for the candy, but it's still Be Mine-Us."
Some tests are not amenable to grade adjustment. Thankfully, the tests God gives are all pass-fail, like the test He gave Abraham in the story, The Binding of Isaac.

The Binding of Isaac (Ha'akedah in Gen 22), is about a boy's trust in his father and a father's trust in his God. It recounts how Abraham almost kills his only son as a sacrifice to the Lord and how the boy is spared at the last moment, offering an important lesson to the Patriarch, a lesson his descendants will retell for generations. It begins as a test (or "temptation") of Abraham's obedience.

I. The Lord orders the patriarch (Gen 22:1-2).
Gen 22:1 God tested Abraham.2 He said to him,3 "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love,4 and go to the region of Moriah.5 Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Let us take stock of events leading to this 'test.' What prompted God to examine the extent of Abraham's obedience? Did God doubt the Patriarch's devotion? Like most exams, this 'test' was for the student's benefit, to probe not the depth of Abraham's knowledge about God but the degree of Abraham's commitment to God. Because God knows all things before they happen (foreknowledge), He knew Abraham's heart as well as how he would respond to this command,6 but that did not mean obedience was easy for Abraham.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The epistles to the Thessalonians

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians

I. Paul addresses the Thessalonian church (1 Thess 1:1-10).
A. He extends a greeting (v. 1).
B. He expresses his thanksgiving (vv. 2-10).
Application: God places into your life those who are more mature in the faith as models for you to imitate, and it is important for you to emulate them (Phil 3:17).

II. Paul recounts the initial visit (1 Thess 2:1-20)
A. He touts their success (vv. 1-12).
B. He expresses his thanks.. .again (2:13-20).
Application: You may face more serious threats than from secular authorities, so it is important that you recognize them and that you resist them (Jms 4:7).

III. Paul reviews his protégée's visit (1 Thess 3:1-13).
A. He recalls Timothy's ministry (vv. 1-5).
B. He recounts Timothy's return (vv. 6-10).
C. He petitions God's blessing (vv. 11-13).
Application: There are too many unforeseen and unforeseeable variables to plot the course of your life with certainty (Jer 29:11).

IV. Paul offers his readers instruction (1 Thess 4:1-12).
A. He teaches about satisfying God (vv. 1-8).
B. He teaches about loving others (vv. 9-12).
Application: Your responsibility to care for others is not the same for everyone but is greatest for those closest to you (Gal 6:10).

V. Paul explains about Jesus' return (1 Thess 4:13-5:11).
A. He tells how some expect it (vv. 13-18).
B. He tells how most ignore it (vv. 1-1 1).
Application: Do not lose your hope in him, and do not lapse in your devotion to him (Matt 24:13).

VI. Paul gives some closing remarks (1 Thess 5:12-28).
A. He instructs about church life.. .again (vv. 12-22).
B. He appends a benediction (vv. 23-24)
C. He solicits their prayers (vv. 25-28).
Application: You should be careful to acknowledge and not ignore other believers. (2 John 7a, 10-11).

Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

I. Paul addresses the Thessalonian church...again (2 Thess 1:1-4).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-2).
B. He expresses his thanksgiving (vv. 3-4).
Application: Proper pride is not conceitedness you have in yourself but confidence someone else has in you or you have in God (Prov 27:2; Jer 9:23-24).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Prison Epistles: Philemon

Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

 (This is one of four posts, each studying one of the four epistles the apostle wrote while in prison in Rome.) 

I. Paul addresses a good friend (Philemon 1-7).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-3).
B. He expresses his thanks (vv. 4-7).
Application: If you want to benefit from God's good impressions, it is important to recall and to heed the advice He has left you (Ps 103:17-18).
II. Paul intercedes for a slave (Philemon 8-21).
A. He attests Onesimus' industry (vv. 8-16).
B. He requests Philemon's indulgence (vv. 17-21).
Application: Keeping your relationships with others in good order may be more important than completing a religious obligation (Matt 5:23-24).
III. Paul gives some closing remarks (Philemon 22-25).
A. He anticipates a visit (v. 22).
B. He greets some individuals (vv. 23-24).
C. He appends a benediction (v. 25).
Application: The challenge for you is to find your particular role in the church and then to fulfill it (Rom 12:4-5).

Paul's letter to Philemon (62) was one of four epistles he composed (with Timothy) from a Roman prison after his third missionary journey to Asia Minor.1 The missive was in response to a visit from Onesimus, who then returned to Philemon with this letter from Paul:2
I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. (v. 12)
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good. (v. 15)
The moral imperative for the letter is to repair the estranged relationship between Philemon and Onesimus.

I. Paul addresses a good friend (Philemon 1-7).
A. He extends a greeting (vv. 1-3).
Phlmn 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,3 to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, 2 to Apphia our sister [Philemon's wife/sister?], to Archippus [Philemon's son?] our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:4 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the letter's prescript, Paul directs his missive to a small group of Christians. Some early believers were part of established synagogues, while other early believers, such as this group, were so few in number that they met in private homes.5 The leader of this group was Philemon, a man of some financial means and social standing, having a house with a dedicated "guest room" (v. 22) and at least one servant.
B. He expresses his thanks (vv. 4-7).
Phlmn 4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear6 about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.7 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
As was his custom, Paul begins this letter with an expression of gratitude for the recipients' faith and love.8 The apostle's practice of prayer is evident here in its consistency ("always" v. 4) and content ("thank...God" and "remember you" v. 4).

Application: Making a good impression, as Philemon did on Paul, is not necessarily easy, and only God leaves consistently good impressions. Moreover, His are not merely good feelings but influences that can benefit you. So calls to remember something He did or something He said span generations and have a lasting impact:9