Tuesday, September 20, 2016

God is immutable

(Num 23:19; I Sam 15:29)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

Some people are always after the latest gadget. Others are quite satisfied with what they have and would rather keep things as they are. They find innovation, especially new technology, too confusing.
A young officer was working late at the Pentagon one evening. As he came out of his office, he saw a General standing by the classified document shredder in the hallway, a piece of paper in his hand. "Do you know how to work this thing?" the General asked. "My secretary has gone home and I don't know how to run it." "Yes, sir," said the young officer, who turned on the machine, took the paper from the General, and fed it in. "Now," said the General... "I just need one copy."
Change can be confusing. While God is not at all troubled by change, it is good for us that He Himself does not change, that no matter how circumstances (even technology) may shift around us (or completely pass us by), the Lord remains the same. He is Our Unchanging God.

God has many qualities we admire, such as His righteousness, goodness, and love. One quality we depend on especially is His immutability, His consistency, that He does not change in His essence, attributes, or will.1 It is the truth about Israel's God that Samuel reveals to Saul and that Balaam affirms to Balak. These two incidents illustrate God's immutability.2

The first incident we will consider that illustrates God's unchanging nature is Israel's encounter with the Amalekites along with the interaction between Samuel and Saul. When God's people left Egypt, the people group Israel initially contacted was the descendants of Esau. Whereas the Israelites would have preferred to proceed uninterrupted to Canaan, the Amalekites' unprovoked attack against God's people led Him to declare: "I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven" (Exod 17:14b). God helped the Israelites to fend off the attack and continue on their way. But later, when Israel was about to cross the Jordan River into Canaan, God repeated His intention to destroy Amalek:
When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut 25:19)
Years after Israel was settled in the Promised Land, God told King Saul to "attack the Amalekites and totally destroy...them.... Put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys" (1 Sam 15:3). King Saul did defeat the Amalekites3 but thought their total destruction was wasteful, so he made two revisions to God's plan.
  • Saul spared the Amalekite king, perhaps as a bargaining chip for some future negotiations, and....
  • Saul spared the best of the livestock as spoils of war, for sacrifice to the Lord and for payment to his troops.
The rest of God's instructions Saul followed, killing all the men, women, and children.

Such carnage may seem exceedingly cruel, uncharacteristic of a loving God, until we realize that the highest value in God's economy is not love (or life) but holiness, which is God's preeminent attribute, the one that best describes Him and the one His people must appreciate if they would know Him:
  • In Isaiah's vision of the heavenly court, the angels in attendance are not extolling God's love (although that is certainly important). They are calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty" (Isa 6:3).
  • In John's vision of the heavenly court, the angels in attendance are not extolling God's love (or His righteous and goodness): "Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" (Rev 4:8).
The highest value in God's economy is His preeminent attribute, the one He uses most often to describe Himself and the one that accounts for everything He does. It is also an attribute He expects His people to emulate: "Be holy, because I am holy" (Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pet 1:16; cf. 20:26; 21:6; 1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:15; Rev 22:11). In order for that attribute to characterize His people, they must separate themselves from what is unholy, a process that requires drastic measures as well as different thinking.4
The prophet Samuel confronted Saul on his return from battle with the Amalekites and wanted to know why he disobeyed God's order to destroy them all, including their livestock. Saul either thought God had not really meant what He said or thought that He would be amenable to a less wasteful course of action. Israelite soldiers captured the Amalekite king (a valuable prisoner) and spared the animals (as spoils of war). After all, why disregard a useful bargaining chip and destroy a good food source? Surely God would see the wisdom of this change in His original orders.

The problem was that God had given specific instructions that did not allow for such variance. What King Saul did not realize (or chose to ignore) was that God is immutable. When He says something He sticks with it. Had He been of the opinion that killing all the Amalekites and their livestock was wasteful, He would have given different orders, but He was not, so He did not.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nations will come to your light...

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

When God chose the descendants of Abraham as His people, it was an act of grace, but it was grace with a goal. He had a plan for them to tell others about the great God they served.1 It will be an especially prominent feature of the Messianic Age:2
In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isa 2:2-3) Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isa 60:3)
This mission (which actually began long ago) attracted two types of gentiles: those who lived inside the borders of Israel and those who lived outside those borders.
  • A sojourner or resident alien was a gentile who followed God and lived inside the borders of Israel:
  • An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD's Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you. (Exod 12:48-49)
  • Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth.... Anyone, whether native-born or alien, who eats anything found dead or torn by wild animals must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be ceremonially unclean till evening; then he will be clean. (Lev 17:13, 15)
  • Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God. (Lev 24:21-22)
  • You must have the same regulations for the alien and the native-born.... 15 The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.... One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. (Num 9:14b-16, 29)
  • Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can...follow carefully all the words of this law. (Deut 31:12)
  • A foreigner was a gentile who followed God and lived outside the borders of Israel:
  • These are the regulations for the Passover: "No foreigner is to eat of it.... (Exod 12:43)
  • You must not accept such animals from the hand of a foreigner and offer them as the food of your God. They will not be accepted on your behalf, because they are deformed and have defects. (Lev 22:25)
  • Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God. (Deut 14:21 a-b)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Holiness unto the LORD

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

An Outline of Leviticus

I. Regulations about Required Sacrifices (1: 1-7-39)
A. God teaches the people (1:1-6:7) -
1. The Israelite presents a dedication (burnt) offering to signify his commitment to the LORD (1:1-17).
a. A dedication offering maybe an ox (or cow).
b. A dedication offering maybe a sheep (or goat).
c. A dedication offering may be a bird.
2. The Israelite presents a contribution (grain) offering to signify his support for the sanctuary (2:1-16).
a. A contribution offering maybe unbaked flour.
b. A contribution offering maybe. baked flour.
c. A contribution offering must be without yeast.
d. A contribution offering may be roasted grain.
3. The Israelite presents a reconciliation (peace or fellowship) offering to signify his review of the relationship (3:1-17).
a. A reconciliation offering may be an ox (or cow).
b. A reconciliation offering may be a sheep (or goat).
c. A reconciliation offering may be a bird.
4. The Israelite presents a purification (sin) offering to signify his cleansing from ceremonial defilement (4:1-5:13).
a. The priest may sin unintentionally.
b. the community may sin unintentionally.
c. A leader may sin unintentionally.
d. A person may sin by (unintentional) commission.
  • He must offer a lamb.
c. A person may sin by (unintentional) omission.
  • He must offer two birds
  • He may offer some flour.
5. The Israelite presents a reparation (guilt) offering to signify his payment of the fine (5:14-6:7).
a. A person may sin unintentionally.
b. A person may sin unwittingly,
c. A person may sin underhandedty,
Application: You must seek forgiveness, keeping short accounts with God and man (Matt 5:23-25a.)
B. God teaches the priests (6:8-7:36).
1. The Israelites dedication (burnt) offering is not eaten (at the time) but may accompany a fellowship offering, which is eaten (6:8-13)
2. The Israelite's contribution (grain) offering is given to the priests (6:14-23).
3. The Israelite's purification (sin) offering is eaten by the priest who presents it (6:24-30).
4. The Israelite's reparation (guilt) offering is eaten by the family of the priest who presents it (7:1-10)