Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Getting what we deserve? (Ps 103:10)

"JUST DESSERTS" (Ps 103:10)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2018
It is disconcerting for a driver when he sees a patrol car's flashing lights in his rearview mirror, specially when he realizes that those lights are directing him to pull over. His eyes immediately check the speedometer. Can he talk his way out of a ticket?
A fellow was speeding along the highway, feeling quite secure since the rest of the traffic was traveling at the same pace. Passing a speed trap, he was tagged by a radar detector and subsequently pulled over. After the patrolman handed him a ticket, the driver said, "Officer, I may have been speeding, but this just doesn't seem fair. There were lots of cars around me traveling just as fast. Why did I get the ticket?" "Have you ever gone fishing?" the patrolman asked. "Uhhhh, yeah," the driver replied, a bit puzzled. Grinning, the officer continued... "Did you try to catch all the fish?"
It is disconcerting for a driver when he sees a patrol car's flashing lights in his rearview mirror. God does not issue speeding tickets, although you might prefer that He did, especially when you are in line to receive your "Just Desserts."
We assume that God is eminently fair, that unlike man He is not capricious in His dealings with us, and there is considerable Biblical testimony for such a view:
All his ways are just....Upright and just is he. (Deut 32:4)
The leaders of Israel and the king...said, "The LORD is just." (2 Chr 12:6)
The works of his hands are faithful and just.... (Ps 111:7a)
God is just. (2 Thess 1:6)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.... (1 John 1:9)
Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. (Rev 15:3c)
The down side of God's fairness is that He demands accountability from His creatures, those who are volitional beings and should know right from wrong. The Apostle Paul has repeatedly said that people who commit sin (i.e., everyone), who violate the standards of behavior God established, are accountable before Him:
Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.... There is no one righteous, not even one.... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:9-10, 23)
We will all stand before God's judgment seat.... Each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Rom 14: lOc, 12).
We also read that God metes out punishment according to a preordained and calculated metric, and that it is wrong when such equity is absent:
That servant who knows his master's will and...does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. (Luke 12:47-48)
There is something...meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This...I say, is meaningless. (Ecci 8:14)
Nevertheless, God will treat some people more harshly than others for their disobedience:
If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.... If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over.... If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over.... If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. (Lev 26:18, 21,23-24, 27-28).
While He is indeed not capricious, neither is He rigidly fixated on a strict tit-for-tat policy. He does not throw down lightening bolts from heaven in answer to each transgression. There is a leniency in His response to man despite his sin.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Digging up the Bible: Seals

Important Archeological Finds that help Us Understand Scripture

Dr. Paul Manuel—2018
Hezekiah Seal

Isaiah Seal

Dr. Eilat Mazar from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem led an investigation of debris near the southern wall of the temple mount. Sifting through the undisturbed Iron Age remains, archaeologists found two clay seals (bullae sg. bulla) of the type commonly used in antiquity (8th century B.C.) to authenticate documents. Each seal is about a half-inch wide with paleo-Hebrew characters. The first seal bears the name Hezekiah (Hizkiyahu), which means "The LORD has strengthened," and presumably belonged to that Judean king. The second seal bears the name Isaiah (Yeshayahu), which means "The Lord will save," and may have belonged to the Judean prophet. The following word on the second seal is partially broken off with only the letters nv intact, but it could represent the Hebrew word for prophet (navi'). Neither name is common in the biblical text, and neither name appears outside the royal court. Archaeologists discovered both seals only a few feet apart from each other.

The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of several Judean monarchs but primarily during that of Hezekiah, for whom he served as an advisor and who had an outstanding reputation: "Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him." (2 Kgs 18:5) Isaiah offered counsel to the king during some difficult episodes in the nation's history. The two individuals figured prominently in events that the books of 2 Kings and Isaiah both record:
  • The invasion and subsequent withdrawal of Assyrian forces under Sennacherib (2 Kgs 18-19; Isa 36-37; see Digging- Sennacherib's Annals)
  • The reception of emissaries from Babylon (2 Kgs 20; Isa 39)
The prophet also made important predictions for people in his day and beyond:
  • King Hezekiah's illness and healing, and the sun's retreat (2 Kgs 20; Isa 38)
  • The advent and death of the messiah (Isa 9; 52-53)
Significance for Biblical Studies: The two seals, especially if the Isaiah Seal did belong to the prophet, represent confirmation for key biblical figures and lend support to the role they played witnessing and participating in major events from Israel's history.
The pdf for this post is here.