Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The Literary Lamp-September 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs

“To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever—Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endures forever—and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever,”—Psalm 136:10-26, NKJV.

Observe the multiple verses in Psalm 36 which praise God for His “mercy” as He destroys Israel’s enemies: “To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn…overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…struck down great kings; and slew famous kings…for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 36:10, 15, 17-20.)

This is a perfect example of how the definitions of mercy, love, and the like, rely quite heavily on one’s perspective; God’s chastisement to one may be His mercy toward another. It is extremely important for us to view a matter from all sides before pronouncing a judgement. In many instances, it may seem that God is unreasonably afflicting us when His actions are actually sparing us from some more severe trial. Do not be too quick to pronounce God cruel or capricious, or even to search for some wrong for which He may be punishing you or a loved one—we do not see the greater picture. Know that God does, and be comforted by His everlasting mercy and omniscience.

 

The book of Proverbs is full of intricate allegories, perhaps the most recurrent being those of wisdom and “the adulteress.”

Wisdom is repeatedly depicted as a woman (see Prov. 1:20, 4:13, 7:4, 8:1, and (9:1), although in Proverbs 8:30, she refers to herself as “a master craftsman,” (emphasis added). In short, Solomon, presents numerous perspective on wisdom, but combines them all in the depiction of a woman—specifically a woman who directly opposes the other woman, i.e. the adulteress. Perhaps the most enlightening passage concerning wisdom is found in Proverbs chapter eight, especially verses 22:31, where wisdom reveals, essentially, her oneness with God (see verses 22-23). In this, we are not surprised, since wisdom is, in fact, an attribute of God; but in verses 30-31, it becomes a little deeper:

“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Who fits this description? Who was “with God” at the beginning? Hint: compare to John 1:1-3. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs represents the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—which, of course, are all one. Moreover, we, Christ’s servants saved by grace, are His temple, His church, and His bride—we are joined with Him. Thus wisdom is personified as a woman.

The adulteress (aka, the forbidden woman, the seductress, etc.) represents wickedness, or the world—the opponent of the church. She is the exact opposite of wisdom and life, but she tempts us with her “enticing speech” and great beauty. Beware of the deceptive flamboyant and glamor of sin—“Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Prov. 7:27, NKJV. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,” Prov. 7:25. We are the bride of Christ—beware, lest we become unfaithful to Him.

Understanding these allegories (you may even call them “the Parables of the Old Testament”), and others like them, bring a deeper and more applicable meaning to many Old Testament passages—the book of Proverbs is only a portion.

 

“The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish,” Proverbs 14:11, NKJV. (See also Prov. 15:6.)

Note the contrast between house and tent. The basic message of this verse is that although the wicked may prosper for a time, living luxuriously and being praised by the world, they will be overthrown in the end; if not in this life, certainly in the next. On the other hand, the righteous, who fix their eyes upon eternity and do not cling to temporal things, may lead a humble life, but in the end, their tent will flourish, while the house of the wicked will fall.

With this knowledge, as Christians, we ought to praise God greatly for the righteousness with which He has clothed us, and rejoice in the fact that, though our present state may be humble, our eternity will be glorious. But beware! There are Christians who sadly misconstrue this knowledge. They gaze with jealousy upon the earthly success of wicked people, and then comfort themselves with phrases like: “Ha! They’ll get what’s coming to them.” Each one of us knows that we have had similar thoughts deep down inside at one time or another. Fickle humans that we are, we take a great deal of pride in the righteousness that God has given us, and actually believe that we somehow earned it by our own holiness. Abominable thought! It is by God’s unfathomable grace that we are saved, wretched worms that we are! Our wickedness is washed away by the blood of Christ alone. After this, we are commissioned to admonish those in the world who have not been saved—not to gloat upon their wickedness, or envy their earthly opulence, and then sit idly by, as Jonah, to await their impending destruction!
In summary, knowing our final destination, we ought not to complain if we lead a humble life; and, knowing also the final destination of the unsaved, we ought to “speak the truth in love,” reminding the wicked that this world is passing away, and that, unless their house is founded upon the Rock, they will fall.

The Literary Lamp-September 2016
Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms and Proverbs

“To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever—Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, for His mercy endures forever—and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever,”—Psalm 136:10-26, NKJV.

Observe the multiple verses in Psalm 36 which praise God for His “mercy” as He destroys Israel’s enemies: “To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn…overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea…struck down great kings; and slew famous kings…for His mercy endures forever.” (Ps. 36:10, 15, 17-20.)

This is a perfect example of how the definitions of mercy, love, and the like, rely quite heavily on one’s perspective; God’s chastisement to one may be His mercy toward another. It is extremely important for us to view a matter from all sides before pronouncing a judgement. In many instances, it may seem that God is unreasonably afflicting us when His actions are actually sparing us from some more severe trial. Do not be too quick to pronounce God cruel or capricious, or even to search for some wrong for which He may be punishing you or a loved one—we do not see the greater picture. Know that God does, and be comforted by His everlasting mercy and omniscience.

 

The book of Proverbs is full of intricate allegories, perhaps the most recurrent being those of wisdom and “the adulteress.”

Wisdom is repeatedly depicted as a woman (see Prov. 1:20, 4:13, 7:4, 8:1, and (9:1), although in Proverbs 8:30, she refers to herself as “a master craftsman,” (emphasis added). In short, Solomon, presents numerous perspective on wisdom, but combines them all in the depiction of a woman—specifically a woman who directly opposes the other woman, i.e. the adulteress. Perhaps the most enlightening passage concerning wisdom is found in Proverbs chapter eight, especially verses 22:31, where wisdom reveals, essentially, her oneness with God (see verses 22-23). In this, we are not surprised, since wisdom is, in fact, an attribute of God; but in verses 30-31, it becomes a little deeper:

“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was with the sons of men.”

Who fits this description? Who was “with God” at the beginning? Hint: compare to John 1:1-3. The wisdom spoken of in Proverbs represents the Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—which, of course, are all one. Moreover, we, Christ’s servants saved by grace, are His temple, His church, and His bride—we are joined with Him. Thus wisdom is personified as a woman.

The adulteress (aka, the forbidden woman, the seductress, etc.) represents wickedness, or the world—the opponent of the church. She is the exact opposite of wisdom and life, but she tempts us with her “enticing speech” and great beauty. Beware of the deceptive flamboyant and glamor of sin—“Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Prov. 7:27, NKJV. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,” Prov. 7:25. We are the bride of Christ—beware, lest we become unfaithful to Him.

Understanding these allegories (you may even call them “the Parables of the Old Testament”), and others like them, bring a deeper and more applicable meaning to many Old Testament passages—the book of Proverbs is only a portion.

 

“The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish,” Proverbs 14:11, NKJV. (See also Prov. 15:6.)

Note the contrast between house and tent. The basic message of this verse is that although the wicked may prosper for a time, living luxuriously and being praised by the world, they will be overthrown in the end; if not in this life, certainly in the next. On the other hand, the righteous, who fix their eyes upon eternity and do not cling to temporal things, may lead a humble life, but in the end, their tent will flourish, while the house of the wicked will fall.

With this knowledge, as Christians, we ought to praise God greatly for the righteousness with which He has clothed us, and rejoice in the fact that, though our present state may be humble, our eternity will be glorious. But beware! There are Christians who sadly misconstrue this knowledge. They gaze with jealousy upon the earthly success of wicked people, and then comfort themselves with phrases like: “Ha! They’ll get what’s coming to them.” Each one of us knows that we have had similar thoughts deep down inside at one time or another. Fickle humans that we are, we take a great deal of pride in the righteousness that God has given us, and actually believe that we somehow earned it by our own holiness. Abominable thought! It is by God’s unfathomable grace that we are saved, wretched worms that we are! Our wickedness is washed away by the blood of Christ alone. After this, we are commissioned to admonish those in the world who have not been saved—not to gloat upon their wickedness, or envy their earthly opulence, and then sit idly by, as Jonah, to await their impending destruction!
In summary, knowing our final destination, we ought not to complain if we lead a humble life; and, knowing also the final destination of the unsaved, we ought to “speak the truth in love,” reminding the wicked that this world is passing away, and that, unless their house is founded upon the Rock, they will fall.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


-The Literary Lamp-AUGUST 2016
FALL AND WINTER ARE RAPIDLY rushing toward us, as August draws to a close and many of us return to school. I believe I speak for the majority of my readers when I say that the turning of the season will not be unwelcome. For my part, I have never relished the summer heat and am always glad to see it replaced by milder temperatures. Moreover, the changes in schedule and habits which take place around this time of year are not altogether unpleasant, as we humans, so quickly bored with regularity, must always have something “new” and “different.” God caters to this folly of ours by giving us the four seasons and, indeed, each distinct season of our lives, but on one point He commands complete solidity: our walk with Him. The only change which should take place in this area is maturity—and that in His own time and way.

Reflections on the Old Testament: Psalms

Psalm 101, “a psalm of David,” appears to be David’s vow to judge and guide Israel as king: but, upon closer examination, it is not difficult to see the relevance it bears upon the modern-day Christian. “I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart,” Ps. 101:2 (NKJV). In this verse, and indeed all throughout Psalm 101, David displays a great deal of confidence in his own moral perfection—but how can this be? David, of all people, knew that no human being is perfect, that we are all riddled with flaws and sins; therefore, what business has he to speak of moral perfection?

To answer this question, we must go back over Psalm 101 and highlight a few key phrases. For example, observe in verse two what appears to be something of a non sequitur: “Oh, when will You come to me?” the psalmist cries out amid his moral resolutions. But that phrase directly provides the answer to our puzzlement. David recognizes, as every Christian must, that true righteousness and perfection are impossible without the presence of the Almighty, i.e., the ultimate source of goodness. Moreover, in verses two, six, seven, and eight, do not the words “land,” “house,” and “city” typify our own body, which becomes the temple of God when once His Spirit enters it? In verse two, the psalmist pleads for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Once granted, the “house” receives a thorough remodeling—i.e., the eradication of indwelling evil (see verses 3-8). This process is then summarized in verse eight: “Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD.”

 

“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants,” Ps. 105:25, NKJV.

Our first inclination, upon reading this verse, is, naturally, to question God’s motive for deliberately causing someone to hate His people and “deal craftily” with them. There is no denying that this is, in fact, what Ps. 105:25 is saying. And, indeed, a great many other passages relate similar instances—in which God actually planted a seed of hatred or malice, or, at any rate, blinded reason, in order to achieve His goal. And what is His goal? To create enemies for His chosen ones? Often, a closer look at the context of a verse will reveal its meaning and depth. So it is in this case. Observe Ps. 105:24. “He increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies.” And how strategically placed is this verse—occurring directly before it says: “He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants”! Yes, God made enemies for His people—but for a very good reason. God placed obstacles before His people that were hateful, crafty, and, yes, strong—but He made His people stronger. This is God’s way of showing us that He is greater than any obstacle: if the defeated is weak, how can the victor be called strong? If there is no darkness, how can the light shine? God makes the strong, that we may be stronger; the crafty, that we may be wiser; the wicked, that we may be righteous; the hate, that we may love; the dark, that we may shine. “God has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of judgement.” Is it true, then, that God created sin? Certainly not! Adam and Eve brought sin into this world when they disobeyed God, and now it is a force that must be dealt with. God deals with it by turning it against itself. While it bruised His heel, He has crushed its head. When God hardens hearts and blinds reason, all He is really doing is removing His Holy Spirit from those who don’t deserve it. None of us, as fallen beings, deserve God’s Spirit—but He bestows upon whom He will. “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,” (Ex. 33:19, NKJV). Let us be a little humbler, then, since, were it not for God’s grace, we would be the enemy. And for the same reason, let us love our enemies, knowing that God’s grace can save them, too.

 

“LORD, remember David and all his afflictions; how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob: ‘Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’ Behold we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of the woods. Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your saints shout for joy. For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed. The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body. If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.’ For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish,’”—Ps. 132, NKJV.

Although the psalmist is speaking of  God’s plan for His temple in Israel, Psalm 132 may also be interpreted as a strong symbol of His plan for His temple in us, through the bestowal of His Holy Spirit. Observe the frequent allusions to Christ. In verse 6: “Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah…” be reminded of the role of Bethlehem Ephrathah; in verse 10, “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed”; verse 11, “The LORD has sworn in truth to David; He will not turn from it: ‘I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body’”—be reminded of the Messiah’s lineage. And finally, the allusions culminate in verses 17-18: “There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon Himself His crown shall flourish.’”

If we are the temple of God, does the lamp of Christ not burn in us? By placing His Holy Spirit in us, God prepared a lamp for His Anointed, that His enemies might be clothed with shame, but His own crown flourish. And note that this is not by any act of our own, but by His sovereign grace alone. Should we, then, reject this role? Should we allow God’s temple to fall into disrepair and disuse? Certainly not! Let our attitude be that of David’s, in verses 3-5: “’Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house or go up to the comfort of my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’”
Are you spiritually inactive? Reclining upon a bed of ease and self-indulgence, while the house of the LORD remains neglected? We are Christ’s lamp, His dwelling place—but are we earnestly maintaining His temple or has it fallen to the wayside? David speaks of “finding a place for the LORD”—we, as Christians, are that place. As you read the innumerable passages in the Old Testament concerning the temple, consider the temple of Christ in you—what state is it in? Is the lamp of the Anointed being fed and kept ever burning? For shame if we, who have done nothing to merit God’s grace, neglect the simple tasks which He requires of us! His yoke is easy and His burden is light—and what blessings He has for those who keep His commandments!