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Believe the Bible

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth … By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:4, 6)

My father only completed the third grade in Mexico. He learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic. Education was not greatly valued in his youth. More highly prized were his skills at handling horses and cattle on the family ranch, so his education was good enough to get by. Later in life, he felt called of God to enter the ministry and become a pastor/church planter of Spanish-speaking churches. His third-grade education allowed him to enter the Mexican Bible Institute in San Antonio, TX where, after five years of difficult study, he left without earning his diploma. However, he gained valuable skills in sermon preparation, preaching and pastoring churches. His lack of education did not diminish his love for God’s Word nor discourage him from the constant study of it.

My father taught me many things, but the lesson I treasure most was his love for and trust in God’s Word. He taught me that God’s Word is true in all things and applicable in every situation. Even in those areas of Scripture that are difficult to understand, Dad taught me to trust the Bible simply because it is God’s Word. Dad provided no other apologetic than that.

I grew up with that firmly implanted in my mind, and when confronted with skeptics, my defense defaulted to, “the Bible says.” That answer satisfied me, but it did not impress my challengers. They were convinced that everything started with a Big Bang, that earth formed by itself more than 4.54 billion years ago, and that life sprang up from some mysterious chemical reaction 3.6 – 4.0 billion years ago. That story might make logical sense to some, but it does not line up with the biblical account very well especially when it comes to the topic of the evolution of life. Some “Christian” skeptics suggest that God used evolution to create life over millions of years. My response simply stated that God can do whatever He wants. He could have created slowly over millions or billions of years or He could have created instantly. However, the Bible says He did it in just six 24-hour days.

The arguments have not changed much over the years although the skeptics have gotten more hostile. Even “Christians” come against young-earth creationists charging that a young-earth stance is controversial and divisive. However, today I can offer a better defense besides “the Bible says so,” albeit, that really should be the only defense needed against a “Christian.”

A “mature” gentleman confronted me this week with the “old earth” challenge. He claimed to believe the Bible but he believed the earth was billions of years old, not 6000 years old as young-earth creationists believe. He pointed out that light from distant stars takes billions of years to get to earth and that radiometric dating proves that the earth is old. He excused his disbelief in a literal six 24-hour day creation by stating that we really do not know what the Bible means by “day.”

Given that I was not in an appropriate place to properly respond to his challenge, I gave him some simple answers. A light-year measures distance, not time. Just because a galaxy is 14 billion light-years from earth does not necessarily mean that the light from that galaxy took 14 billion years to arrive at earth. Science has yet to measure the one-way speed of light. For all we know, it could be instantaneous. The Bible also hints that God “gave” the light in place when He created the stars. “And God set [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:17, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “set” is nâthan and it means “to give.” Also, the phrase “to give light” is only one word in Hebrew – ‘ôr, i.e., “light.” The verse could be translated, “And God gave them [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to light upon the earth.” This seems to say that light from distant stars took no time to arrive on earth; it was here from the start.

Then there is the matter of radiometric dating. Besides radiocarbon dating, there are several other methods of radiometric dating none of which are reliable. Dr. Vernon Cupps, a nuclear physicist at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), recently wrote a book[1] that goes into great detail explaining the fallacies of radiometric dating. Indeed, all radiometric dating methods fail to prove that the earth is billions of years old.

The argument from Scripture that we do not have a clear understanding of what a “day” is in the creation account only betrays a lack of understanding of what Scripture really says. In this, the gentleman alluded to Peter’s statement that to God a day is as a 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day. Peter draws his comparison from the psalm of Moses. [2] In his statement, Peter does not make an equivalence between a day and a year but rather draws a simile. The use of the word “as” makes this clear. Peter’s point is that God is not fettered by time; He is timeless. God created time. He created in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh for our benefit.[3] Furthermore, the word for day used in the creation account is defined by “evening and morning” and confirmed with the assignment of ordinal numbers to distinguish the days.[4]

I left the man with this final thought. We place too much confidence in scientists who are no more than fallen, fallible human beings rather than trusting God’s Word and believing that God did exactly what He told us He did. God is all-knowing and all-powerful and He can do whatever He chooses to do. He could have created the universe, the earth, and all life on earth over billions of years if He chose to do that, but that is not what He told us in His Word. He could have created everything in an instant if He chose to do that, but that is not what He recorded in His Word. What God tells us is that He created everything in six 24-hour days. It is clearly spelled out in His Word. Believe the Bible!

Notes:


[1]  Vernon R. Cupps, Rethinking Radio Metric Dating: Evidence for a Young Earth from a Nuclear Physicist, (Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2019). Available from the ICR online bookstore at http://store.icr.org/.

[2]  2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4

[3]  Exodus 20:10-11

[4]  “A Day Is A Day” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/25/a-day-is-a-day/

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What the Law Does

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

Many Christians today adopt the attitude that the Old Testament Law no longer applies because we are not under the Law but under Grace. That is certainly true. However, the fact that we are under Grace does in no way render the Law irrelevant or make it of no effect.

The Law given in the Old Testament accomplished two things. It codified what God expected of His people, Israel, and it provided specific practices for God’s people to follow that set them apart from the pagan nations among whom they lived. They were to be “holy” as their God in heaven is holy, i.e., set apart, consecrated, distinct.

The Law provided a third way for the people to relate to God through the sacrificial system which provided a way to atone for or “cover” the sins of the people. However, the sacrificial system did not provide a permanent solution to the sin problem. Sacrifices were made for all kinds of infractions of the Law, and like sin, they were a perpetual practice. The continual offering of sacrifices illustrated the insufficiency of sacrifices to fully atone for the sin of the people. Even so, the sacrifices required faith in the offering otherwise they became a ritual practice akin to pagan practices. God rejected such sacrifices.

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (Isaiah 1:11)

To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me. (Jeremiah 6:20)

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)

One thing we learn from the Old Testament is that it is impossible to keep the Law, and that it is insufficient to atone for sin. Our opening verse makes it clear, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). The only sacrifice sufficient to atone for sin is the one offered by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ and the blood He shed on the cross. Sin – all sin, for all time – was paid in full when Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). However, Jesus did not remain dead. On the third day, He rose from the dead and conquered the “last enemy”[1] giving us access to eternal life by the simple act of believing. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The Old Testament teaches us that we are incapable of keeping God’s Law, therefore we are doomed by that standard. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis mine). Grace is God’s gift to us. Grace is “unmerited favor.” Grace cannot be earned through any human effort because “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). Grace is a gift, bought and paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). As with any gift, it must be accepted before it becomes one’s own possession.

What good, then, is the Old Testament Law, if one cannot gain salvation, i.e., eternal life, by keeping it (not that you could if you tried)? Paul provides the following affirmation: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). We are declared “just” when we place our “faith” in what Jesus did for us on the cross. That is a “done deal” outside the keeping (“the deeds”) of the law. Then Paul poses and responds to our question. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). The Greek word translated “establish” is histēmi, and it means “to cause to stand.”

The Law still stands. It is not required to gain eternal life nor is it needed to maintain our salvation. However, it does serve as our guide to holy living which God still requires of His children. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Jesus tied our love for Him to the keeping of His commandments.[2] Jesus spoke these words 25-30 years before the first Gospel was written, so His commandments were the same commandments He gave to Moses, which are summarized in two great commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (your whole being), and love your neighbor as yourself.[3]

But what does that look like? Our opening verse tells us: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Granted, much of the Mosaic Law had direct application to the culture of that time, however, the principles therein apply to our modern time. Take for instance the laws given to dress. The reason for those laws served to make the children of Israel distinct from the people among whom they lived. God still wants the same for us today. We shouldn’t dress and look like the lost world around us. We should be distinct. We should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy – set apart from the world. Speaking of us, Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). What the law does is show us how not to live like the world.

Notes:


[1]  1 Corinthians 15:26

[2]  John 14:15, 21; 15:10

[3]  Matthew 22:36-40

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Vegan Adam & Eve

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)

This week a young woman that looked to be in her early to mid-thirties asked me if Adam and Eve were vegans. She was slender and attractive, giving me the impression that she wanted to justify her vegan lifestyle from Scripture. Personally, I do not care what one chooses to eat as long as they do not try to impose their diet on me.[1]

Veganism, like most belief systems, can get rather complicated. For starters, vegans are vegetarian, and one can be a vegetarian without being a vegan. Vegans go beyond simple vegetarianism. “Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (also known as strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan (also known as moral vegetarian) is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable”[2]

Whether or not Adam and Eve were vegans cannot be determined by the creation account recorded in Scripture. Certainly, Adam and Eve were vegetarians as were “every beast of the earth … every fowl of the air … [and] every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life” (Genesis 1:30). God gave “every green herb for [food].”

However, were Adam and Eve required to abstain from drinking milk from cows or goats? Did they make cheese from the milk of other animals? Were they allowed to eat chicken eggs? One might argue that infertile eggs have no potential of producing a living bird, so maybe eggs would be allowed. Scripture is silent on the matter. Let us assume, however, that initially, they were strict vegetarians, i.e., vegans, and that they only ate vegetable matter and nothing from animals. We might assume so since they were naked in the Garden of Eden,[3] and they made clothes of fig leaves when they discovered their nakedness.

Their stay in the Garden was short-lived.[4] They soon sinned and their ethical veganism would have ended at that point. The shame of their nakedness and sin required the slaughter of an innocent animal for covering, and God Himself performed the sacrifice[5] to clothe them in animal skins. After that, the practice of animal sacrifice continued, as we find Abel offering an animal sacrifice in Genesis 4:4. However, it is hard to imagine that they would find domesticated animals useful only for sacrifice and not for any other purpose like wool, milk, cheese, eggs, etc. Scripture is silent on this, so we should not be dogmatic.

After the Flood, God sanctioned the eating of animal flesh. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3). If humans were vegans before, all that ended after the Flood. The lady that raised the question was not satisfied with my answer, but since I had answered from Scripture, she could raise no further objection.

Notes:


[1]  Romans 14:16-23

[2]  “Veganism” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism

[3]  Genesis 3:7

[4]  “A Nutshell History of the World” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/28/a-nutshell-history-of-the-world/

[5]  Genesis 3:21

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Neither Good Nor Bad

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:7-8)

Greg[1] pointed out to me last week something I had not stopped to consider. At the end of every day of creation, God assessed His work, “And God saw … that it was good.”[2] Genesis 1:4 is God’s assessment of the first day, specifically the light. In Genesis 1:10, 12, God gives approval of the third day’s work in separating the water from the land and bringing forth plant life. In Genesis 1:18, God is satisfied with His creation of the heavenly bodies on Day Four. On the fifth day, God gave His approval of the ocean creatures and the creatures that fly. He certified the “beasts of the field” created on the sixth day, and after He crowned His creation by creating man “in Our Image and after Our Likeness” on the sixth day, He declared His entire creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, the second day, received no such assessment. Greg asked, “Why is that? Why did God have nothing to say about the second day?”

That is a very good question. I had to think about that. I consulted several commentaries on Genesis 1:6-8 and none made note of the absence of God’s evaluation of the second day. Not even The Henry Morris Study Bible had anything to say in this regard. Therefore I am left to puzzle this out on my own.

The best place to start, in context, is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “the earth” is ha’erets, and it can refer to earth as the planet, earth as land (either a parcel of land or as a country), or earth as ground (soil). Within the context of the first verse, the last option, ground (soil), probably fits best. In the first verse, God creates all the elements that comprise the universe: time, space, and matter/energy (the earth). Matter/energy occupies time and space. We call this the time-space continuum. So “earth” is the “stuff” from which all else is made.

Genesis 1:2 informs us that all this “stuff” was “without form and void” (not that it “became without form and void” as Gap Theorists speculate).[3], [4], [5] It also says that “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Then, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word translated “moved” is râchaph and it means to “flutter, move or shake.” I interpret this to mean that the Spirit of God hovered over the entire glob of the mass of matter to energize all the ‘erets God had created. Part of that energy existed as light. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5, emphasis mine).

We arrive at the second day, and what we have is a massive blob of matter and energy within the time-space continuum. It is void and without form; it has yet to be “shaped” into anything. On the second day, God gets to work at molding all the stuff of creation. “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is râqı̂ya‛ meaning an “expanse” or the “visible arch of the sky.” Another dictionary[6] defines it as an “extended surface (solid).” The term seems to describe some sort of solid shell around this massive “earth” blob that fills the space of the universe – thus, the “firm” in firmament.[7] God installed this firmament “shell” between the waters to cause a separation from the waters from which He will form “Planet Earth” from the waters that will occupy the rest of space. I see this as the beginning of God “[stretching] out the heavens as a curtain, and [spreading] them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:7, emphasis mine). From the waters “which are above the firmament” God will create “the stars also.”[8]

“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8, emphasis mine). What God has at this point is a watery blob in the midst of a greater watery blob separated by the “firmament.” He still has more work to do to form Planet Earth. Perhaps this is why God made no assessment of His work at this point. He was not done with this part yet. It was neither good nor bad; it was incomplete. The finished product comes on Day Three where God brings the landmasses out of the water and causes the ground to bring forth vegetation.[9] At the end of that day, God declares it “good.”

Notes:


[1]  Greg is a volunteer at the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, and he is a very careful student of the Bible, hence the question. I did not use his full name because I did not request permission to do so, If he reads this blog article, he will know.

[2]  Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25

[3]  “The Gap – Not the Store” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/08/04/the-gap-not-the-store/

[4]  “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

[5]  “The Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/14/age-of-the-earth-2/

[6]  Brown-Driver-Briggs’  Hebrew Definitions

[7]  “רקיע  rāqı̂ya‛, “expanse;” στερέωμα  stereōma, רקע  rāqa‛, “spread out by beating, as leaf gold.” This expanse was not understood to be solid, as the fowl is said to fly on the face of it Gen_1:21. It is also described as luminous Dan_12:3, and as a monument of divine power Psa_150:1,” Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

[8]  Genesis 1:16

[9]  Genesis 1:9-13

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Ye of Little Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance of more than thirty feet (in the jump).  Yet these magnificent creatures can be securely contained in zoos with no more than a three-foot wall.  You see the animals will not jump unless they can see where their feet will fall.  Far too often, we are rendered useless to God because we are unwilling to trust Him with what is unknown (to us).  When He calls on us to take a leap of faith, we are unwilling to obey because we cannot see where our feet will fall.  In his many years of walking with God, Abraham had come to a place in his life where he could absolutely trust God no matter what God might ask of him — including sacrificing his only son.

Genesis 22 opens with the phrase “Now it came about after these things,” (v. 1).  After what things?  Beginning in Chapter 12 of Genesis, the story of Abraham unfolds.  At the age of 75, after being well established in the city of Ur, God told Abraham (Abram at that time) to pack up his belongings, leave his home and family and go to some undisclosed land with the promise that God would make of him a great nation.  So Abram trusted and obeyed God even though he had no idea where his feet would fall.  For ten more years Abram wandered the deserts of Canaan without ever finding a place that he could call his own, but he believed God would keep His word.  Then at the age of 85, God once again paid Abram a visit to reconfirm His promise to make of him a great nation.  This time, Abram just had to ask, “O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).  Again, God assured him that he would indeed procreate and be the father of many nations. Then, in order to help God out with His plan a bit (and how many of us have ever been guilty of that?), Sarai (Sarah) considering the fact that she was no spring chicken and had been barren all these many years, proposed a solution.[1]  She offered her handmaid to Abram so that he might sire a child through her.  That makes sense, humanly speaking. We might have suggested the same thing today along with fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization.  We might even justify it by saying that we are putting “feet to our prayers.”  At any rate, it was a feeble attempt to help God out with His plan, but a surrogate mother was not what God had in mind.  So Abram waited another fourteen years and again God paid him a personal visit to reconfirm His promise.  By now, Abram is 99 years old and Sarai is 89.  God had promised, and Abram had waited.  He still had no homeland that he could call his own, no child “of promise” that would engender a nation, and he was getting really old!  Yet Abram believed God, and at the ripe old age of 100, God granted the old couple a son, Isaac – “laughter”!

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham …” (Genesis 22:1).  Now, before we accuse God of child abuse or bloodthirstiness, please notice that this was a “test.”  It was only a test, but Abraham did not know that.  “A and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”  (Don’t you just love it when you call your son or your daughter by name and they answer immediately, “Yes, Dad!” or “Yes, Mom!”  Of course, just the opposite is true when you call them and there is a deliberate silence.)  “Here I am.”  Whatever God wanted, Abraham was ready.

Then God said, And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). Wow!  Can you imagine!  By now Isaac was between 16 and 22 years old, and Abraham was between 116 and 122, and Sarah between 106 and 112.  And God had not missed the fact that Isaac was Abraham’s “only son” – the son whom he loved.  Oh, the pain that must have pierced the heart of Abraham!  In the movie, The Bible (1966), Abraham is portrayed as rebellious at first.  “No!  No!” he growls at God as he beats his fists into a desert rock, but ultimately he complies.  That is not how the Bible portrays Abraham.  Yes, his heart must have ached, but look at how he responds.  “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3).  Abraham did not hesitate.  He did not question.  He just obeyed.  Again, at least for the second time in his life, Abraham was going to some undisclosed location – in the “land of Moriah … on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” – not knowing where his feet would fall – just because God told him to do it.

After a three-day’s journey, they arrived at the general vicinity of the sacrifice.  Abraham instructed his two servants to remain with the donkey and says, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5, emphasis mine).  What could Abraham have been thinking?  “We will come again to you?”  Was he forgetting something here?  Did God not tell him to offer Isaac up as a burnt offering?  Some have suggested that Abraham said this in order to conceal what he was about to do from his servants.  That makes sense.  Isaac, being the only son of Abraham, was probably the darling of the whole household.  Surely if Abraham had divulged his plans to his servants, he would have met with opposition.  But I think there is more to it than that.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Abraham “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11:19).  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). He could not see where his feet would fall, but he knew God was well in control.

As they traveled up the mountain, Isaac asked the obvious question, “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:7-8). Can you picture the scene?  There, Abraham leads the way with calm assurance and determination on his face, fully trusting his heavenly Father.  There, Isaac follows not knowing what lies ahead, but he too trusts his earthly father.  What a pair those two must have made!  “God will provide for Himself the lamb!”

Finally, they came to the place that God had designated, Mount Moriah.  The Bible tells us that this very place was the site upon which the Temple would be built.[2]  Oblivious to God’s plan and going only on what God had instructed him to do, Abraham built the altar, prepared the wood, bound his son, his only son, Isaac, and placed him on the altar.  Imagine this! Here was a strong young man who by now knew exactly what was about to happen, and yet he complied with his father’s will. Isaac could have very easily overpowered the 116-plus-year old Abraham and said, “No, sir!  I will not be roasted!”  This was a test of Abraham’s faith, but Isaac’s faith should not be discounted.  He willingly complied with his father’s wishes.  There he lay, on the stack of wood that he had carried up the mountain on his back, looking full into his father’s face as Abraham, knife in hand, raises his hand to strike the lethal blow.  Abraham, his eyes raised toward heaven, unable to look into his beloved son’s eyes, not knowing where his feet would fall, was fully committed to God and to His will.  In Abraham’s mind, the sacrifice was completed.  Isaac was God’s!

Two thousand years later on the same hill, another Father and another Son would replay the same scene, but this time, God intervened.  “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I” (Genesis 22:11).  Once again, Abraham was ready to obey his Lord’s command.  And Jesus said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).

Why do I say that this was Jesus speaking to Abraham?  For one thing, Abraham had received his orders directly from God, and no subordinate angel could have made him deviate from what God had told him to do directly; only God Himself could have changed Abraham’s orders.  Secondly, how could an ordinary angel say, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me?”  Abraham was not offering Isaac up to an angel but to God.  And finally, Jesus would later remind the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Jesus prevents Abraham from completing the physical act of sacrifice. Isaac was now fully offered both by his father and by himself.  The father yielded up his son, the son gave up his life; from both parties, as far as will and purpose could go, the sacrifice was complete.  There was no need for Abraham to endure the torture of running the knife through his son.  In his mind and in his heart, he had made the sacrifice.  And God said, “for now I know that thou fearest God” (Genesis 22:12).  Is it possible that God did not know that prior to the test?  Could the omniscient, the all-knowing, God, the God that searches the hearts and minds of men, have been ignorant of Abraham’s faith and devotion to Him?  Impossible!  God knew exactly what Abraham would do.  He knew that Abraham would do just as He commanded even to the point of giving up his only son.  God did not need any proof for Himself.  The test was for Abraham.  Abraham is the one that needed to know just how far he was willing to go for God.  Abraham was the one that needed to know that he could implicitly trust God to provide all of his needs “according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).  And Isaac, the heir to God’s promises needed to know that too, because neither Abraham nor Isaac would ever see the day when Abraham would become a great nation.  Neither one of them would ever see the fruit of the “seed” in which “all the nations of the earth” would be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Neither one of them would ever see where their feet would fall, but they needed to know that God would keep His promises and that He would always provide.

So God provided a substitute. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:13-14).

Abraham learned that in all things God will provide.  Even when things are unclear, God will provide.  Even when the outcome is unsure, God will provide.  Even when we cannot understand, God will provide.  Even when we cannot see where our feet will fall, God will provide.

Then Jesus came to him again to reconfirm the promise. “And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).

“By Myself I have sworn, saith the LORD” (v. 16) because the writer of Hebrews tells us, “he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Hebrews 6:13).  God’s promises are true.  God is faithful and He will do what He says.  Did Abraham ever see God’s promise fulfilled in his lifetime? Only in his dreams! Did God keep His promise to Abraham?  Absolutely! Why? “Because thou hast obeyed my voice” (v. 18).  Abraham did not know where his feet would fall, but he obeyed God anyway. “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba” (Genesis 22:19).

Two thousand years later, the drama was replayed.  Only this time, the Son, the only Son, the beloved Son, and His Father were the players.  Once again, the Father and the Son walked up together to the summit of Mount Moriah, and there the Father offered up His Son.  The Son, knowing full well what was about to transpire, willingly carried on his back the wood upon which He would be offered.  Together, He and the Father walked up the lonely hill, both determined that this offering would take place.  This time, there was no “Angel of the Lord” to stay the hand of the Father because it was the “Angel of the Lord” that laid upon the wood.  And the Father strikes and the nails were driven into the hands and feet of the Son, and the spear pierced His side.  The Son dies, and the Father weeps.  This time there is no substitute.  This is the way it had to be.  The only Son of God the Father was offered up for your sins and mine.  Why?  So that you and I might have eternal life by taking a leap of faith and trusting in the sacrifice made on our behalf.  The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine).

God gave His one and only Son for you and for me. He has the absolute right to expect your obedience by trusting in the sacrifice of His Son. Are you unsure because you cannot see where your feet will fall? You may hesitate because you do not know how your friends or your spouse or your family will react if you give your life to Christ.  You may hesitate because you fear that you will have to give up a lifestyle of sin with which you have grown comfortable.  You may feel that you are doing alright on your own, and that you have no need for God in your life because you have everything under your control.  Besides all of that, you don’t know if your decision to trust Christ will ever pay off.  You cannot see where your feet will fall, so you would rather remain confined in a world that you can see rather than to obey God and trust Him with what you cannot see.  Let me assure you, you are not as safe and secure as you think you are.  Why not take that leap in faith by trusting Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord.  He alone holds the future and in Him you can find true security.

Perhaps you already know the Savior. You possess the assurance of an eternal future with Him in heaven, but you haven’t learned to trust Him with your present life.  Perhaps you are not serving Him as you should because you have too many other things that occupy your time.  Maybe you are not the witness for Him at school, at work, or at home that you ought to be because you worry that you might offend someone, or you may lose your job or your credibility or your relationships.  Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).  Perhaps you haven’t trusted God with the giving of your tithe because you worry that you won’t have enough month left over at the end of your paycheck. Remember the words of Jesus: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).  He went on to say, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

God knows all of your needs, and He will meet them.  He doesn’t need your help to take care of you.  He can do just fine without you, if you will only trust Him to care for you as He promised.  Do not stay trapped by what you cannot see; “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Abraham could not see where his feet would fall, but he trusted God, and he obeyed.  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  Do not allow the cares of this world hold you captive like a three-foot wall keeps the African impala imprisoned. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”[3]

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 16

[2]   2 Samuel 24:10-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1)

[3]  From the hymn, “Trust And Obey,”

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Missed One!

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; (Genesis 19:1)

Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible has experienced reading a familiar passage and all of a sudden, something new appears in the text. Well, it is not really new; it has been there all along, but for the first time, the Spirit gives new insight into that familiar passage.

Recently I started reading the Book of Genesis for the nth time and came to Chapter 19 where two angels come to drag Lot out of Sodom before God destroyed it. Lot ranks at the bottom of my list of Bible characters. Lot was the son of Abram’s brother, Haran,[1] making him Abram’s (Abraham) nephew. Haran died, and when God called Abram to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1), Lot followed his uncle.[2] Later on, as their wealth increased, Abram’s and Lot’s shepherds started quarreling over grazing land for their sheep.[3] So Abram decided that they should split up in order to avoid further conflict. Abram gave Lot the choice of grazing land,[4] and Lot chose what he thought was the best grazing land.[5] The Bible describes the land Lot chose as “well watered every where … as the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10). The land he selected lies in a valley on the east shore of the Dead Sea, so it strikes me odd that the Bible says that “Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan” (v. 10). Why would one “lift up his eyes” to see a valley that is below. That makes no sense to me unless his eyes were “lifted up” in pride. After all, he chose the best for himself leaving the least desirable land for his uncle.

Then Lot moved near the “cities of the plain,” two of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, but he “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”[6] “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). Scripture clearly indicates the direction Lot was headed, and it was not a good place. Later we learn that Lot left his tent and moved into Sodom[7] and even became a city leader sitting “in the gate of Sodom”[8] – the place of judgment.

Lot does not make it into the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11), but the Apostle Peter calls Lot “just.” “[God] turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation [i.e., lifestyle] of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:6-7, emphasis mine). Except for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I fail to see how Peter arrives at that conclusion. However, the Greek word translated “just” is dikaios and it means “equitable,” so perhaps as a judge, Lot dealt fairly with all.

Yet, had he faced his tent a different direction and stayed out there with his sheep, he may have averted the troubles that came with living in Sodom. He was kidnapped by marauding kings and his uncle had to rescue him,[9] and then God sent fire and brimstone to destroy all the cities of the plain for their wickedness.

I may be wrong (it would not be the first time), but it seems to me that Lot got sucked into the “city life,” perhaps not all the way, but just on the edge – at the gate. We do that too. We want Jesus, but we want to have a little of what the world offers too. I see Lot this way. Peter says that Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation” of the city, but when the men of the city came to his house demanding that Lot give over his two male guests so they could have sex with them, Lot offered them his virgin daughters to do with them as they pleased.[10] What kind of “righteous” man does that! Later, as the angels tried to get Lot to leave the city before they destroyed it, “he lingered” and “the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city” (Genesis 19:16). Lot had to be dragged out of the city for his own good!

We might think this story ends happily. No, it gets worse. After being saved from destruction, Lot’s daughters, who had been raised in the “conversation” of Sodom, became concerned that they had no man to get them pregnant, so they get their father drunk and have sex with him and have sons that become enemy nations of Israel – Moab (the Moabites) and Ammon (the Ammonites).[11]

Perhaps you can see why Lot is at the bottom of my Bible hero list, and I am disgusted every time I read this account. However, here is what I have missed all these times I’ve read this passage. It really begins in Chapter 18 when three angels come and speak to Abraham. After the angels finish the meal Abraham prepared for them, they get up to leave in the direction of Sodom, but one stays behind to inform Abraham of what He is going to do. We learn throughout the passage that this “angel” is actually the LORD. Theologically, this is known as a “theophany,” or better yet, a “Christophany” because these are appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Abraham intercedes on behalf of Sodom with the LORD. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). What if there are 50 righteous in the city? What if there are 45, 40, 30, 20, 10? The LORD agrees that for 10 righteous, He will spare the city. Then in Chapter 19, we see two angels enter the city. I always assumed these where the two angels that went ahead while the LORD stayed behind to speak with Abraham, but I saw something different this time.

Eight years ago, I wrote a thesis entitled Images of Christ in Genesis where I discuss ways in which Christ appears in the Book of Genesis. These include typology and theophany, but the one I missed was the one that appears in this encounter with Lot. One way to recognize a theophany is when the angel is referred to as “the angel of the LORD.” However, the best way to recognize that the angel is actually “the LORD” is that He takes credit for what the LORD does or will do. Rather than say, “the LORD will …” the angel says, “I will …”

So we have two angels enter the city (we know the account), and they try to evacuate Lot, his wife, and two daughters. The first hint that this is “the LORD” appears in Verse 16 where it says that the angels took them by the hands to drag them out of the city, and it makes this comment: “the LORD being merciful unto them.” Then, once they are out of the city one of the angels commands Lot to escape for his life and not look back. Lot protests and addresses Him as “my Lord” (‘ădônây) and pleads, “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (Genesis 19:19). Lot pleads to be allowed to go to Zoar, and the angel says, “See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken” (Genesis 19:21).

Zoar was one of the cities of the plain, and the angel unilaterally granted Lot’s request and spared the city. Matters of life and death belong to God alone. Angels cannot act in opposition to God’s directive. Even Satan is subject to God’s authority. Because this angel acted in response to Lot’s request, we know that either he acted against God’s wishes (to destroy Zoar) or He indeed is God and within His rights to grant the request. “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven … And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt” (Genesis 19:24, 29).

All the times I read this passage and I missed it. However, it shows how God cares for His own, and that He will protect them even when they are not living according to His will. I know it to be true in my life. But just because God protects His children when they are outside His will, there are often consequences to pay. Consider Lot’s incestuous daughters. Life is so much better if we stick close to Him. I speak from experience.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 11:27

[2]  Genesis 12:4

[3]  Genesis 13:7

[4]  Genesis 13:8-9

[5]  Genesis 13:10-11

[6]  Genesis 13:12

[7]  Genesis 14:12

[8]  Genesis 19:1

[9]  Genesis 14:12, 14-16

[10]  Genesis 19:4-8

[11]  Genesis 19:30-38

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Same Old Tricks

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

We think we are so smart! We carry around in our pockets devices with more computing power than the computers that sent the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space. With it, we talk or send text messages to friends and loved ones instantly. We stay in touch with current events, check the weather, watch video programs (even live TV), find answers to all of our questions with a few clicks of the tiny keyboard, just entertain ourselves with mind-numbing games. We fly across the country in a matter of hours, send probes to distant planets, or view the ends of the universe with our powerful satellite telescopes. We have developed medical devices that look inside our bodies to produce images of injured or diseased tissues. According to a 2013 report, knowledge doubled every 12 months, and the report predicted that it would soon double every 12 hours.[1] God told the Prophet Daniel that this would happen. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4, emphasis mine).

However, for all our smarts, we still fall for the same old tricks[2] Satan has used since the beginning of time. Look at what transpired in the Garden of Eden. God had given man absolute freedom and dominion over the entire planet[3] and placed them in a perfect environment[4] with only one stipulation. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, emphasis mine).

Satan’s goal is to separate God’s supreme creation, humankind, from their Creator and he continues to employ the same strategy and tactics that he used in the Garden to cause man to fall.[5] His strategy is to cause man to doubt God and to turn to him to meet their perceived needs. His tactics are threefold. First, he instills doubt in God’s Word – “Is that really what the Bible says?”[6] Second, he declares God’s Word as untrue – “You can’t believe the Bible. It was written by man, and it is full of myths and factual errors. You can’t trust the Bible!”[7] Finally, he slanders God by accusing Him of withholding total autonomy from you – “God knows you will be like gods, and He doesn’t want competition!”[8]

Man does not need Satan to cause him to sin. Man succeeds at sinning very well on his own, and Satan uses man’s own natural bent to sin against him. The Apostle John warns us against loving the world system[9] which is really man’s system. John characterizes it in three ways: (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life. Look at how Satan used man’s own nature against Eve. He first executed his strategy to cause doubt in God, and then he stood back and allowed Eve’s own human nature go to work. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

It seems we are not so smart after all. In almost 6000 years, Satan has not changed his methods one bit, and man’s nature has not improved through countless unlearned lessons. As the Preacher said, “there is no new thing under the sun.”

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5). The Son of God and Son of Man accomplished what no other man could; He did not succumb to the wiles of Satan. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine).

After He was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days in preparation for His earthly ministry. Satan took advantage of His weakened condition to make his attack. Satan knew who he was facing. Jesus is the Word of God and very God indeed,[10] so there was no point in trying to cause Him to doubt God’s Word. Instead, Satan attacked His human nature. First, he went for the lust of the flesh. “And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread” (Luke 4:3). Then he attacked through the lust of the eyes. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:5-6). Finally, he used the pride of life to make Jesus fall into sin. “And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Luke 4:9-11).

There is nothing that you or I face that Jesus did not experience fully. Satan uses the same old tricks and we have all the same weaknesses of all who have come before us. However, as the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Christians, if they will take advantage of it, have the power to defend against Satan’s assaults and to combat the weaknesses of the flesh because, as the Apostle John reminds us, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Jesus defeated the devil, and now His power is available to us, if we will only take advantage of it. We do not have to fall for the same old tricks Satan uses. The way to defeat Satan is to pray daily and often, meditate on God’s Word daily,[11] and “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25), i.e., get involved in a good church and fellowship with other believers.

Reader, if you lack the power to withstand the devil, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

[2]  “Nothing Changes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/15/nothing-changes/

[3]  Genesis 1:26

[4]  Genesis 2:8

[5]  “Why Satan?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[6]  Genesis 3:1

[7]  Genesis 3:4

[8]  Genesis 3:5

[9]  1 John 2:15

[10]  John 1:1

[11]  Reading the Bible is good practice, however, meditating on God’s Word requires a little more effort than just reading. One has to read and think (meditate) on what God is saying. Paul said to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). That requires diligent effort.

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