Sessions 5- The Hermeneutical Value of God’s Word
Session 6- The New Testament Exhortation to Understand the Old
Looking for Sessions 3-4? Click here
Sessions 5- The Hermeneutical Value of God’s Word
Session 6- The New Testament Exhortation to Understand the Old
Looking for Sessions 3-4? Click here
Sessions 3-4. Approaching the Scriptures with the right lens.
aka. Biblical Hermeneutics; i.e. Losing our gentile-centric lens.
Session’s One and Two
Introduction and Overview
Click the link below to view the slides that pertain to the material we discuss.
When I was a boy I was unsure of the future. Our family had their issues and there were many times that I would lay in bed at night and wonder if my parents would ever get a divorce as many of my friends parents had. That concern in my childhood mind would’ve been allowed to fester, always remaining a hopeless outcome, except for one thing: My parents would speak to me at various times and say, “Son, no matter how bad of a fight we have, we will never get a divorce. We will always stay married” This gave great comfort to my small, innocent mind. It gave me a handle to grab ahold of, a handle by which I knew something of security in my future: My parents would stay married.
My parents celebrated their 42 anniversary this year. They have been faithful to their words and for this I am thankful and very proud.
But imagine a different scenario where words don’t mean what they seem to mean. What if my parents had divorced, and upon me reminding them of the words they had told me their response was: “Oh son, we’re sorry, we didn’t really mean we’d never get a divorce. We just told you that to comfort you. Things have changed…”
I don’t use this analogy tritely knowing that many of had this experience as reality.
However, in this scenario the hope of the future has been shattered by a simple unfaithfulness to what was previously spoken. The hearer, in this case a small boy who trusted his parents words has had his future obliterated and must now pick up the pieces of a broken family to rebuild a new future. Anyone looking on they would say this is wrong for the boy because––
Words mean something.
Or maybe I should clarify in a generation such as this:
Words should mean something!
This is not a complicated concept, however, I am continually amazed at how simple life principles that we all abide by on a daily basis are not maintained when reading the Scriptures; or in how we think about God and the words He says. This post is a pragmatic plea for us to allow the future God has spoken of to remain the hope of what He said it would, and will be.
The hope of the biblical future being fulfilled remains the steadfast anchor by which the chains of our heart are mored to in desperate hope that God might be found true, and every other man a liar.
Hebrews 6: 11-12, 18-19 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises… in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
19This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast
The Two Camps
There is currently a growing number of Bible students who have been trained to disbelieve that a literal future fulfillment of the words spoken in Scripture, will happen as prophesied in the future. The position that believes the opposite is called futurism, believing firmly that from Genesis to Revelation the nature of biblical prophecy is to find its true end apocalyptically. Apocalypticism is the same, in that we believe the things spoken about the end-times in the Law, Prophets, Writings, Gospels, and Letters will have a true, literal fulfillment in a climactic end.
Simply put, exactly what God said will be fulfilled in real time and space and since many events come together to begin this great end and see it through, it is as a crescendo in nature, where many biblical prophecies come together in a sort of grand finale.
To give an illustration, when Jesus says in Matthew 24 that “this generation will by no means pass away until all is fulfilled,” futurists take this to mean that Jesus meant the generation that sees ALL of the things He mentions take place. Simply, everything He mentioned did not happen in the generation proceeding 70 AD, therefore He likely means the generation of His coming because His coming is the pinnacle event of His prophecy (see Luke 21, and Mark 13 also).
What orchestral piece have you heard that does not contain it’s crescendo? What fireworks show have you witnessed that does not have a grand finale? Futurists see the Bible in this light, that the God of Israel’s beautiful song, or His firework show, or whatever analogy you would employ in the place of biblical narrative, has a climactic end. Not because He is into putting on a dramatic show, but because the Scriptures teach us that He is really into putting on a dramatic show (misnomer intentional).
The opposing view to futurism is called Preterism, in which all things that are prophetic in nature are said to have been fulfilled on or by 70 AD. In one sense, Preterist’s say they are more literal than Futurist’s in their interpretation because they keep the “original context” in which things were written. They would say that Ezekiel was only speaking to those hearing him, his immediate generation, and that it has no application to thing in the future. They say the same about Daniel and his words and maintain that the fulfillment is immediate, not in the distant future. Many Preterist’s are honorable, bible loving people, who are truly seeking to interpret the Scriptures to the best of their ability. This is respectable, and something worthy of praise. To their credit they truly are seeking to understand the Scriptures and they see this as the best way.
For instance, they take the very same words of Matthew 24 that a futurist is clinging to in hopes of occurring, and say that Jesus exclusively meant the generation He was speaking to in that moment, and that he was not speaking to future generations. They say that even though only some of the events took place as Jesus said, he was mainly speaking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD which sealed up biblical prophecy for good. The slippery slope of this interpretation leads many to the conclusion that Jesus was just plain wrong because He did not come again as He said to the generation He was speaking to, and caused others to suffer shipwreck in their faith, leaving the faith entirely. I say this with sobriety, love, and an ache in my heart for these brothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, with this interpretation, the larger sweeping nature of biblical prophecy is often ignored. I need to firmly say that I believe the view of preterism is detrimental to the Bible, how we understand it, and that it very simply does not honor the words that the Father has spoken, but rather takes away from what He has said in a very harsh, but disguised, format. It is my hope that this post might paint the larger picture of biblical prophecy and that the entire biblical narrative holds to a distinct futurist method of interpretation, beginning in Genesis and climaxing in Revelation.
The First Futurist
From the first biblical prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that a seed would crush the head of the serpent it is established that the nature of biblical prophecy is to say something that will have a latter fulfillment, and that the fulfillment is not immediate by any sense of the word. Genesis 3:15 is called the protoevangelium, or first Gospel. Just after Adam and Eve sin by their disobedience of God’s command in the garden to not eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, God gives this incredible promise of hope, this good news––that the serpent who deceived them would one day be crushed by the promised Seed. It is interesting that God began biblical prophecy setting the hope of restoration in the very distant future, and it is extremely significant and instructional that the first Biblical prophecy is as such.
Although hindsight tells us this now, Adam and Eve would have seen this promise very differently. Adam and Eve had no context for the future. They had only lived in perfection in the presence of God from the time of their first breaths until that moment. Time, and its devastating longevity would not have been something they had any context for. Therefore, when Adam and Eve heard this promise we must ask the question, “What was their expectation of fulfillment?” How did they perceive the future? Based very simply on what God spoke, it seems that they would’ve believed that Eve would somehow bring forth another man immediately that would bring them back to the garden they were driven out of. At this stage Adam and Eve might have been Preterists.
For analogies sake, I like to picture Adam and Eve most likely living just outside the gate that led into the garden. Why else would God have had to protect it with the swords of fiery cherubim? They were close, and the promise that they had received from God they believed to be equally close. They thought that when this man came forth from her Seed he would crush that serpent imminently, the cherubim’s swords would cease their paths of crescent fire, and they would go back into the garden to be with God. If we can put ourselves in their shoes, this scenario is very plausible given their context since they did not yet understand time.
They couldn’t have been more naive however! We don’t know whether Abel or Cain were born first but their names give us a little hint. Abel in Hebrew means breath; son; breathing spirit; while Cain means acquired. With Cain’s given name, is it possible they believed they had acquired the Seed that was promised? However, when Abel is murdered, Adam and Eve would’ve instantly realized that neither of the boys were the promised Seed of which God had spoken.
Imagine the devastation. What they had hoped for, and likely thought close, was now an ambiguous time frame…
Who would this seed be? When would he come forth? Had they done something wrong? Had they misunderstood the Lord? Was God Himself wrong about what He promised? BY no means.
With the promise that God had made crystallized in their minds they conceive again, and bring forth Seth. It would seem that they’re hope of the promised Seed was forefront in their minds as Seth means appointed. I wonder at what stage they realized it wasn’t Seth either? When Seth gives birth to Enosh, which means mortal, his name is telling of what they clearly think––He is not the one. It is then that the Bible tells us, “then men began calling on the name of the Lord.”
What were they crying out for? The promised Seed who would come to crush the head of the serpent and restore them to the garden! Adam must’ve waited and waited with eager hope and expectation that this promised one would arise in his lifetime to no avail. In his 930th year, death creeps upon his tired lungs and when his eyes close for the last time they were most undoubtedly filled with tears of confusion and yet hope that the God he had personally walked with and spoken to would fulfill what He said with His own mouth. We can rest assured that on that day Adam died a futurist, knowing that the prophecy spoken to him would have a literal future fulfillment after his death. Thank you Adam for keeping the faith!
Often times, Preterist’s tell us that biblical prophecy must not be taken out of its original context. Futurist’s heartily agree with this. However, the problem with the preterist hermeneutic is that they do not allow any room for fulfillment beyond the original context. There is a glaring flaw with this method. As we have just witnessed, the very first biblical prophecy pointedly communicates a future hope that was not fulfilled within Adam’s life or context. Yet, I have never seen a preterist making the case that this prophecy never came to pass–– the entire biblical story hinges upon it! It is the very substance of redemptive history, the quintessential gospel that points to our Savior Christ Jesus.
It is here that we must ask a very reasonable question. Since the first prophecy God spoke had a distinct future context to its fulfillment, is it not also logical to conclude that other prophecies in the bible will possess a similar nature? Is it reasonable to use the first biblical prophecy as the interpretive key to the rest? Is it good sense to assume that prophecy simply contains this future component in its very fabric? As good students learning from experience, it would be a disservice to the Scriptures to not do so.
Still, this is exactly what the preterist position asks you to do to the ultimate demise of faith in what God has said.
Yes, Israel will be restored as Isaiah 60 says. Yes, Babylon will be decimated and judged as Jeremiah 51 exclaims. Indeed, Jesus will descend on the clouds of heaven and the tribes of Israel will mourn over Him, as one weeps for an only son. Truly, His feet will stand on the mount of olives and it will literally split in two as Zechariah 12 and 14 state and as Jesus Himself proclaims in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. All Israel will be saved on that day like Paul tells us in Romans 11, and as Revelation 20 declares Jesus will reign on this earth for 1000 years sitting upon a throne in a literal temple as Ezekiel described in chapters 40-48. Jerusalem will be elevated upon a glorious mountain as Isiah 2 emphatically declares, and the nations of the earth will come up to Jerusalem to learn from the God of Jacob, lay down their weapons and forsake war, and be healed by the waters that flow from His throne until He delivers the kingdom to the Father as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15. These words are the weight in the anchor of which our faith is joyfully roped to.
We must not overcomplicate the matter of futurist versus preterist interpretation. And here is the old horse that is belarboingly kicked: we are simply discussing a matter of faith.
From the beginning of the Bible men are asked to put their faith in what God says. The whole trajectory of the biblical hope is founded upon God saying things, and men believing that what He said will happen. If we do not do this we have no hope! If we do not do this we have no gospel! Therefore, it is my plea to suggest that we believe what has been spoken, and that we have faith that what was spoken will come to pass.
The glaring issue with the preterist interpretation is that it takes what God has spoken and discounts it by a scheme of thought that basically says God is like the parents getting the divorce, “Well, I didn’t really mean EVERYTHING I said.” This is harmful to faith. This effectively cuts the rope attached to the anchor allowing it to slip off into the bottom of the theological seas. It may never be recovered again.
This view is truly pessimistic towards the very promises God spoke with His own mouth. It is encouraging many to not believe that the things spoken in the Bible will happen as they have been spoken. If this be the case, then where is the plumbline? If Adam had believed this way, would he not have died an unbeliever? Rather, Noah’s father Lamech would’ve most likely sat with Adam, hearing from him the promise of the coming Seed and he also would have believed it would come to pass. He would have put his faith in that promise and then discipled His son Noah in righteousness with faith in drastic contrast to the landslide of wickedness taking root in his day. Thus when God said to Noah “build an ark because it’s going to rain,” the faith instilled in him from his father to trust God would’ve driven him to complete the task. Many looked on in Noah’s day mocking, marrying, laughing, drinking, and although the witness of an enormous ship was before them, they were blind to its significance.
Likewise brothers and sisters we are approaching a time in which “all things written will be fulfilled,” (Lk. 21:22). We desire to be those who heed Jesus words, cling to them faithfully, and not write them off by the words of men. He will be the only One found worthy on that day, His words entirely justified, upheld, and completed just as He said. He will remain faithful, He will not change what He has said. We can trust what He said:
“So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it,” (Is. 55:11).
The amazing thing is that Genesis 3:15 still remains unfulfilled. Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion (1 Pt. 5:8), he is the prince and the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), thw ruler of this world (Jn. 14:30) and Paul confirms that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” (Rm. 16:20). Yes, Jesus sacrifice effectively “crushed” satan, however there remains a very literal crushing ahead. Rev. 12:9 and 20:10 tells us,
“And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him… And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
This one prophecy from Genesis 3:15 encompasses the last 6000 years of history unfolding. We take great joy in this future event when Jesus, the promised Seed finally triumphs over the Serpent, and squishes His head beneath His glorious heel consummating this spectacular sentence.
The vivid hope in what God has spoken, and the faith in His words remain as the only anchor for my broken soul.
And this is why I am still a futurist.
We are chronologically working through the diagram pictured above, having started with the far left Earth icon, and are now in the second pillar titled covenantal. On the third line down we identify Exodus 20-24. We have now taken several posts to carefully meditate upon Exodus 20-24 and we are still not done. Before moving on we must dive into Deuteronomy as the Exodus is expounded upon with far greater detail.
A couple years ago I began to reevaluate my theology regarding the first coming of Jesus. After all, I thought I had it down: Jesus, who was God, came as a man and lived and died as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. In His death humanity finds forgiveness before the Father when they repent, and in His resurrection we have hope of the reward that is in store for us if we stand firm in the faith until the end. Surely this is true and magnificent! However, as I began to ponder the details of the life of Jesus, particularly in the gospel of John, I began to realize some very important things of which I was previously unaware. One of these things namely was that Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and Sadducees had a specific context. His words seemed very well thought out and pointed, as that of a sniper taking aim at targets. His acts, such as his cleansing the temple, healing on the sabbath, and many others seemed to point to a greater purpose. I had generally just swept everything under the rug of, “Jesus was displeased with the Jewish authorities and their view of the law and He was making that clear.” This again is true, but it is only scraping the surface of what He viewed as the purpose of His first coming.
I now believe that the large majority of the church including some Messianic Jewish brothers are missing a vital component of Jesus’ identity. This identity is revealed in Deuteronomy 18 as a person who would be The Prophet Like Moses. This person, as we will see, was to come to the nation of Israel in the prophetic fashion of Moses, speaking words to the nation with which they would be held accountable for.
I recently read a book by a messianic brother that was a biblical theology of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Within none of its pages did I discover a single paragraph regarding what we are about to discuss. This concerned and saddened me, and although it is a topic I am fairly new to as well, I am hopeful as we look into this together. Therefore, it is the aim of this post to pointedly show how Jesus emphatically sees Himself as fulfilling the role of the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18 as well as to pinpoint the importance of teaching this part of His identity today. It is critical as the text will reveal to understand how primary the identity of the Prophet like Moses is to Jesus Himself as well as the apostles, the Jewish people of the first century, and even the Father in Heaven.
Here is a link to the notes for this subject, yet they end incomplete as the apocalyptic identity of Jesus will be handled later. The two other links are audio sessions of teaching I recently did regarding this subject.
One of the most significant messianic foreshadowings in the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 18 even though the exchange takes place at Mt. Sinai within the very chapters we have been looking at. Although a very short segment of Scripture, it is one of the most important things to see, behold, meditate upon, and let affect how we interpret the remainder of Scripture and our premier definition (as far as expectation is concerned) of the Messiah. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses gives a snippet of previously unheard information regarding what happened that day at the mountain in Exodus 20. To produce a thorough and cohesive picture of this event we need to look at many portions of Scripture.
In Exodus 20,
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
Now, let’s read how Moses recaps this same event in Deut. 5.
These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain from the midst of the fire, of the cloud and of the thick gloom, with a great voice, and He added no more. He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 23“And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. 24“You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. 25‘Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. 26‘For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? 27‘Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’
It is here that something very unique occurs. After the people say this to Moses, God responds to their statement with His own declaration:
28“The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.29‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!
Wow. God is overflowing with the truth of His emotions here! He is longing for Israel to be able to keep what they’ve committed to although He already knows that they cannot. Still, in all of His foreknowledge He does not respond harshly but rather optimistically.
30‘Go, say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31‘But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess.’ 32“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. 33“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.
Deuteronomy 18 gives us an even clearer picture as Moses gives the last detail in this story that isn’t mentioned previously.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16“This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’17“The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19‘It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
In my entire life I have never heard a teaching on Jesus being the prophet spoken of and prophesied by God in Deuteronomy 18. Does that not occur to you as odd?
Let me explain why this information is so vital. Firstly, it is one of the clearest pieces of information we have regarding the Messianic figure in the Old Testament. At this stage of our story we have been given some amazing foreshadowing concerning the Messiah. In Genesis 3:15 we have been told what He will inevitably do. In Genesis 15 we behold a priest/king who foreshadows Messiah. In Genesis 22 we see Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac, for “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type,” (Hb. 11:19). In Joseph we see a man thrown in a pit by His brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully accused and imprisoned, and then vindicated and seated at the right hand of Pharaoh while his brothers come to Him in need. Yes, we have seen many pictures that are glorious and that instruct us in the nature of the Messiah that will come to fulfill Genesis 3:15. However in Deuteronomy 18, we have very concrete information which is in fact a direct pronouncement of the Messiah’s identity. Let’s break these few verses down to further discuss the scope of what is being revealed.
Now that we have established what the Prophet will be like, let us look at several Scriptures in the New Testament that confirm that Jesus truly was this Prophet like Moses.
There is a very clear expectation for the Prophet like Moses seen in the Gospels which gives us our first clues. We turn our attention to John chapter 1, where the Pharisees send men to speak with John the Baptist,
John 1:19-22 “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” And He confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
The prophet in their minds finds its only context in Deuteronomy 18 as the one who would “speak all that God commanded him.” John the Baptist appeared to them to be that person but John explicitly tells them that he is not the prophet. Here we have a profound example showing that the leadership of Israel was expecting this prophet from Deuteronomy 18 to be a real person that would come to them.
The first disciples of Jesus profess their expectation as well:
John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote––Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'”
After Jesus rose from the dead it is very clear that the apostles firmly believed Him to have been the Prophet like Moses:
Acts 3:22 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.”
Furthermore, we have in the Gospels the people of Israel confirming Jesus to be the prophet:
John 7:39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.”
With these passages we can easily confirm that there was an expectation for the Prophet like Moses and that the apostles and many others believed that Jesus was that person. But how about the Heavenly Father’s voice coming from heaven?
Matt 17: 1-8 1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
We may have overlooked the simplicity of what the Father is saying here, since what He is saying is simply a verbatim of what He said in Deuteronomy 18: The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him! If Moses standing on the mountain with Jesus is not ironic enough, the Father speaks to confirm from heaven that Jesus is the Prophet like Moses.
However, the nail in the coffin so to speak, is when Jesus Himself confirms by His own words that He is the Prophet like Moses. There are so many verses to quote here, but it serves us best to reveal the key to interpreting His words and then hope you continue study on your own. First we look at His direct mention of Moses speaking about Him:
John 5:39-47 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life…I have come in My Fathers name, and you don’t not receive Me… Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for He wrote about Me. But it you do not believe His writings how will you believe My words?”
John 5 is an incredible picture into our discussion where Jesus articulates that Moses wrote about Him. Many times in the gospel of John Jesus uses these references to point through the haze surrounding His identity. Those who were willing to hear His words would know that He was the Prophet like Moses sent by God. This direct line of thought by Jesus reveals how He viewed Himself and His ministry as the Prophet. Case and point is a passage like this:
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak,” (Jn. 12:49).
There is no denying that this is the quintessential fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18:
“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
It is almost like looking upon twins! In this passage, Jesus is very plainly revealing that He is the promised Prophet like Moses who has received words directly from YHWH, His Father, to speak to the people. This really is incredible. Let’s juxtapose another example with Deuteronomy 18:19,
John 5:24 “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
and its sister:
Deut. 18:It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which He shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.
In the gospel of John Jesus continually addresses and reinforces the fact that the man who hears His words and believes His Father sent Him has eternal life and does not come into judgment, while Deuteronomy makes clear that whoever does not receive the Prophet’s words will come under judgment. The same is true in John 8:26-28
“I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world… “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me.”
The final passage that punctuates this study is Matthew 5 (thanks Yazan!).
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…”
In the passage above, Jesus basically says, “Moses told you this, and now I am telling you this.” There can be no question that this is again Jesus directly completing the prophecy of the Prophet like Moses. Moreover, the entire Sermon on the Mount is Jesus undoubtedly expounding upon the law of Moses, which obviously makes Him the Prophet like Moses. This premier identity of Jesus gives a pointed foundational, though often neglected, definition of how Jesus perceived His own identity, role, and purpose of His first coming.
All of the passages we’ve evaluated incontrovertibly reveal Jesus’ identity as the Prophet like Moses. The pertinence of how Jesus views Himself with regards to this identity is revealed in many proofs throughout the Gospels and is something that should be understood and considered by any serious student of the Bible. It is not an overstatement to say that every single word Jesus speaks while in His human frame is because of the framework of His identity stemming from Deuteronomy 18. With this understanding in place you can peer much deeper into the gospels, but also assert the covenantal context of Jesus’ life in its entirety.
Jesus very plainly saw His first coming as accomplishing this very unique purpose of being the Prophet like Moses that would speak words to His own Jewish countrymen––the very words of YHWH Himself! At Sinai, YHWH appeared in a terrifying measure of glory, splendor, and awe. His power was revealed in an awesome way that taught the people to fear Him. There in their fear they cry out, “Moses you go and speak to God so that we do not die!” God then cries out, “The people have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words in His mouth and hold them accountable to what He says.” Then in consistency with what was said, God the Son is born in the flesh in the small town of Bethlehem. In contrast to the power and glory of Sinai, He draws near to His own people in a humble human frame to speak the very words that YHWH began at Sinai. How drastically different than the top of the mountain of Sinai where He began His speech, yet equally terrifying! The words that He would say throughout His life would effectively seal prophecy for good and present the final standard regarding the judgment of Israel and mankind at large.
The prophetic acts of Jesus’ life are testifying to the truth that He was the final prophet given to Israel by God––He was the Prophet like Moses. He chose this identity and it is precious to Him. Jesus’ Jewishness possesses the most exemplary form of Jew, in that He not only speaks the divine words of YHWH as the Prophet like Moses but He also fulfills perfectly the Ten Words spoken at Sinai. The culmination of His life breathes the life of the covenant into our tired lungs and gives hope that He will yet fulfill His promises for Israel, Jerusalem, and gentiles too. We glory in this soon coming fulfillment and say Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Our placement in the diagram above is in the second vertical pillar titled Covenantal. On the third line of this pillar we identify Exodus 20-24. In the previous post we covered several details of these chapters, however there are a couple more events left remaining which need appropriate attention. If you have not read the previous posts (#7 and #8) then you may have missed some critical information and context regarding where we are in the large story of Exodus and Sinai. The aim of this post is to help us understand in a simple way the following two things:
Now that we have sought a proper understanding regarding the importance of the Ten Words, we can observe the final stages of this Exodus in chapter 24.
The divine Creator has just stepped into human history in the most dramatic way possible. Even with this statement our propensity can be to theologically jump ahead to God in the flesh in His Son Jesus as when He enters human history in the most dramatic way imaginable, but we must not do this… yet! This is when our theology can become a stumbling block and often make us blind to the foundational layers that provide the context for Messiah. As humans, we are often times drawn to the biggest event and thus lead ourselves to believe we understand everything else because the biggest event is in sight. Yet thus far in our story, Sinai is the biggest event in sight and we must process it accordingly.
I know many people, myself included, that never watch soccer/football. Every four years however, these same ones gather together and dedicate many hours to watch the World Cup. Why? Because the World Cup is the grand event! However, one cannot watch the World Cup and actually understand what has taken place the previous four years. Yes, we understand the game of soccer, but of the painstaking amount of hard work, training and preparation that have led these few choice teams to the World Cup we are completely unaware. Before the grand event there are many formulative events, and it is within the context of these events that we ought to understand the grand event.
Likewise, too often a person’s theology begins at the Cross even though this grand event is 2/3 of the way through the story. In such cases one might be able to understand simply the idea of salvation, for God has made it very easy to grasp––repent, believe in Jesus, and let your life reflect His waiting for the hope of His second coming. However, the long and grueling process that has unfurled since creation until the time of the Cross is the story that belongs to Israel and their history. This is why we must stop here and revel in the astonishing events of the Exodus and let them inform our understanding of what will come thereafter.
After God speaks the Ten Words and the ordinances, the people heartily confirm with their own mouths that they will obey what He has said.
“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’… Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words,” (Ex. 24:3-8).
The all powerful God of the heavens and the earth spoke words from heaven in a conversation with Israel and the people responded to Him. Does this strike you as incredible? This is not a section of Scripture that can be overemphasized. As I’ve encouraged us many times, we must re-sensitize ourselves to these great events of Scripture. At Mt. Sinai Moses recounts the words of YHWH and all the people answer with one voice before YHWH, saying, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do!” Moses then takes the book of the covenant and reads it aloud in all of their hearing and the people respond, “All that YHWH has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” The implications of this conversation are astounding.
The Creator of the heavens and the earth is purposefully continuing the promises He previously made to Adam, Noah and Abraham by making a covenant with their direct lineage at this mountain. He is remaining infallibly faithful to His previous words to those men because His words are covenantal in nature as we’ve already discussed many times. What is noteworthy here is that whereas YHWH had been their God previously, in these Words He becomes the God of this great slave-people, turned free-men, at the mount. In this covenant, the people are taking responsibility upon themselves to uphold all of the words God spoke. In effect, Israel is now saying their vow to YHWH to become His wife, and He their Husband.
Words from Numbers 30:1-2 come to mind here:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the word which the Lord has commanded. If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
Israel has admittedly made a binding vow to the Lord to keep His words, which by relation make them His people––His possession. We discussed in the creational pillar that the original Creator owns His possessions, which are the heavens, the earth, and man. We also discussed in the bottom portion of that pillar that the only other thing given creational language in the Bible is when God speaks about Israel. He emphatically says,
“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel,” (Is. 43:1).
Quite literally the former lineage of Abraham were a no people living in the quagmire of slavery, confined to hard labor within the borders of Egypt. This was not a nation, this was an oppressed slave-people. Yet this was the wisdom of God. His miraculous deliverance of Israel from their bondage is what creates the nation that is standing before Him at the mountain. They had been led through the womb of the Red Sea, and being birthed through God’s very own hand they now stood as His newborn child at Sinai as a fulfillment of what YHWH had spoke to Abraham. He created Israel through this deliverance, and He plans on being faithful to her as the remainder of the above verse says,“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” It is important for us to keep the creational idea at the forefront of our understanding of the people Israel because this is how God identifies Israel in Scripture. The nation of Israel is quite literally God’s treasured possession.
Deut. 7:6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Sinai is also a covenant of blood as was the case with the covenant with Abraham where the animals were cut in half and the pieces laid on opposite sides for God to pass through.
“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words, (Ex. 24:8).
Then another amazing thing happens:
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.11Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.
Wow. The elders of Israel ate and drank with God. There is a lot one could say about this, but we must refrain at present. God is seemingly making the covenant official by eating and drinking with His new people – a glorious testimony of the event in the future when Jesus returns––the wedding supper of the Lamb. In the midst of this event the Lord calls Moses to come up to where He is.
12Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.” 15Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
I feel like saying, “It was finished,” here in regard to the truth of the covenant made between God and Abraham’s lineage, Israel. It actually happened in the blazing glory that is described. YHWH Himself, who sits in the heavens, who formed the very earth we live on chose this people to be His own that day and nothing has changed in the days that have passed between then and now. I cannot fathom why or how we could ever arrive at the New Testament and think that all of these passages we have belabored no longer mean anything because they were subsumed in Jesus’ life. The only change I can identify is the tragic loss of reality with regard to what happened that day, and what people, yes even Israel itself, believes happened. We must continue fighting the good fight and recover this truth!
It’s only shortly after this covenant is affirmed by the people that we hang our heads in disbelief at the speed with which the people turn from God and His commands to worshiping the golden calf. So often the brazen nature of Israel’s actions can cause us to point the finger at her failure.
After hearing the voice of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth speak from within the fiery, quaking, and thunderous storm that engulfs the mountain, and only days ago having vowed to be obedient to His words–while Moses is atop that very same mountain meeting with their God and speaking in their stead because the people had beheld His power and thought they might die if He kept speaking–– the people renege on their promise and create a golden idol there in the immediate sight of YHWH, breaking the very first Words that had come out of His divine mouth. OMG.
4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,” (Ex. 20:4-6).
The golden cow formed by the hands of man must’ve been so measly compared to the power emanating from Sinai’s summit! Again, it seems so terribly preposterous to consider how these people bow down to something formed of yellow metal when the One true God is seated up there in majesty! But here is man at his finest, and we must not accuse them.
In such an instance we cannot point the finger and wag our heads in disbelief, without first seeing ourselves there also participating in the gross absurdity and atrocity of worshiping this golden beast. We must admit that it would have been us drunken-dancing about the desert bush intoxicated with laughter and immorality. If we deny this, then we are deceived about our own hearts and Jeremiah 17:9 is calling out wisdom to our ear: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? May the lingering blindness to our own condition be recognized as we look upon Israel in hindsight, and let us grieve there with God over what happened to them on that fateful day.
What we should see in this instance follows the very vein of the previous post: Man is totally unable to deliver himself from his own deep rooted depravity and sinful nature. We are incapable of carrying within us the knowledge of good and evil and choosing good apart from Him! It’s only just after the encounter that we are found bowing down to the golden idols. His voice was just heralded through the heavens, yet shortly after drowned out by our befuddled laughter and idolatrous howling. In Israel we clearly see the condition of man and His need for the redeemer promised in Genesis 3:15… and even there in such great loss that promise shines through as the rainbow after a great storm.
Nevertheless, we emphasize again that God did not have an unrealistic expectation concerning Israel and their perfection regarding the covenant. His anger indeed burns against them and Moses intercedes on their behalf before the Lord relents. Moses later recounts this story of Mt. Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:29 relaying to us that when the people said, “We will keep this covenant and be obedient,” then God cried out in response,
Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (Deut. 5:29).
The overflow of God’s heart here is not exaggerated! He is not deceived about their inability to keep His commandments on their own. As we discussed, it seems that God in His great understanding and mercy would have looked ahead to the future fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 when the head of the serpent is finally crushed and He puts His Spirit within Israel forever enabling them to keep His commandments perfectly.
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ 18“When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God,” (Ezek. 11:17-20).
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances,” (Ez. 36:27).
We strengthen ourselves with the continual reminder of this apocalyptic hope and long for this eschatological reality to come to pass in the physical land of Israel!
The idea of the remnant in Scripture is defined from the very beginning of our Bible and traces the veins of Scripture all the way to Revelation. It is something that we must be well acquainted with so that we might understand how God’s plan of salvation functions and how the good news in our Bible comes to fruition. We can simply begin with the flood.
In the flood judgment we see a principle instituted by God: 8 people are saved out of the judgment upon the whole of the earth. Though this may initially offend us, the right response rather would be to ask, ‘Why were 8 even saved?’ God could’ve ended the whole thing at the flood if He had chosen. As we’ve discussed however, it would have broken His promise which He will not allow. It was His mercy to save 8 and continue His promise which would save many more.
Moving forward to Joseph at Pharaoh’s right hand in the midst of the great famine of Egypt, the idea of the remnant is directly articulated by Joseph, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.” Again, in the context of judgment a remnant is preserved––this time the direct lineage of Abraham. It should be noted that God Himself is divinely preserving a posterity in order to bring about His original promise of Genesis 3:15–this Seed must be born as a man to crush the head of the serpent and this is done through the preservation of a physical remnant in Noah and his family, and in Joseph saving all of Jacob/Israel’s lineage.
There at Sinai in the midst of gross idolatry there is called out from the midst of the assembly the ones who have not joined themselves to this defiling act. We know that Joshua and Caleb must’ve been among these ones since they are praised by the Lord for their faithfulness to Him, and we also see 3000 Levites come to Moses. Let’s read:
“Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”28So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the LORD—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”
Surely as soon as Moses appeared in the camp there would have been an outcry of surprise, utter shock, and dreaded fear of the imminent consequence. They had figured him dead! In the passages just before they had petitioned Aaron saying “We don’t know what happened to this Moses, make us a god to worship!”, and now here was this Moses filled with the fury of YHWH, the stone tablets that had been written by the finger of God leaving his tired hands and flying through the air in protest of their abdication. The face that still shone from its mountaintop experience would’ve certainly held a long scowl of anger and grief as he commanded the Levites who crossed onto his side to slay each one’s brother, friend, and neighbor. A great loss occurs as the correct response to a great sin. Then, he commands them to grind the beast into dust and mix it in the community stream for them to drink as a punishment. While the bitter taste of their idolatry lingers on their thirsty tongues they bury their families in the sands of that great desert. The metallic remnant in their mouths reminds them of their error with each shovel full of dirt covering the corpses of those they loved most. The Prophet whom God had chosen to lead this people then hikes the same trail back up the mountain where he will double-down on the forty-day fast in the glory of God.
Enter the Remnant.
The Levites, you could say, were the first identified remnant called directly out of the new nation of Israel because it is in the context of necessary judgment that some are preserved from the judgment. This is a principle that YHWH will use from this time forward throughout the journey of Scripture with regard to His mercy and kindness in saving as many wicked men as possible from required judgment or punishment. The Levites who are just as carnal and possess the same heart condition as the others present in the camp make a righteous decision and then become protected from the judgment that Moses declares upon Israel. However, we are told that they fall in the wilderness with the others, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun,” (Num. 14:30). Six-hundred thousand men left Egypt in the Exodus and two crossed the Jordan into the promised land of that entire generation. Remarkable. It is not by exaggeration that Jesus says, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matt. 7:14). It is with the remnant that we identify the original context of such a powerful statement.
To be brief and to stay on point, let’s evaluate the idea of the remnant by simply looking at a couple passages of Scripture whilst remembering that the linear trajectory of our Gospel is pushing all things to an apocalyptic end. What I mean in other words is that the idea of the remnant may be found here and there but the idea finds its fulfillment at the very end. Let’s look at a few examples.
Isaiah 10:20-24 Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord GOD of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land.
In this passage Isaiah is prophesying of the Babylonian Exile of Israel, and that after that captivity a remnant will return to the land. Although this prophecy finds partial fulfillment in the context of Isaiah’s day, it also looks towards its final fulfillment out of the final judgment since the context is that they will never again rely upon the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord. This is clearly yet to be the case. We will do well to understand this regarding the prophets: Their words are ultimately prophesying about the end times and millennial fulfillment. Many will disagree with this view but my solace lies within YHWH, His Bible, and a method of interpretation that is consistent from Genesis to Revelation, seeking to let it stand upon itself.
“As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take and use it as a barber’s razor on your head and beard. Then take scales for weighing and divide the hair. 2“One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them. 3“Take also a few in number from them and bind them in the edges of your robes. 4“Take again some of them and throw them into the fire and burn them in the fire; from it a fire will spread to all the house of Israel… (Ch. 6) However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. 9“Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations. 10“Then they will know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would inflict this disaster on them.”’
In Ezekiel, this idea shines forth over and over but here is one of the clearest pictures of what we are trying to define. The remnant are the hairs tucked into Ezekiel’s robe signifying that the Lord draws the few to Himself (that have sought to be faithful) and protects them for survival in the midst of judgment. The idea is the same in Ezekiel 9 with the men who have their heads marked by the Lord:
The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”5But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. 6“Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.”
I would argue that this is the same marking that is seen in Revelation 7 with the 144,000:
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads. 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel (v. 2-4).
I believe these two to be the same event of marking in the end-times. It may have also happened in Ezekiel’s day, but the point of the idea is again pushing towards the apocalyptic revelation and fulfillment of what the prophet saw. There will be a very literal number of 144,000 Jewish persons saved/preserved in the land of Israel as the remnant that is present to receive their Jewish Messiah when He returns on the clouds of heaven. This is clearly seen in Zechariah as well:
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’
Here we see that 2/3 of the people of Israel will eventually be cut off from the land but the Lord will bring 1/3 through the fire of tribulation, at the end of which they cry, “The Lord (YHWH) is my God!” Again we are seeing the Lord’s principle of preserving a remnant. This remnant is the same remnant that is literally in the land crying out when Jesus returns:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn,” (Zech. 12:10).
This is the same event that Jesus mentions in Matthew 23, “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”
It is the remnant of Israel that sees Him and it is a very literal seeing since He is descending on the clouds of heaven. It is these ones who are mourning over the One who comes to deliver them out of the great fire of tribulation – the One whom their ancestors crucified on the Cross.
I firmly believe that the Bible presents a final time of judgment which will come upon the house of Israel because of covenantal unfaithfulness stemming back to Sinai. This is known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30).
7‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.
As in the judgment that proceeded from Sinai when Joshua and Caleb were preserved to be able to enter the promised land, during this final judgment a few are preserved as the hairs tucked into Ezekiel’s robe, as the 1/3 that passes through the refiner’s fire in Zechariah identified as an actual number of 144,000 Jewish people living in the land during the judgment in Revelation 7 and Ezekiel 9. They are the very ethnic jews who will look upon Him whom they’ve pierced and be saved out of Jacob’s Trouble with Messiah’s return.
The idea of the remnant is also prevalent in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans 11, “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.” It is actually the very first verse we mentioned in Isaiah that Paul bases this idea off of starting in Romans 9:27, “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED.” So we see that even to the chief apostle the idea of salvation for Israel exists in the form of a remnant being saved.
God has preserved a remnant from man since Adam left the garden with the promise of Genesis 3:15 and that concept translates to the stock of Israel since He made His promise continue in Abraham. Whether Noah’s family, Joseph’s family, Joshua and Caleb, Nehemiah and Ezra, the apostles and the early Jewish church, even to Messianic Jewish believers today, God has preserved a remnant because His promise will not fail. He will continue to do so, even through the coming climactic judgment of Jacob’s Trouble. We will of course take a thorough look at this subject in another post.
The covenant that was confirmed that day at Sinai was with the ethnic lineage of Abraham–his seed. It really happened! Israel has carried these promises for roughly 4000 years, all the way through to Messiah, and rest assured they will carry them into the millennium. Let us not forget their sacrifice and their striving to obey the Lord all those years of their wandering. It is their journey, although feeble and rebellious at times, that has brought about the Messiah Himself, and will bring about His future Kingdom. Yes, even the entire fulfillment of God’s promises depends upon them – the very restoration of the earth and our bodies!
15For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom 11:15)
Indeed, all of our hope as gentiles is attached to the promises of passages such as we’ve examined here, and my prayer is that those promises are beginning to become your hope as well. We press on together in this glorious Gospel, stewarding it as faithful shepherds, and regarding it as holy unto the Lord.
This is our eleventh post as we continue to establish a chronological and consistent biblical theology that I am terming a Layman’s Biblical Theology. Throughout these posts it is my goal to avoid theological jargon as much as possible so as not to confuse or overcomplicate these matters, while still employing some terms that are very helpful for understanding.
The diagram above is our map, which is slowly moving us forward on the timeline that is time as we know it. This diagram has been created to define all of existence––the sum total of our reality––according to the Bible. The Scriptures on the diagram serve to give us the true context of what the Bible emphasizes as a whole, unique story. The simple purpose is that a true biblical theology seeks to present an understanding of the big picture of the bible, which I am hoping this diagram does. My goal was to create one picture, only one page with Scriptures, that can holistically cover the details of our Bible and give a person a framework to understand it much more simply than before. Over the last several years I have seen this work in many different settings. Hence, we find ourselves in this blog series trying to more exhaustively breakdown this one, word-picture.
We have successfully worked through all the Scriptures in the first “pillar” and now we are in the second “pillar” entitled Covenantal in which we are looking at the covenants YHWH has made with men in order to bring about His ultimate purpose of “summing up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth,” which is “according to His purpose” as He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:9-11). We know this because “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Jesus” because Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven,” (Col. 1:15-20).
This is the Father’s purpose, it remains yet hoped for, therefore currently unfinished.
Surely this is the testimony of the New Testament, and yet it is intrinsically attached to the good news of the Old Testament that many are so unfamiliar with. How is YHWH accomplishing His will as mentioned above? Why is He doing this a very specific way? How will everything be summed up in Christ? These are the details we are gathering in order to form our biblical theology that we might perceive the story of Genesis to Revelation in a coherent manner. By God’s will we will achieve this by His glorious Holy Spirit who is the very Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation.
In the last several posts we have given much time to the Sinai covenant and the details surrounding it, and in this post we will broadly define the nature of Torah, Genesis-Deuteronomy, before giving more articulation to Deuteronomy specifically.
What we will discuss in this post is of the utmost importance. It may take some rewiring to accomplish our task, but I promise the benefit will be worth it.
The Hebrew Scriptures call Genesis through Deuteronomy Torah, which basically means instruction. You could say that within the first five books of the Bible God gives the explanation of how His story has come to be and also the blueprints of how it will unfold. In short, the whole biblical story is found within the Torah. It may be surprising to you to hear that there is basically no new information in the Bible after Deuteronomy. Yes, that could be more accurate than you think.
That is not to say that no new information is given after Torah ends, but rather that the parameters are set in the Torah in regards to what is going to happen. You could say there is no new what after Deuteronomy, while we do not know the fullness of who until after. For instance, we do not know that Babylon will be the specific people God uses to judge Israel and carry them away to exile, we just know that Israel will be punished by a nation that will carry them away to exile as a judgment from God.
Deut. 31:16 The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. “Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them…”
Leviticus also summarizes “Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins… I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.”
In these two passages we see that God is predicting Israel’s unfaithfulness and His response. We find many passages like this in the Torah, and while the specific characters remain mostly unidentified, the big picture is sure. In hindsight we see that everything which was spoken in regards to the what has come to pass exactly as it was said.
It is not incorrect to say that Joshua through Revelation is merely Genesis through Deuteronomy being fulfilled. If we can perceive things this way then we gain a lot of ground in biblical understanding.
Now, to our gentile christian minds that have mainly been discipled in years and years of focus on the New Testament, this idea can seem crazy. I am saying what most of you have never heard a pastor or teacher say: Understanding Genesis through Deuteronomy is the most important component of understanding the Bible, the scheme of salvation is wholly within its borders, and the entire testimony of how redemption will be accomplished is found therein. You actually cannot holistically understand the narrative of the Bible unless you first understand Torah. This is single-handedly the greatest problem of why people do not understand the Bible.
Why, you might ask? Let’s give a brief summary.
Note* A brief note on the antithesis of what I will present in this post. What is called redaction theology, and particularly the documentary method of interpreting the Torah, has done immense damage to how many might perceive the Torah today. This method says that the Torah has numerous authors, rather than one -Moses-, and much later dates of authorship after Israel entered the land. The case I present here holds to the belief that Moses was the only author of the Torah, and what seems to be added by another author (only Deuteronomy 35) was added for simple and helpful context regarding Moses death and the transition to Joshua’s book. With exception to Deuteronomy 35, the Torah was very obviously authored by Moses himself during the time before Israel crossed the Jordan. The case for this, though I will not take the time to argue the theological parameters in detail here, is very strong and I encourage the reader to simply have common sense at the personal information given within the Torah, information that only Moses could have been privy to.
Let us begin by unpacking the simple terminology of Torah.
“The Hebrew word, torah (תורה), is derived from a root that was used in the realm of archery: yareh (ירה). Yareh means to shoot an arrow in order to hit a mark. The mark or target, of course, was the object at which the archer was aiming. Consequently, torah, one of the nouns derived from this root, is, therefore, the arrow aimed at the mark, the target is the truth about God and how one relates to Him. The torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction, teaching, instruction,or doctrine,” (http://www.torahresourcesinternational.info/definition.php).
The Torah was written by Moses, most likely within the tabernacle in the midst of the manifest presence of God Himself. Let that sink in. Modern scholarship has taken a sword to this idea like a chef making french fries from one potato, seeking to slice the one unique whole of Torah into different sections written by different authors. While I do appreciate scholarship and am thankful for the many things I have gleaned from many resources I believe this is a major error because the Bible itself confirms that Moses was the author in more ways than one.
Number one, the Torah is called the Book of the Law of Moses in several places:
“Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses…” (Josh. 23:6).
We do well to notice here that according to God’s own words Joshua possessed a book that was called The Book of the Law of Moses. This is a very simple proof that the Torah was completed before Moses died and it was given to Joshua. This is confirmed in in the first chapter of Joshua intentionally so that there would be no misunderstanding for the future generations about the Torah’s origin.
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7
We know from this that Joshua seems to have had everything that Moses had written in his own possession and he and the people were supposed to do according to the words within.
Joshua 8:31, as well as 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 14:6, and Ezra 6:18 all use the same language of The Book of the Law of Moses while referring to, and directly quoting, different books in the Torah. This substantiates our point since many biblical people naturally refer to the author as Moses. As a nice kicker though Jesus Himself confirms this after He rose from the dead:
“Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).
Clearly we see Jesus summary of the Tanakh here being the Torah (Law of Moses), Prophets, and Writings again confirming, from the mouth of our resurrected Lord, that the Torah was of Moses.
We also see within the Torah that God Himself directly tells Moses to write things down:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex. 17:14).
“Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD, and these are their journeys according to their starting places” (Num. 33:2).
If we keep a simple mind then this point need not be belabored––Moses is the author of Torah!
I would like to call to mind the man who spent 80 days on top of a mountain with YHWH. This must be the foundation for understanding where the Torah came from. If today men can have a two-day weekend seminar and teach enough material to change people’s lives, then certainly YHWH’s 80 day seminar with Moses was adequate time to inform Moses of everything from creation to present to future. Moreover, we know Moses would spend long periods of time in the tabernacle after it was constructed according to the revelation he received on the mountain, and in those times he would have penned the words of the Torah.
“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:11
“With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD.” Numbers 12:8
This is not to make Moses godlike, because surely he didn’t enter the promised land due to disobedience, but it is to show that God spoke face to face with Moses and Moses beheld His form. That is something no one else in Scripture experiences. It is something God says of no other person. We truly take away from what the bible is emphasizing if we do not maintain the importance of who Moses is in the Bible and the task God appointed him to accomplish––deliver Israel and give them their instruction––Torah.
God appears to Moses in the burning bush and speaks to him directly. He was in the presence of the holy and he removed his shoes to prove it. We see Moses, the sole representative upon Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights––twice!––beholding the uncreated One. And there, in the tabernacle God commanded Moses to build, sits Moses, speaking to God as a friend speaks to his friend face to face and listening to the voice of God tell His version of the origins of existence. This is the simplest way to understand how the Torah was authored.
The point is this: God dictated the words of the Torah and Moses wrote them down. This was the start of the Bible we have today. In the purest way imaginable God spoke His flawless words to Moses who made no mistake as he recorded them. The words stand inerrant. The words are pure instruction. We do well to affirm this in biblical theology.
The prophetic nature of the Torah as a whole is vitally important to the story that is still unfolding today. Since God Himself authored it out loud while Moses wrote it down, we should consider its contents to be of the highest priority. Even Leviticus, which we have purposefully sidestepped in these blog posts, is important and will prove itself important in the age to come. Therefore let us throw off the boredom that so easily entangles us in these five books and revitalize the Torah to mean something to us today.
We believe that God Himself orated the words of the Torah, and although Moses wrote them down, there is no mistaking the foundational influence God intended those five books to have for the remainder of Scripture. They are the glue of the story! They are the axis upon which everything else in the Bible rotates. They are perfect and we just haven’t had the epiphany of how perfect yet because,”now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Cor. 13:12).
When we look to the Proverbs we do not see Solomon pulling wisdom out of abstract space in his mind, but out of the Torah. Even from Proverbs chapter 1 is his command to “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching,” where the hebrew word for teaching is torah. Solomon is not calling everyone to understand the depths of his wisdom, but rather calling attention to God’s wisdom in the Torah, which could possibly be the embodiment of wisdom itself, or at least the place from where all wisdom stems.
In Psalms we see the same thing affirmed. David says in Psalm 19:7 “The law (torah) of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” David is appropriately saying that the restoration of the human soul and how it will happen is found in the Torah. Then, upon understanding this the soul could be refreshed with hope! There are numerous other examples of how oriented towards this mindset of the Torah the Psalms are,
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law (torah) of the LORD, And in His law (torah) he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1-2
“Aleph. How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law (torah) of the LORD.” Psalm 119:1
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (torah).” Psalm 119:18
It might be obvious to remind us that the only book that David and Solomon had to inform them of the truth regarding God and His plan was the Torah. The Torah was David’s only Bible. Those five books were all he had. The contents of Genesis through Deuteronomy was the destination their entire hope was gleaned from, and there was no other hope! It is very important for us to regard the Torah in the same way.
In the same way we must process the use of “My word,” in the Scriptures. David again clues us into how he perceived this, saying, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89). The hebrew word used here for word is dabar- דָּבָר which means speech or word. It is from passages like this that we have today derived the language of God’s Word when referring to the entire Bible. Since the Torah was David’s only bible, in this fashion he makes clear that He perceives the Torah to be the words of God. It is what God has effectively spoken, and it is forever settled in heaven unable to be altered or changed because, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19).
The prophets heartily agree with this idea as one voice saying things like,
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Is. 55:10-11),
“For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it,” declares the Lord GOD,'” (Ez. 12:25).
The dabar of YHWH in Scripture is very clearly presented as something that man has no control over––it is as divine as God Himself––it will not falter or change, it will all be completed. He is the only One, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'” (Is. 46:10).
The nature of the word of God that is spoken of in these passages is not arbitrary, random, or ambiguous––it relates directly to the things He has spoken previously. He confirms this Himself in the passage directly above in stating that He spoke these things from ancient times. Therefore, when the prophet’s use the standard fare of “Thus says the Lord,” (Jer. 17:5) or “The word of the Lord came to me,” (Jer 1:4) there is not a new or mystical prophecy taking place, but rather, a confirmation of the words that had been previously spoken by God are now coming to pass within His given time frame. This is very important to understand.
The word of the Lord that comes to the prophets is truly a repetition of things God said beforehand, they are just now being fulfilled in real time and space upon real people. The prophet is effectively saying that what God said would happen in the past, is now about to take place. Therefore it is as if the word of the Lord is being re-declared as a confirmation of His previous words, which is why the Ezekiel passage above says “It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it,’ declares the Lord GOD.” YHWH is simply saying that what He spoke beforehand has been restrained from being accomplished until now because it had a future orientation, and now He will repeat the word and perform it.
So we should perceive the prophets to function in this way and remove the mystical elements normally attached their books. The prophets are repeating what God said would happen, and simply calling attention to the fact that he is now acting upon those words. The difference that takes place within the prophets is that God now identifies the actual characters who will perform His word. We will discuss this more in detail when we arrive at the prophets but this foundational understanding will help us greatly.
The New Testament is faithful to confirm the prophetic nature of the Torah and that its words will by all means be fulfilled as spoken. We should first look to YHWH in the flesh since He is the living dabar.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law (Torah) or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished,” (Matt. 5:17-18).
Now we should let this affect us. We should let this mold our mind informing how past and present emerged and where the future is inevitably going. Jesus affirms that what was spoken in the Torah not being abolished in any way, but rather fulfilled. We must not jump to the stark conclusion that everything was fulfilled in Him then, because He promptly tells us that there will be a future fulfillment when all is accomplished. This example gives us precedence to perceive the Torah in the prophetic manner it possesses.
Luke 21 might be an even clearer picture concerning the prophetic nature of the Torah and its imminent future events as He states,
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.“
We must not overcomplicate this passage. The first telling of Israel’s future judgment is found in the Torah as we’ve seen, and to Jesus hearers all things which are written would’ve only been understood to be the Torah. This is in total agreement with what Jesus told us in Matthew.
We must not overlook that Jesus also attaches a warning to those who handle the torah saying,
19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
This warning should be heeded by all serious students of the Bible. Jesus is very personally confirming the words He previously spoke as needing to be kept. Even this should be enough for our modern theologies to sway under the weight of His words and turn from such doctrines that replace and fulfill His words in ways that He did not intend. Rest assured that on His own word Jesus has promised that every jot and tittle will come to pass based on what He spoke beforehand. It is a grave error to not trust in a literal fulfillment of His words––it is unbelief in what has been spoken by God Himself.
Paul will also exhort us in the truth of the Torah, saying, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4) instructing us that the true biblical hope (the very good news we are searching out) comes from the Torah which was written in earlier times. Moreover Paul sums up the life of Jesus as becoming a “servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,” (Rom. 15:8) which we know to be the words spoken to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Torah. Those words/promises are still awaiting their ultimate fulfillment in the future.
Therefore Hebrews exhorts us that “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1) because, “God… spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1). Peter agrees, telling us to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles,” giving us faith that according to these promises the Father will “send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-21). Truly there are numerous examples from the apostles concerning their anchor in the Torah which is the true hope we also await!
These are just a few examples, and I am by no means an expert regarding the Torah. In later posts we will witness more of Jesus’ words on the Torah unto finally beholding the fulfillment of Torah in the redemption of mankind through the Messiah of Israel. This will happen in accordance with, through, and in the very people He gave the Torah to––the Jews. Indeed, the whole of Scripture is pivoting around this Instruction.
The Torah is quite literally the skeleton upon which the muscles and tendons of biblical theology are built. Its skeletal structure supports and upholds everything, and all things thereafter are intrinsically attached to the bones of Torah. This is why you cannot remove, nor replace, nor fulfill those bones, for you incidentally take away a vital part of the frame that is holding everything together. If the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are the two femurs upon which the strong muscles of Messiah will be laid, it would be odd to somehow try and make the Messiah Himself become the leg-bones upon which He has chosen to stand. In humility He chose to be the seed of Abraham and this human lineage demands attention from Him although He be the Godhead incarnate.
We must begin our biblical theology in the Torah for it is the frame upon which God’s redemptive plan for humanity is fixed. If we start our theology at the New Testament, we are but looking at the skin of the species from the outside and wondering what’s underneath. On the contrary, if we begin with the skeleton we will understand the foundation of the whole structure as the sum of our biblical theology.
In these many posts we have been slowly identifying the bones of this Torah-skeleton, and we will now see how the muscles and tendons and ligaments connect together to form the whole body and actually begin walking towards its destined redemption. But first, we must look deeply into the conclusion of the Torah which is Deuteronomy.