Jonah . . . the Missionary?

This is the beginning of a short little series on the Book of Jonah. Enjoy!

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All people know about Jonah is that he was swallowed by a giant fish! That’s all most Christians remember about this wonderful little book. The truth is the Book of Jonah isn’t a Sunday School lesson, but a real account of a real event that has real meaning for your life

 JONAH RUNS (1:1-3):

 

1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

 

Jonah is commanded to go and preach to the people in Nineveh because of their wickedness. God hasn’t just found out about their wickedness. It’s just gotten so bad that He’s decided to take some drastic action. Nineveh is in Assyria, and if you know the Old Testament, you know that the northern kingdom of Israel isn’t exactly friends with Assyria!

God gives an immediate command, “Arise, go to Nineveh!” In other words, “Go, right now!” It’s also a pretty big undertaking – over 500 miles overland! This is more than a car-trip!

Jonah 1 (1-3)
See the distance Jonah had to travel, from Israel all the way overland to Nineveh?

 

Before we move on, I want you to think about how strange of a command this is in the Old Testament. We see calls for repentance all the time in the prophets – for Israel, though. Where else do we see a prophet sent directly to a pagan nation to preach to them about their wickedness in particular? Nowhere else! So, this raises the question – what kind of missions work was done in the Old Testament?

 Missions Work in the Old Testament:

Here are some good questions to ponder, and if these questions have never occurred to you, then do some thinking on it now:

  • Why don’t we see a “great commission” in the OT?
  • Why weren’t the Israelites told to go make disciples of all nations, and bring them to Jerusalem to worship the One true God?
  • Why don’t we have maps telling about Old Testament missionary journeys in the back of our Bibles?
  • Did God have no message of salvation for the rest of the world?

I want to start by reminding you that God has worked with mankind in different ways, at different times. Before God chose Israel, He worked with all of mankind individually. After God chose Israel, He worked with all of mankind through Israel

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).

God makes a whole lot of promises, but one of them is that the vehicle of blessing for all the other nations will be Israel:

“In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:1-6).

What in the world was God talking about here? What does it mean to be a kingdom of priests? What does a priest do? A priest represents God to the rest of the people – He’s a go-between. So, to go back to the missions question – what were the Israelites supposed to do to fulfill this responsibility of being a kingdom of priests, or a corporate go-between for God and the pagan nations?[1]

  • Option #1: Go out, preach the Gospel, and make disciples!
  • Option #2: Live holy lives, follow God’s law with a true heart and let unbelievers gradually flow to them, slowly but surely?

Don’t worry about what scholars say, or what your study Bible notes say – what do you think? I take option #2. If Israel had lived as a holy people, God would have continued what began under Solomon. After all, some great things happened under Solomon. Israel came closer than ever before to realizing the covenant blessings that God had promised for obedience. The temple was built and God did dwell inside it. Solomon was a godly king who only asked for the wisdom to rule right (see 1 Kings 10:1-9).

And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:34).

And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart (2 Chronicles 9:22-23).

This sounds like a good start, doesn’t it? So, what happened to this seemingly unstoppable roller-coaster ride to greatness and God’s blessing? The Bible tells us:

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart (1 Kings 11:1-3).

Sin is what happened. That’s why we need Christ –  the perfect King who will succeed where even good men like Solomon failed.

 

3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

 

So far, so good – Jonah is commanded to go preach to the heathen Assyrians in Nineveh. But, he doesn’t like that idea, so he heads off to Joppa and books passage[2] on a ship bound for Tarshish. Nobody is quite sure where Tarshish was – but the smart money says the southwest coast of Spain[3].

 Why is Jonah Running?

So, why is Jonah fleeing? What in the world does he hope to accomplish?

  • Option #1 – Jonah thinks he can hide from God, and God won’t be able to find him[4]
  • Option #2 – Jonah just wants to get away, wash his hands of the whole business and have God find someone else for the job[5]

I go with option #2. Jonah hates the Assyrians and doesn’t want anything to do with them. He’s so sick at heart and outraged that God’s mercy and forgiveness is being offered to them, that he’s willing to run from God!

Think about how drastic of a move this is! He’s dropping everything, leaving his home, family, friends, possessions – everything! He books last-minute passage on a ship bound for the ends of the earth (not literally, but you know what I mean!) – this must have cost a whole lot of money! He has no baggage, probably not much money and no plans.

He used a ship; today we’d use a plane. If I were in Jonah’s position today, and wanted to run far, far away, long-distance destinations available from O’Hare airport today are Beijing, Berlin, Tokyo and Zurich. I’d personally choose Zurich. There’s a flight leaving on tomorrow, for only $1,000! I could pay for the flight, and survive for a few weeks on just the credit card, but I’d have to figure something out very quickly:

  • Where would I live?
  • How would I earn money?
  • Where will I buy clothes?
  • How will I afford food

Jonah is doing something very drastic – and his situation would be more dire than mine! He’s so opposed to the very idea of the Gospel[6] going to the Assyrians that He’d willing to do all this!

Why Didn’t Jonah Want To Go?

He didn’t want to go because the Assyrians were not nice people! They were the dominant empire in the entire Middle East – Babylon would come next. Archeologists and historians have discovered evidence of several massive military battles in Israel from 853 – 845 B.C. During that period, Israel, Judah and a bunch of other countries apparently joined together to defend themselves against the Assyrians[7]. The Judean King, Jehu, is shown cowering down and kissing the Assyrian King’s feet in this picture, below:

jonah

In Jonah’s day, Assyria is in the middle of a roughly 75 year (823-744 B.C.)[8] slump. They’re not doing so well anymore and are fighting amongst themselves. Meanwhile in Israel, Jeroboam II has come to power. Israel is expanding northwards and gaining territory. The economy is booming. Jonah and Hosea are from the same approximate generation.

But, Assyria is still out there, still dangerous and still a threat to Israel. They’re a serious danger to Israel – that means they’re a serious danger to Jonah. I want you to picture the absolute last kind of foreigner you’d want to share the Gospel with as an American – who would it be?

  • The five Taliban members who were just released in trade for SSG Bowe Bergdahl?
  • The 9/11 hijackers?
  • Osama bin Laden?
  • ISIS?

How would you like to leave behind your family, friends and your home to preach the Gospel to these folks? Not many Christians would be too eager to sign up for that trip? Yet, that’s what Jonah was told to do; and he didn’t like it!

There is a new book out about a Lutheran chaplain during World War II named Harry Gerecke. He served two years in England and then in Europe with the Army. He was preparing to ship back home in the summer of 1945, but was asked to stay and be a Chaplain to the German war-criminals during the Nuremberg Trials. He had watched soldiers blown up, shot and killed by Germans for two years. Now, he was being asked to delay his return home and preach the Gospel to the captured Nazi leaders, many of whom had committed horrible atrocities!

What would he do? What would you do? He stayed 1.5 years extra and reported that four men were saved![9] Put yourself in Jonah’s position, and don’t condemn him too easily. What he did was wrong, of course – but what would you do if God told you to travel to Syria and preach the Gospel to ISIS militants?

WHY DID GOD SEND JONAH TO NINEVEH?

I won’t answer that question until we reach the end of the book! But, what can we learn about God from the very beginning of this little book? God saves people from every tribe, tongue and nation.

The Gospel isn’t an American thing and it wasn’t an Israelite thing – God’s vision has always encompassed more than that. Israel wasn’t supposed to sit still and look pretty because she was chosen (“elect”) by God to be His holy people – she was supposed to:

  1. live the right way
  2. follow His law out of a pure heart, and
  3. draw other nations to Him by her own example!

The Gospel gets shared with everybody, even if we don’t like them.

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[1] This is indeed the crux of the issue! Perhaps the most accessible advocate for the idea that Israelites were supposed to be active missionaries to the pagan world is Walter J. Kaiser. He asks, “[i]t is at this point that the thesis of this book participates in issues that are hotly debated today: Did this ‘kingdom of priests’ serve Israel alone or the entire world? Were they to be active or merely passive witnesses,” (Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012], xiii). Kaiser goes on to insist, “[t]he fact remains that the goal of the Old Testament was to see both Jews and Gentiles come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah who was to come. Anything less than this goal was a misunderstanding and an attenuation of the plan of God. God’s eternal plan was to provide salvation for all peoples; it was never intended to be reserved for one special group, such as the Jews, even as an initial offer!” (Ibid, xiv). Kaiser states the issue well, but his opponents do not suggest that Israel was supposed to be an elitist, snobbish society. Nor do they suggest that Israel did not fail in her adherence to the Mosaic Covenant. They merely disagree over the nature of her missions mandate – was it passive or active?

Over against Kaiser’s model is the idea that Israel’s “missions mandate,” such as it was, was basically passive. This position believes that the great ingathering of Gentiles is an eschatological one, for the latter days. This position is well represented by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (Downer’s Grove, IL : IVP, 2001), 25-53. At this point, one’s theological stripes will be revealed – will this ingathering take place when Jesus rules and reigns from a literal Jerusalem over a literally restored Israel (dispensationalist), or is this ingathering taking place right now as the spiritual kingdom of Christ reigns in the hearts of the elect (covenantalist)?

I hold to the second option, advocated by Kostenberger and O’Brien, that Israel’s missions mandate was very real, but basically very passive (Jonah being an obvious exception). I am a dispensationalist, so I believe the great eschatological ingathering of Gentiles will take place when Israel is restored, and Christ rules and reigns as her King in Jerusalem in the Millennium (see, for example, Isa 61).

[2] There is some debate about whether Jonah chartered the entire vessel, or whether he merely booked passage as a passenger to Tarshish, where the ship had already been headed. The Scripture itself provides the answer; v.5 tells us that the frightened sailors tossed the wares they were carrying overboard. Evidently the ship was engaged in trade and already bound for Tarshish; Jonah merely slipped on-board after negotiating the fare. If Jonah had chartered the entire vessel outright, they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of loading wares for later sale in Tarshish. If they had tried to, there would no doubt have been a considerable delay and Jonah would have sought passage on another vessel.

[3] “Although alternatives have been suggested, south-west Spain remains the most likely location for Tarshish,” (T. Desmond Alexander, “Jonah,” in Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, vol. 26, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988], 110). John Walton suggests Tarshish need not be taken as a literal destination, but as a reference to great distance, e.g “I’m headed for Timbuktu!” doesn’t necessarily mean one is going to Mali, Africa. It could mean one just wants to get far, far away (Jonah, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, revised ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008], 469).

[4] No Bible believer would really believe one can literally hide from God. This is not a legitimate option!

[5] “Jonah wished to escape, not beyond the power of God, but away from the stage on which God was working out His purposes and judgments. The Christian worker anxious to avoid the full impact of modern problems should have no difficulty in understanding Jonah’s action,” (H. L. Ellison, Jonah, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 7 [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985], 369). See also Ellison’s remarks on the silliness of the first interpretive option (369). Walton remarks, “Jonah does not necessarily think that distance will put him out of range of the Lord’s reach; he may have thought his flight will simply result in the Lord’s finding someone else for the job,” (Jonah, 469).

[6] Many commentators discount the idea that Jonah was a “missionary” in the NT sense, and certainly don’t agree that Jonah preached the Gospel (according to the revelation Jonah had at the time, the Gospel entailed saving faith in God alone for justification [e.g. Gen 15:6] and loving adherence to the Mosaic Covenant as proselytes). John Walton (Jonah, 457-458, 477-485) and H.L. Ellison (Jonah, 363, 383-384) are particularly insistent on this point. The particulars will wait until we reach Jonah 3, but as for a hint of my own position, Jesus’ own words in Mt 12:41 are rather decisive on this point! But for the sake of brevity I’ll simply refer to Jonah as a “missionary” and his message as “the Gospel” and save the details for later!

[7] See A. K. Grayson, “Assyria, Assyrians” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, ed. Bill T. Arnold and H.T.M. Williamson (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2005), 100-102

[8] Ibid.

[9] This information is from Lyle Dorsett, “Would You Share the Gospel with Hitler’s Worst Henchmen?” ChristianityToday.com. 23MAY14. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/Ll6mmr.

Sufficiency of the Scriptures (Part #2b)

sola_scriptura

Part 2b on my series on the sufficiency of the Scripture as the sole, infallible authority for Christian faith and life. Part #1 was an introduction to set the stage. Part #2a was the first part of what different books of the New Testament have to say on the matter.

Romans

Paul grounded the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the authority of the OT Scriptures. He tied the Gospel to that which God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,” (Rom 1:2). The Book of Romans is literally saturated with references to OT Scriptures to make theological points,[1] far more so than a brief biblical theology here can hope to demonstrate. Once again, Paul does not base his arguments on philosophy or tradition – he bases them on Scripture.

It is not the hearers of the law who are justified, but the doers (Rom 2:12-29). None are righteous (Rom 3:9-18); “there is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Rom 3:18). Knowledge of the OT law brings about conviction and knowledge of sin (Rom 3:19-20; 4:15; 7:7-25). The Law and Prophets bore witness to Christ (Rom 3:21-22). Abraham was justified by faith (Rom 4). We are dead in Adam but alive in Christ (Rom 5:12-21). God’s sovereignty in election is grounded in His corporate election of Israel and the individual, single election of individuals (Rom 9).

Israel refuses to respond to the present provision of salvation through Jesus Christ (Rom 10), and Paul bolstered his argument by citing examples of Israel’s previous rebellion (Rom 10:18-21). Gentiles have been grafted into the promises given to Abraham (Rom 11), “so as to make Israel jealous,” (Rom 11:11). Her rejection is not final and her restoration is assured. Paul’s appeal for Christians to present themselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) is rooted in the OT concept of a sacrifice to God. Christ came to the Jews in the form of a servant “in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,” (Rom 15:8-9).

Paul presents the new doctrine he received from Christ (Gal 1:12) as explicitly progressive revelation. This gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ, in complete accord with all which has come before it, is a “revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God,” (Rom 16:25-26).

1 Peter

Peter writes his epistle to Jewish Christians (1 Pet 1:1 – “elect exiles of the Dispersion”), demonstrating a clear connection in his mind between the OT and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He stated that Christ fulfilled the OT prophesies.[2]

The prophets prophesized about the grace of God in salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:10). These OT prophets sought to discern when the prophesy of Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glories would come to pass (1 Pet 1:11). It was revealed to these great men, presumably through the Spirit, that these prophesies were intended for a future time. Peter identified that time period as “now,” or the dispensation of grace in the church age.[3] The OT prophesies take on clearer, concrete and unmistakable meaning in light of the progressive revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:12).

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Pet 1:12).

The context of 1 Pet 1 is that his readers could rejoice in their sufferings even though they could not see exactly how or when their present trials would end. Just as the OT prophets had limited understanding of their own prophesies, they trusted God to sovereignty work out all things according to good (Rom 8:28). God’s answer to Habakkuk’s plea for understanding of God’s ways was to live by faith (Hab 2:4). In the midst of suffering (1 Pet 1:6), it is very significant that Peter points his readers to Scriptures as the source of assurance. Several conclusions can be drawn:

  1. God has spoken propositionally to His people in a concrete fashion.
  2. Peter points to the Scriptures as the sole source of God’s revelation to men. He bases his subsequent call to be holy in a decidedly unholy world (1 Pet 1:13 – “therefore”) on the assurance of salvation and glorification in Christ, which was prophesied of in the OT and disclosed more completely by Peter and the other apostles.

Peter quotes the OT to make theological points, underscoring the authority of the OT.[4] He quoted from Isaiah 40:6, 8 (1 Pet 1:24-25) and stated “the word of the Lord remains forever.” He concluded by noting “and this word is the good news that was preached to you,” (1 Pet 1:25b). Peter describes the role of the Christian in terms of Israel’s covenant responsibility similar to Ex 19:5-6 (1 Pet 2:9).

James

James also writes his epistle to Jewish Christians (Jas 1:1). His theology is steeped in the OT Scriptures. Without his unwavering reliance upon them as an infallible revelation from God, James could not have written his epistle. His theology of God’s character is one of holiness (Jas 1:13), and perfectly in tune with the OT description of His character (Lev 11:45, 19:2; Ps 99:9).

Pure religion, or piety,[5] consists of proper conduct and character. James’ example of proper religious conduct is to “visit orphans and widows in their afflictions,” (Jas 1:27), an admonition which is soaked in the context of the OT law regarding social justice (Ex 22:22; Deut 14:29). His exhortation to proper character is to “keep oneself unstained from the world,” (Jas 1:27), which likewise has its roots in the OT command for Israelites to remain separate and uncontaminated by the pagans round about them (Lev 18:24-19:2).

James’ overarching point is to contrast mere ritualistic observances with actual reverence for God; to illustrate what “religion that is pure and undefiled before God” (Jas 1:27) really is. It is merely a stepping stone from here to a contrast between mere outward circumcision and a true circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:12-16).

James quoted repeatedly from Scripture to condemn the sin of partiality (Jas 2:8, 11). James used the example of both Abraham and Rahab to make the point that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:14-26). He quoted Proverbs 3:34 to emphasize the need for humility and separation from worldliness (Jas 4:1-6). He pointed to the example of Job and exhorts his readers to have patience in the midst of suffering and trials (Jas 5:10-11). James cited the fervent prayers of Elijah as he exhorted his readers to pray diligently for one another (Jas 5:16-18).

Jude

Like his brother James, Jude’s theology simply would not exist without the OT Scriptures. Jude wrote of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” (v. 3). This faith Jude spoke of was the body of truth taught by the apostles.[6] This underscores the progressive nature of God’s revelation, and is perfectly harmonious with Peter’s (1 Pet 1:10-12), Paul’s (Eph 3:1-13) and the writer to the Hebrew’s (Heb 1:1) comments in their own epistles on this point.

Jude noted the presence of false teachers who “long ago were designated for this condemnation” (v. 4). This refers to previously written prophesies regarding the doom of apostates (e.g. Isa 8:19-22; Jer 5:13-14).[7]

Jude notes God’s righteous pattern of punishing those who apostatize from the true faith, such unbelieving Israelites, angels and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities (v. 5-7). These “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire,” (v. 7). Jude then moves to his present day and condemns contemporary false teachers of these very sins! (v. 8). He mentions the archangel Michael, compares the false teacher’s way to that of Cain and Balaam, and compares their eventual end to that of Korah (v. 11). Jude also accurately puts Enoch as the “seventh from Adam,” (v. 14).[8]

The next post will be a discussion of several critical passages that focus on the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures for the Christian life.


[1] Rom (3:4, 10-18); (4:7-8, 17); (8:36); (9:25-29, 33); (10:5, 18-21); (11:8-10); (12:19); (13:8-9); (14:11); (15:3, 9-12); (16:21).

[2] 1 Peter (1:10-12); (2:6-8).

[3] See also 1 Pet 1:20 – “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”

[4] 1 Peter (1:16, 24-25); (2:9); (3:5-6, 10-12); (4:18).

[5] William D. Mounce, Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2006), 1170.  Θρησκεια, or “religion,” may better be termed “piety.”

[6] Edward C. Pentecost, “Jude,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 919.

[7] Edwin Blum, Jude, vol. 12, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 389.

[8] See 1 Chr 1:1-3

Laying Aside the Commandments of God (Mark 7:1-13)

Sermon notes – Mark 7:1-13

Here, we see the tragic and disgraceful results of legalism imposed upon a people. Some Pharisees and scribes come down from Jerusalem once more to hear and investigate Christ. They soon accuse Him of violating the commandments of the elders by eating bread with unwashed hands (Mk 7:5). Note, they took issue with Christ’s violation of the traditions of men, not of God! There is no OT command for everyday men to ritualistically wash before a meal!

I want to take a moment to emphasize a point – it is far too simplistic to simply call the Pharisees legalistic, evil men and move on to the next Scripture passage. Why were they so legalistic? The answer is that they were seeking to preserve their Jewishness in a distinctly un-Jewish world. The destruction of the temple and the sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. completely decimated the social, cultural, political and religious structure of the Jewish state. Their national identity as a people of God had been abolished in one fell stroke. Even later, after the return from exile, the Jews existed as a mere vassal state of the Persian, Greek, and now Roman Empires. Even today, the modern state of Israel has not been reconstituted as it was before the fall of Jerusalem. The times of the Gentiles are still ongoing.

Consider these very important points:

“Rituals concerning cleanness and uncleanness reflect rabbinic developments more than actual Torah prescriptions . . . As Judaism’s encounter with Gentile culture increased in the post-exilic period, however, the question of ritual cleanliness took on new significance as a way of maintaining Jewish purity over against Gentile culture.”[1]

“[T]he defeat and exile faced the surviving Hebrews with the loss of their central national and religious institutions. They were without a unifying center of influence. They were forced to rethink the nature of God, his relation to them, and the viability of Old Testament religion. They were thrown into close contact with other cultures, and their traditional way of life became difficult or impossible. They, in a new way, confronted the relation between religion and culture. In every area the Hebrew race and its political and religious systems encountered a constant threat to survival.”[2]

Much like the erroneous and dangerous teaching of Roman Catholics who believe in two well-springs of divine authority, Scripture and tradition, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day fell into the very same error.

“The predominance of Pharisaism is that which most distinctly characterized this period. The legalistic tendency inaugurated by Ezra had now assumed dimensions far beyond anything contemplated by its originator. No longer did it suffice to insist on obedience to the commandments of the Scripture Thora. These divine precepts were broken down into an innumerable series of minute and vexatious particulars, the observance of which was enforced as a sacred duty, and even made a condition of salvation. And this exaggeration even made a condition of salvation. And this exaggerated legalism had obtained such an absolute ascendency over the minds of the people, that all other tendencies were put entirely in the background.”[3]

To bring this to a modern context, how do we fall into the same legalistic traps today? We are commanded to be in the world, but not of the world (Jn 17:15). Do we impose legalistic restrictions in our own circles? Consider what Christ has to say on this very important matter.


[1] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002), 205

[2] J. Julius Scott, Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 108-112.

[3] Emil Shurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, First Division, vol. 1 (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2012), 2.

Patterning the Kingdom – An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer

Introduction

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most famous portions of Scripture. It is known throughout the world, and can perhaps be counted along with Jn 3:16 as one of the handful of Biblical passages that non-Christians will recognize. It is also a very misunderstood passage. Some take it as a literal prayer that should be repeated verbatim periodically. This author, as a newly saved Christian, recited the Lord’s Prayer every night for several weeks, and felt closer to God as a result!

There are any numbers of ways to interpret the Sermon on the Mount. This paper takes the interim approach, which sees it as an ethic for believers before the inauguration of the kingdom.[1] The original audience were Jews who expected Christ to establish His millennial reign, as He had been preaching (Mk 1:14-15). The fact that His kingdom was not inaugurated at that time does not negate the Sermon as a whole; it merely means it is still applicable to Christians today who still await the kingdom God promised Israel (2 Sam 7:16). “The sermon is primarily addressed to disciples exhorting them to a righteous life in view of the coming kingdom.”[2]

It may more properly be termed “The Disciples’ Prayer!” If any prayer may be associated with Jesus Christ, surely it is John 17. It is not a literal prayer, but a model prayer. Christ teaches Christians how to pray, how to approach our Holy God and the proper heart attitude a believer must have before participating in the marvelous honor of intercessory prayer.

False Prayer

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

 

Christ presupposes His disciples will pray. “And when you pray,” not “and if you pray.” This tells us that prayer is an assumed component of the Christian life. Matthew Henry’s observation is a pointed rebuke to all Christians who reject this vital element of worship; “You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray . . . If prayerless, then graceless.”[3]

Prayer must be entered into with the right attitude. Christians seek to glorify their Father in heaven and never themselves (1 Cor 10:31). The triune Godhead planned and decreed everything in eternity past (Ps 139; Eph 1:11, 3:11), created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2), died for the sins of wicked men (Jn 3:16) and is at work convicting humanity of sin and His own righteousness even now (Jn 16:7-11). He alone is deserving of praise, honor and worship.

Prayer, and all worship in general, is an issue of the heart (Deut 10:16). “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him,” (Jn 4:23).

Authentic Prayer

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

Prayer is an intimate conversation, between the believer and his Lord. There is no place for ostentation here. It is a private worship where sinful men can bring their cares, worries and petitions before the Holy God who saved them from sin and darkness.

Christ was not literally instructing His disciples to find themselves a convenient closet. This author ministered to well-meaning teenagers who returned from a “mission’s institute” of questionable reputation and doctrine, where they were instructed to actually pray for hours in closets or darkened rooms!

The Greek for room, ταμεῖον, means chamber, closet or a place of retirement and privacy.[4] It also means inner room.[5] The word itself is used to denote a small storeroom attached to a Jewish house. The context here does not suggest Christ wanted His disciples to seek out unoccupied storerooms; it merely suggests privacy – the very opposite of ostentation. As one scholar explained, “it would have been the only room provided with a door, and at least one commentator observes that it had become almost a proverbial expression for a place where one could go and not be seen.”[6]

It is not the location of the prayer offered; it is the heart of the humble petitioner who offers the prayer that Christ was concerned with. Believers have the privilege of working with God through intercessory prayer; it is shameful to come before Him with anything less than a humble and contrite spirit. Those who pray more often in public than in private before the Holy God are typically less interested in God’s approval than human praise. Frequently, prayers and petitions are offered in public worship services. There is nothing wrong with public prayer, (it is encouraged!), but when aspirations for flattery gain ascendency over a heart-felt petition before God a Christian is in trouble.

“All display should be avoided in devotion: He who addresses God must be wholly engrossed with thoughts of his own wants, and of Him whose grace he entreats. Such abstraction will convert the most public place into a ταμεῖον.”[7] As John Phillips noted, “since God is omnipresent, we can transform any corner into a cathedral and pray.”[8]

A Christian who prays for the vain glory and honor of men will receive little to no reward. God abhorred the sacrifices and offerings of sinful Israel, because their heart was absent (Isa 1:10-20). Even the Israelites’ prayers were in vain (Isa 1:15). God’s people are characterized by a circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:16; Rom 2:29). Christians who pray in this spirit will be rewarded according to His sovereign will. Those who seek the praise of men will not be. God’s people must keep their hearts set on Him (Pr 4:23), for “what will it avail us to have the good word of our fellow-servants, if our Master do not say, Well done?[9]

Vain Repetitions

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 

God knows His children’s struggles and needs, yet He granted His people the honor of working with Him anyway. Prayer does not become more efficacious with fancy phraseology or eloquent speech. Rote formalism and false piety are nothing more than unnecessary and “empty phrases.”

Blomberg suggests Christ is cautioning against endless repetitions of the same prayers; “God wants to give us good gifts; therefore, we need not badger him with our requests.”[10] This is not the case. Rather than discouraging “excessive” prayer, Christ is discouraging the wrong approach to prayer – one characterized by false eloquence and flowery speech, as if God would be moved by such feeble piety.

The word for “empty phrases” or the more familiar “vain repetitions” is βαττολογεω, which means to babble.[11] It also means to prattle, speak much, or use many words.[12] Therefore, when Christ tells His followers to not “heap up empty phrases,” he is referring to vain and endless prayers – prattling done with the intent to be heard more. Again, this is a heart issue. “His point is that His disciples should avoid meaningless, repetitive prayers offered under the misconception that mere length will make prayers efficacious.”[13] Prayer need not be a prescribed length, done in a prescribed place or be fashioned from prescribed words – it simply needs to be heartfelt and honest. With the right heart, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” (Jas 5:16b, KJV). There is no such thing as “excessive prayer” uttered in the correct spirit before God.

Reverence for God

9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

 

Christ was not demanding a recitation of this prayer, but offered it as a model for prayer. The KJV (“After this manner therefore pray ye”) and NASB (“Pray, then, in this way”) seem to capture the force of this meaning more clearly than the ESV. Carson explained that Christ meant, “this is how [not what] you should pray.”[14] The context itself demonstrates the prayer was never meant to be repeated literally, especially in light of Christ’s admonition against vain repetitions and empty phrases (Mt 6:7-8).

The first thing Christ teaches Christians is an awareness of who they are speaking to. Believers ought to speak honestly with God but always remember they are speaking to God. Prayers must never be offered with careless informality, as though He were merely a friend. At the same time, the privilege of knowing God and addressing Him as “Father” implies relationship, familiarity and trust. There is a fine line between a relationship with God through honest prayer, as a child to their heavenly Father, and the careless familiarity and contempt of presumptuous prayer. God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pr 18:24). “The phrase ‘in heaven; balances this intimacy with an affirmation of God’s sovereignty and majesty.”[15]

God’s name will be hallowed in the end, when He receives all the worship due His name. Indeed, this entire model prayer forces Christians to put things into the proper perspective of the kingdom that is to come. “There can be no doubt that the first request looks to the time when all nations shall worship God in the millennial age.”[16]

Submission to God

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Our attitude in prayer, indeed in all things, must be humility and submissiveness to God. His kingdom will come. His will shall be done. Are Christians willing to see His will done? Are Christians keen to offer themselves as living sacrifices for His work (Rom 12:1)? Are believers trusting in the grace of God to train them to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ? (Titus 2:12-14). Do God’s children fully appreciate that their salvation was done with a specific purpose? “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Eph 2:10).

It is a privilege to be used of God in His unfolding plan for His kingdom. Christ was emphasizing the vital necessity of a submissive spirit, anchored on the foundational truth that God is sovereign. Prayer to Him simply must reflect this; “prayer is to include the request that His will be accomplished today on earth as it is being accomplished in heaven, that is, fully and willingly.”[17]

This verse, like the last, is clearly eschatological. All God’s people struggle in this present, evil world all while waiting for their blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). Meanwhile, He is purifying believers for His own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

“We make Christ but a titular Prince, if we call him King, and do not do his will: having prayed that he may rule us, we pray that we may in everything be ruled by him.”[18] Prayers must reflect a humility and reverence for God’s program for the ages.

Physical Provision

11 Give us this day our daily bread

 

Too often, requests for physical provision occupy an unbalanced proportion of a Christian’s prayer life. Christ’s model prayer contains but one small verse on this issue; He expands on this principle later in the chapter (Mt 6:25-34). John Phillips’ point here is especially illuminating;

Analysis of our own prayers will often reveal preoccupation with the material side of life; we pray mostly about how we are to be fed, where we are to live, what we are to wear, Aunt Suzy’s illness, Uncle Joe’s need for a better job. We should not stop praying for these topics. The Lord taught us to include them in our prayers; but material requests are to be kept in their right place and proportion.[19]

Christ also teaches His children that all daily provisions are from God. It is easy to become complacent, comfortable and lazy in prayer. All blessings are from God. “It is a lesson easily forgotten when wealth multiples and absolute self-sufficiency is portrayed as a virtue.”[20]

Imitators of God

12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

It is “natural,” in man’s fallen, sinful condition to harbor anger, bitterness and ill will towards others. However, Paul specifically called believers to shed the old way of life and put on the new self, created in the likeness of God.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:20-24).

So often, however, the exact opposite is true. How can men approach the Holy God, who forgave and continues to forgive the sins of His elect, while at the same time refusing to forgive others for real or perceived wrongs? Christians are called to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1). Christ commands Christians to have the right spirit when they pray. His words here act as a subtle rebuke to all believers, past, present and future. He presupposes His children will come before Him with a clear conscience, holding ill will toward nobody.

There are clear eschatological overtones here. “It is impossible for one to be in fellowship with God as long as he harbors ill will in his heart. The disciples were to be always spiritually prepared for the coming of the kingdom.”[21] God’s standards for conduct have always been predicated on His holiness (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:16). The kingdom is not yet here, and Christians cannot somehow inaugurate the kingdom through a pattern of holy, righteous living. Rather, all believers are commanded to live holy lives as a witness for Him in this present age, while waiting patiently for Christ to return. Disciples must pattern the kingdom in their own individual lives as a light for the lost (Mt 5:14-16). This carries over to prayer life.

Dependence

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

 

If Christians are not talking with God, they will not stick with God! “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Gal 5:16). Men cannot stand against Satan alone; they need the help of the only One who resisted Satan’s temptations (Mk 1:12-13; Mt 4:1-11). He accomplished what Adam and Eve could not – He triumphed over Satan when tempted.

God cannot tempt anybody with evil (Jas 1:13); but He is sovereign over all. He sends false teachers, “who long ago were designated for this condemnation,” (Jude 4) to test believers. Moses also warned Israel that false teachers assess true love for God; “For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” (Deut 13:3b). This touches on the distinction between God’s direct and indirect providence in working His will in believer’s lives.[22]

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it,” (1 Cor 10:13). He will not allow Christians to be tempted above what they are able to bear. Trials bring about a positive change in character (Jas 1:2-4). Strength to endure these trials and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ is possible only through Christ. Believers are commanded to pray for their walk with the Lord; for strength to resist the devil (Jas 4:7b), for courage to avoid temptation and perseverance to struggle daily – to discipline their bodies (1 Cor 9:24-27). Only by steadfast prayer can Christians overcome the temptations of Satan.

It is easy to forget this is a spiritual battle, not a physical one (Eph 6:12). In this context of dependence on God, Paul spoke movingly of his own struggles;

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (1 Cor 12:7-9).

God allowed this trial, this “thorn in the flesh,” to harass Paul so as to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7a). It was a teaching tool, part of His purifying a peculiar people for Himself (Titus 2:14). God is magnified and exalted in His children’s weakness (2 Cor 12:9). As Thomas Constable noted, “[i]t refers not so much to solicitation to evil, as to trials that test the character.”[23]

Christians are not alone; when they sin they have an advocate with God the Father (1 Jn 2:1). Believers are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, chosen from before the foundations of the world (1 Pet 1:2; Eph 1:4; Jn 6:65). They are saved by faith in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ in their stead (Jn 3:16) and convicted of sin and righteousness by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8). The whole of the triune Godhead is active in every aspect of our lives; as John Frame observed, the Father plans, the Son executes and the Spirit applies.[24]Taking refuge in this glorious truth, Christ teaches believers to not lean on their own understanding and power in this present world, but to lean on the everlasting arms of God instead. His model prayer teaches believers to reflect this reality in their own prayers to God – all too often it does not.

Conclusion

The Lord’s Prayer teaches Christians many things, each of them vital to a successful prayer life.

  1. It presupposes that believers will pray, as a practical component of the Christian life (Mt 6:5a).
  2. God does not honor or accept false prayer, characterized by hypocrisy and vain, empty repetitions in an attempt to impress God or men (Mt 6:5, 7-8).
  3. He desires heart-felt, authentic communication with His children (Mt 6:6).
  4. Christians must approach God with reverence in prayer (Mt 6:9).
  5. Christians must have a submissive spirit to God’s will in prayer (Mt 6:10).
  6. Physical provision should be a matter of prayer, but in due proportion. God has promised to take care of His children (Mt 6:11, 25-34).
  7. Christians must be imitators of God and forgive others, just as God forgave them.
  8. Christians must cultivate a dependence on God and pray for deliverance from evil, which is the only way to have victory over any sin.

In every respect, Christians are to pattern Christ’s kingdom on earth before an unbelieving world. I shall repeat something I mentioned earlier:

The kingdom is not yet here, and Christians cannot somehow inaugurate the kingdom through a pattern of holy, righteous living. Rather, all believers are commanded to live holy lives as a witness for Him in this present age, while waiting patiently for Christ to return. Disciples must pattern the kingdom in their own individual lives as a light for the lost (Mt 5:14-16). This carries over to prayer life.

Prayer is a critical, vital part of the victorious Christian life. Christ’s model prayer illustrates just how crucial proper prayer is for all believers; in past times, today and in the days to come until Christ establishes His kingdom.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barbieri, Louis Jr. “Matthew,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1985.

Blomberg, Craig. “Matthew,” vol. 22, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Carson, D.A. “Matthew,” vol. 8, The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Constable, Thomas. Matthew.Dallas: Soniclight, 2013.

Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002.

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Kittel, Gerhard, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964.

Lange, John Peter and Philip Schaff. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew. Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Logos Bible Software. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. OakHarbor: Logos Bible Software, 2011.

Mounce, William. Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Newman, Barclay Moon and Philip C. Stine. A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1992.

Phillips, John. Exploring the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. OakHarbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Toussaint, Stanley. Behold the King: A Study of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1980.


[1]. See Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1980), 85-94 for a comprehensive discussion on the various views of interpreting the Sermon on the Mount.

[2]. Toussaint, Behold the King, 94.

[3]. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Mt 6:5–8.

[4]. William Mounce, Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1287-1288.

[5]. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament, Logos Bible Software, 2011.

[6]. Barclay Moon Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 164.

[7]. John Peter Lange and Philip Schaff, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Matthew (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 123.

[8]. John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 111.

[9]. Henry, Commentary, Mt 6:5–8.

[10]. Craig Blomberg, vol. 22, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 118.

[11]. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-), 597.

[12]. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[13]. D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” vol. 8, The Expositors Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 166.

[14]. Ibid, 169.

[15]. Blomberg, Matthew, 119.

[16]. Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1980), 108.

[17]. Louis Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew,” vol. 2, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 32.

[18]. Henry, Commentary, Mt 6:9–15.

[19]. Phillips, Matthew, 114.

[20]. Carson, Matthew, 172.

[21]. Toussaint, Matthew, 111.

[22]. See Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 356-362. Horton’s entire Chapter 7 on God’s providence is simply excellent.

[23] Thomas Constable, Matthew (Dallas, TX: Soniclight, 2013), 116.

[24]. John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 694.

Spiritual Leftovers (Malachi 1)

I also had the privilege to preach the Wednesday Evening service at my church this past weekend, as my Pastor was still away! We took a look at the terrible spiritual state Israel found herself in after her return from exile. The walls had been rebuilt. The people had solemnly promised, even swore an oath, to keep the law which Moses had given them. Malachi’s harsh words for the Israelite priests here make it quite clear that Israel’s half-hearted, contemptuous worship was not pleasing to God. In fact, it was evil! As we ponder Paul’s command to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1), consider whether our offerings are half-hearted or pure.

Sermon notes – Mal 1

Great is Thy Faithfulness! (Amos 9)

PDF version – Amos 9 (02JUN13)

INTRODUCTION

In this vision in Amos 9, the prophet foretells three extraordinary, literal events for Israel. One of these events has already come to pass, and two are yet to be fulfilled. They are:

  1. Divine judgment, in the destruction of the temple at Bethel and the Northern Kingdom (9:1-10)
  2. A future restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (9:11-12);
  3. Future blessings upon Israel in the millennium (9:13-15)

A faithful reading of Scripture demonstrates that divine judgment for sin, restoration of Israel and corresponding blessings upon the nation are literal promises. God is faithful to His character and punishes sin, yet He is likewise true to covenant promises to His people.

DIVINE JUDGMENT (9:1-10)

9:1

I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.

 

Amos provides a vision of God Himself standing before an altar, issuing a simple command – destroy the temple. The New English Translation (NET) perhaps captures the sense of Amos’ phrase best, “strike the tops of the support pillars.” Someone, most likely an angel, is commanded to destroy the temple while people worship inside. The entire edifice will crumble once the support pillars are done away with, crushing those inside to death suddenly and violently. Those who survive will be hunted down and killed; none shall be spared.

One crucial question is this – which temple is Amos referring to? The temple at Bethel or the temple in Jerusalem? Does Amos have corporate Israel in mind, or merely the Northern Kingdom? Keil and Delitzsch remark, “[t]he correct and full interpretation not only of this verse, but of the whole chapter, depends upon the answer to be given to the question.”[1]

Keil argues that Amos does not draw such a hard distinction between Israel and Judah, and that because there were multiple alters at Bethel (3:14), Amos was here (9:1) referring to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.[2] McComiskey claims Amos is referring to the literal temple at Bethel but has in mind the false religion of the Northern Kingdom in general.[3] It is more probable that Amos was referring to Israel’s temple at Bethel. Later in this chapter, however, Amos will expand the vision to corporate Israel in general.

Amos’ predominant focus throughout the text is on the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Though Amos does indeed prophesy against the various Israelite enemies (1:2-2:3) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Amos 2:4-5), his focus is on Israel. His frequent reference to idol worship at Bethel (3:14; 4:4; 5:5-6), political pressure brought to bear by Amaziah, the priest at Bethel (7:10-17), and the warning visions (chapters 7-9) testify to a marked emphasis on the Northern Kingdom.

When was the prophesy of the temple destruction fulfilled? Commentators are divided on the matter. McComiskey puts the destruction in 622 B.C. at the direction of King Josiah (2 Kgs 23:15-16).[4] Smith believes the sanctuary was destroyed in the earthquake two years after Amos spoke (1:1).[5] Freedman and Anderson argue Amos was describing both an earthquake and persecution at the hands of a foreign army and provide no date.[6]

The earthquake Amos mentions (1:1), which Smith posits for the destruction of the Bethel sanctuary, occurs in approximately 760 B.C.[7] The Assyrians invaded Israel in approximately 722 B.C., after a period of subjugation and increasing Assyrian dominance. It is very probable, therefore, that these are the very events Amos prophesized about. The precise date and nature of the destruction of this sanctuary remains elusive, but it was unquestionably destroyed. No trace of it has yet been found.[8]

This destruction and judgment (9:1) is centered on the temple and the idolatrous priests who worked evil inside it (7:10-12), not the whole city. “In other words, it is selective destruction but, within its limits, total.”[9] God was furious with the corruption and idolatry of the people (4:4-5; 5:26), and He is specifically targeting this place of false worship for destruction.

The Northern Kingdom’s one brief period of prosperity died with King Jeroboam II in 753 B.C.

The reign of Jeroboam II was the northern kingdom’s one period of brilliance. With the death of his son, however, the nation rapidly declined in both strength and position. This period of decline closed with the fall of Israel’s capital, Samaria, to the great Assyrian war machine in 722 B.C.[10]

God’s judgment is sure and certain.

9:2

Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:

9:3

And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them:

9:4

And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.

 

God will not spare any of the people responsible for facilitating this idolatrous worship. They may hide in the depths of the ocean or in the highest mountaintop close at hand (Carmel), but they cannot escape. “The view, then, is that the Bethel sanctuary and its personnel were the direct target of this unparalleled onslaught and that both the sanctuary and its priests would be obliterated, regardless of attempts to escape.”[11] Approximately 38 years would pass between the destruction of the sanctuary and the Assyrian invasion. In this span of time, the culprits will be found and dealt with in one form or another.

9:5

And the Lord GOD of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.

9:6

It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.

 

God is sovereign and His wrath will come in response to disobedience (Deut 28-30). Because He is so omniscient, people cannot escape His judgment or thwart it in some fashion.  It is possible Amos is referring to an earthquake in 9:5 (“toucheth the land, and it shall melt”). This may be the literal earthquake spoken of in 9:1, which occurred two years after Amos wrote and likely destroyed the sanctuary at Bethel. Amos may also be merely emphasizing God’s sovereignty over His creation. “Both heaven and earth are his domain where he has sovereign authority. This is why escape from him is futile.”[12]

9:7

Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?

 

The Israelites’ spiritual arrogance was astounding. They took their elect status for granted, and seemingly forgot Moses’ warnings for disobedience to the covenant (Deut 28:15). This sin was pervasive throughout Israel’s history.

For example, the prophet Jeremiah, writing much later, recorded a truly arrogant and astounding request by King Zedekiah:

Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us (Jer 21:2).

This entreaty came after the high priest, Pashur, had beaten Jeremiah and put him “in stocks” for a day. Upon his release, Jeremiah prophesied of Babylon’s capture of Jerusalem. Therefore, such a request from King Zedekiah could only be borne out of an arrogant, haughty mindset.

Amos’ words here are meant to rob the Israelites of this very faulty idea. Outward circumcision is no guarantee of an inward regeneration (Deut 10:16; Rom 2:29). To carnal, unsaved Israelites who blindly trusted in their status as physical children of Abraham, God had a simple message – their exodus from Egypt had no more significance than the movements of heathen nations.[13] “The exodus did not give them license to presume on the holiness of God.”[14]

Excursus – Day of the Lord

Earlier, Amos had criticized Israel for their longing for the “day of the Lord,” (5:18-20). Amos was the first prophet to mention this concept, but it was evidently well-known because Amos assumes his audience understood him.[15] “The day of the Lord refers to the complex of events surrounding the coming of the Lord in judgment to conquer his foes and to establish his sovereign rule over the world.”[16]

This passage was directed at disobedient Israelites who reveled in eschatological promises. The warnings would have made no sense is they were issued to faithful Israelites! Their collective arrogance about final deliverance is unwarranted. “They regarded their election as the guarantee of the Lord’s favor.”[17] It is false security for those who do not love God.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart (Jer 9:25-26).[18]

Sifting of the Remnant (9:8-10)

9:8

Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD.

9:9

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.

9:10

All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.

 

Returning to the theme of judgment, Amos prophesies an end to the “sinful kingdom.” Here, Amos continues to confound Israel’s expectations about their election. The Northern Kingdom cannot take their election for granted. The sinners in Israel, who do not love God, will be destroyed. This is not a blanket edict of destruction; those who do love God will live! The nation itself is not the remnant; those who are actually saved within her are the remnant.

Amos gives Israel an explicit promise to save those who are His. “As a fine-meshed sieve lets the chaff and dust go through, but catches the good grain, so God would screen out and save any righteous among His people.”[19] Israel’s subsequent exile abroad (5:27; 2 Kgs 17:23-24) will be the means to fulfill this prophesy. “Still God in his grace will not destroy them wholly, but only sift them, and even the carrying away is to serve as a means to this end.[20]

Amos makes this very clear in his next statement. Those who presume upon corporate election for salvation (“disaster shall not overtake or meet us”) are “sinners” who “shall die by the sword” (9:10). As Gary Smith observes, “[b]lessings are not a right to be claimed, but the fruitful outworking of a godly life.”[21]

God will use pagan nations, (in this instance Assyria – 5:27 [2 Kgs 17:23-24]), to sift Israel and execute His judgment. Judah’s day would come later, also at the hands of a pagan nation (Jer 20:4-6).[22] The scope of the coming destruction is described in chilling detail by Joel (2:1-11).

There have been people in every age who have presumed upon the holiness of God and loved Him in an outward manner, devoid of inward light and life (Jer 9:23-26; 1 Jn 2:19-20). Amos was warning Israel against this very mindset.

The self-secure sinners, however, who rely upon their outward connection with the nation of God, or upon their zeal in the outward forms of worship, and fancy that the judgment cannot touch them will all perish by the sword.[23]

RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM (9:11-12)

9:11

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

 

At this point, Amos’ distinction between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms is completely abandoned. He has already established that the corporate nation itself is not the righteous remnant; but those Israelites within corporate Israel who love God are (Deut 6:5). Amos asserts that God will restore the “booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches,” (9:11). No longer will the Kingdom be rent in two, fragmented by the sinfulness of man (1 Kgs 12:16-24). It would be re-united after punishment for sin (Jer 25:8-14; 29:10-14; Dan 9:24). It would be restored and re-habilitated in a very literal sense.

But fear not, O Jacob my servant, nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished (Jer 46:27-28).

Just as the punishment for Northern Kingdom was meant literally and came to pass, the promised restoration is also literal. It will be raised up from ruins and rebuilt as in the days of old. God will not forget His covenant at Sinai (Ex 19:1-6), which had once seemed so close to fulfillment (1 Kgs 10:1-9). Amos was promising his listeners that the covenant curses upon Israel would be reversed one day in the future. God provides hope in dark days for those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

Elsewhere, other prophets reveal that not only would the nation be united and restored, a leader would also be raised up (2 Sam 7:11-16). That leader is Christ. This glorious day will come in the future, after the Tribulation and the establishment of Jesus’ Millennial Reign. Amos does not divulge the specific times and circumstances of these events, but Daniel does elsewhere (Dan 9:24-27). Thus Amos, the first of the writing prophets,[24] delivers word of impending judgment because of sin, while simultaneously promising eventual deliverance. God will be faithful to His covenant promise to Abraham (Gen 15:17-21).

9:12

That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

 

Israel’s election was never an end in and of itself; she had a divine mandate to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6), drawing Gentiles to God by her own righteous example. In this divine mission, she failed.

Election was not a call to privilege but a choosing for service to God . . . The people were to be God’s ministers, his preachers, and his prophets to their own nation as well as to other nations.[25]

This time, however, there will be a very different result. Jesus Christ will reign in Jerusalem (Dan 2:44; 7:13-14, 27). The Gentile remnant (represented by Edom and “all the nations) will eventually serve and love Him (Dan 7:14, 27; Zech 14:16). “The united kingdom under it’s Davidic King will then become the source of blessing to all Gentiles,[26]” as it was supposed to be from the beginning (Gen 12:1-3).

Excursus – The Church or Israel?

God does indeed have an eternal purpose for the Gentiles. However, how does the church fit into this program? Is the church the fulfillment of this promise, where Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel (Eph 3:6) and indwelt with His spirit (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:14-21)? Or is the church a distinct, separate entity?

Critics of dispensationalism have cited James’ quotation from Amos in Acts 15:16-17 and argued that the church fulfills this promise. In context, however, James is not arguing this point at all.[27] He was simply arguing that, in light of God’s revelation to Peter (Acts 10:45) and also Paul (Eph 3:6), Gentiles did not need to conform to Mosaic law to be saved. James did not argue that Amos 9:11-12 was being fulfilled; merely that it was in perfect accord with Amos’ prophesy. Gentiles have always been part of God’s eternal plan for salvation (Gen 12:1-3). This accords well with the Biblical teaching that God administers His rule over the world in different ways as He progressively works out His purpose for world history. God is not dealing with men under the Mosaic law any longer, and the edict of the Jerusalem Council reflects this reality (Acts 15:22-29).[28]

From the comfortable vantage point of the modern era, it is obvious Israel, as an earthly theocracy ruled by sinful men, was living on borrowed time ever since God’s glory departed from the temple shortly after the conquest of Judah.[29]

Those opposed to dispensationalism will readily admit Amos teaches a literal judgment on Israel (9:1-10), but will curiously balk at asserting a corresponding literal restoration of the nation (9:11-12)!

BLESSINGS UPON THE KINGDOM (9:13-15)

9:13

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.

Here, after delivering such dark tidings of impeding judgment for sin, Amos describes the glorious future which awaits Israel in the Millennium. “He depicts a time when God’s blessing will be poured out in unimaginable abundance.”[30] This is a radical reversal of fortunes.

This marvelous work is by the grace of God alone; for Israel did not earn this unmerited favor. It was simply given (Deut 10:15). Abraham himself was an idolater (Josh 24:2). Writing much later, Ezekiel makes it plan that God will gather Israel from abroad and re-constitute her in the land (Eze 20:33-44). Those who hate God will be judged at this time (Eze 20:38). God does these works for the sake of His name, not Israel’s (Eze 36:22).

What is stated plainly in Amos, namely judgment followed by restoration, is clearly explained elsewhere by later prophets. The picture is one of bliss, fitting for life in a restored kingdom ruled by Christ Himself! “No one in the new day would want for food and drink. With God’s blessing upon it, the land would truly become the land that was promised, flowing with milk and honey.”[31] What sinful men failed to accomplish in the earthly kingdom, Christ will infallibly bring to pass in the Millennium.

It is surely too much to force upon Amos an understanding of the distinction between the Millennial Reign and glorious Eternity (Rev 20:1-10), which was made clear in the New Testament. What is clear, however, is that Amos prophesied a literal judgment, restoration and blessing upon the remnant of Israel which would be everlasting.[32]

Literal or Spiritual?

It is surely an error to spiritualize these blessings upon Israel, as one commentator does at this point:

[A]s the events in it are altogether impossible in the natural world, it must obviously be taken in a spiritual sense. The plenty, like the previously threatened famine (ch. 8:11), was not to be one of bread and water, but “of hearing the words of the Lord.[33]

This method of interpretation seems more closely aligned with the old Alexandrian school of allegorical interpretation than serious hermeneutics! The commentator went on to equate the mountains dripping with sweet wine with the abundance of the word of God dripping from evangelists metaphorical lips! “From the gracious lip there drops continually the new wine of ‘a word in season.’ ”[34]

Calvin did not go nearly so far afield, yet he likewise spiritualizes this passage.

Further, what is here said of the abundance of corn and wine, must be explained with reference to the nature of Christ’s kingdom. As then the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, it is enough for us, that it abounds in spiritual blessings: and the Jews, whom God reserved for himself as a remnant, were satisfied with this spiritual abundance.[35]

It is curious why some critics are so reluctant to see a literal blessing upon a literal Israel. The whole creation longs to be set free from its bondage to corruption (Rom 8:21). With the curse of sin removed, should Christians dare to place restraints upon God’s glorious blessings upon this earth? Why must these promises be spiritual?

Nathan prophesized that God would take a seed of David and establish his throne and his kingdom forever (2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 89:3-4). Elsewhere, God promised David He would not break or alter this covenant (Ps 89:33-35). In light of these explicit promises, there is no warrant in the text to assume Amos’ audience did not understand that he spoke here of literal blessings upon a literal restoration of the kingdom of Israel.[36]

9:14

And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.

9:15

And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.

 

This vision explodes at once the erroneous, popular notion of a redeemed people sitting on fluffy clouds, playing harps and worshipping God! “[S]alvation is the restoration of God’s creation on a new earth.”[37] What was soiled by sin will be restored perfectly, without Satan! Man’s original charge in the garden will be renewed, now without possibility of failure.

Amos did not have the benefit of the New Testament to augment his proclamations, but it is clear that Israel has a literal future which cannot be shaken. Fortunes will be restored by God’s grace. Ruins will be rebuilt and inhabited. Agriculture will be restored and the ground will yield fruit plentifully. This restoration is not contingent on anything; it is permanent.

CONCLUSION

Amos prophesied about a literal judgment for sin, a restoration of the nation and corresponding blessings upon Israel.

Judgment (9:1-10)

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity (Dan 9:24a).

Amos prophesied about coming judgment for sin; for God’s justice can tolerate nothing less. His focus was on the Northern Kingdom, but his words have broad application to all of corporate Israel. The religious apostates controlling worship in Israel would be killed (9:1), and those who assisted them would never escape His judgment (9:2-4). God is sovereign and will vindicate His name (9:5-6). Israel must never presume upon her election, or the forbearance of God (9:7-10).

Restoration (9:11-12)

. . . and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy (Dan 9:24b).

Israel will be literally re-constituted and gathered from abroad. There will be one, united, literal kingdom as there was in the days of old! (9:11). The nation will fulfill its original mandate to bring all nations of the earth to God (Gen 12:1-3; Ex 19:1-6; Amos 9:12).

Blessings (9:13-15)

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever (Dan 2:44).

This literal, re-constituted nation of Israel will experience the covenant blessings promised to her (Deut 30:9). Crops will flourish, cities will be re-built and the land will be blessed (9:13-14). Israel will never again be uprooted from her land, which God swore to Abraham (Gen 15:17-21).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bartholomew, Craig G. and Michael W. Goheen. The Drama of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

Calvin, John and John Owen. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, vol. 2. Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2010.

Freedman, David N. and Francis I. Anderson. Amos. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Kaiser, Walter C. Jr. Mission in the Old Testament, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

Keil C.F. and F. Delitzsch. “The Minor Prophets,” vol. 10, Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2011.

McComiskey, Thomas E. and Tremper Longman III. “Amos,” vol. 8, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.

Lange, John Peter, Philip Schaff, Otto Schmoller and Talbot W. Chambers. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Amos. Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Smith, Billy K. and Franklin S. Page. “Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,” vol. 19b, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995.

Smith, Gary V. Hosea, Amos, Micah.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Spence-Jones, H.D.M. The Pulpit Commentary. London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909.

Sunukjian, Donald R. “Amos,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985.

Wood, Leon. A Survey of Israel’s History, revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.

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[1] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, “Amos,” vol. 10, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2011), 214.

[2] Ibid, 215.

[3] Thomas E. McComiskey and Tremper Longman III, “Amos,” vol. 8, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 415. See also Gary V. Smith, Hosea, Amos, Micah (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 401.

[4]Ibid, 415.

[5] Smith, Hosea, Amos, Micah, 401.

[6] David N. Freedman and Francis I. Anderson, Amos (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1989), 841.

[7] McComiskey, “Amos,” 356.

[8] Freedman and Anderson, Amos, 842.

[9] Ibid, 842.

[10] Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel’s History, revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 278.

[11] Freedman and Anderson, Amos, 841.

[12] Billy K. Smith and Franklin S. Page, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, vol. 19b, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 158-59.

[13]Keil, “Amos,” 218-219. “For degenerate Israel, the leading up out of Egypt had no higher significance than the leading up of the Philistines and Syrians out of their former dwelling-places into the lands which they at present inhabited.”

[14]McComiskey, “Amos,” 416.

[15] See Freedman and Anderson, Amos, 520. “This passage is one of the earliest occurrences, if not the first, of a term that becomes a leitmotif in prophetic discourse and is central to a theology of the Bible.” See also McComiskey, “Amos,” 400.

[16]McComiskey, “Amos,” 400.

[17] Ibid.

[18] For the spiritual arrogance of Israel, see especially Jer 36; 44:15-19. The chastening of corporate Israel began with Israel (the Northern Kingdom, conquered by Assyria), and continued later with Judah (the Southern Kingdom, conquered by Nebuchadnezzar).

[19]Donald R. Sunukjian, “Amos,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 1451.

[20] John Peter Lange and others, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Amos (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 56.

[21] Smith, Hosea, Amos, Micah, 403.

[22] For God’s sovereign judgment upon both Israel and Judah, see Jer 50:17-18.

[23] Keil, “Amos,” 220.

[24] McComiskey, “Amos,” 356, argues that Amos is “the first written prophetic text.”

[25] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Mission in the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), 14.

[26] Sunukjian, “Amos,” 1451.

[27] “The focus of James’s concern, however, was not prophecy of future events but how to handle the current problem of Gentile inclusion in the church.” Smith and Page, “Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,” 168.

[28] For a more detailed response, see Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 394-396. See also Thomas Constable, Acts (Dallas, TX: SonicLight, 2013), 214-219.

[29] Eze 8:4; 8:12; 9:3-8; 10; 11:23.

[30]McComiskey, “Amos,” 419.

[31] Smith and Page, “Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,” 169.

[32] Smith, Hosea, Amos, Micah, 415, forcefully makes this very point. He states the millennial kingdom “is totally unknown to Amos and all the other Old Testament prophets.”

[33]Amos, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 185.

[34]  Ibid.

[35] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 413.

[36] Let every honest Christian consider that the most basic principle of interpretation is to gather from Scripture the original meaning the writer intended to convey to his original audience.

[37] Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), 210.

Are God’s Promises to Israel Spiritual?

Here is an excellent, short article on this point! I am not known for writing short articles, so I thought I’d pass this one along. I’ll be posting an exposition of Amos 9 in the next few days, which demonstrate that God’s promises to Israel were literal and must be interpreted as such, if we are to be faithful to the text.

Here is the article – http://sharperiron.org/article/promises-to-israel-we-should-expect-literal-fulfillment