The importance of the Promised Land to the Old Testament Law

I chanced upon this piece on this blog and couldn’t help posting it here.

 

God’s covenant with the children of Israel was always tied to the land of promise. When God called Abraham, he was promised that his descendants would inherit a land that flowed with milk and honey. And as part of this promise God instructed that Abraham and all his descendants be circumcised. However, God did tell Abraham that his descendants were going to be in bondage for 400 years because the sins of the Amorites and co were not yet full.

At the appointed time, the children of Israel were set free from the land of Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land. Whilst they journeyed God gave them the law as rules on how He expected them to live when they got to the land. Everyone living within the land was expected to observe these rules including the foreigners. Strictly obeying these rules would guarantee their continuance existence on the land and they faced being expelled like the previous occupants if they disobeyed these rules and followed the customs of the heathen nations around them.

God made them aware that the land was His and they were only tenants. They were not allowed to cultivate the land when they first arrived but were to first offer the firstfruits. They perpetually had to offer the firstfruits at every harvest of the land. There were even conditions on how they cultivated the land; they were not allowed to plant two types of crops on their farms, they were not allowed to harvest the fringes of their farm lands and they weren’t even allowed to pick harvested sheaves that fell as they transported the harvest. The land could only be cultivated for 6 years and left to rest in the 7th. No one was allowed to sell the land on a permanent basis and every land sold had to be returned to the owners at the year of Jubilee.

The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. Leviticus 25: 23.

More importantly they were only to give a tithe from the produce of this land i.e. crops and livestock, nothing else was permitted to be tithed. This had nothing to do with the presence or absence of currency but was so that they continue to fear God. He gave the increase, He prospered the land and He owned the land.

One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy. Leviticus 27: 30.

All of the rules given to the children of Israel were intertwined, hence every single one had to be obeyed for it to count as obedience. Observing all but one was meaningless. You couldn’t observe the Passover without being circumcised, you couldn’t tithe without first offering your firstfruits, you had to observe the Sabbath. In short you wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the land if kept only some and not all of the law. The law was binding on anyone who lived on the land.

Further evidence of this seen when the children of Israel were exiled because of their continuous disobedience. They were taken captive to Assyria and the king of Assyria brought his subjects from other nations to live in the Promised Land. These nations had no knowledge of God’s law and their heathen custom was completely contrary to God’s law for the land that He sent lions to kill them.

24 The king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. They took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 But since these foreign settlers did not worship the Lord when they first arrived, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: “The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land. He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped him correctly.” 27 The king of Assyria then commanded, “Send one of the exiled priests back to Samaria. Let him live there and teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the Lord. 2 Kings 17.

The New Testament is established on the blood of Jesus Christ and God’s promise is no longer bound to a physical land but a spiritual one. Hence observing the law is no longer required in the new dispensation as the rules have changed. Observing circumcision is no longer required as an outward sign of God’s covenant, we are no longer required to observe the Sabbath, giving of the tithe and firstfruit is no longer required and the list goes on.

The New dispensation is faith based; we are saved by it through grace. And the worship of God is no longer tied to any particular geographic location but true believers are to worship God in Spirit and truth.

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Debunking Christian myths – Who is Satan?

Our current view of the history of Satan is actually a result of the amalgamation of 2 different portions of scripture; Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28: 12 – 19. Even though those being referred to are clearly mentioned, it hasn’t stopped the misapplication of these verses.

According to the vision God gave Daniel, several kingdoms will arise and rule the whole world. The first was Babylon which was overthrown by Media and Persia, who in turn was overthrown by the Greek Kingdom. And the Greek Kingdom was finally overthrown by the Roman kingdom. As part of Israel’s punishment for disobeying God, Jerusalem was destroyed and the children of Israel where taken into exile in Babylon. Isaiah 14 was God’s promise of deliverance for them and punishment for Babylon. No portion of this scripture makes any reference to Satan.

Since this was a taunt against Babylon, a lot of figurative text was used. And this has resulted in a lot of literal translations which seems to build a case for this being Satan.

Ezekiel 28 is also quite similar. The Tyre kingdom was also another great kingdom. It was a vital trading route and this contributed to its wealth as lot of merchant ships passed through. A lot of figurative text was used to describe its tremendous wealth and the beauty of this great city. This unfortunately has been translated literarily and also gave rise to this being a reference to Satan.

Both portions of scripture definitely could not refer to Satan as the general consensus is that Satan’s rebellion took place before man was created. If this was so why then were references made to other people within these verses?

Everyone there will stare at you and ask, “Can this be the one who shook the earth and the kingdoms of the world? 17 Can this be the one who destroyed the world and made it into a shambles, who demolished its greatest cities and had no mercy on his prisoners?” Isaiah 12: 16

All who know you are appalled at your fate; you are an example of horror; you are destroyed forever Ezekiel 28: 19

One other verse of scripture thrown into the mix is Revelation 12, the reference to the dragon sweeping a third of the stars and being hurled to earth. This is used as further confirmation that this showed Satan’s demotion from glory. However, one crucial bit of information is usually omitted; God had already told John that this event as well as all other events described after chapter 4 would happen in the future. Another thing overlooked is fact that Satan was already described as a dragon at the start of the chapter.

So then who is Satan and how did he come about? The answer is actually in Genesis 3. The serpent here could not have been a physical snake as Eve would have fled from a talking snake. Whatever it was, it was clear there was no animosity between it and man as Eve appeared comfortable talking with it. God made them enemies because of the Serpent’s deceit and man’s disobedience and this resulted in both parties being punished. The Serpent would bruise the heel of man by constantly accusing him before God and redemption would come when the seed of a woman (not of a man) was born and He will crush the head of the serpent.

Jesus is that seed as He was born of the Spirit to an earthly mother making Him 100% God and a 100% man. Jesus’ death and resurrection was a blow to the Serpent’s head as he could no longer accuse us before God because we now had someone interceding on our behalf before God. We overcome all of Satan’s accusations by blood of the lamb that speaks better things than the blood of Abel and by our testimony that Jesus is Lord.

Irrespective of the Devil’s origins, we still have victory over him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of our testimony that Jesus is Lord!

Debunking Christian myths – is Satan Lucifer?

I have been wanting to write something about this for a very long time and have been unable to until now. I was taught very early on in Christianity that Satan was one of God’s angels whose beauty got into his head and made him lead a revolt against God. As a result he was thrown out of heaven along with the angels that took part in the rebellion and they’ve been tormenting mankind ever since.

I was quite puzzled when I couldn’t find this account anywhere in scripture and the confusion deepen when I couldn’t find Lucifer anywhere in the NIV bible I had as a young Christian. Before we go into the person of Satan let us first of all explore the name Lucifer.

The reference to Lucifer can be found in Isaiah 14: 12 and quite curiously not every version mentions the name Lucifer like I pointed out earlier. And this really sparked my curiosity! If the name Lucifer was associated with Satan and this verse of scripture was about his demise surely every version of scripture should mention it.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (KJV)

How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! (ASV)

How have you fallen from heaven, O light-bringer and daystar, son of the morning! How you have been cut down to the ground, you who weakened and laid low the nations [O blasphemous, satanic king of Babylon!] (AMP)

You were like the morning star, but you have fallen from the sky. In the past, all the nations on earth bowed down before you, but now you have been cut down. (ERV)

I was able to gain a better understanding after digging deep into scripture.

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic while the New Testament was written in Greek. The original Hebrew text from which Isaiah 14: 12 was translated never contained the word or name Lucifer; instead the original Hebrew word was ‘heylel’ a derivative of the Hebrew word ‘Halal’ which means to shine. It was used to refer to the ‘bright morning star’ an exceptional bright star whose appearance in the sky heralds dawn. Then where did the name Lucifer come from?

The first ever translation of the bible from the original Hebrew/Aramaic & Greek text was the ‘Latin Vulgate’. And Lucifer was actually a very popular Latin name before this time and it also meant ‘bright and morning star’.  So the Latin-Vulgate reads thus:

quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes

And the King James Version of the bible, about the only version with the name Lucifer, was translated from the Latin-Vulgate and compared with the original Hebrew-Greek text. The translators retained ‘Lucifer’ in its original Latin form instead of translating it into English along with the other text. This explains why most other versions of the bible do not have ‘Lucifer’ at all. Satan was definitely never called Lucifer at any point in time.

If Satan isn’t Lucifer then who is he?

Spiritual abuse in today’s church – Pt 2

Prophets too were raised by God and their words usually carried a lot of power. They were revered by the people as the very oracles of God and were in a different class to the rest of the children of Israel. Younger prophets always served older prophets; the Levites were servants to the priests while the rest of Israel was subject in a sense to the Levites, the priests and the prophets. All the Pentecostal churches I have been to adapt this model.

The head pastor and his wife were always in a different class to the rest of the church. They were followed by their assistants who were next in line and finally the rest of the congregation. Just as the Old Testament prophets had so much power amongst those of the Old Testament, so also these New Testament pastors believe that of themselves as well. Quite a lot of them believe they cannot be corrected when they are wrong. They believe they have so much authority that any pronouncements they make over people good or bad will definitely come to pass.

Just like the prophets did in the Old Testament, these pastors believe that anyone who wants to go out to start his own church has to first serve a pastor who had been in ministry longer than himself. The most popular scriptural example used to buttress this belief is the relationship between Elijah and Elisha and this has led to a lot of spiritual abuse. These pastors request unquestionable loyalty from their congregation as they believe God has bestowed upon them the highest authority ever known to man. ‘At their word’ things happen; the dead is raised, the blind see, those who have been blessed by them will truly be blessed while those who’ve been cursed by them will definitely be cursed.

This is undoubtedly very old wine in new wine skins and it will not hold for long!

The New Testament is definitely not like this. No one believer has authority over another believer and no man except Jesus is the go-between between man and God. His death and resurrection paved the way for us all to have unhindered access to God. The older and more mature believers are actually supposed to encourage the younger immature ones not lord over them. They are supposed to help the younger ones understand more about God and His word not take God’s place in their lives.

This gives rise to abuse of power and the prevalence of very faulty doctrines because of the mistaken belief that their authority should never be questioned. I once read how a pastor made members of his congregation eat grass and a lot of them fell ill afterwards. Another made his congregation drink petrol. Others have been known to take advantage of ladies within their congregation sexually and the list goes on. Some are not as extreme as this as their methods are a bit more subtle. It is abuse nonetheless. Anyone bold enough to raise any objections is usually silenced with the ‘touch not the Lord’s anointed’ gag order, another misapplication of scripture. That verse of scripture was never used in favour of a class division; it was used in a completely different context by David to describe the entire children of Israel in his Psalm of praise when the ark of covenant was being brought into Jerusalem

20 And when they (the children of Israel) went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people; 21 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, 22 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. 1 Chronicles 16 (The words in brackets are mine)

This is ‘touch not the Lord’s anointed’ in proper context.

Having gained this understanding, I no longer allow myself to be bullied into anything by any preacher who believes he is God’s representative. If I cannot find what he’s said in the bible, I completely disregard it. I am not in any way calling for disrespect or rebellion within our ranks but only pointing out how far some things that no longer belong in the New Testament have been taken.

Spiritual abuse in today’s church – Pt 1

I was born into the Catholic Church and always attended Sunday mass with my mum, my elder sister, my younger brother and younger sister. I was used to the ceremony but never really understood what it all meant. I never really understood the bible either.

In my teens, I became a ‘born-again’ Christian and joined the Pentecostal church of my own accord. And like I said in one of my previous post, I thought everything they taught was actually correct from a bible standpoint. So I threw myself straight into it and was completely immersed in its doctrine. I originally ignored the inconsistencies in doctrine and the wrong teachings really affected my view of Christianity and conditioned my behaviour.

When the inconsistencies had become too glaring to ignore I had a crisis of faith and faced severe internal battles as I questioned the legitimacy of all I had been taught. It lingered on for a very long time and I almost left Christianity altogether as I had begun to have doubts if God really existed. I thank God that He intervened through a variety of ways and this led me to start all over from the beginning.

I started from the book of Genesis, reading from chapter to chapter and book to book and now begun to see things in a completely new light. God is the only constant in the entire universe as He never changes, however, the way He relates with creation changes. The way He related with Adam and Eve was quite different to the way He related with Noah. This too was also different to the way He related with Moses and the Children of Israel.

The Old Testament contains the Law and accounts of God’s relationship with those living in that dispensation. And God’s requirement from those in that dispensation was completely different to ours in the new. I could now see the reason why the Pentecostal circle I had been in was the way it was; they’d simply repurposed the requirements of the Old Testament to try and fit the New Testament.

Not everyone had the right to approach God directly in the Old Testament and this was formalised in the Law of Moses. The tribe of Levi was the only one who could enter the temple and bear the holy things. There were always grave consequences whenever a non-Levite tried to perform the role reserved for a Levite. It usually resulted in sicknesses or even death in some cases.