Jephthah Keeps the Vow but kills his daughter or break it to save? Judges 11
Read Judges 11 and it breaks my heart, especially so, since we just discussed the stupid vow taken by Jephthah and his refusal to break the vow. His keeping the vow to sacrifice a child, even his own daughter, in the name of keeping the so called vow before the Lord, does not make any theological or even rational grounds to justify that. In today’s Court, he will be convicted as murderer for sure.
Judges 1129 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Jephthah in his zeal, or being manipulative, made a vow to God that if God gave him the victory in this battle, he would sacrifice whatever comes out of his house to meet him upon his return in triumph? Guess what?
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”
Selfish self centered father who is concerned about himself at the expense of others
His only daughter, only a child, came out dancing with tambourines to greet her dad from the house, and she became the victim of child sacrifice!! And he blamed his daughter! What an insidious and dark coward to proceed to sacrifice his daughter in the name of keeping his vow! I suggest he should sacrifice himself and pleaded for mercy and understanding for forgiveness of his foolish vow, rash and stupid. Some theologians have argued that it was not a rash vow, though it may be a foolish one, arguing from the fact that Jephthah does come across as someone who speaks with calculated words in the passage prior. Regardless, there is a clear lesson to learn.
Which is more precious and important in the sight of God, vow or life?
In the OT, very often, things are taken at the face value of vow for the Lord, without questioning the integrity, righteousness of the vow itself before the holy and righteous God. What annoys me is, how can anyone justify his vow of killing a totally innocent person, because of a vow before a holy & righteous God? Does he not think that God will not approve him to ‘keep’ the vow, albeit a really stupid nonsensical vow, in order to execute the life of some innocent child? My question is which is more precious and important in the sight of God, vow or life? How would God approve him to kill his daughter as a sacrifice just to keep his vow? These are moral contradictions in point. God will be complicit in such murder, if that’s the case, if God allows that or approves that. Throughout the whole process, what intrigues me, and upsets me , is the complete silence from God in the entire process. I mean why didn’t God stop that jerk? Or at least send a prophet to tell that ego maniac off?? Is life that cheap in the OT? The sovereignty of God is a mystery. We know He knows best.
Child sacrifice happened because someone made a foolish vow, and dare not break it, because it’s before the Lord. The better question is how does one ‘keep’ the vow before the Lord, when it involves killing a child?? I think Jephthah is heading straight to hell. Judges is just dark.
God desires a sacrifice of life-style and not physical child sacrifice
We should never use the excuse of ministering before the Lord to cause damage to our families, wives, children or anything. The Lord desires a complete sacrifice of lifestyle, and not sacrifice of physical life! And definitely not some macho showing off at the expense of others. I believe the alternative for Jephthah is to repent before the Lord and ask for forgiveness in breaking the vow which should never have been there on the first place. Just exactly how that vow can help him to win battle? Was he trying to manipulate God? Won’t work with God!
The reason a less deep teaching church movement can plant more churches than deep gospel centered church movement for the time being is due to the apostolic anointing and the constant emphasis of church planting in the movement, at a price of forgetting much important orthodoxy doctrines of God. Looking around church panting movements today, I can identify worship as the single most crucial anchor of such churches. Worship, the strength of which, being such a sweet aroma to the Lord, is probably the single most important reason for keeping the momentum going. Worship is the most paramount requirement and ingredient in our relationship with our Maker, our Creator, our God. This is our DNA. Apostolic leadership is a subject mostly found in charismatic churches, and usually have great worship that attracts people to a moving time of worshipping in the beautiful presence of God. Therefore worship is an absolute vital aspect in apostolic leadership type of churches. I will talk about post bible apostolic leadership and argue from the bible why they matter and they exist.
Imago Dei (Image of God)
To not worship God, is not being the creation of God, bearing the image of God (Imago Dei), as the very purpose intent of God creating us. This is very important.
Genesis 1:26–27 (NIV) 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
So from here, the main purpose of God created us in his image is to rule over the world, which we failed miserably through the terrible weak leadership of Adam and the vulnerability of self-idolizing of Eve, when they fell into the lies, half-truth, half lies temptations of the crafty old serpent. So God didn’t create us to enjoy Eden and watch its sunset and sunrise, like a permanently retired pleasure garden. No! He’s a job for us to do, to rule over the garden and all that’s in. You know that animals were all named by that genius Adam, like lion, tiger, snake, scorpion, monkeys, you name it, and all the flowers. But after the fall, everything has changed, deteriorated, and degenerated physically, spiritually, emotionally, and every sense of the world.
But ruling the world requires God’s image, in fact ruling or not, we have the image of God. That’s why racism is a sin against God himself by the way, for instance. We can’t rule the world without God’s image. God’s image carries God’s likeness, that means we have resemblance to God. In what way? In authority, power, glory, his love, kindness, holiness, forgiveness, anger….but the fall brought in the corruption of the flesh like selfish, idolizing self, greed, lust, darkness etc.
Therefore any real sense of church panting, is really to extend the Imago Dei of God to more people, more creations. To extend the rulership invested in us by God, we are mere ambassadors who do not have power within us, but only invested or delegated power from our creator, our God. To extend the image of God to all, we must worship God more and more, and frankly that’s where we are being true humans. To not to worship our God, is simply dehumanizing. We are broken down into despair and evil. That’s why you see if we don’t worship our Creator, we will lunge to worship something else. The connection of worship with Imago Dei is so strong and that’s what makes us humans. This probably the first account of worship by a human toward our God.
Genesis 8:18–21 18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another. 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
You see the effect of worship upon God here? Noah offered the first burnt offering of some clean animals and birds, and the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and guaranteed that he won’t destroy all humans again in spite of every inclination in the human heart is evil from childhood. That’s worship. Worship endears us to God.
Psalm 100: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.
What’s worship? Shout for joy to the Lord! Worship the Lord with gladness; joyful songs, Knowing that the Lord us God and he made us, we are his. Thanksgiving to him for the Lord is good and his love endures forever. This is the basis for worship the Lord.
That explains why charismatic church planting movement can keep church planting with the main thrust of two things, passionate worship, and the other one is close fellowship community. The word of God is far less God centered and orthodox, however, they managed to survive and keep on moving though slower.
This then becomes the bedrock of a church, will propel the church forward till Jesus returns.
The Apostolic Giftings
Ephesians 4: 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”….11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Jesus ascended to heaven and he gave gifts to his church and they are the grace expressed in the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These are the offices given by Christ at his ascension in order to equip his people for the work of service, so that the body of Christ (church) may be built up to reach unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ. Clearly Paul talks about the idea of bringing the church to full unity of faith, meaning doctrinally in unity, and with that above all in our knowledge of the Son of God, who he is and what he does. Really dealing with God, as who he is and what he does. And from that, and only from that, we can proceed to be equipped for service, ministry, evangelism, discipleship, and becoming mature internally, and not just outward productively of achievements. Only then we can hope to reach the whole measure of fulness of Christ, which sounds impossible, but we trust in him. So the apostles are for today, but they are obviously different from the apostles of the New testament like Paul, Peter, John, James etc. The post bible apostles are real church leadership given by God to equip the church to serve God and bring the whole body to unity of faith and to fullness of maturity. So it’s this group of apostles in this end time that propel the church planting that I have seen with my eyes and in fact joined them for a decade and more in church planting round the world. Hope churches have been fueled by an incredible energy and vision to plant over 1,000 churches in about 15 years. I can see today that there are truly anointed teachers and leaders of the word of God in the reformed world, that influenced and equipped thousands and thousands of Christians round the world, but not given the title of apostles simply because of denominational and doctrinal teachings. But that doesn’t matter, whatever you may call them, as long as the fruit is there. But on the other hand, there are church leaders who somehow put the title of ‘Apostle’ next to their names, but hardly produced the kind of mantra and mantle of church planting of what I see in an apostolic church planting that I know of.
I just want to mention that in my own experience and observation, this kind of apostolic people don’t come often, but we see more of teachers, evangelists, pastors, prophets these days. But a lot of them have mixed functions, not just in one category. In any case, in my paper here, I would just want to say that apostolic office that fueled worldwide church planting has suffered a setback as the leader has stepped down. But you know, God is on the throne, and he has thousands of apostolic gifts around the world that do similar and different ways of bringing the body of Christ to full maturity and unity of our faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
Strong Preaching is Not Enough
On the other hands, we have the reformed teaching churches struggle to make headwind to plant churches. Why? Probably we need powerful worship, charismatic type that’s uplifting albeit less word centered, which we definitely already have the preaching that takes care of it. So the idea of combining of solid God centered God centered reformed reaching with charismatic lively David’s kind of praise and worship as appeared in Psalms.
Why do we need Strong Teaching?
The main focus is to produce the image of God in believers in our churches. Who reflect the image of God, the glory of God. That will be impossible without the deep stimulating teaching and preaching’s of the word of God together with all the reformed doctrines as the base. I feel in many churches, the same type of message has been recycled again and again in some movements, that’s major on evangelism, discipleship, and church plant. But what would be the substance for reproduction? Do we not want the best for our next generation?
The Struggle of Not Seeing Fruits
Similarly we struggle to see our own folks not walking with the Lord, or even departed from the Lord, or just plain back sliding. There is so much work to be done, and here I am still in the seminary studying for my Master, and more than that, I am still giving my 40m hours week to my work in the secular company. The waiting is real and trusting God will hand over a complete break through this year 2021, as I have been praying every year. Every one of us has struggles and prayers needs. That’s why we need community of support and prayers. Some of us have need to deepen our theological knowledge to know God and hence equip the church, some of us need a community to start up, some of us need a new vision of the Lord for 2021, whatever the case may be, it’s time to seek the Lord, for those who seek , shall find.
Matt 7 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
The Promise of God Able to do Immeasurably More than all we Ask or Imagine
Ephesians 3: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The church has a calling to proclaim the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Because of that God will do more than we ask according to his power. The task at hand requires a deep solid gospel centered God centered and Spirit filled worship and loving fellowship churches to be planted all over. Amen.
This phrase “Who am I to judge?” is a creche and it is very misleading and can be wrongly used among Christians quoting from the scriptures, causing mishaps and undesirable life application and usage because of the contexts they are in. I am concerned that we can be constrained to rebuke sins or correct them and speak the truth because of this phrase, and it does sound humble and making sense on the surface. That’s the problem, because it is sneaky and in reality it contradicts the scriptures among themselves, because they are used in different contexts. I have explored those instances when this phrase is used, and looked at the context they are in.
We are not to judge one another on disputable matters like eating food
Romans 14:1–4 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
This verse in Romans is really written in the context of those with strong faith and those with weak faith that we do not quarrel over disputable matters. Example given there like one can eat anything, but some whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. Paul exhorts us to not to treat with contempt the one who does not, and hence so not judge the ones who do eat, because God has accepted them all. It is in that context that Paul says “Who are you to judge someone else’ servant?”
It’s about food, in this context. And Paul asked “who are you to judge one another in their own conscience or faith in terms of eating food according to their faith”. It has nothing to do with disputing someone who has sinned.
Issue of Community Dissension
James 4:11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
This is about community dissension, about slandering one another. Overtly critical spirit, judgmental. This is talking bad on others, quarrelling. Therefore James is talking about do not judge your neighbor because you are judging the law. Believers who judge one another ignore the law, and , in effect, think they are superior to it. So this so called ‘who are you to judge’ is in the context of dissension, very critical spirit, and ignoring the law.
Do not Judge in the sense of Condemning or Judging harshly
Matt 7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The Greek word for ‘judge’ here is Krino meaning to condemn overly judge overly harshly. The main thing here the judgment here refers to overly harshly, condemningly, that’s entirely not what we talk about when we correct or rebuke some wrong doings or sins by our friends or loved ones. To extend blanket view for the word judge therefore completely does not do justice to rebuking and correcting and speaking in truth. Remember, judging critically or even condemning is definitely different from rebuke to speak the truth in love.
We rebuke, not judge someone when they have sinned
Because there is nothing to judge, it is plainly in the scriptures. Scriptures is the judge if you like, we are just following the scriptures.
We are following the word of God, and indeed, if you don’t expose them and speak the truth in love, you are not following the scriptures. Too many times we have heard people say ‘who am I to judge? because I am also a sinner’, when they deal with someone who has sinned and grieved the Lord in a particular area. Of course, we are sinners, but we should be open to rebuke by anyone as well so we repent if we have sinned. But we should not stop rebuke and sweep sins under the carpet. Sin is a sin, we have to confront it, acknowledge it, confess it, and repent. And it is in the job of the community friends to confront and rebuke our friends and loved ones when they sin, in a gentle way, but firm way.
We are Called to Speak the Truth in Love
Ephesians 4 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
If we don’t speak the truth to one another in love, our dear ones will be continually be tossed back and forth by the weaves and winds of the world, the cunning and craftiness of the deceitful scheming of the world. So very much we need to exhort, correct and speak the truth. And don’t drag in the label “Who am I to judge?” Because that’s meant for disputable matters like what food to eat, community dissension, and some very condemning critical sprit. But when you deal with murder, stealing, lying, homosexuality, adultery, etc., this is no disputable matters anymore, this is sin, and we have to speak it and expose the deeds of darkness in love.
Remember if you will have to be perfect before you correct rebuke a sinner friend of yours, there will never be any rebuking and correction.
I have heard so many sermons of Gospel centered for the last few years. It’s an amazing projection from any scripture to Christ in preaching, and I see the impact of that. I have also just learnt to preach Christ from Old testament in my seminary RTS, and indeed its powerful and refreshing. Because all scriptures in OT speak of Christ, and indeed Spurgeon says all roads lead to London, the same way, all scripture in OT and NT lead to Christ.
But if we preach a sermon and ends up with the sufferings of Christ, and his eventually taking the wrath of God with darkness descended on him on the cross, so we can be reconciled to God, and we stop at that, it will be intriguingly inadequate and doesn’t do justice.
Christ did not Incarnate into this World Just to Die for Us
It will be preposterous for God to incarnate into this world just to die for mankind. You know you hear sermons when Jesus suffered in the darkness so we can have the light of God, Jesus being condemned by God, so we can be accepted by God, etc., this is absolutely true and biblical, but the problem is, we are not supposed to stop there. Because it leaves us the lingering question in my mind, did Jesus come to this world to suffer and that’s it? We all know there is the resurrection of Jesus, but we don’t see that being articulated in the gospel centered messages ending part of the sermons, because I think many preachers want to push the narrative of Christ’s sufferings, exchange his immortality for our mortality, etc., the penal substitution doctrine.
Christ Died for us Knowing that He will resurrect later and Win Humanity Over
Yes, that is definitely the big story of the gospel, but it’s not completely correct and adequate, because Christ didn’t come to exchange our pain only, because he knows there is the resurrection and the glory that awaits him. There is, so to speak, an amazing reward waiting for him. He did this for winning back the elect humanity back to God, and he will be enthroned forever and ever with his new brethren that he won by his blood.
Hebrews 12 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
So why and how did Jesus endure the cross? For the joy set before him, he endured the cross. Brothers, Jesus didn’t come to the world for a sad ending, though we know that, we don’t preach it, so the sake of pushing the narrative of his sufferings to move the hearts of the congregation. That’s why I think we missed out the victorious aspect of Jesus’ ministry by doing that in reformed circle, while the charismatics focus on the victorious aspects and lack the sufferings part of Jesus.
Why is this Important to Us ?
Why is that important? Because that will affect our doctrine, our lifestyle, because the perception of Christ is very important. If we walk away from sermons with the deep impression of Christ died to set us free, etc., but not mentioning and exalting Christ in his victorious resurrection that defeats death, Christians may begin to develop the heart of gratitude and love to wards Christ, but not getting the sense of victorious Christ, and hence victorious life and ministry. We lament, but we must also, at the same time look forward to celebration, laughter’s, rejoice, like Psalms say: Rejoice in the Lord, Rejoice!
Psalm 32:11 (NIV) 11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you are righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
In conclusion, we must preach Christ’s victorious ascension from the death that triumphs over death when we preach the sufferings of Christ on the cross to take our place. Amen.
I love the fact that God just showed up and spoke to Joshua as he’s already marching with thousands of his best fighting men to face the five kings and armies. And of course God blew them apart! It’s a no sweat for Joshua thereafter as God threw them into confusion even before Joshua arrived at the scene. That’s such a welcome way of God!
Joshua 10. 6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.” 7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” 9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah.
As Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand., not one of them will be able to withstand you”. Wow what a promise, what a swift answer to prayer! Wait, there was no prayer, God responded! Another wow! Joshua weas marching God came and affirmed him. Why? He didn’t ask God to. He was marching out with his best men to fight against the 5 kings.
The Zeal of God
So why did God volunteering responded to help Joshua without even his asking him. It speaks to me about the zeal of God. When it’s in God’s will, and in line with his overall plan, there is nothing that will stop God.
It’s one thing for God to respond as we prayed and cried out to him, but it’s another thing for him to respond and act even before you ask him! Fancy that! That’s what happened to Joshua marching out to fight the five king’s that had come to invade Gibeon a protected tribe of Israel. But it’s amazing because Joshua never asked for God to help them though it’s clear that it’s in the overall plan and mission from God to destroy them all and take the land. Therefore if you are moving in the will of God and obviously in line, you don’t have to worry of he’s going to help or not, especially it’s for the expansion of His Kingdom, and magnify His Name. So I often thought about what about thousands of us wanting to serve Him in what we think it’s God’s will? Think about Moses in Egypt, when he killed the Egyptian guard who whipped a Jew, don’t you think in his mind it’s in the Jewish God’s will to protect him and help him? Many have asked God for deliverance, healing, protecting, setting free their loved ones from deception, bringing someone to salvation, isn’t all that in God’s will? But alas, many have not heard, and I am one of them. So what’s going on here?
Taking the example of Moses, we can easily answer that, it is God’s will to deliver Israel from Egyptian Pharaoh’s slavery, but it’s not his timing yet, not his way either. Because when the time finally comes, that’s 40 years later, Moses is a changed man, much more humbled, much more exposed to the wiles of the world without the privilege of the Egyptian palace. Then God moved!
God’s Sovereignty and the responsibility of men
You see a pattern here which is the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of men. Joshua had to March out and fight! We have to do the work. But all these have to be penned out in God’s way, not our way. It will be too easy to assume God will do it in our ways, or requests, what we think it’s the most expedient way to do it, and worse still, what’s we think this is what God should do. But God is not answerable to us, He is the Almighty transcendent God who answers to no one, and everything is done on his on wisdom and love, and pleasure. May God teach us more and more to wait up[on the Lord.
I simply love this:
Isaiah 40 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
You cannot never soar like an eagle, if you don’t wait upon the Lord. You can’t never wait upon the Lord, if God doesn’t stay silent on your prayers. We all grow tired, but those who wait upon the Lord, those who hope in the Lord, shall renew their strength, soar with wings like eagles….will run and not grow weary.
What’s the meaning of applying your heart to understanding? We say apply common sense to your problem. So we say apply your heart to understanding? Apply lotion to you skin; apply your heart to understanding, that means put your heart into understanding.
ESV says incline your heart to understanding. I think first treasure God’s word or command in your heart, then listen with spiritual ears carefully to wisdom, exegete the wisdom, extract the wisdom of the word of God, and then apply this understanding to your heart. Knowledge and understating means nothing if we don’t apply our hearts to it. It will still be just head knowledge, but not heart knowledge.
This is the sequence:
Store up God’s words within you
Or treasure up God’s words in your heart. That means read it carefully, slowly, digest it, pray through it, and ask the Lord to open your eyes that you may see the wonders of his law. A good helpful tool is a study Bible to cross check . Though remember this tool acts only as supplement, the most important thing is the meditation between you and God. I sometimes read the commentary notes from my NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible, Zondervan, which I highly recommend. Then I think through what it means from historical, theological perspectives to intersect what my thoughts are with God. They may be good or may not be relevant at all, but it’s good to take a look when you need it, though not all the time.
Sometimes, in fact, the times that really impressed in my heart, is when I felt impressed in my heart a certain verse as I read through the passage of the day. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit works, and indeed this blog is written with a verse that’s stuck in my mind, Prov 2:2 in my morning devotion this morning. I haven’t had a verse stuck to me this way for more than a week or two. So I decided to expound it. So when that happens, I look it up in the commentary, read it in context, and pray and ask the Lord to open my eyes. Prayerful meditation is the most powerful way to exegete a passage. With eyes closed and a calmed down heart. If you feel a verse quickened or spoken unto your heart, it will stick with you, and that’s the treasure of that verse, or store up God’s word, ESV & NIV bibles, depending on version. KJV says hide my commandments with thee. Hide, put it inside of your soul.
Make Your Ear Attentive to Wisdom
It means listen carefully to the wisdom of that verse, with you heart and ear. With all your heart, ask questions, analyze it, think about your own life, let it flow through your soul, soak in your being. Come out of the closet with God a changed person. Meditation is the single most powerful way to connect with God together with worship. Without the Word (Bible), we can’t worship properly. The Lord says you will worship him in Spirit and truth. They go hand in hand.
We crave for wisdom. I try to read Proverbs, every other day when I read Psalm daily, with meditation of course. Take your time in the morning. Remember, not being legalistic, prayer and meditation is best on mornings. Psalms 1 does say blessed is the man who meditates upon the word of God day and night. So morning and night. Proverbs provides multitude of wisdom.
And Apply Your Heart to Understanding
Proverbs 2:2 (ESV) 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
After you treasured the word, then listen carefully, finally apply your heart to understanding. You got understanding from the first two steps, you want to apply your heart to it. Usually we say apply understanding to your heart, but it’s the reverse here. ESV says incline your heart to understanding. Incline means lean into it. Feel willing or favorably disposed toward (an action, belief, or attitude)
Favorably disposed towards understanding. Incline means favored towards it. Favored towards understanding. In a sense, you may get understanding, but you may dislike it, or unwilling to embrace it, and hence reject it. But the wisdom exhortation here is to be favorably disposed towards it. You like it, you feel drawn towards it, you feel convicted, touched. All words to describe it, it’s very important emotionally we are drawn towards it. The presence of God must be there to happen.
One we have inclined to understanding, our decision making will be favorably disposed towards God’s wisdom, understanding, and this will make a lot of difference in life, this will make a difference between life and death, good marriage and bad one, good children or bad, good ministry or distraught ministry, and the list goes on and on.
Finally, Jesus is the wisdom, the logos of God.
John 1:In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Christ is the embodiment of all wisdom and understanding, all things were made through him and for him. Accept Jesus into your life and walk with the Holy Spirit daily, for the Lord Jesus is our redeemer, he opens up the door to commune with God who is the source of all understanding and wisdom. Jesus changes our hearts. Run to Jesus every day, and pray and read and meditate. God bless!
Darel E Paul wrote an article in First Things in June 2020:
Queerness has conquered America because it is the distilled essence of the country’s post-1960s therapeutic culture. The therapeutic originates with Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. From its beginning, the goal of psychoanalysis has been the salvation of the suffering self. Therapeutic practices of introspection seek to reveal the unacknowledged sources of psychic suffering. Sexual desire plays an especially prominent role in therapeutic narratives. For Freud, sexual drive was the engine of the personality. He believed both men and women are bisexual in nature and direct their sexual drives toward diverse objects. In this way, the therapeutic not only obscures gender differences and grants wide berth to atypical sexual expressions, but it also blurs the distinction between normality and pathology, making every self a neurotic one on an eternal quest for “mental health.”
A real important eye opener to many of us from where exactly queerness come from? Didn’t know that it’s all about therapeutic culture which is ordinarily aimed at identifying and reducing and managing psychic suffering. The therapeutic started with Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud believes men and women are bisexual in nature and his therapeutic obscures gender differences and gives rise to this unusual, atypical, abnormal sexual expression which is called out numerous times big time in the Bible. So this is very important for us Christians to understand in our applications of the scriptures to this present days of sexuality and transgender craze that’s erupted aggravated by the present administration.
Yet the therapeutic turns traditional American individualism into individuality, wedding the former to a romantic sensibility of the self as a unique and creative spirit whose reason for existence is its own expression. 
This is one heck of description on the rationale and cause of queerness, which Carl Truman has also written brilliantly. Essentially it all boils down to self-expression. It was Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1992 who argued that it’s the woman’s right to define one’s own concept of existence, and the mystery of life. It is such a departure from honoring or at least acknowledging at least where a person comes from to be given such heavenly right, to define life? Who are we to define life as we like?
Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in 1992 famously defended “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” …. as he constitutionalized same-sex marriage in 2015 as an expression of the right “to define and express [one’s] identity.” 
Who is Anthony Kennedy to write that kind of opinion? That argument is really putting man and woman in the place of God to define life. How do we get to define life, if we didn’t create life on the first place? Who gave us that authority to define life, calling it as our right. Like driving on the road is a not a right, it’s a privilege, so better drive carefully, not exceeding speed limit, etc., all these aimed at protecting the lives of other drivers on the word, pedestrians, and us too! Same thing our life is a privilege, an honor bestowed by the Almighty God, not a right that we have. God can take it away anytime, anywhere, anyhow he likes, or God can create life and put in a woman’s womb any time, any where, and any how. Surely he will stand before God one day and face the wrath of God.
The therapeutic organization together with the queer group has taken it to another level. Using rational logic argument, they demanded not only for authentic self-expression, (notice it’s all about self, to the exclusion of the family, community, and God), but also for social recognition. Darel Paul wrote:
The therapeutic demands authentic selves that are not only expressed but also socially recognized. Mental health professionals …. Under the therapeutic, they now advocate for the wholesale transformation of all of society in order to facilitate self-actualization. bIt’s called self-actualization, defined as “highest level of psychological development where the “actualization” of full personal potential is achieved, which occurs usually after basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled.” bThis is why simple tolerance is wholly inadequate, for without recognition, selves will internalize a sense of inferiority and thus fail to become authentic.
Therapeutic argues that without recognition, selves will suffer a sense of inferiority, and hence fail to become authentic. Again, in the name of needing to be authentic, they pushed for recognition. But the question is, we should settle the question if its right or wrong first, before going into being authentic. The thing is, you can be authentic to be yourself, but authentically wrong! Have they thought of that? To pull the line of conclusion based on authenticity is insufficient, and deficient. It has to be based on right or wrong, that’s where one goes back to the Bible, which us abundantly clear about queerness being wrong.
Romans 1 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Their women changed natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. What’s that? Of course, in the context, it’s the relating between a woman and another woman, which is termed as unnatural. Men committed shameful acts with other men. What’s it called? Shameful. That’s God’s Word, not some mere mortal’s opinion. With that, who wants to be authentically in the wrong side?
1 Cor 6 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men
Clearly men having sex with other men will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He may inherit the riches and pleasures of the world, but the Kingdom of God will not accept him, and that’s for eternity
9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a]10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
So again homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanders, swindlers, all with not inherit the kingdom of God.
Individualism: the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant. Individuality: the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, especially when strongly marked.
 Self-actualization, in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is the highest level of psychological development where the “actualization” of full personal potential is achieved, which occurs usually after basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled.– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization
I listened to John Piper preached on this topic and was struck by the same verse I have read many times before, about your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In this article I just want to bring up one aspect of the power of that verse.
He mentioned that 85% of abortions today are committed under fornication, a word that doesn’t even get used much anymore but in the older bibles. The bible today translates it as sexual immorality. Fornication is sex outside of marriage. It can be adultery as well.
But no matter how you try to preach against abortions, Christians still do that, though it has declined recently.
God Saw Our Form in Mother’s Womb
I have looked at it purely from the word of God prohibition against killing, and the verse that says even when we are in our mother’s wombs, God saw our form, and we are wonderfully and fearfully made in our mothers wombs. To terminate life of these unborn babies, is to kill the child inside his or her mother’s womb, and it is so against God’s word. To argue that before birth, babies are not life, but only tissues, is abominable, looking at psalm
Psalm 139:13–14 (NIV) 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God created my inmost being, God knit me together in my mother’s womb, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, how beautiful these words are. How can any Christians kill the inmost being in his or her mother’s womb??
Holy Spirit Lives in our Bodies
That’s one argument, but the temple of the holy Spirit hit me hard.
As young women pregnant with a child, she will have to think twice if she wants to abort that baby of hers. As the man who caused her pregnancy, by looking at these verses, he will have to think hard before asking the woman to abort. The blood of such cries out for justice to God. But the very thought of God living in our bodies is a staggering thought.
Our bodies is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The word temple goes back to the Old Testament, like David worshipped God in the temple. Solomon built the most glamorous temple, and he offered hundreds of thousands of sheep, lambs as sacrifice and sang unto the Lord in the temple. The holy of holies is in the temple. So when Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies, calling bodies as temples for him, that is sacred.
1 Corinthians 6:18–20 (NIV)
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Imagine the Spirit of God dwells in our bodies. Doesn’t that scare you? In other words, wherever you go, and whatever you do, the Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, is with you, because he dwells in you. Your bodies is the temple of God now. What does the temple do in OT? Place where people come to sacrifice to God, worship God. So our bodies is really a place of sacrifice to God.
Romans 12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Paul says, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God. There you go, our bodies is the temple of God, where Spirit lives, and yet, Paul exhorts us, because of God’s mercy, offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Wow, so our bodies is the temple of God, it is also a living sacrifice to God!
We Are Not Our Own
We are bought with a price, that’s the death of Jesus Christ, and his resurrection. Therefore we can’t mess around with our bodies. V19 says we are not our own. That’s huge. You can’t decide to do what you want with your body anymore, because Jesus bought it back from condemnation, now we belong to Christ. Besides He has sent the Holy Spirit to live in us. That will take time to sink in. That will be the hardest for modern American Christians to absorb as we love liberty and freedom. But that’s a fact, otherwise we will be far worse off, doomed for eternity. You don’t want that!
Say No to Sexual Immorality & Abortion
We must respond to God now we know who own our bodies, and meditate on that, and let it resonate in us, and that will be a far better and stronger ways to fight sexual immorality and abortion.
Attended a good talk by Dr James Anderson (RTS Professor) today on The Reformed Response to the Problem of Evil. Fascinating if you think about it, an Almighty omnipotent omnipresent and omni knowing God would tolerate or allow the even mere existence of evil in this world? By the title of omnipotent, surely it is within his power to have stopped that. But he could possibly be framed as micromanaging God or all controlling God, and that pops in the most lethal question of “Free Will”. I believe this “Free Will” issue is the single most important and palatable answer to the whole question of evil.
Let’s take the case of the original sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 . It is absolutely mind blowing that it takes literally less than an hour for Satan to trip up Eve and Adam to the collapse of the entire mankind, in handing over the dominion of this entire earth, world, cosmos from Adam to Satan, and it activated the salvation redemption plan of God into action, sending the most powerful precious very Son of God himself God, to a wooden cross for torture, bleeding, blasphemed, slapped, mocked, ultimately separated from God the Father, to act as the lamb of God sacrificed to take the judgment of God upon mankind. Jesus became the Savior of the world, by a sacrificial substitutional sacrifice as the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
All these to describe the deep damage that’s been inflicted upon mankind and even God himself, by a single act of temptation by Satan in the form of a serpent. No one can believe that Eve is not premeditating upon taking the forbidden fruit, her desire to be like God, meaning taking over ultimate control of herself over her life, effectively sending a message to God, “I want to be in charge of my life, not you”. She essentially rejected God, and put her onto the control seat. And her husband of hers who’s supposed to be in charge, meekly and tamely consented to such the most important and biggest decision in life, without struggle, argument whatsoever, much to my shock and dismay, and to the disgrace of the entire man race. But the point here in this essay is God “allowed” it, with full foreknowledge, with full “power” able to intervene and even killed the serpent if needed. But the entire discourse of the interaction between Satan and Eve, God was visibly absent. Did he see all these happenings, of course he did. He knows everything, but remained quiet. Why? The only reason I can think of is that he gives enough free will choice to mankind to choose him or the power of self-autonomy. In a sense he watches from behind to find out what’s really in a man’s or woman’s heart that he created in his own image. The troubling part for me, which I have no answer to, is that God knew before hand, but that’s not too bad, but the doctrine of predestination truly throw me off in this.
Did God predestine that? That will not make sense. I can see that he foreknew that or foresaw that, and he let it float, so therefore in a complicit way, he predestined it. But he did not predestine it, to become evil, he predestined it to let it play it out, in order to bring out his ultimate beauty and glory in his selfless love to save entire mankind by dying on the cross to save them. (Anderson’s point on bringing out the better good) We humans would not been able to perceive God’s love today as the way we see of the cross, without the cross. But there would be no cross needed without the falling into sin by Adam and Eve! So in a roundabout way, this helps me to understand better. I can see that God, in an indirect way, predestined the fall of Adam and Eve to bring about his ultimate glory, by letting it float. The other doctrinal issue is that the Omnipotent holy God created Adam in his image. So does that mean that the image of God is flawed? If it is so, that won’t be Adam’s fault, should it be God’s fault? How dare would I say that, but God’s image is put to the test, to see what’s really in God’s created man. I keep coming back to this, it seems. But some may argue doesn’t God already know what’s in their hearts? Sure he does, but he will let it play it out from knowledge into experiential, and that’s bringing knowledge into reality. That’s big, and important.
In my mind the predestination of Christ to be crucified on the cross is a hugely heroic selfless sacrificial act by God in response to the fall of Adam, and as such definitely in line with who He is. But the predestination of Adam’s sin, will not be in line with God’s character of holiness, compassion, righteousness.
Therefore I called it a complicit predestination of Adam’s fall, while the predestination of Christ’s crucifixion was totally glorious and reflecting who God is.
With that, I will say God allows evils to let it play it out to the fullest and ultimately express his glory and love to us. Amen.
Psalm 4: 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
“Who will show us some good?” That’s the question everyone in the world is asking for themselves.
We Christians asked the same question again and again especially if our answers are not yet answered. I wonder Samuel’s mum will be asking that question when she pressed unto the Lord and cried unto the Lord pleading with him for a child, as she was barren and was mocked by her husband’s second wife. The Lord out of his exceedingly goodness and kindness, answered Hannah on the spot and she became pregnant. I wish that would be the same case for many thousands of Christians praying to the Lord and crying to him, not on something not legit, but totally in line with the scriptures. How about praying for your child to come to Christ? How about for those parents crying to God to make amends on the wayward behavior of sexuality of their kids? I have heard of heartbreaking stories of men and women unto God and some have rightly claimed their shaking of their faith in their belief in the goodness of the Lord. That’s always the dilemma of Christianity, a mystery that we somehow cannot put our hands on. To exemplify the cries , it seems the Lord doesn’t hear. I don’t know if certain prayers will ever be answered in life or not, even if takes 40 years of Moses cries to liberate Israel from the slavery bondage of Egypt, that will be phenomenal! Regardless, that will be a solid answer from the Lord, no one can dispute. Moses delivered by the power and glory of Yahweh, the like of kind that’s not seen or heard in the entire world, 4000 years ago, and still up to this day. No one can challenge that. Hannah’s cries unto the Lord, brought forth one of the most prominent prophets in the Old Testament, Samuel. What a sweet fragrant answer from the Lord, and she promised to the Lord to offer him to the service of the Lord at young age full time. (Good he doesn’t even need to apply for full time ministry). I have yet found a case where the prayers and cries of the saints not answered by the Lord, have you? I haven’t. What does that tell us, if God doesn’t answer our prayers, or not yet. But there again, Jesus did say that Elijah was sent to the leprous in Samaria, but not in Israel. I am sure many Jews with leprosy would have cried out to the Lord, but they never got sent a prophet to heal them.
Of course there is this argument that says the Lord our God is sovereign, and we will put our trust in him completely, and his love endures forever, and he’s faithful. That’s what we shall hang onto even without seeing clearly what our future, or their future hold. Some parents prayed for their kids to come to Christ, and after like 20 years, they came to Christ. Many have testified on the faithfulness of our God. We shall put our faith in him, Amen!
That’s where this psalms seem to fit in well, among many others.
Or “Where can I find some good?” Or “How do I get some good for my life?” That’s what David describes as ‘many’ who say….”
David’s response to that question is “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” David’s immediate default response is he turns to the Lord. He didn’t turn to his career advancement, not to some pleasures in the world, or some ball games he can attend, or some Broadway show. He immediately cried to the Lord asking the Lord to shine the light of his face upon him and them, the light of God’s face means the favor of God, the presence of God. You see how important the favor of God is? Nothing else matters, or compares even remotely. God’s favor is all what it matters.
Lately I have been thinking of this myself. I am sure we all have things of requests and petitions we have made and making continually crying out to him in prayers. Have we gotten the favor of God? Have we gotten the light of the face of God? Remember David was so successful,
1 Samuel 18:14 In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.
It means God was with David. And Calvin rightly commented on it, that David’s sole primal wish in life is God’s favor, God’s presence with him, above everything else in life, above every seeming prosperity in his life, which he had plenty.
God can give us more Joy in Our Hearts than any Abundance from the world
A godly answer that David provided in this Psalm, is that he finds more joy in God’s favor, presence than all the things, pleasures, comfort and ease from this world.
Psalm 4:6–7 (ESV) 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
That’s the case. David is so firm in his conviction that there is more joy in his heart when the light of God’s face shines on him, than whatever the world can offer him, because God can put more joy in his heart than when people get their grain, harvest, dividends, profits, and wine abound, speaking of the comfort and pleasures of the world. It is this conviction of David that’s so compelling, and attractive to God that God puts his favor upon David. That stamp of favor. Because David delights in God more than all the world comfort and ease can offer him, and he had a lot of wealth, possessions, wives, women, concubines, pleasures from the world in his palace, and yet none of those things ever moved his heart. You see, that’s the man after God’s heart.