Moses Maimonides on the Providence of God

From Israeli Bank Note

From Israeli Bank Note

Introduction

 

Moses Maimonides (Cir. 1135-1204 C.E.) affectionally referred to as the Rambam wrote a profound philosophical work in approximately 1190 C.E. called The Guide of The Perplexed. Within this book he provided a very enlightening exposition regarding his view of the concept of divine providence. Recognizing the complexity of this subject and seeing many philosophy and Bible students avoiding it one comes to appreciate Maimonides and his efforts to tackle the concept of providence. Because Maimonides wrote in medieval times he cannot be understood using modern presuppositions.[1] In fact Colette Sirat’s excellent introductory work on this subject in her own words affirms this. “This book was written…. In an attempt to elucidate their (Middle Age philosophers) meaning and to situate them in their historical context.” [2] Therefore in order to begin to understand what he explained it is important to examine at least the term providence.

Since terms have meaning and we are reading an English version of The Guide of The Perplexed translated in 1963 C.E., it is helpful to identify the words used designating providence. In English the word is of late Middle English origin, which comes through Old French from the Latin providential meaning to attend to or to provide.[3] Of course Maimonides may have been acquainted with Middle English, which is recognized as beginning with the Norman invasion of 1066 C.E., but he wrote the Guide in Arabic. Then in 1204 C.E. though a contemporary of his, Samuel ben Judah ibn Tibbon, [4] it was translated into Hebrew.

Ibn Tibbon coined the Hebrew term hashgahah as a translation of the Arabic word ana yah to “provide.” Both of these words are language descriptors of providence. These terms seem to be used most often in efforts to describe universal or even individual measures of governance with which God carries out His controlling criterion of the universe and particularly this earth and its inhabitants. In a sense then God plans, foresees, and governs the universe as well as the world as an object of His care.

The subject of providence carries with it several sub categories. Chief among these are creation, origin of evil, and conservation or administration. While not the primary object of this paper some consideration of Maimonides’ views on evil is helpful to understand his exposition of providence. Read more

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God Will Always Stand With Israel

God Will Prosper Israel

 

Temple Recreation at the Israel Museum in  Jerusalem-Photo by Daniel E Woodhead

Temple Recreation at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem-Photo by Daniel E Woodhead

Jehovah God Answers The Question of Fasts

Zechariah 8:18-19

18And the word of Jehovah of hosts came unto me, saying, 19Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace (ASV 1901).

God’s Word again comes directly to the spirit of Zechariah bypassing his eyes and ears. God reminds him of the question posed by the men from Bethel with their spokesmen Sharezer and Regem-melech. These two men and their entourage accompanying them asked to entreat the favor of Jehovah, and to speak unto the priests of the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years? At that time God did not directly give them an answer. Instead He admonished them for their self-serving fasting, which was not in repentance for what they had done. It was simply an attempt at penance, which is not a biblical truth. True repentance means you have turned away from your sin. Penance is man’s attempt to provide some self-atonement for his sin. God wanted the Jews in Zechariah’s day to connect with Him and establish a relationship with Him. He did not want them going through the motions of a ceremony to commemorate an event that they caused themselves. For those who have entered the Church since the sacrifice of Jesus there is no additional atonement. Jesus already took our sins and wiped them clean at the cross.

The men from Bethel who came to Jerusalem to entreat God and His prophet asked specifically about a fast that they had been conducting in the fifth month of the year (Av). When Jehovah God answered their question He reminded them that they had also fasted in the seventh month (Tishri) as well. The Lord God knowing that there were more fasts, in which they were engaged, provides two more in this text. The fast of the fourth month (Tammuz) commemorated the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. This followed a Babylonian induced famine of Israel, which is a typical wartime strategy. Once the enemy has been starved out, their resistance is feeble. This one happened in the eleventh year of king Zedekiah’s reign (Jeremiah 39:2, 3; 52:6-7). The fast listed in the tenth month (Tevet) marked the initiation of the siege of Nebuchadnezzar in Zedekiah’s ninth year (II Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 39:1; 52:4). What God is saying to the Jews through Zechariah is comforting to them. He says that all these fasts shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace. What God is speaking to in these verses is the state of worship in the Millennial Kingdom as well as the Jew’s status with God. God mentions this in Isaiah.

Isaiah 61:2-3

2to proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 3to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified (ASV 1901).

Isaiah 65:19

19And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying (ASV 1901).

The Lord closes this section of Scripture with a command to love truth and peace, ohev, emet and shalom. The Hebrew word order is this; truth, and peace love. This is a warning against apostasy and backsliding into sin. This will not be the case for the Jews in the Millennial Kingdom but those who went back after the exile would be susceptible to these issues.

Those Who Will Come Seeking The Jews

 

flandes_jericho_grt

Zechariah 8:20-22

20Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities; 21and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts: I will go also. 22Yea, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of Jehovah (ASV 1901).

During the Millennial Kingdom Jerusalem will be continually visited by all nations. They will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord God who will have His throne there running the theocratic government of the world. They will collect others in different cities and head to Jerusalem in large groups. This will indeed be a universal worldwide pilgrimage of all Gentile nations to pay homage to King Jesus in Jerusalem who will be sitting on David’s Throne. The level of enthusiasm for worshipping the God of the Universe who will have taken up His place on this earth will be unprecedented. These verses describe the pilgrimage as happening speedily (nēlĕkâ hālôk). Others who don’t hear of the invitation in the first declaration will say that they want to go too when they say, “I will go also.” This also demonstrates a contagious enthusiasm for worshipping God in the world headquarters, Jerusalem. Zechariah describes the pilgrims as “many peoples” and “strong nations.” This will be a worldwide movement of all peoples, not one limited to a few nearby people groups that come out of fear or weakness and inability to remain independent. The mightiest of all nations will be there, knowing full well that Jehovah God is sovereign over the entire earth. Psalm 122 vividly depicts this.

Psalm 122:1-9

1I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Jehovah. 2Our feet are standing Within thy gates, O Jerusalem, 3Jerusalem, that art builded As a city that is compact together; 4Whither the tribes go up, even the tribes of Jehovah, For an ordinance for Israel, To give thanks unto the name of Jehovah. 5For there are set thrones for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. 6Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee. 7Peace be within thy walls, And prosperity within thy palaces. 8For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. 9For the sake of the house of Jehovah our God I will seek thy good (ASV 1901).

Isaiah also confirms the sovereignty of God during this time.

Isaiah 45:23

23By myself have I sworn, the word is gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear (ASV 1901).

This good news spreading like wildfire is reminiscent of the early Church Age. The birth of the Church saw three thousand souls converted the first day on the Jewish festival of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). The early Church consisted primarily of Jewish apostles and messengers who were exceptionally enthusiastic for Jesus. Over time the Church became populated with a preponderance of Gentile believers. However instead of converting the world, the Gentile Church became more and more merged into the world. The Gentile Church grew as a whole apathetic to the evangelistic zeal that these verses describe for people coming to Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom. In fact Christ in His letter to the Church at Ephesus said that they had lost their first love, Him (Revelation 2:4). God’s Word will never fail, as it will go out to all its intended audience exactly as God has planned. However, the Church Age will not end in a worldwide conversion of all peoples, groups and tongues. There will not be universal peace and righteousness but it will end in apostasy.

The Bible says there will be a falling away (Apostasy) in the last days.

Castenda The Second Ring of Power by Hawkwood (David Bergan)

Castenda The Second Ring of Power by Hawkwood (David Bergan)

 

Three NT passages clearly describe the character of the apostasy.

I Timothy 4:1-3

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth (KJV).

The source of the apostasy is demons, for apostates have essentially given in to seducing spirits and are preaching a system of doctrine, which is a doctrine of demons. Furthermore, they speak lies through hypocrisy, and their consciences have stopped working.

 II Timothy 3:1-5

 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these (KJV).

In verses 1-4 there is a description of the general character of the world in the last days, and it is obvious to the casual observer that these characteristics are true today. Verse five centers on the religious front, where the last days will be characterized by men having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Apostate ministers, having churches which function as businesses, have a form of godliness. Others wear clerical garb but do all for show. But because they deny the power thereof, they have denied the true power of godliness. They claim to trust in God but are actually trusting in worldly methodologies such as building programs, marketing strategies, and staff enhancements. These are all coupled with appeals for funds to fuel their growth.

II Peter 2:1-22   discusses the apostates at length. Reading through the passage, Peter displays no love or tolerance toward the apostates. The Bible and particularly the Lord Jesus do not display any toleration toward apostasy and both castigate it very severely, as these verses clearly show. The apostasy and failure, will end in the greatest war that mankind, will have ever known, The Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:1-19:21). During this worldwide war the Lord will again use Jewish evangelists (144,000) to spread His Word on a worldwide basis most effectively with incredible missionary zeal (Revelation 7:3-9).

The Flourishing of the Jews in the Millennium

 

Esther & Ahasjerus by Francois Langrenee cir 1775-80

Esther & Ahasjerus by Francois Langrenee cir 1775-80

Zechariah 8:23

23Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you (ASV 1901).

The Lord God now continues to describe the extent of Jewish leadership and favor in the world during the Millennial reign of Jesus. He says that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nation. Ten is a common number used in Scripture to denote an indefinite but large number (Genesis 31:7; Exodus 34:28; Leviticus 26:26; Numbers 24:22; I Samuel 1:8; Job 19:3; Daniel 1:12; Amos 6:9). Here it means a great multitude of Gentile people who shall gather to see God’s Glory in Jerusalem. The Gentiles will vastly out number the Jews in that day as they do now as well. Further this is not a regional gathering. It will be from the entire world as all languages and nations are described. What they are described as doing is taking hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew. The Hebrew verb translated as taking hold is the verb ḥāzaq often denotes almost a violent grabbing of something with the intention of not letting go. The khenaph, is the corner of the long flowing garment worn by the ancient Jews. Then to each of the four khenaphayim of the typically white outer garment were attached tsitsith, “fringes,” or tassels of blue. This is probably what is being referred to, since it was the distinctly visible sign of “a man, a Jew” as the Hebrew text reads. It is spoken of as being caught hold of, first with a view to detain the Jew, so as to request his permission to accompany him. But it also has the sense of keeping firm hold, depicting the earnest determination of the Gentile pilgrims to accompany the Jew who is on the way to the future world capital Jerusalem to pay homage to the Jewish Messiah King Jesus.

The Lord God and Creator of the entire universe will be the center of attraction for the entire thousand-year Theocratic Kingdom. This is perhaps the strongest and most concise statement of the future blessing of the Jews as they are given a commanding role in the world’s government. These Gentiles will say to the Israelites, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Deuteronomy 28:13

And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do [them] (KJV).

Israel’s final restoration will bring the nation Israel to the world’s attention. As we have seen the Gentiles will lay hold on the Jews to be with them realizing that they are the ministers of God. They will no longer be persecuted but will lead the way to the Messiah Jesus.

Zephaniah 3:20

20At that time will I bring you in, and at that time will I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring back your captivity before your eyes, saith Jehovah (ASV 1901).

Pesikta Rabbathai, in Yaklut Shimoni.

Thus in this ancient Jewish Midrash we read: “All nations shall come, falling on their faces before the Messiah, and the Israelites saying, Grant that we may be Thy servants, and of Israel. For, as relates to the doctrine and the knowledge of the law, the Gentiles shall be their servants, according as it is written: ‘In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all the languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirts of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

 

Daniel E. Woodhead

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The Strange Case of God’s Allocation of World Geography

 

The Divine Allocation of World Geography

 

Near the end of Moses’ life he wrote a prophetic message to the people of Israel. We have come to call this the “Song of Moses” for it poetically expresses his thoughts regarding the past and future of the Nation of Israel. The “Song of Moses” is found in Chapter 32:1-43 in the book of Deuteronomy. However, in chapter 31 Moses gives specific directions, which he wrote just before he died on Mount Nebo (circa 1404 B.C.). In chapter 31, he gave two direct commandments.

Deuteronomy 31:24-26

22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. 23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee. 24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, 25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee (KJV).

In the first command he directed Joshua, his successor, to “be strong and of a good courage” to bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land. In the second he commanded the Levites to insert the Song as part of the Law into the Ark of the Covenant.

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Ark of the Covenant

In fact, Josephus the first century Jewish historian wrote that copies of Haʾazinu (Hebrew for “The Song of Moses” in Deuteronomy 32:1-43) and other biblical poems were kept in the Temple (Josephus, Ant. 4.303; cf. 3.38; 5.61.). According to Tigay in rabbinic writings, it is stated that the Levites are to read parts of the poem in the Temple (RH 31a; TJ Meg. 3:7, 74b, end; see Maimonides, Hilkhot Temidin u-Musafin 6:9.). The reading is completed over a six-week cycle and then is to begin again.[1]  So, this song has particular significance within the Hebrew culture.

The song has one particularly fascinating characteristic. It states that the various nations of the world were geographically segmented through God’s predetermined plan for Israel:

Deuteronomy 32:8

8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel (KJV).

The Most High (Hebrew ʿelyôn) divided humankind into nations and assigned to them their geographical and historical allotments (v. 8a). The Lord (who is perfectly sovereign), in a prescriptive sense, is using the volume of the people in the nation Israel to determine the world’s geographic boundaries. Most Bible students agree that the background to this is the “Table of Nations” found in the tenth chapter of Genesis. In Genesis 10 the segmenting of people groups on this earth are further subdivided by racial and political entities. The table establishes the distribution of the human race immediately following man’s rebellion under the leadership of Nimrod at the Tower of Babel. Eugene Merrill sees a tie between the two books of Deuteronomy and Genesis, through the use of the same verb “divided”. The verb translated “divided” (Hebrew pārad) which occurs in Deuteronomy 32:8, likewise occurs in Genesis 10:5 and speaks of the separation of the human race into lands, languages, clans, and nations.  It also occurs in Genesis 10:32 in a statement summarizing the divine distribution of peoples throughout the earth:[2]

Genesis 10:32

These [are] the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.

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Table of Nations Genesis 10

Source: Map from Bible History online http://www.bible-history.com/maps/2-table-of-nations.html

Even though the nation Israel had not yet been created, they were central to the Lord’s purposes. All the nations who were dispersed at Babel could no longer speak to one another after the Lord confounded their original language. He then directed them away from Babylon to the various locations he had determined for them. Somehow He did it in accordance to the number of the future population of the Jews.

Most of our English Bible translations of the Old Testament are from the Hebrew Masoretic text. The oldest complete texts come from the 10th and 11th centuries A.D. This is also the authoritative Hebrew text used by the Jews today for their Tanakh (our Old Testament).

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The Tanakh

Source: Judiasm.com Artscroll Tanakh

Although the existing copies of the Masoretic Text date back only to the tenth century, two other important textual evidences let’s us know that it is accurate. First, the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) at Qumran revealed manuscripts dating between 167 B.C. to A.D. 233. Second is the comparison of the Masoretic text to the Greek translation called the Septuagint (or LXX), which was written around 285 B.C. (The presumed number of 70 Jewish scholars at Alexandria, Egypt did this for the Egyptian king.) Afterwards the Hellenistic Jews used the Septuagint as they became less familiar with Hebrew.[3] Alexander the Great forced the Greek language on the nations he conquered.
While not exact mirror images of each other, both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal a strong consistency with the Masoretic Text. This consistence assures us that God has sovereignly protected His Word through thousands of years of copying and translating. Both of these individual texts have multiple versions.

The Hebrew text of some lost manuscripts have been translated into Greek through several other translators, three of which are Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus. Origens’s Hexapla (about A.D. 230-245) combined the others as well as the Hebrew text of his day in a six-column display comparing them all.[4]  All these are nearly unanimous in the echoing of the text of Deuteronomy 32:8b.

The discovered Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) have revealed several versions of the text representing our Bible’s Old Testament. All of them are nearly unanimous in the repetition of the text of Deuteronomy 32:8b. What is interesting about these two manuscripts (the Hebrew Dead Sea Scrolls[5] and the Greek Septuagint[6] ) is that both of them, in all versions, have a different term for the “children of Israel(Bene Yisrael) of Deuteronomy 32:8b than what appears in the Masoretic Text. Here they use the different of  “sons of God”, (Bene Elohime). Actually some use the term “children of God.”[7]

Some discussion of these two terms is necessary in order to understand the distinction and similarities of the “the sons of God” in the DSS and the LXX as well as the term “children of Israel” in the Masoretic text.

The Children of Israel

The name Israel was first given to the patriarch Jacob as chronicled in Genesis 32:28 which according to archbishop James Ussher was about 1900 B.C.[8]  Jacob was the grandson of the patriarch Abraham who received a significant unilateral covenant from God. This covenant included a land, seed and blessings for both him and his progeny. In fact God gave Abraham the boundaries of the land that he and his offspring would some day inherit (Genesis 15: 18-21). He also told him that his progeny would be afflicted and spend four hundred years in a land that was not theirs. After this period they would leave that land with great wealth and substance (Genesis 15: 13-14).

Jacob then wrestled with a celestial being that had the appearance of a man. We know this to be the Angel of Jehovah or a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bereshit Rabbah says it was the guardian angel of Esau (BR 77: 3). Whether it was Esau’s guardian angel or not, Hosea 12: 5 confirms the “man” as an angelic being and not an earthly man. The wrestling went on all night until the morning. The text says that the angel did not prevail against Jacob. This is not because He was not able. Angels are significantly stronger then men. It was because He wanted the struggle to last. Jacob was going to come out of it a better, more refined man. Finally, when the Lord wanted the wrestling to end, He gave Jacob’s thigh a debilitating supernatural blow. As a result Jacob’s hip was dislocated. Still Jacob would not release his hold on the Angel until He blessed him. Interestingly the Angel asks Jacob his name and he answers “Jacob.” The Angel then said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

So, God calls Jacob “Israel”, which in Hebrew is יִשְׂרָאֵל Yisrael, or a combination of the two Hebrew words “sarah” (meaning “he strived”, not the feminine name) and “el”. It literally means “he who strives with God.” The word play becomes significance to our understanding of the name change from “Jacob” to “Israel”.  Jacob “strove” with Esau his brother, then with Laban his father–in-law, and finally with God Himself before he took the Abrahamic Covenant he was prophesied to receive. The covenant, which was passed to his father Isaac, would have been passed to Jacob eventually, but first God allowed him to conspire with his mother Rebecca against Esau, and Isaac to take the birthright, which entitled him to the covenant, on his own. Further, Esau despised his birthright and because of this attitude, was unworthy to receive the promised covenant (Genesis 25: 34; Hebrews 12: 16-17). He however greatly resented his brother Jacob getting the covenant promise, and this eventually leads to the conflict between the progeny of these brothers. The history of the Nation of Israel clearly reveals this “struggling” with the Arabs. The “struggling” with God is evident as the Jews continually turned from Him to follow after the pagan nations around them. What we see in the word play of the word “Israel” is that God fought for Jacob and God will fight for the Nation of Israel. Even though they sin terribly, God will be on their side when all the world’s nations turn to transpire against them. God selected the nation Israel to be His own and this name is threaded throughout the Scriptures starting in Genesis 32:28 and continues into in the Millennial Kingdom following the Great Tribulation. There their roles and experiences will be of prime significance in the Millennial Kingdom. The Nation of Israel is close to the heart of God, and only divine intervention would change that:

Jeremiah 31: 35-37

35Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, so that the waves thereof roar; Jehovah of hosts is his name: 36If these ordinances depart from before me, saith Jehovah, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. 37Thus saith Jehovah: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah (ASV 1901).

Israel had Twelve Sons

The “sons of Israel” refer to the Jewish people who descended from Jacob, the patriarch whose name was changed by God to “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). He had twelve sons with four women and they are the Benei Yisrael, or the “sons of Israel”.

 

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Chart of Jacob’s Family Source: Logos Software

The designation of Jacob’s sons as The Twelve Tribes of Israel or, sometimes, The Sons of Israel occurs ten times in the Bible without any individual names being listed (Genesis 49:28; Exodus 24:4; 28:21; 39:14; Ezekiel 47:13; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; James 1:1& Revelation 21:12).

The Bible contains twenty-four appearances of the twelve sons of Jacob and, or, the tribes of Israel with the individual names listed. Some of these are in very brief lists, while others are spread out over several paragraphs or chapters. These lists discuss the distribution of the land, or name certain representatives of each tribe, one after another. Each listing is slightly different from all the others, either in the order of the names mentioned or even in the specific names used. For example, the two sons of Joseph are sometimes listed along with, or instead of, their father; and sometimes one or more names are omitted for various reasons. A few of the texts actually have more than twelve names.

Jacob’s twelve sons are first mentioned in the order of their births (to four different mothers) in the Book of Genesis (29:31–30:24 & 35:16-20). Here is a list of the mother and her sons with their birth order number preceding their name:

  • Leah (1st wife) 1) Reuben  2) Simeon  3) Levi  4) Judah

later also 9) Issachar  10) Zebulon

  • Bilhah (Rachel’s slave): 5) Dan  6) Naphtali
  • Zilpah (Leah’s slave): 7) Gad   8) Asher
  • Rachel (younger wife): 11) Joseph 
(Manasseh & Ephraim, sons of Joseph, are often listed separately. In some later texts, the half-tribe of Manasseh is further divided into its eastern and western halves) 12) Benjamin

This is a representative list of biblical references describing the variations of the grouping of “the children of Israel”:

  • Genesis 29:31–30:24 and 35:16-20 – the births of the first eleven sons are mentioned in chronological order, along with the meanings of their names; the last son, Benjamin, is born significantly later.
  • Genesis 35:22-26 – briefly lists the names of the twelve sons of Jacob, grouped by their respective mothers: Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah.
  • Genesis 46:8-27 – lists the seventy members of Jacob’s extended family who went to live in Egypt: Jacob’s sons (grouped by their mothers: Leah, Zilpah, Rachel, Bilhah), along with their sons and even a few grandsons; aside from the mothers, only three other women are named (Leah’s daughter Dinah, Asher’s daughter Serah, and Joseph’s Egyptian wife Asenath); the total is seventy, “not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons” (Genesis 46:26)
  • Genesis 49:1-27 – just before dying, Jacob blesses his twelve sons with various words, in a slightly different order than the previous lists.
  • Exodus 1:1-5 – a brief list of “the sons of Israel” who migrated to Egypt; the same order as Genesis 35:22-26, except that Joseph is mentioned last, because he “was already in Egypt.”
  • Numbers 1:5-15 – a brief list of leading men, one from each tribe, who are to assist Moses and Aaron in taking a census of all the Israelites; for the first time, Ephraim and Manasseh are listed separately for the descendants of Joseph; the tribe of Levi is omitted, as explained at the end of the chapter.
  • Numbers 1:20-46 & 47-54 – the completed census, reporting the number of fighting-age men in each tribe; curiously, Gad is now listed third, but otherwise the order is the same as the previous list; vv. 47-54 explain that the Levites were not to be included in the census, since they have a special responsibility for the Tabernacle.
  • Numbers 2:3-29 – the arrangement of the encampment in the desert is prescribed: three on each side (E, S, W, N), with the Levites and the meeting tent in the middle; the four camps are named after Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan, with two other tribes associated with each one, respectively.
  • Numbers 7:1-88 – after the Tabernacle is set up, the leaders of the twelve tribes present offerings, one each on twelve consecutive days, in the same order as listed in 2:3-29, except that the introduction mentions the Levites as the ones receiving the offerings brought by all the other tribes.
  • Numbers 10:11-28 – the Israelites break camp in a very orderly fashion, identical to Numbers 2:3-29 except for the position of the Levites: the camp of Judah (with their 2 associated tribes) goes first, then the Gershon and Merari clans of Levites carry the Tabernacle, then the camp of Reuben; at midpoint, the Kohath clan of Levites carries the sacred objects for the Tabernacle, followed by the camps of Ephraim and Dan.
  • Numbers 13:4-15 – twelve men, one from each tribe except Levi, are chosen to reconnoiter the land of Canaan; the order is similar to Numbers 1:5-15, with two minor reversals.
  • Numbers 26:5-50 – a second census of fighting-age men is reported in the same order as the first census (Numbers 1:20-46), except for the reversal of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, both of which are still explicitly identified as the descendants of Joseph.
  • Numbers 34:19-28 – after the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh are settled on the East side of the Jordan river, one leader from each of the remaining 9-1/2 tribes is to work with Eliezer (priest) and Joshua (new leader after Moses) to apportion among themselves the land of Canaan (West of the Jordan).
  • Deuteronomy 27:12-13 – Moses says that six tribes “shall stand on Mount Gerizim to pronounce blessings over the people,” while the other six tribes “shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses”; the list includes both Levi and Joseph, but the order is different than any previous text.
  • Deuteronomy 33:1-29 – just before his death, Moses blesses eleven of the tribes of Israel; the order is totally unfamiliar, and curiously Simeon is omitted.
  • Joshua 13–19 – the division of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes is described in detail, beginning briefly with the 2-1/2 tribes East of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 of Manasseh), followed by greater detail about the 9-1/2 tribes West of the Jordan.
  • Joshua 21:4-8 – each of the tribes of Israel gives several cities to the Levites, in four divisions: the Kohathite descendants of Aaron (from Judah, Simeon & Benjamin); the other Kohathite clans (from Ephraim, Dan & half-Manasseh); the Gershonite clans (from Issachar, Asher, Naphtali & half-Manasseh); the Merarite clans (from Rueben, Gad & Zebulon).
  • Judges 5:12-22 – six tribes formed the Israelite league fighting against Sisera: Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir (probably representing Manasseh), Zebulon, Issachar, and Naphtali (led by Barak); four tribes are chided for not participating: Reuben, Gilead (Gad), Dan, and Asher; the tribes of Judah and Simeon (more distant), and Levi (priestly) are not mentioned.
  • 1 Chronicles 2:1-2 – a brief list of the 12 sons of Israel; similar to the order of Genesis 35:22-26, except that Dan is placed before Joseph.
  • 1 Chronicles 2–7 – very long genealogies covering the time span from the patriarchs down to the Babylonian exile; the tribe of Judah is covered first and in greatest detail (Chapters 2-3; because of King David and the Chronicler’s own Judean context); Chapter 4 covers the southern tribes: Judah & Simeon; Chapter 5 the 2-1/2 eastern (Transjordan) tribes; 5:27–6:66 the various Levite clans; 7:1-40 most of the other northern tribes, but only briefly and omitting Zebulon.
  • 1 Chronicles 12:24-38 – thousands of soldiers from each tribe assemble at Hebron to swear allegiance to David as the new King; the tribe of Judah is first and the 2-1/2 Transjordan tribes are last, but the rest is in an order different from anything prior (why?)
  • 1 Chronicles 27:16-22 – a brief list of 13 leaders of the tribes of Israel at the time of King David; Levi and Aaron are curiously listed separately, as are the eastern and western halves of Manasseh, but Gad and Asher are omitted.
  • Ezekiel 48:1-29 – an idealized division of the land among the tribes of a New Israel, with seven tribes in the north, the tribe of Levi administering a sanctuary and sacred city in the middle, and the remaining five tribes in the south.
  • Ezekiel 48:30-34 – the new sacred city has twelve gates named after the twelve sons of Jacob, three on each side (N, E, S, W)
  • Revelation 7:5-8 – the only list in the New Testament of the twelve tribes; John hears that 144,000 Israelites have been “sealed” for salvation, 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes; this list curiously lists both Manasseh and Joseph (but not Ephraim), and omits Dan.

Chart describing the Hebrew meaning of the names of the12 sons of Israel:

Name                  Meaning in Hebrew      From Bible Verse

Reuben See as Son Genesis 29:32
Simeon Heard Genesis 29:33
Levi Joined Genesis 29:34
Judah Praise Genesis 29:35
Dan He Judged Genesis 30:6
Naphtali Wrestled Genesis 30:8
Gad Fortune Genesis 30:11
Asher Happy Genesis 30:13
Issachar Hire-Reward Genesis 30:18
Zebulon Honor Genesis 30:20
Joseph He Adds Genesis 30:24
Benjamin Son of the Right Hand or Son of the South Genesis 35:18
Manasseh Making to Forget Genesis 45:51
Ephraim To Be Fruitful Genesis 45:52

 

The Sons of God

Bene HaElohim is a general term that means “to be brought into existence by God’s creative act.”  Because the term carries this meaning, it is used selectively throughout the Old Testament and is always used of angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). In the Old Testament the terms El, Elohay, and Elohime, refers to celestial rulers and judges as divine representatives at sacred places, or as reflecting divine majesty and power. They can refer to any divine ones, for example, superhuman beings including God.  So while its usage is widespread in the biblical text it can also refer to celestial beings that are not Jehovah God. We know from Scripture that there are three levels of celestial beings, the Cherubim, Seraphim, and the common angels. Michael is the only archangel named in Scripture. One-third of the angels became aligned with Satan when he fell. In the New Testament the term “sons of God” is expanded. Adam is called the “son of God “because he was brought into existence by creation (Luke 3:38). Believers are called “sons of God” (John 1:12) because believers are considered to be a “new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

According to Job 1–2, the “sons of God” present themselves before God to report on their assignments. One of them is Satan or “the Adversary” (Satan in Hebrew means “the adversary”.) Clearly this is Lucifer after his fall when he became God’s “adversary”.

While not at all authoritative it is also helpful to view the ancient culture groups in Canaan at the time of the ancient Israelites. Here we see some similarities to the true God and His adversary in their writings. The equivalent term in other Canaanite languages is benei ʾel (im), and according to Ugaritic mythology there are seventy such beings. While these pagan religions could have some connection to the true God it is most likely that they are referring to Satan’s retinue. While ʾelohim and ʾel (im) literally mean “god” or “gods,” they also refer to various types of supernatural beings and heavenly bodies that form God’s retinue. These include spirits, angels (malʾakhim, literally “emissaries”), the sun, moon, stars, and “the host of heaven.”[9] In keeping with the activities of the fallen angels in Psalm 82 God rebukes the “divinities” (ʾelohim) for judging unjustly and the psalmist calls upon God to judge all nations personally and take them all as His allotment.

In keeping with Psalm 82 where God rebukes the fallen angels, the book of Daniel refers to them as “governors” or “princes” (in Hebrew sarim) and describes them as angelic territorial adversaries of God over various nations. Daniel mentions those of Persia and Greece (Daniel 10:13, 20). Paul in the New Testament affirms the great spiritual battle, which is taking place in the celestial realm and has its battleground in the minds and hearts of human beings (Ephesians 6:12-13).

Conclusion

Since the Masoretic text states Deuteronomy 32:8 passage as “sons of Israel” and the LXX as well as the DSS use the term “children of God” this writer accepts them both as authoritative. It is God’s divine sovereignty to manage His creation in any manner of His choosing. The manner in which people groups have migrated into the world after the Flood is defined in Genesis 10. God changed their language and directed them away from Babel. The idea stated in the various passages is that the number of nations equals the number of “sons of the divine” and suggests that each of these beings is paired with a nation. From Daniel 9:13 it appears that God appointed divine beings to govern the nations on His behalf. Jehovah God distributed the peoples of this earth based in part upon then number of Jews that were instrumental in the history of the nation. [10] Over every nation, or people group He appointed a ruler; but the Lord’s portion is Israel. Consider these points:

  • The Jews were chosen by God and as such are a unique people group on the earth:

Jeremiah 10:16

The portion of Jacob [is] not like them: for he [is] the former of all [things]; and Israel [is] the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts [is] his name (KJV).

  • The Lord leads the Children of Israel in the paths that they will go:

Isaiah 48:17

Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;  I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit,  Which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go (KJV).

 

  • He controls the earth by directing His angels to carry out His Will:

Matthew 13:41

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity (KJV).

The scribes responsible for transcribing the text of the Bible realized that both the Heavenly Host and the Children of Israel were directed by God to carry out His divine will. Some wanted to emphasize the divine control through the celestial beings, and others wanted to emphasize the divine control according to the number of the Children of Israel.  The Hebrew text states number of  “the sons of Israel” were meaning “the number of Israelites” and the Septuagint as well as the DSS has “according to the number of angels.” The sense is that, in accordance with the number of celestial beings, God divided humankind into separate people groups. Each people group would have its own divine “guider” taking directions from God by placing the people groups around the earth in accordance with the Jews God Almighty placed within their nations to influence their histories.

 

Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

 


[1] Tigay, J. H. (1996). Deuteronomy. The JPS Torah Commentary (513). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

[2]  Merrill, E. H. (1994). Vol. 4: Deuteronomy. The New American Commentary (413). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Brenton Sir Lancelot C.L. (1851) The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, (Introduction) Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd., London.

[4] Wenger, Paul D. (1999) The Journey from Texts to Translations,(192-195) Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 49516

[5] Scanlin Harold. (1993) The Dead Sea Scrolls and Modern Translation of the Old Testament. (112) Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187

[6] Thomson, Charles (Ed. Muses, C.A.) (1954) The Septuagint Bible Translated from Greek to English (350) The Falcon’s Wing Press, Indian Hills, Colorado 80454

[7] Abegg, Martin Jr. Flint, Peter. Ulrich, Eugene. The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Published by T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Scotland 1999

[8] Ussher, J, 1650. Annals of the World: James Ussher’s Classic Survey of World History (Modern English republication, ed. Larry and Marion Pierce, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003)

[9] Tigay, J. H. (1996). Deuteronomy. The JPS Torah Commentary (514). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

[10] Fruchtenbaum, Arnold, G. The Book of Genesis (204) Ariel Ministries, San Antonio, TX 78279-2507

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God Is In Control of This Earth

The Apostle by Rembrandt van Rijn 1633

The Sovereignty of God

 

The Bible claims to be the very Word of God (Ps 119; 2 Tim 3:16-17 etc.). As such it also gives a picture of God as being in complete control of all things on the earth and in heaven. What do we mean by the expression, God is in control of all things?

The dictionary defines God as being the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as being eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all knowing. This Supreme Being has special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature.[1] Arthur W. Pink provides one excellent definition:

The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.[2]

The Bible itself provides many verses showing God Himself proclaiming His authority and control over the affairs of all creation. Some are provided here as an illustration.

Here is a vivid description of God controlling life as well as ones economic status in this world.

The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, [and] lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set [them] among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.( 1Sam 2:6-8)

 God owns the earth and everything in it because He created it.

The earth [is] the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. (Ps 24:1)

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. (Ps 50:10-12)

 God knows all things and controls all things whether through His causative will or His permissive will. That is, He creates and He also allows His children to suffer the consequences of their sin.

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isa 46:10)

Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods, which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. (Judg 10:13-14)

As God is in control of all affairs on this earth He is also in control of the origin, development and destiny of the Jewish Nation.  It is also important to realize that God does not move counter to what He has revealed in Scripture as “His will.” As we move closer to the end and await the rapture of the Church be strong and always waiting our Lord to take us Home.

The Attitude of Believers Toward Jesus’ Second Coming

As we notice the world  spinning out of control it is important to remember what God’s Word says about our attitude. First, we must without any reservation believe that Christ will come for us as He promised. Next we look to Scripture for our direct instructions as we wait for our Lord to come for us. We have the blessed assurance that what the Bible tells us will come to pass and we must follow its instructions to achieve its blessings.

  1. Believers Should be Watchful and Alert

Matt 24:42-44; Mark 13:33-37: Luke 12:35-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6; Revelation 16:15

  1. Believers Should be Motivated to Godly Living

Matthew 24:45-51; 1 Peter 31:13-15; 2 Peter 3:11-14; 1 John 2:28

  1. Believers Should Consider His Coming Very Soon

Romans 13:11-12; Philippians 4:5; James 5:8-9; 1 Peter 4:7

  1. Believers Should Eagerly Await It

1 Corinthians 1:7; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:11-13

  1. Believers Should Encourage One Another

Rom 8:23-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

  1. Believer Should Long for It

2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Peter 3:12; Revelation 22:20

  1. Believers Should Persevere

Matthew 24:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:7-9; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:12-14; James 5:7-8

Daniel E. Woodhead


[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary. Cleveland, OH: The World Publishing Company, 1960, 620.

[2] Pink, Arthur W. The Sovereignty of God. (n.c.) I.C. Herendeen. Reprint Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book Publishers, 1984, 19.

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God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

Conversion of the apostle Paul by Rubens cir. 1601-02

Conversion of the apostle Paul by Rubens cir. 1601-02

 

Ephesians 1: 3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (KJV).

This verse begins one long sweeping statement and goes without a major stop from the beginning of verse three to the end of verse fourteen. Paul touches on all the great biblical themes in that complex sentence—sanctification, adoption, redemption, and glorification—and they all rest on one foundational doctrine, the doctrine of election also known as predestination. The highest spiritual blessings stand on Ephesians 1:4 where the text says that God has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. It also says that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. God didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided or even acted in some random way to select us. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty.
The term predestination, which follows those words, simply means to determine ones destiny beforehand. The Bible never says how God does the choosing. This is exclusively God’s territory. It never gives us His methodologies. This term has produced much division in the Church of Jesus Christ since He departed back to Heaven. Mostly though this heated up with the reformers in the sixteenth century.  Many theologians and Bible teachers have engaged in intensive debate over this term and entire denominations have been split as well as formed around it. We will provide a comprehensive explanation so that we can understand what the Bible teaches on this subject and also what some denominations teach that is actually outside the biblical text. Most discussions of this topic produce too little light and too much heat. It is taught in seminaries as a part of Soteriology, (the doctrine of salvation), within systematic theology.

Four very important truths must be first advanced:

  1. God is entirely sovereign over His creation, is in complete control of it, and He can do whatever He likes (II Kings 19:15; Job 26:13; 38:4; Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 42:5; 44:6; 45:12; 66:2; Jonah 1:9; Revelation 1:8; 3:14; 4:11).
  2. Man, living in time and space is incapable of realizing a full understanding of God and all His ways (Job 38 & 39 etc.).
  3. Because He lives outside of time and space He can look down the long corridors of time and see all events and decisions simultaneously. He knows what will be decided in the human heart and what will happen in the future before it happens (Isaiah 44:7-8; 45:21; Psalm 139; Genesis 3:15;)
  4. Prior to salvation all humans deserve to enter Hell. Without God we cannot change and save ourselves. NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY THAT GOD HAS SPECIFICALLY CHOSEN SOME TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

Jeremiah 13: 23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (KJV)?

Romans 3: 10-12 according as it hath been written — `There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who is understanding, there is none who is seeking after God. All did go out of the way, together they became unprofitable, there is none doing good, there is not even one (KJV).

Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13).

Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37). Even though a simple reading of this verse appears to mean that God has chosen people to salvation before the world was formed, other verses indicate that mankind has to choose God in order to be saved (John 3:15; Acts 16:31 etc.). The dichotomy grows wider with predestination seemingly tightening to mean that God has chosen some people but not all to salvation (Romans 9:18; John 10: 25-29). On the other hand some verses indicate that God wants all people to be saved (John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5: 14 etc.).

You must understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election

(Acts 13:48). And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe (Ephesians 2:8). If your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we must praise Him.

Some are shocked to find that God seemingly didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son.

To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “ ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:14-15).

So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable? FAIR? What is fair? Humans all have a different vision of fairness depending on our experience base. God is in control of His creation and as such can make His own rules. God’s choices are always perfect. In our weak human understanding we see a sense of unfairness with God’s choice. But we must remember He know everything all events, past, present and future. His choices are always perfect or else He would not be God. He has not left anybody out. He made perfect choices.

Paul answers all such questions with a rebuke:

Romans 9: 20-21 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (KJV)

Certainly HE does!

Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying:

Romans 10: 9-13 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “WHOEVER calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (NKJV)

These two sides of God’s truth; His sovereignty in choosing us; (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10) is IMPOSSIBLE for us to reconcile and understand. But Scripture declares both aspects of salvation are true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and accept them by faith.

This seemingly unsolvable difference in two truthful biblical concepts that can’t be reconciled is called an antinomy. It is not a paradox or a contradiction. Those concepts require that one or the other is untrue. This situation is when both are true. Another biblical antinomy is the Trinity. God is one God in three persons. Both of those imply that either one or the other is true, not both. However, both God’s Divine Sovereignty and man’s ability to choose are true. Hence, they provide antimony. The human’s problem is that we are unsettled with antinomies and try to take one side or the other.

Many denominations take the predestination verses in the Bible as fact and while they can’t reconcile predestination with man’s choice they say man has no choice. In taking this position they must invalidate the verses that clearly show that man has choice. Others take the opposite position and say man has all the choice and God does not choose. They then relegate the verses, which clearly state that God has chosen us to obscurity, or restate them to mean something else. When we don’t accept both ideas as fact and choose one or the other we are engaging in heretical acts. Reformed churches historically take the total predestination position and Baptist churches usually, but not always, take the other. The total predestination position is usually called Calvinism after John Calvin the French reformer of the sixteenth century. The entire emphasis on man’s exclusive choice in the matter of salvation is usually called Arminianism after Jacob Arminius a sixteenth century Dutch theologian who advanced this concept. The problem for us is that both concepts are true and we must accept them as such.

Somewhere in the councils of God this makes sense but on this earth it never will and many have tried to no avail unless they take one side or the other. This then results in heretical teaching. The doctor of souls will do all he can to keep heresies out of the church. They are to the Church of Jesus Christ what disease is to a medical doctor that cares for human bodies in time and space. Both legitimate doctors will do all they can to prevent or stop heresies and diseases in their respective bodies. Unfortunately there are more quacks in the spiritual realm than in the physical temporal one. This is because the prize for pure spiritual truth is eternal life. It is the greatest prize on earth to receive. Nothing has greater value. As evidence of this we see many false prophets, corrupt denominations, and seminary teachings. As a result few find eternal salvation and Satan has accomplished one of his goals: the eternal destruction of human souls.

Matthew 7: 13-15 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

The deception leading into heresy by religious authorities is not new. Jesus condemned the religious authorities of His day for leading the Jews away from eternity.

Matthew 23: 13-15 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (KJV).

What is important for us to do is clearly explain the antimony and continue to witness for Christ. We never know who will accept. We also cannot take the position that God has chosen those who will accept His call and stop telling others. We must always praise the God of the universe for who He is and stay humble for allowing us to believe. FINALLY IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT WE ARE NOT GOD. IT IS NOT UP TO US TO CHOOSE WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN OR ASK WHY. His choices for salvation and ministry are entirely His providence. That is entirely God’s domain and not ours. It is best that believers NOT argue about this and try to enforce their position. This all belongs to God. God is sovereign and man has responsibility to Him. If you keep arguing about this you will just cause divisions in the Body of Christ. This all belongs to our Lord. He is in charge. Keep teaching and witnessing and lastly, Never, never, never, never, give up.

Daniel Woodhead

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