““You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7; With emphasis on blasphemy

October 15, 2022

Today we are going to look at blasphemy and let’s look at the third commandment that Moses wrote down:

““You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7; from Olive Tree Software

 This commandment forbids blasphemy in the strongest terms.  Unfortunately, in our society most people don’t go to church.  If they hear the word blasphemy, they probably don’t know what it is or its meaning.  Even if the meaning was known, perhaps they still wouldn’t see the point in it because possibly they are atheists or haven’t thought about what religion is all about.  So, let’s begin by finding out what the English language has to say about it. 

Blasphemy and its root in English

Etymonline says:

” “impious or profane speaking of God or sacred things,” early 13c., from Old French blasfemie “blasphemy,” from Late Latin blasphemia, from Greek blasphemia “a speaking ill, impious speech, slander,” from blasphemein “to speak evil of.” Second element is phēmē “utterance” (from PIE root *bha- (2) “to speak, tell, say”); first element uncertain, perhaps related to blaptikos “hurtful,” though blax “slack (in body and mind), stupid” also has been proposed; de Vaan suggests a connection with the root of Latin malus “bad, unpleasant” (from PIE root *mel- (3)). In Old Testament usage the word applied to a more specific crime, against the reverence for Jehovah as ruler of the Jews, comparable to treason.”

In this section we can see that it is to do with slandering and speaking evil towards God our Trinitarian Creator.  Then below from the same page we are given a definition way back from 1895.  At this time Herman Bavinck was making a serious impact on Dutch society.

    “Blasphemy cognizable by common law is described by Blackstone to be “denying the being or providence of God, contumelious reproaches of our Saviour Christ, profane scoffing at the Holy Scripture, or exposing it to contempt or ridicule”; by Kent as “maliciously reviling God or religion”; and by Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw as “speaking evil of the Deity with an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God.” [Century Dictionary, 1895]” Both quotations From; etymonline.com/word/blasphemy

Contumelious = (of behaviour) scornful and insulting; insolent. From Google search

Basically, blasphemy then is about:

  • denying the existence of God
  • Scoffing at Holy Scripture which tells us about God
  • Impious purpose using derogatory means to insult God and believers
  • To alienate people from the love and reverence of God.

This then is basically what blasphemy is about.  It happens every day in society as Christians are mocked and taken to court for their religious beliefs in the 21st century.  Blasphemy is serious and it shows how low our society has gone since the 1970s.  When I was a child in the 1970’s I used to think to myself:

 “Why are the shops closed on a Sunday?”

I didn’t really understand what the Sabbath was and why the Lord’s Day Sunday is so important (and I went to Church!).  The point is that the population moved away from God in their living.  In the UK and possibly in Europe too in all the countries that participated in World War 1 and World War 2, so many Christian men were slaughtered on the fields of Europe and around the world.  If one goes into various churches thought Great Britain one will see lists of the dead soldiers.  All Christian communities lost the heads of the families.  The man was important in the moral dimension of the family and hence the moral dimension of the morality of the country from which they came.   The UK lost its moral compass for the family, and this has led to ‘alternative families’ although in the first century AD in the Roman world slaves were also a part of family life.  For the Christian the family is made up of only husband, wife and children:

St Paul says:

“Marriage Like Christ and the Church

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Family Relationships

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. Ephesians 5:22 – 6:9”

Using the World Wars as the moral compass we are now as a country a boat without a rudder, and anything goes.  Whether or not one is religious or not look at the facts how society has changed.  Don’t just blame the internet, the rot was already there.  We could have also looked at the French Revolution too for a lot of the root cause too.  Kuyper and Bavinck certainly thought so in their time.

So, when we look at blasphemy, please look at what is going to be said with some empathy.

Moving on from some basic ideas Herman Bavinck explains to us why blasphemy is so wrong.  Here are some Old Testament verses Herman Bavinck look at on page 190 of his Ethics:

  • Bavinck reminds us that in the Old Testament in the Law of Moses (Torah) blasphemy was punishable by death to the Israelite and the foreigner: (Lev. 24:15—16) (vv. 10-16; cf. Exod. 5:2; 14:23-30; 1 Kings 20:23; 2 Kings 18:19—-40; 19:10-18; Dan. 3:15).
  • Contempt for God Numbers 16:30
  • Forsaking God Isaiah 1:4

Contempt for God

30 But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.” Numbers 16:30

This verse is in the context of Korah’s rebellion.  Perhaps they were looking for power.  We have this problem even today when people want to be number 1.  This is also one of the reasons that Satan was thrown out of heaven. 

Turning away from God (Forsaking)

Alas, sinful nation,

People weighed down with iniquity,

Offspring of evildoers,

Sons who act corruptly!

They have abandoned the LORD,

They have despised the Holy One of Israel,

They have turned away from Him. Isaiah 1:4

There are different ways of turning away from God. This is my summary:

  • Love for God and giving him worship which rightfully Belongs to God.
  • Love of neighbour (the image of God), Gods reflection especially the poor, widows and orphans.

After the Lord saved Israel, He made a covenant with them at Sinai.  The covenant kept on being broken through their history and therefore judgement came.

Blasphemy and the New Testament from the point of view of Herman Bavinck

Bavinck says: “In the New Testament to blaspheme is to appropriate what belongs only to God” and then we have this verse:

The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” John 10:33

Jesus was accused of claiming to be God (from the point of view of his critics).  They refused to accept him as the Messiah.  Bavinck goes on to say that they were blaspheming Jesus while he hung on the cross:

And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads Matthew 27:39

Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, Mark 15:29

St Paul before his conversion used to force believers to blaspheme so he could punish them:

6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6

11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. Acts 26:11

God saved Paul from his evil self and gave him a second chance:

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:13

Bavinck goes on to say that these blasphemies come out of the heart of people:

(Mark 7:20—23)

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

This is the most serious blasphemy:

“To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to directly oppose the activities of God, whom one acknowledges and must acknowledge as divine. Blasphemy is an outburst of hatred against God and his world dominion because they conflict with the sinful human reality; it is demonic madness. Humans then declare that they are not beings who sin against God, but that God sins against them; they posit their worldview as higher than and superior to God’s, whose view is deemed to be unjust and unreasonable. This sin is committed in thought as well as words.” Blasphemy is thus not a mere denial of God’s existence, properties, and providence, but instead attributing to him the opposite: to deem God to be unjust, cruel, or the like, to mock his assumed holiness and love, and to represent oneself as much holier, wiser, and just.”

From Reformed Ethics volume 2; page 191; edited by John Bolt; Baker Publishing House

Reflection on Blasphemy

For billions of people God who takes on various shape and form in their cultures is seen as Omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient:

  • All powerful
  • Present everywhere
  • All knowing
  • The Ultimate Intelligent being who is responsible for the creation of all known reality

Even though this is a fact, God is slandered every single day!  Religious people and non-religious people need to get on with each other in the world.  This includes:

  • In the workplace
  • With the family
  • At social gatherings
  • In politics.

If a person slanders another person, they can be taken to court and be sued.  There are laws to protect the various religious groups in the UK but somehow when speaking about the Divine Reality, He God can be slandered and there is no comeback.   This has actually been the case since 2008.  The religious make of the UK changed in 2018 in which religion is now the minority view.  Most people are brought up without relgion somehow. This is an interesting graph from wikipoeadia:

From Wikipedia about religion in the United Kingdom

You can see that Christian Protestantism started a downward trend in 1939.  By 2018 the number of none-affiliates started to grow. Then in the 1970’s there is another sharp decline.  At one time shops used to be closed on a Sunday and this has changed.  Religion in the past played a major role in moral values but this is not the case anymore.  As we know marriages, divorces other types of family have been growing.  It isn’t a surprise that the laws against blasphemy were got rid of.  It doesn’t surprise me that same sex marriages have been on the up.  A large section of the British community do not take God very seriously.  With death of the Protestant Christian men from the two World Wars, I believe that the rot set in. 

Secularism on its own is supposed to give an equal playing field for the different interest groups.  Unfortunately, it does not take human nature into account.  Materialism in Europe and Britain has gone off the charts.  Greed has been rampant in British politics for a long time. Brexit was a smoke screen for this greed especially for those in power.  Religious values are all the time getting replaced by utilitarian values and in welfare terms each person has a price tag on their life.  So, if one is medically ‘not whole somehow’ then they have less money thrown to their upkeep.  It is not religious ethics that is doing this kind of thing.  In religion the human being has an innate value because each one of us no matter what is wrong with us has been a special creation.  Secularism and science working in tandem do not see the human being this way.   If one holds to the sanctity of life and all that this entails one is marginalised as ‘right wing’. 

Religious people seem to be under a lot of pressure at the moment and are ostracized for their faith.  They are ostracized for their views about the Sabbath, Sunday, blasphemy, heterosexual relationships being too narrow minded.  Religious people are not narrow minded but rather the opposite.  Their faith gives them stability in this turbulent world.  The Trinity gives us the bedrock for living in any society:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 John 3:16-18

Or Irenaeus’ great statement about our humanness:

Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, “Let Us make man.”

(From ‘ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.i.html’)

Most people then speak out of ignorance about blasphemy.  Uneducated in the realms of Religious Education.  However, as believers we can say that when God created the world it was good.  The sin of Adam and Even sent humankind into a spiritual death.  We are the emissaries of a divine call.  We love God and we love our neighbour whoever they may be.  Christ died for the sins of the world because he loves the creation this includes reaching out to those alienated from God with the message of the Gospel by the Father and through the two hands of God; the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.

Scripture Index

Blasphemy and the New Testament quotations

(Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29)

39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads Matthew 27:39

29 Those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ha! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, Mark 15:29

(Matt. 26:65)

65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; Matthew 26:65

(John 10:33)

33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” John 10:33

(Acts 18:6; 26:11)

6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6

11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. Acts 26:11

(1 Tim. 1:13)

13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:13

(Rom. 2:24)

24 For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written. Romans 2:24

(Mark 7:20—23)

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23

(Matt. 12:32)

32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32

(Mark 3:28-29)

28 “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— Mark 3:28-29

(Luke10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. Luke 12:10 12:10)

(10:26)

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, Hebrews 10:26

(1 John 5:16-17)

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. 1 John 5:16-17

Bavincks OLD Testament verses on Blasphemy

15 Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 In proportion to the extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 25:15-17

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2

23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the LORD is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Exodus 14:23-30

23 Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they. 1 Kings 20:23

19 Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have? 20 You say (but they are only empty words), ‘I have counsel and strength for the war.’ Now on whom do you rely, that you have rebelled against me? 21 Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? 23 Now therefore, come, make a bargain with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders on them. 24 How then can you repulse one official of the least of my master’s servants, and rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25 Have I now come up without the LORD’S approval against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’”’”

26 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, “Speak now to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; and do not speak with us in Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 27 But Rabshakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me only to your master and to you to speak these words, and not to the men who sit on the wall, doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine with you?”

28 Then Rabshakeh stood and cried with a loud voice in Judean, saying, “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria. 29 Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you from my hand; 30 nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 31 Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria, “Make your peace with me and come out to me, and eat each of his vine and each of his fig tree and drink each of the waters of his own cistern, 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.” But do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying, “The LORD will deliver us.” 33 Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? 35 Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’”

36 But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s commandment was, “Do not answer him.” 37 Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of Rabshakeh. 2 Kings 18:19-37

10 “Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? 12 Did the gods of those nations which my fathers destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?’”

Hezekiah’s Prayer

14 Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and listen to the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. 2 Kings 19:10-18

15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15

30 But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.” Numbers 16:30

20 For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Deuteronomy 31:20

4 Alas, sinful nation,

People weighed down with iniquity,

Offspring of evildoers,

Sons who act corruptly!

They have abandoned the LORD,

They have despised the Holy One of Israel,

They have turned away from Him. Isaiah 1:4

The Judge who was Judged In our place; Main emphasis on judgementalism and Matthew 7 verses 1-6

October 8, 2022

This Week we have two English Theologians namely Colin Gunton commenting on Karl Barth (my tutor in the final year at King’s College London and William Tyndale who was martyred for his faith (16th Century)

We sometimes take our freedoms for granted.  William Tyndale (the Martyr) reminds us that some freedoms such as reading Scripture is worth dying for.  At the end of this blog, I give his view on Matthew 7 verses 1-6.   Later on, we will also be looking at Matthew 7:1-6 and we will be considering what our Lord Jesus said about judging others (especially within the Christian community.)

What is judgment?

There are many definitions in the English language:

‘The ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion’ (From; dictionary.com/browse/judgement)

Actually, there are many definitions for judging and this one was the second meaning (from the above web site).  The definitions I have seen tend to be very simplistic and usually the word is explained in a positive light (making good judgements).  We know differently because a lot of the time we can get it wrong.  In life we make judgements a lot of the time from the perspective of how it can ‘make me look better’.  When a person goes for a job, there can be competition and if one gets the job there is a feeling of elation but not for the one who failed the interview.  Unfortunately, in this world some interviewees will cheat to put themselves in a better light, or the interviewers have already chosen the candidate beforehand (which is illegal, but I am sure it goes on).

In God talk we know that the Judge is God.  We also know that our Lord Jesus in Christian confessions is both fully God and fully man (which is what I believe as I am Trinitarian).  For example, John 1 says:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 From NASB Olive Tree software

In the passage we are going to look at Colin Gunton is going to explain Karl Barth’s Metaphor of Christ as Judge who was judged in our sinful place.  This is found in book four; volume 1 of the Church Dogmatics:

“That section of Barth’s Church Dogmatics has to be understood in the context of Volume IV as a whole. In it, the atonement—or reconciliation as Barth prefers to call it—is understood as the threefold action of God’s self-humbling, humankind’s elevation to true humanity and the mediating action of Jesus Christ as both God and man. In our section, Barth argues that God exercises his function of judgement by taking to himself ‘the lost cause of man’ (p. 3). That human lostness is itself understood in terms of the primary metaphor to mean that, after the manner of Adam in Genesis 3, ‘man wants to be his own judge’ (p. 220). We stand in judgement on our neighbour in the attitude which for Barth encapsulates human sinfulness. We want to be ‘godlike’ and to convince ourselves that we are in the right and everybody else in the wrong. In response to our demonic self-divinisation God refuses to exercise a like judgement of superiority, but instead himself undergoes the judicial process. But just as our victories are really defeats and God’s defeat on the cross really a victory, so it is here. The refusal to exercise judgement is the way by which the judge of all things does effect his righteous rule.

How is this exercise of divine judgement to be understood? First of all, by means of an apparent paradox: ‘to show His grace in the execution of His judgement, to pronounce us free in passing sentence, to free us by imprisoning us, to ground our life on our death, to redeem and save us by our own destruction’ (p. 222). The paradox, however, is resolved in a twofold way by, so to speak, unpacking and expounding the metaphor. We have already seen that one of the functions of metaphor is to reveal hidden features of the human condition by carrying over meaning from one sphere of reality to another, and so it is here. To understand the cross as a judgement is to hold that just as a court decides and so declares a verdict of guilt, so the cross lays bare certain aspects of our condition—for example, the pride of our standing in judgement on others. But it is not simply a matter of showing something to be so. Because it is the action of the eternal Son become man, it is also a redemptive action taking place at the heart of our lostness:

  The ‘for us’ of His death on the cross includes and encloses this terrible ‘against us’. Without this terrible ‘against us’ it would not be the divine and holy and redemptive and effectively helpful ‘for us’ in which the conversion of man and the world to God has become an event. (p. 296) The judgement of which Barth speaks is a kind of death sentence, the metaphorical but real execution of the sinner:

 For the fact that God has given Himself in His Son to suffer the divine judgement on us men does not mean that it is not executed on us, but that it is executed on us … That Jesus Christ died for us does not mean, therefore, that we do not have to die, but that we have died in and with Him, that as the people we were we have been done away with and destroyed. (pp. 294f) God exercises his justice by revealing our sin, by bearing it and by destroying its power.

Colin E. Gunton, The Actuality of Atonement: A Study of Metaphor, Rationality, and the Christian Tradition (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2003), 110–112.” From Logos.com

The reason I wanted to look at the metaphor of the Judge (our Lord) who was judged is because here in Matthew 7 Jesus talks about judging.  We find God doing something very special for us as Gunton says:

…the threefold action of God’s self-humbling, humankind’s elevation to true humanity and the mediating action of Jesus Christ as both God and man.  That is amazing that God humbled himself and this was the only way for humankind to be brought closer to God and this can only happen through Christ. Remembering that Jesus is fully God and fully human we now turn to Matthew 7 and read his special words on judging others:

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:1-6

The basic meaning of judging and not judging is relatively simple to understand but there are a lot of things going on here in the text that we could miss.

  1. The basic meaning of the text
  2. Jesus our Lord the great Judge was judged in our place, and he is saying these words (Karl Barth on election)
  3. The log and the speck make me think that this example perhaps was taken from the carpentry shop in which our Lord probably helped Joseph. The Word commentary comments that the speck is really a piece of ‘saw dust’
  4. He talks about the ‘hypocrites’
  5. He makes a contrast between holy and unholy
  6. There is an indirect allusion to Judgement (‘tear you to pieces’)
  7. What we can learn.

Verse 1

Jesus here is talking to his disciples.  We know he is speaking to more than one person because there are plenty of second person plurals in the Greek.  Do not judge! literally in the Greek you(plural) do not judge! so you should not be judged (second person plural and future). 

These are important facts because it fits well with the beatitudes and the future state (heaven) that we will be in.  Although God as the Judge is not mentioned here, we have to accept that the text takes it as a given.

Verse 2

Our Lord gives us a warning that we ought to be careful what verdicts we give in this life.  We will not get away with a false verdict in the future state (eschaton). God is the perfect Judge, and his measure is always correct.  However as human beings we make mistakes many times.  For those in authority it is even more pronounced especially when someone goes to prison for a false verdict or even worse in some parts of the world the death sentence for a false verdict.  In our relations let us love God and love our neighbour and focus on love rather than finding fault with others.

Verse 3-4 the Log and the splinter (saw dust)

In this example of the log and the splinter Jesus Our Lord makes this example very personal.  The verbs switch from plural to singular.  Even in a very simple verdict such as a log and a splinter we personally can make serious mistakes. Before we can even sort out our brother or sisters’ mistakes, we need to first sort ourselves out.

Here we also see a great Jewish Rabbi (Our Lord) use hyperbolic language to make a point.  We know this because here our Lord is using metaphorical language.  A log is literally a beam of wood that is used for holding up houses! In contrast Our Lord also used the smallest (speck).   How can a log fit into someone’s eye? Obviously, it is nonsense.    The evaluation is made though our faults can be very big, and our brother’s fault can be very small.  Let’s be careful how we give verdicts.

Verse 5 (Hypocrite!)

The above word in the Greek is in the vocative singular.  It is singling out anyone who is judgmental and gives false verdicts.  

These are some verses earlier on in which the word hypocrite is used:

“So, when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:2

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:5

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:16 (verse taken from olive tree Bible software)

Up to this point our Lord does not point out who the hypocrites are but later on in the Gospel we find the finger pointing to the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were also those who were the religious leaders of Judah at that time.

This is why the beatitudes are so important for the believer.  The beatitudes hone in on our bad attitudes and values in light of the Last Judgement.

Verse 6 (the Judgement)

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

This has all the features of Hebraic Parallelism as used in the book of proverbs:

  1. Do not give what is holy to dogs  
  2. do not throw your pearls before swine
  • or they will trample them under their feet
  • and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

In Judaism dogs and swine are seen as unclean animals and they would not be eaten:

Holy and dogs are opposites and so are pearls and pigs

The judgement is that those who abuse holiness (the hypocrites face Gods judgement).

Reflection

Jesus our Judge

Jesus our Lord taught us about humility through his life’s work. Karl Barth and Colin Gunton shows us that the God of glory became a human being and died in our place on the cross.  O what humility from God! Our Mediator the Lord Jesus Christ is explaining to us about showing love in our relationships with other believers. 

The thing I like about this judging metaphor is that our Lord uses it from the world of carpentry.  Jesus our Lord was indeed a carpenter!

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3

 Jesus takes this metaphor straight from his human world of work.  Our Lord probably mended some of those fishermen’s boats as well as roofs of houses such as the one that had a hole in it to let the paralytic down to be healed:

Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. Mark 2:4

Jesus possibly before starting his commissioning probably at the workshop, made beds, chairs and various fittings for his customers.

Pharisees

We need to be careful though, not all Pharisees were bad (Nicodemus).  When we look at this section, we need to read it in light of what has already been said.  Jesus our Judge lived out the beatitudes absolutely perfectly and his goodness took him to the cross on which he was judged for our sins! Karl Barth is certainly onto something here!

The meaning of the text

I agree with the Word commentary series because Jesus is not saying ‘don’t judge at all’.  It is talking about attitudes towards others that we shouldn’t be so arrogant but through love speak the truth.  However, there is a warning and we noticed there was also an allusion to the ‘Lord Day’ at the end of time.  Jesus will speak more of this later on in Matthews Gospel.  Judgement starts with the household of God (the Church).

Addendum

Anyhow I continued reading and I came across William Tyndale (The Martyr for the English Bible). This is what he says.  I’ve included his translation.  The truth is that the majority of the New Testament that came to be known as the King James Version (1611) was his work!

 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; and with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured to you again. Why lookest thou on the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and markest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how canst thou say to thy brother, Let me pluck out the mote out of thine eye, and, behold, there is a beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, pluck first the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to pluck the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

THIS is not meant of the temporal judgments;* for Christ forbade not that, but oft did stablish it; as do Peter and Paul in their epistles also. Nor here is it not forbidden to judge those deeds which are manifest against the law of God; for those ought every Christian man to persecute, yet must they do it after the order that Christ hath set. But when he saith, “Hypocrite,* cast out first the beam that is in thine own eye,” it is easy to understand of what manner of judging he meaneth.”

William Tyndale, Expositions and Notes on Sundry Portions of the Holy Scriptures, together with the Practice of Prelates, ed. Henry Walter, vol. 1, The Works of William Tyndale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849), 112.  From Logos.com

The Greek Tyndale (Tindal) used was that by Erasmus.  This Greek was also the basis for the German Bible that Luther translated. If one wants to parse the personal pronouns of the Greek New Testament just follow the King James version.  Tyndale did a great job.  When, he translated it, it was not only for accuracy but that it would sound good too when it is read out loud.  The Finnish Bible too used Erasmus’ Greek. 

  • Roman Catholic Erasmus New Testament Greek          1516
  • Roman Catholic Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples New Testament  in French  1523
  • Protestant Tyndale translated New Testament in 1534
  • Protestant Agricola translated New Testament in 1548
  • Protestant Luther translated New Testament in 1522

Reflection

William Tyndale was murdered (1536) for his work on the New Testament and his beliefs.  His work and his legacy in the English-speaking world changed the world for ever.  It was because of his work that in Britain we have free speech.  Today it seems to be fashionable to attack Christian faith in the workplace.  The very freedoms that are taken for granted today came out of the Bible. 

The Third Commandment: How praying, Reading Scripture can Protect us from Dishonouring God’s Holy Name (Reflections from Herman Bavinck)

September 30, 2022

 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NAS

Here in this command, we are dealing with the honour of God’s name.  As believers we are ambassadors of Christ, and we are called to be holy and blameless in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  The truth is though, we fail time and again to live up to these standards.  For the believer it is very important to eat ‘humble pie’.  We are sinners saved by grace and there are these two natures in us vying to control us, have sovereignty over our life.  Christ said in Matthew 5 that true religion begins with ‘poverty in spirit’.  Only God can save us from our sins and that it is important to live the life of faith and by faith.  We realize that God created us, he redeemed us through Christ, and we have been given the Holy Spirit our Comforter and Teacher and Trainer in righteousness.  For Bavinck the fruit of faith (good works) is out of heart of gratitude for what God did for us first.  We love our Trinitarian God so let us keep the third commandment and honour his good name.  Today I will in the long run look at one aspect of this commandment; ‘cursing’.  I hope to give practical advice through this study to help us to walk the path of truth and thus honour God’s name by the grace he gives us on a daily basis.

It is amazing how Bavinck the Master Theologian speaks about the third commandment as he says:

“The First Commandment deals with the true God, the Second with the true religion, the Third with private religion, and the Fourth with the public (communal) exercise of that true religion.”  (From: Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck, volume 2, page 180, Baker Academic)

If we look at his list very carefully:

  1. The True God
  2. The true religion
  3. Private religion
  4. Public (communal) religion

Here in the first commandment God starts by giving his personal name ‘the Lord’ in English translations. The second commandment rejects other gods as no gods.  This is a strict Monotheism. Bavinck somewhere else reminds us that God has other names too.  He points out that from the Christian perspective Father, Son and Holy Spirit are some other names for God too. (John Bolt the editor gave us a reference from E. Sartorius a Lutheran theologian from the 19th century which Bavinck cites). True Monotheistic religion has no place for any form of Paganism in which other gods are worshipped.

We then come to the third commandment the one that we have been looking at last time:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NASB (from Olive Tree software)

Bavinck here labels this commandment as ‘private religion’.  This commandment is about us as human beings at work, home, in marketplace, with friends et al.  God has said here that wherever we are and whatever we are doing we ought to show love to our Lord by not abusing his name.  Obviously, there are times when we are not so guarded about our beliefs and at these times it is so easy to fall into a trap and sin against God (even without realizing it).

Obviously, we are under grace, and we know Christ died for us, but have you also realized that it is even more serious for the Christian.  These laws are no longer written on stone, but Scripture says that the law is written on our hearts! Becoming a Christian only means that we have been brought into the Church.  This does not mean that as soon as we become Christians that we have reached perfection.  No, my friends it is a work that takes a lifetime and even when we have gone to heaven, Christ is still working on us.  As we grow older in the faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we start to become more mature.  Bavinck helps us here to realize where we could sin (with or without realizing it). 

For Bavinck there are five areas in which the third commandment does not allow:

  1. Cursing
  2. Swearing falsely
  3. Unnecessary swearing
  4. Blasphemy
  5. Any misuse of God’s name

Bavinck shows us that cursing is the opposite of ‘praying or blessing’.  In cursing there is usually sin and anger involved.  In his summary he also says:

“’ Instead of persons offering their wills to serve God, the curse uses God’s holy will for the service of our sinful will. Cursing is not praying that God’s righteousness may be revealed and shown, but demanding, requiring, charging God to punish our enemy.”

Bavinck is right.  It is so easy to curse and I’m sure we have all done it sometime in our lives.  I think various countries have different ways of showing their anger. In English speaking countries the ‘F’ word is very popular and the two fingered salute.  In actuality these particular words depending on the social criteria can mean both a curse and a blessing to the person who it is aimed at.  The two fingered salute came into being from the medieval periods when the bowmen of England would show their fingers.  If the French capture an English bowman, they would cut off his finger so he couldn’t shoot arrows anymore.  So, as a defiance on the battlefields it was customary to show two fingers to the French as a mark of defiance (From the time of Henry the 5th at the Battle of Agincourt).

(The two fingered salute= From: forces.net/heritage/history/did-agincourt-archers-really-invent-swearing-two-fingered-salute-v-sign

The F word origins = From: dictionary.com/e/origin-of-the-f-word/)

As believers we should refrain from this sort of language, but it is very difficult.  The reason it is difficult is, because it is so ingrained into society that no matter what job a person does, one is going to hear these profanities.  This is why prayer, worship times, reading the Bible regularly are very important. St Paul talks a lot about the importance of the renewal of the mind.  It is also very interesting that the Dalai Lama always seems to be very happy.  What is the connection?

Practical helps to overcome cursing and allied subjects

Prayer

Prayer helps us to think about issues outside of ourselves and it helps to build an inward attitude of empathy and love towards others wanting their good.  Whether we are religious or not we are all spiritual beings.  Believers talk about God and the soul whereas secularists would talk about a person’s psychology.  It is the inner person.

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible has a purifying effect as the Holy Spirit speaks directly to us and changes us from the inside out.  Somewhere it says:

“For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33 From Bible Gateway; See also Hebrews 8 verse 10

Worship

When we worship whatever way, we do it, we give God his glory as the True Creator and Redeemer of our souls.  God is holy and to stand in his presence there has to be some reverence for God.

These are just some practical ways a believer through his/her Trinitarian faith can protect themselves from cursing.

Bavinck’s Scriptural Evidences on cursing

Our Master Theologian Herman Bavinck gives us a whole List of Scriptures on cursing that is found in the Bible.  In the first set of texts, it is God who is cursing.  In the second set various people have been given permission to curse for the honour of God’s name.  Thirdly we have the ‘imprecatory Psalms’ which are also quoted in the New Testament:

God Curses

  • Not all cursing is wrong. God himself curses humans (Gen. 3:16-19) and the earth and all it contains (Gen. 3:17),
  • sends the Flood as a curse (Gen. 5:29; 8:21),
  • God will curse those who curse Abraham (Gen.12:3).
  • God curses transgressors of his law (Deut. 28:15—68),
  • Israel and its blessings (Mal. 2:2),
  • everyone who does not remain in the book of the law (Deut. 28:58-60; Gal. 3:13), and whoever rejects Christ (1 Cor. 16:22).
  • The curse proceeds from God (Zech. 5:3-4),
  • God’s curse strikes home (Deut.28:15—68).
  • God can nevertheless instruct people to curse in his name: Moses (Deut. 11:26) and the Levites (Deut. 27) hold up before Israel curse and blessing.

Certain People Curse

  • People also can speak a curse in the certainty that God will confirm it: Noah curses Canaan (Gen.9:25);
  • Isaac blesses Jacob by cursing those who curse him (Gen. 27:29);
  • Jacob curses the wrath of his sons Simeon and Levi (Gen. 49:7)
  • Joshua curses the one who rebuilds Jericho (Josh. 6:26)
  • Peter curses Simon the Magician (Acts 8:18—21).

The Imprecatory Psalms

  • We must also understand the imprecatory psalms in this way (Pss. 69:23-29; 109:6—20). Both psalms are quoted in the New Testament (Acts 1:16, 20; Rom. 11:9).” (From; Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; page 181; Editor John Bolt; Baker House Publications)

Note Imprecatory is about invoking curses.

So then let us remind ourselves why we looked at cursing:

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7

As I said earlier God’s name is taken in vain on a daily basis.  In Finland some swearing goes around with God’s name and also others such as the place of fire and sulphur (I do not want to actually write the word).  The UK has also got the same type of words. This particular chapter is actually called ‘The Honour of God’s name’.  In modern society it has become so bad that cursing has also led to murder in God’s name.  This is why for example Rabbi Sacks wrote the book, ‘Not in God’s Name’; Hodder and Stoughton. (I find it interesting that Herman Bavinck has written a chapter that is closely related to Rabbi Sacks.)   I can add to this that Scripture says that we were created in the image of God. Thus, if a person curses another person, they are cursing God’s image.  I Don’t think Bavinck mentioned this (I could be wrong).  From that point of view self-pleasing destructive cursing of another created human being is in a way cursing God directly.  As Bavinck said cursing is the opposite of blessing in the same way in earthly terms hatred is the opposite of love.  God is love so we ought to walk in love treating others as we would like to be treated.

Final Reflection on cursing

Cursing God directly or cursing another human being are both breaking this commandment.  Cursing God directly or his reflection (another human being); both are sinful.

In this world of sin, it is easy for a believer to break this commandment.  To the believer I would say Love God and love your neighbour as both these commands are closely related.  We ought to read our Bible regularly as this by the Holy Spirit purifies our inner being.  By praying regularly and spending time in God’s presence we are in the presence of Pure Love because John tells us that God is love.  Having regular fellowship with other believers also encourages us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  However, there are situations when it is impossible to have fellowship because of distances, illnesses and so forth so I am not pushing this.

Personal note

Bavinck has given us some serious food for thought and perhaps one day I will revisit these texts and look even deeper into this topic.  Alas, there are only 24 hours in the day and as a carpenter who having scrubbed undercoat of paint all Week, my energy is spent.  Yet I will return.  This Weekend I will be visiting my son in Helsinki as he is studying animation.

I am also really saddened with Hurricane Ian in which many people have been displaced or died.  Let us remember them in our prayers.

Part 1: Exodus;20.7; The Third Commandment: Learning to honour God’s Special, Personal name Trinitarianly

September 25, 2022

This Week we are going to look at the following verse:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 (from; NASB; Olive Tree software)

This was taken from wikipeadia by Mohammed Moussa. (The link is in the Bibliography)

Our Christian traditional lives are lived in an untraditional world and sometimes we find that members of the Church are persecuted for their beliefs.  This commandment is important because God’s honour is violated on a daily basis.  Some people blaspheme God’s name unknowingly (lack of knowledge) others do it knowingly. Even believers who should know better from whatever Church do it and they know they shouldn’t.  This is the first part in a two-part series.  In the second part we will look at the teachings of Herman Bavinck.  The second part will come out either next Week or the Week after as I am also going through the Sermon on the Mount.

7 לֹ֥א תִשָּׂ֛א אֶת־שֵֽׁם־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לַשָּׁ֑וְא כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִשָּׂ֥א אֶת־שְׁמֹ֖ו לַשָּֽׁוְא׃ פ Exodus 20:7

Taken from Bible hub: see Bibliography

Firstly

There are lots of things happening in this verse and although I am not a complete expert, I can say there are two verbs here working in tandem to show the seriousness of the LORD’s saying.   When I am commenting here, we need to realize that I am emphasising how English, and Hebrew are ‘not the same’. First, we have the qal.  It is in the active voice but imperfect.  In English the imperfect usually means as an action that isn’t completed or finished.  The qal in the Hebrew usually means incomplete action that can be in the past or the future or not even have a time stamp on it at all!

 In English “Imperfect” comes from the Latin imperfectus “unfinished”, because the imperfect expresses an ongoing, uncompleted action. The equivalent Ancient Greek term was paratatikós “prolonged”. From wiki; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect

In Hebrew the imperfect can also mean something that happens in the future.  Here though the qal has a secondary use because of the (‘not’).  When it is used in a negative command ‘it is emphatic’. 

With the piel ‘will (not) leave him unpunished’ (is in an intensive form).

Notes

Emphatic = expressing something forcibly and clearly.  (from Google; Oxford languages)

Intensive = ‘unpunished’ This particular person who commits the crime has a price to pay no matter what.

The command with the qal and the piel verbs working together this way means that God is saying something very strong and everybody needs to listen.

Secondly

We have repeating words:

  • Not; The not tells us that this is a negative command.
  • Vain; we will look at this a little deeper
  • The LORD (Tetragrammaton); The general word for God ‘Elohim’ is not used here but God’s personal name. 

The meaning of vain in this context

The following has been taken (scanned) from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament for ‘vain’ in Exodus 20 verse 7:

“…This noun appears fifty-two times in the ot most often in Ps (fifteen times) followed by Ezk (eight times), Job (six times), Jer (five times, only in the adverbial phrase /ashshaw’ *‘in vain, vainly, to no avail,’ and always preceding the verb: 2:30; 4:30; 6:29; 18:15 (perhaps); 46:11).  The most familiar use of shaw’ is in the third commandment, ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”’ (Ex 20:7; Deut 5:11).  Literally the sentence reads, ‘*You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God lashshaw’,” the same construction as noted above in the Jer passages. Before examining the decalogue reference it will be instructive to observe how the word is used elsewhere.

That the primary meaning of shaw’ is *‘emptiness, vanity’’ no one can challenge. It designates anything that is unsubstantial, unreal, worthless, either materially or morally. Hence, it is a word for idols (in the same way that hebel ‘‘vanity”’ is also a designation for (worthless) idols, for example). Psalm 24:4 may then be rendered, *‘He who has not lifted up his mind to an ‘idol’.”’ Dahood (Psalms, I, AB, p. 151) lists the following passages: Ps 26:4; 31:6 [H 7]; 119:37; Isa 1:13; Jer

18:15; Job 31:5 with this implication, although some are dubious, the last one and Isa 1:13 especially. Not only are idols *‘deceptions’’ but so too the words of a false prophet which whitewash and sugar coat a gloomy situation (Lam 2:14, Ezk 13:6-9, 23). The evidence points to the fact that taking the Lord’s name (i.e. his reputation) ‘‘in vain”’ will surely cover profanity, as that term is understood today, or swearing falsely in the Lord’s name. But it will also include using the Lord’s name lightly, unthinkingly, or by rote. Perhaps this is captured by the Lxx’s translation of /ashshadw’ as epi mataio “‘thoughtlessly.””

Bibliography: Childs, B., The Book of

Exodus, Westminster, 1974, pp. 388, 409-12.

THAT, II, pp. 882-83.

V.P.H”

(From: Theolological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Moody Press; page 908; Victor P Hamilton)

The personal name of God

The Tetragramaton made up of y,h,w,h is a most Holy name in the Old Testament therefore I like to use ‘the Lord’. In Jewish usage they say Ha-Shem (which means ‘The-Name’).  When we read Genesis in the first creation story, we find Elohim used a lot but then later on God’s personal name is used.  So perhaps some of the liberal theologies that talked about E or P hadn’t taken into consideration the personal, religious depth of these Holy Scriptures of the Tanach / Old Testament (form and redaction criticism).  Here before us in these verses on the 10 commandments we have a covenant between the personal, living Lord God and Israel. 

A covenant and a contract are not the same thing.  A contract can be between two businessmen who strike a deal, and it is not personal at all.  For example, in the eyes of the Lord God, marriage is a covenant, and a promise is made before the Highest authority, our Creator.  This is not a business deal it is personal and it is done in sacrificial love.  In a business deal one is after profit in a covenant you are giving out of love for the other and death is the limit.

Reflection

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7

When it says that we should not take God’s name in vain.  As we read earlier:

‘It designates anything that is unsubstantial, unreal, worthless, either materially or morally’.

As believers within a Trinitarian framework, we should not take God’s name in vain.  God is described by many names in the Old Testament and New Testament.  I read somewhere (possibly Rabbi Sacks but I cannot remember where) that we live in a tradition in an untraditional age.  He was talking about Judaism, but this actually applies to Christianity and all the mainline religions.  This is a very powerful and true statement because society at the moment is taking secularism to its logical conclusion.  Although society pays lip service to the religions there is an onslaught of normalizing anti-religious values.  The human being for a long time in secular society has not been seen as having been created in the image of God but that humanity came to be through chance (evolution).  

Professionals from religious backgrounds are also being attacked through the changes in law.  One example is that if one takes seriously the Biblical teachings of a husband and wife (male and female).  If a teacher in class was to say he believes this, he/she could lose his job. There is a normalizing movement in the background going on and it is alienating the religious freedoms that were promised.  These promises came about originally in Europe because of religious persecution.

How can religious communities fight back against this normalizing.  For Christians we take the Bible seriously and we listen to the 10 commandments.  In this commandment we ought to be very careful how we use God’s name.  We believe in a personal God, and He has a personal name, let’s not abuse this name because this covenant we are in, is about love not power. 

Even though our faith is being trodden on; on a daily basis we are called to love our neighbour.  Our neighbour could be our enemy, but we ought to love regardless.  We need to remember as Paul said in Ephesians that we were also once alienated from God but by God’s gift of faith we were brought into the Church.  We do not stand in judgement over people with different lifestyles to our own but nevertheless we have a right to our opinions and ways of life too.

Next time we will look at Bavincks teachings on the third commandment.  This was a precursor because I felt it was important to look under the cars bonnet (figuratively speaking).

Bibliography

New American Standard Bible (Olive Tree Software)

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament; Moody Press; part 1; page 908; Victor P Hamilton

Hebrew Old Testament; Exodus 20:7  (Olive Tree Software)

Links

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/exodus/20-7.htm

https://uhg.readthedocs.io/en/latest/verb_imperfect.html#function

image of Sinai taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Sinai#/media/File:Mount_Moses.jpg

Worrying and its Antidote in the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 6:25-34

September 18, 2022

Worrying its definition:

‘to think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened’

(From;    dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/worry)

Worrying its roots in old English, German, Dutch and Old Norse.

In Old English it has the basic idea of ‘strangle’:

c. 1300, wirien, “to slay, kill or injure by biting and shaking the throat” (as a dog or wolf does), from Old English wyrgan “to strangle,” from Proto-Germanic *wurgjan (source also of Middle Dutch worghen, Dutch worgen, Old High German wurgen, German würgen “to strangle,” Old Norse virgill “rope”), from *wergh-, from PIE root *wer- (2) “to turn, bend.”

(From; etymonline.com/word/worry)

Whatever way we look at this word ‘to worry’, its connotation is negative for our state of mind and personhood.  If we dwell mentally too long on our negative thoughts, it will eventually destroy us.

Unfortunately, we all have examples of situations that have put pressure on us, not knowing what the future would hold.  I suppose it is the ‘not knowing’ whether or not we will land on our feet that causes these negative thoughts and feelings.  In 1974 when I was about 7 years old, I had a life changing event.  We all have life changing events, but I would like to share my story with you before looking at the words of our Saviour in Matthew 6 about worrying.

Episkopi and Limassol, Cyprus, 1974

Tranquil and peaceful Cyprus

As a two-year-old in the mid 1960’s my family moved to Cyprus.  I remember living in a caravan in the beginning, then in a wooden house (my father built) and finally in rented accommodation inside Episkopi.  I loved it there for many reasons.  At the Weekends for example I remember we used to go to the beach.  I couldn’t swim at that time, but I did walk into the sea as far as I could.  It was fun.  My two old brothers were there too.  I also so loved our garden that does not exist anymore.  I remember we had citrus trees, a tall tree we used to jump from.  We kept hens and rabbits.  Sometimes these small lizards would come into our house.  

Within the community there was a mosque which was an old converted Greek Orthodox Church (St Georges) with a minaret.   I went to pre-school and then to the main Turkish Cypriot school in which I learned to read, write, and do Maths.  We had a great time and also the odd fight outside of lessons.  I really enjoyed that school.  I had friends and one of my main friends was Ali.  In the village I had relatives too.  I remember as a child that I visited one of my uncles and I was shy of my aunty for some reason, so I went under the table.  This is my picture of Episkopi before 1974.  I did not know about the troubles of the 1960s.

War!

Just a picture from Pexels

However, one Summer this picture started to change.  Students were speaking of coming troubles and war.  Certain things happened for example I saw an aircraft fly very low over our school. Decisions were made that the men would defend our village.  They certainly defended the village and there were clashes between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.  In fact, bullets were requiting off our tin roof.   My dad told us to stay at home however my mum got worried, and my older brother went looking for my dad and he got lost.  I left the house afterwards and found my dad.  I told him everything and he set out to find my brother.  Soon afterwards the villagers got together and made a plan for leaving Episkopi and going to the North of Cyprus.  The next day we set off walking and we decided to rest in a house that was not completely renovated yet.  There was no furniture only concrete floors.  That night I slept on a concrete floor for the first time.  The next morning there were Greek Cypriot militia surrounding the house.  We were then commanded to get on this bus. (The bus had been sprayed with bullets and all the glass windows were missing for obvious reasons). 

The Greek Cypriot militia took us to (what I believe was the old Limassol football stadium).  The women and the children were at the edges of the stadium and the men were in the centre sat down.  I was feeling hungry and for breakfast I was given a very small triangular piece of Edam Cheese. My immediate family of the two younger brothers were the lucky ones.  One of my older brothers was already in England and was at Grammar School.  My other older brother was dodging the Greek soldiers with my dad trying to get to safety.  

Anyhow my mum plucked up her courage and was able to speak to a commander.  We got out on a fresh bus that drove us to Akrotiri airbase.  We were flown to the UK.  One of my uncles spent a year living in a tent.  Another one of my uncles was murder somewhere in the surrounding area of Nicosia.  He and a couple of other men were taken to a quiet area (small cave) and killed by grenade.  For many years no one knew where they were.  The bodies were discovered by a species of tree that does not normally grow in that particular area.  My uncle had eaten a seed and from his stomach grew a tree. This story made the news:

(From;    hurriyetdailynews.com/how-a-fig-tree-helped-to-identify-a-slain-turkish-cypriot-in-search-of-missing-persons-in-divided-cyprus-136986?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=how-a-fig-tree-helped-to-identify-a-slain-turkish-cypriot-in-search-of-missing-persons-in-divided-cyprus-136986&utm_term=post)

When we came back to England I went to school and for a couple of years I was drawing tanks and planes.   I was sad because my extended and immediate family broke up.  There are many conflicts around the world and there are many people who have lost homes, family members and so on.  In all of this we stayed alive and started to build our lives again.

However, things do not need to be as extreme as war.  Even in safe communities’ things happen:

  1. Losing a job
  2. Wife is going to have a baby and one has to get to hospital in a rush
  3. Paying the rent
  4. Having food on the table so that the whole family can eat.

We find ourselves all the time worrying about things.  At the time of Christ to the average age of mortality was about 35 to 40 years of age

(From; earlychurchhistory.org/daily-life/longevity-in-the-ancient-world/)

So, when we look at the Gospel of Matthew and our Lord Jesus is talking about worrying we need to take note and do our homework correctly. It is good to begin by reading Matthew 6 verses 25-34

The Cure for Anxiety

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34  (NASB; From Olive Tree Bible Software )

Our Lord is concerned about the state of the believer’s soul, heart and being.  Not worrying is a practical outworking of the beatitudes.  There are certain things that we have learned about the beatitudes.

Without Christ we are lost separated from God. God meets us in our need and saves us from our sins.  The Holy Spirit works in our lives in such a way that we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. 

As our Lord says in verse 33, we are to; ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’

Compare this sentence of our Lord to:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

From; Matthew 5:6

We have no control over bad things happening, but the key is in the state of our faith by grace.  The eschaton is the great equalizer.  When the Day of Judgement comes, we will stand before God on our own.  This is a fearful thing for the person who has denied their Creator any part in their lives here on earth.  Some faith is better than no faith.  Our Lord says many times ‘O you of little faith…’

I particularly like verse 26 because I live in the countryside, and I see a lot of birds:

  • Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26

The thing is that here in Finland we have four seasons.  The birds are always in our garden finding food.  When we drive, we see lots of ravens by the roadside.  They possibly drop seeds on the road purposefully so that the husk of the seed can be cracked for food.

We then have King Solomon who was possibly the richest man in the world at that time. These God given riches however are trumped by lilies of the field that are more beautiful:

  • And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Matthew 6:28-30

Reflection

Bad things happen but in light of God’s word we need to live by faith and put our complete confidence in our Trinitarian God.  We have no control over life and death, yet earth is only half the story.  We need to remember that God became a man in Jesus Christ. He was crucified but now he is risen, and we put our hope in him.   The world does not understand God’s logic and to tell you the truth it goes against how the world sees things.

God can bless us with a long and happy life, but we should put God first in our lives and trust him completely.  Many in the world look for

  • Wealth and power because you are egotistical
  • Having a good reputation because it makes them feel good
  • Through competition beating a rival for the better job.
  • Having a wife/partner to serve you as a slave.

God doesn’t care about:

  • Your wealth and power because God sees your greed
  • Your good reputation because God sees your heart
  • That you are good at winning although you cheat
  • You are treating your wife/husband/ partner badly because you have no empathy.

Heavenly treasures are worth so much more:

  • Share what you have as Christ shared his love
  • A pure heart may lead to a good reputation.
  • Help the person next to you to reach new heights
  • Love your neighbour as yourself because on a bad day your neighbour may be helping you.

Although we have almost no control over suffering our eyes should be fixed over the horizon to the kingdom of God.  I had no control over my early years and the war in Cyprus yet by faith life goes on and into the eschaton where it really counts.

When the Infinite and Finite Meet at the Echo of Faith (Matthew 6: 16-24; Fasting)

September 11, 2022

Before we begin to unpack the meaning of these texts, I can see that Matthew has a concept of revelation worked into the text.  God the Father in the Trinitarian scheme of things cannot be known directly.  Yet God the Father is not inactive here but active through the teachings of the Son.  This is linked to the beatitudes.  God is interested in the state of our hearts but unfortunately the natural Man is only interested in his/her pride, selfishness and greed. 

When we read the above there is actually a contest going on between Jesus and the hypocrites.  Matthew in his Gospel names the hypocrites as the Pharisees and the Sadducees (See the eight woes in Matt: 11 (verses 13, 14, 15, 23, 25,2 7 and 29)).  In Judgement an intention inside the heart cannot be seen but God can see it. There is a battle going on here for the purity of true religion in second Temple Judaism.   Late on Matthew quotes from Isaiah.  I have quoted a little bit more for contextual reasons. Isaiah says:

13 Then the Lord said,

“Because this people draw near with their words

And honor Me with their lip service,

But they remove their hearts far from Me,

And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,

14 Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;

And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,

And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”

15 Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD,

And whose deeds are done in a dark place,

And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”

16 You turn things around!

Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay,

That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”;

Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:13-16

So, then we can see that our Lord is saying that on the surface it seems to be true religion by keeping all the hundreds of laws and extra laws.  By keeping these laws, it puffs a person up ‘Look how good I am’.  This in that sense is a form of idolatry.  The reason is because the laws are taking the place of God.  The law was never intended to take the place of God.  Rather it ought to be taken in context of covenant and a personal relationship with The Lord (Tetragrammaton, Ha Shem, The Name).  The children of Israel certainly knew that they were in relationship as it says for example:

1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:1-3

Commentary on Matthew 6 (16 – 18)

16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Verse 16 – 18

The phrase ‘as the hypocrites’ is found in various forms in chapter 6’:

6:2 ‘as the hypocrites do’

6:5 ‘Like the hypocrites’

6:16 ‘as the hypocrites’

Fasting religiously can be a good thing, however if the state of the heart is misplaced then it is a very bad thing. Here in this verse our Lord is saying that they want to be noticed for their outward appearance.  Perhaps ‘the ordinary people’ will somehow put them on a pedestal in some contorted way. Perhaps these hypocrites will get some type of earthly reward; praise, honour, money.  The reason why they are hypocrites is that the heart is a billion miles away from their covenantal God as Isaiah says.  Jesus our Lord says basically that the true believer doesn’t make a big thing out of fasting.  They fast but they don’t show it.  They seek God’s love.  The disciple will get a reward, but our Lord doesn’t spell out what the reward actually is.  From previous work we have done in the beatitudes I feel that this would be linked to the eschaton.

Commentary verses 19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so, then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:16-24

True treasure is not kept in the world, but it is kept in heaven.  Moths eat clothes and rust can destroy beautiful objects.  Thieves break into house to steal ‘things of worth’.  However, our Lord makes the point that this is not real treasure.  Verse 21 caps it all!

21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Then Matthew uses light and darkness as a metaphor.  This also relates to the state of the heart when our Lord makes the comparison of the ‘the light that is within you’.

It boils down to the fact that we cannot serve God and wealth.  This also points to the state of the heart.  Our Lord knew what he was talking about.  For example, Satan tested our Lord with all the kingdoms of the world:

Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:8-11

Reflection

In everything we do our Lord is interested in the state of our heart before a Holy Trinitarian God.  Fasting when coupled with prayer can bring a clearer focus in our worship of God.  Fasting means that we say ‘no’ to a basic need of human survival.  It is an action that says God’s kingdom is more important than anything this world can give us.  I have to say I very rarely fast.  Working as a Carpenter I like my energy and it would be a sacrifice for me to do such a thing.  However, the door is open to anyone to fast to get closer to God. (I have to say though, if you decide to fast and you have underlying health conditions seek medical advice from your doctor.) 

I also need to say that I am not standing in judgement over any religious group.  I am only bringing out the meaning of the text from Matthew’s perspective.  It isn’t only the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  We need to begin by looking into our own inner being to find lots of evil things going on.  The work of salvation through the Holy Spirit takes more than a lifetime.  There is the Pharisee and the Sadducee in all of us. 

Prayer and fasting can help us to find these dead bones that are in us and help us to be more like Christ.  Be wary though, this process will take us into the eschaton and then some more!

General discussion about the 10 Commandments with reflections from Herman Bavinck part 1

September 7, 2022

Bavinck the master theologian is going to take us on a road map of the 10 commandments. However, what I have learned about the numbering of the 10 commandments is different in Judaism, Catholicism and Lutheranism and then we have the other traditions too.  As well as Bavinck over a 150 years ago, this problem has been pointed out also by my former lecturer the Late Richard Coggins (In His commentary on Exodus).  The 10 commandments in Hebrew were known as the ’10 words’. Coggins pointed out that in key passages there are situations where the 10 commandments could have been used.  Instead in the Old Testament we have ‘silence’.  In the Christian traditions however the 10 commandments through the centuries has played a fuller part in the formation of the Christian society.

In the Christian traditions of the 10 commandments, it starts here:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:3

According to Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs says that in Judaism the first commandment is:

 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Exodus 20:2 Judaism it starts here:

Why the difference Rabbi Sacks says:

“There was a fundamental disagreement between Maimonides and Nahmanides on the status of the first sentence: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Maimonides, in line with the Talmud, held that this is in itself a command: to believe in God. Nahmanides held that it was not a command at all. It was a prologue or preamble to the commands.[4] Modern research on ancient Near Eastern covenant formulae tends to support Nahmanides.”

(From rabbisacks.org/covenant-conversation/yitro/structure-good-society/ (I usually do not include the https on the front because I want to keep the structure of my blog.  It is enough however if you wish to follow the argument)).

By no means is the 10 Commandments a dead subject.  From a Jewish point of view there is a covenant between God and Israel.  The first sentence links the identity of God to the redemption of his people from slavery.  It is in the context of the relationship that the 10 commandments make sense.

Bavinck and the first commandment (first word)

understanding the grammar (Before me; before my face; in my presence)

“You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:3

Bavinck is going to look at the commandment in closer detail.   Below we have the LXX, NASB and the Mosoretic text.

  • 3 οὐκ2 ἔσονταί1 σοι (θεοὶ ἕτεροι3) πλὴν4 ἐμοῦ5. 
  • 3 You shall1 not2 have (any other gods3) before4 me 5
  • 3 לֹֽ֣א יִהְיֶֽה־לְךָ֛֩ אֱלֹהִ֥֨ים אֲחֵרִ֖֜ים עַל־פָּנָֽ֗יַ׃ Exodus 20:3

(On the Greek text of the Old Testament with reference to Exodus 203 I have added numbers so that you can follow the word order. You also need to remember that one reads Hebrew from right to left)

“There will not be for you other gods before my face.” Page 122

After the translation of this verse, he quotes Abraham Kuyper:

“This commandment implies: Let God be God; do not assault him in his being, but live only for him, under him, and through him.” (From Page 122)

From my point of view this was a good translation as it takes the preposition ‘al’ which can mean different things in various contexts

Herman Bavinck researched the above text and then he looked at some translations of it.

My own research for fun in Google translate gave us:

As a preposition depending on the sentence, can have a wide range of meanings:

עַל Can mean about; to onto; upon; above; by; towards; toward; unto.

Bavincks final verdict on the translation was influenced by the LXX ‘before me (πλὴν ἐμοῦ)’

The Hebrew using ‘before my face’. 

Before this conclusion however he looked at some other translations:

Jacob Alting and Nicolaus Gürtler translate this as “except before my face”—that is, my Shekinah), my Son, whereby the Son is included under the prohibition of Deuteronomy 5:7 along with the Holy Spirit. “

(The wording above gives the impression that the Son and Holy Spirit are part of the ban.  This is not the case.  The editors notes (John Bolt)clarify that the subject of the discussion is on the grammar and not the trinity, page 122)

Bavinck interprets; “Before my face” is nothing more than “in my presence” (cf. Ps. 27:8; Exod).

The Master |Theologian gets the precious nugget from the Gold Mine, which is ‘in my presence’.  Bavinck also pointed out that even some other scholars preferred to use ‘except for, עַל ’.  Bavinck however felt that ‘before’ was a better translation and I agree with him on this.

Bavinck also gives us some references to other parts of the Scriptures for ‘before Me’:

Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11:28 (The word presence is the Hebrew word face)

But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron. Numbers 3:4 (The word ‘before’ in the first sentence is ‘face’ in the Hebrew)

Thus, Bavinck shows that the word ‘face’ can be translated as ‘before’ and ‘presence’ in its customary Old Testament Hebrew usage.

The prohibition on the gods

At the end of page 123 Bavinck moves on from the presence of God to His relationship to the other gods who are not real gods. It is interesting that he says that the people should not have other gods in their hearts or hidden from other people. God is present everywhere.

When commenting on the other gods Bavinck writes:

“Other gods” may mean “others” and also “strange ones” (Ps. 81:9; Isa. 42:8).”

I think this sentence needs unpacking as the Editor John Bolt in the notes certainly has given us some key words. 

Let us begin by looking at the above quotations:

9 “Let there be no strange god among you;

Nor shall you worship any foreign god. Psalms 81:9

8 “I am the LORD, that is My name;

I will not give My glory to another,

Nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8

Anyway, in this section John Bolt the Editor of the Reformed Ethics gave us three words from the various translations of the Old Testament.

The LXX uses ‘’ theoi heteroi.  It means other gods but heteros is very strong.  It means completely different other (chalk and cheese different or.  St Paul used the word Heteros when he was having a shindig (argument) with the ‘Judaizers’– those people forcing Gentile Christians to be circumcised.  Peter got told off as well Galatians 16).

So then, God’s Word is very Strict, and Bavinck brings this out from the translation.  Israel has been commanded to worship the one God YHWH.  When I use the Tetragrammaton (God’s name) I will refer to him as ‘The Lord’. This is because as well as respecting Jewish believers who use Ha Shem ‘The Name’ for the Tetragrammaton, I feel in today’s Church God the Father is not honoured enough and sacred religious language is being trampled on.  As believers let us show respect to our Trinitarian God who is blasphemed in the media on a day-to-day basis. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragrammaton

This is a very Holy Command and God’s people are expected to live to this high covenant. Unfortunately, even though the Prophets in the Old Testament warned again and again of following foreign gods.  A lot of ordinary Israelites failed this command. In the siege of Lachish for example when Sennacherib attacked the Israelite city one can see some candle sticks that were taken as booty for the king.  In other words, some residents of Lachish were worshipping foreign gods.

Idols:

Document 27 for example in ‘The Bible in the British Museum’; pages 60-64; By T C Mitchell. the picture below shows something:

The editor writes:

“To the right the defeated inhabitants are led out by Assyrian troops, some of whom carry braziers or incense stands, perhaps from unorthodox religious rites.”

This is a graphic image of the first of the 10 commandments being broken and the aftermath of God’s judgement on the people of Lachish. Sennacherib made a graphic representation of this victory to milk his pride.

Reflection

From my point of view the Ten Commandments have universal value. It is an important part of Christian teaching.  I have to say though that at the time of the Second Temple when Christ walked this earth, the Ten Commandments were more important in Judaism than today.  The Lord, our Trinitarian God ought to be respected and we ought to put all of our idols of materialism, selfishness, and pride far away.  We also need to remember that these two commandments can be summed up in two.

  • Love God
  • Lover your neighbour as yourself

God wants us to come into his presence and the language of ‘face’ for ‘presence’ is very intimate and covenantal.  However, we need to remember that although there is intimacy there is ‘respect’ and God is Holy and in a sense we need to respect this and perhaps tighten our own language to show this respect.  We also need to remember that we stand before The Lord who created the whole universe and humankind.  We respect our leaders but how much more should we respect The Holy One, The Lord who gave us life and brought us into a covenant relationship through the Son by way of the Cross, the Resurrection and the Guarantor who takes us into the very presence of God, The Holy Spirit.

Background discussion of fasting (The precursor to the Sermon on the Mount on Fasting)

August 30, 2022

Why do people fast?

In this section we are going to look at some non-religious reasons and then religious reasons with a general overview of what the Bible has to say about fasting.  This is a precursor to a later blog in which I look at what Jesus taught about fasting.

There are many reasons why people fast. People fast for many different reasons, religious reasons and non-religious reasons.

For non-religious reasons a person might fast because they want to lose weight.  I do this usually when I get a little too heavy for comfort and this is usually linked to 10,000 steps per day.

Another reason might be that they have to lose weight for medical reasons. It may be that they need to focus about something important in the family.  An example of this could be a particular type of diabetes and fasting can help to even reverse this disease.

Then we come to the religious reasons, the reason might be that you want to get closer to God.  Ordinary people who go to church for example may fast seeking an answer from God for something.  Perhaps a new church building for the congregation.

Many People fast observing a religious calendar such as Lent in Christianity or Ramadan in Islam.

 It can also be more personal for example, someone that want to pray for a big decision going to happen in their life such as marriage and one needs God’s wisdom.

It could be for example in Buddhism or another religion in which for meditation reasons one fasts for a period to clear one’s mind.

Whatever the reason why someone fasts there’s usually a reason. Fasting in a sense also has something to do with sacrifice. We all like our food, we all like to eat so by fasting a person is denying themselves the very basic stuff needed to live. An extreme case of fasting is when a prisoner decides to go on a hunger strike possibly for a moral reason. There are also Buddhist monks who have fasted near the end of their lives. They know they’re going to die pretty soon so they change their diet, and they literally dry themselves out from inside out. In other words they start the mummification process while they’re still alive. Anyhow as a general rule of thumb when a person fasts, they usually sacrifice something in order to reach something else.

General Introduction to Bible teaching on Fasting

C. Robert Marsh (Holman Bible Dictionary; page 478-479) says that there are three areas we need to look at:

  • The normal fast is the abstinence of all food as in Luke 4,2 but this does not mean Jesus didn’t drink water.
  • There is the absolute fast in which one does not eat or drink.  This fast does not usually last for more than three reasons for the obvious reason of death. Acts 9:9
  • The partial fast is the restriction of food but not complete abstinence.  Daniel 10.3

Marsh goes on to say:

“Fasting is the laying aside of food for a period of time when the believer is seeking to know God in a deeper experience. It is to be done as an act before God in the privacy of one’s own pursuit of God (Ex. 34:28; 1 Sam. 7:6; 1 Kings 19:8; Matt. 6:17).

Fasting is to be done with the object of seeking to know God in a deeper experience (Isa. 58; Zech. 7:5). Fasting relates to a time of confession (Ps. 69:10). Fasting can be a time of seeking a deeper prayer experience and drawing near to God in prevailing prayer (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:12). The early church often fasted in seeking God’s will for leadership in the local church [Acts 13:2). When the early church wanted to know the mind of God, there was a time of prayer and fasting. (C. Robert Marsh)”

Marshes references:

(The following references have been taken from the Olive Tree Bible App; NASB)

28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And  he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. Exodus 34:28

6 They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah. 1 Samuel 7:6

8 So Elijah arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. 1 Kings 19:8

17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:17-18

5 “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted? Zechariah 7:5

..

10 When I wept in my soul with fasting,

 It became my reproach.

11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,

 I became a byword to them.

12 Those who sit in the gate talk about me,

 And I am the song of the drunkards.

 13 But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at an acceptable time;

 O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness,

 Answer me with Your saving truth.

14 Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink; Psalms 69:10-14

..

23 So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. Ezra 8:23

..

12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD,

 “Return to Me with all your heart,

 And with fasting, weeping and mourning;

13 And rend your heart and not your garments.”

 Now return to the LORD your God,

 For He is gracious and compassionate,

 Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness

 And relenting of evil. Joel 2:12-13

..

2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:2-3

..

1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back;

 Raise your voice like a trumpet,

 And declare to My people their transgression

 And to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,

 As a nation that has done righteousness

 And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.

 They ask Me for just decisions,

 They delight in the nearness of God.

3 ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?

 Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’

 Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,

 And drive hard all your workers.

4 “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.

 You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

5 “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?

 Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed

 And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?

 Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?

6 “Is this not the fast which I choose,

 To loosen the bonds of wickedness,

 To undo the bands of the yoke,

 And to let the oppressed go free

 And break every yoke?

7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry

 And bring the homeless poor into the house;

 When you see the naked, to cover him;

 And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn,

 And your recovery will speedily spring forth;

 And your righteousness will go before you;

 The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;

 You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

 If you remove the yoke from your midst,

 The  pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,

10 And if you  give yourself to the hungry

 And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

 Then your light will rise in darkness

 And your gloom will become like midday.

11 “And the LORD will continually guide you,

 And satisfy your desire in scorched places,

 And give strength to your bones;

 And you will be like a watered garden,

 And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;

 You will raise up the age-old foundations;

 And you will be called the repairer of the breach,

 The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. Isaiah 58:1-12

Reflection

What we have learned today is that people fast for various reasons.  In religious circles people usually fast to connect with a ‘Greater Reality’.  At this point I said greater reality because in Buddhism the question of the existence of God is not an important question, yet it still has some type of transcendental idea such as Nirvana.  In the other religions God and the gods depending on one’s tradition fasting plays some key role to be close to one’s Creator somehow.

In Christianity fasting is very important not only in the traditions such as Lent and other times but also from the teachings of the Bible.  We can see that prayer and fasting can go hand in hand.  Marsh reminds us that people fast because they are seeking an answer from God or that they want a deeper relationship in God.

In these verses we also see prayer and fasting clearly linked to morality.  If one prays and fasts but closes their eyes to the needs of others such as widows, the hungry, injustice in the community then God will not listen or answer such prayers.

I think the late Rabbi Sacks understood the moral dimension to fasting:

“Next week in the Jewish community we’ll observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year. We’ll spend the whole day in synagogue, fasting, confessing our sins, admitting what we did wrong, and praying for forgiveness.

Something like that seems to me essential to the health of a culture. Often we see things go wrong. Yet rarely do we see someone stand up, take responsibility and say: I was wrong. I made a mistake. I admit it. I apologise. And now let us work to put it right.

Instead we do other things. We deny there’s a problem in the first place. Or if that’s impossible, we blame someone else, or say, it’s due to circumstances beyond our control.The result is that we lose the habit of being honest with ourselves.

” (Taken from rabbisacks.org/archive/the-age-of-greed/)

God’s Will on Earth as in Heaven

August 15, 2022

This week I’ve fallen ill with Corona, but I have to say I’m so thankful to God that I’m still here.  So many people have died and suffered.  Since it started that we should count our blessings, that we’re still here in that sense.

It’s an interesting thing that happens to you when you get Corona.  The fact is that you are put into isolation, but it also hurts your family as much as it hurts you it’s not a very nice feeling.  The truth is that wherever your family is they are also in isolation from you even if they have freedom to walk anywhere, they like because of the bond of love.

Usually, I live in the countryside and the forest, but my son is going to go and study in Helsinki, so we had to find a place for him to live.  So, we went down to Helsinki, and we found a place for him, and he’s going to start his course very soon in animation and then OK, when I came back on the train, I didn’t think anything about it.  We were going to go for a second trip down to Helsinki to give a soft landing and lo and behold that particular morning after a corona test, I had caught corona.  I believe I caught it whilst we were on the train or in Helsinki (From the first visit)

I’m thankful to God for these little blessings such as the injections I had previously because it means that it hasn’t hit me as hard as some people have been hit.  The only symptoms I really had was a headache and blowing my nose.  I haven’t really felt weak or ill or coughing myself to death just had a couple of nights so there was not so much sleep.

Why am I saying this?

Well, the truth is bad things happen to people who have faith and bad things happen to people who don’t have faith it can happen to anyone and everyone no one person is an island.  At this juncture, I want to remember that all those things come from our Creator, God.

At this point, most religions agree that there is a Creator who gives good gifts too.  Within the Trinitarian definition Father, Son and Holy Spirit God the father cannot be seen.  The only way that we know anything about the Father is by the two hands of God, as Irenaeus would say, through the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, Jesus points beyond himself in the Lord’s Prayer when he starts with our Father, or in John 17 when Jesus talks to the father in the Great High Priestly prayer, John 17.

So, then what is prayer?

I want to start with a general definition. I will keep it very simple that even a child could understand it.

My definition is:

  • Talking with God.

When you have a conversation with a with a person there are certain things that you have to take for granted that the person, you’re talking to is a human being, although nowadays I’m sure that there are people that talk to robots. When you talk to a human being, another person, let’s say it’s your mother or your daughter, or your son, or your brother, or your sister.

There’s an assent that that person is important enough to talk to.  There’s a family bond of affection. Even with a complete stranger there is a mutual respect.  These basic things that we actually learned in the family before we went into the big wide world.  I will use myself as an example, When I was a child, I remember that I spent a lot of time with my mother and my brothers in Cyprus and we had a great time.  I remember once when we were still living in a mobile home, we were having some food outside probably over a fire or something and it was nice family time. For fun I wanted to see how far I could throw my voice and I threw my voice.  My dad laughed about it.  Made jokes about it and stuff it was a great time.

I was protected I didn’t really know what was going on around me.  In actuality, there were Greek kids in that village as well, but I never actually met a Greek kid in the village, which is really sad. The political atmosphere for dialogue between the two communities was poisoned at that time.  I remember going to preschool for a year and I was just learning some basics I was really enjoying this day school thing. It was great fun and then the year after I started to go to a proper school and I started to mix with other students and I remember even though I was about 7 years old that basically I got on with some people and I didn’t get on with other people, just like family members.

But now there is an extension it’s moved from just the family to in a sense a reflection of the community and then later on obviously I eventually left Cyprus because of the war and the troubles, and I grew up in England, I failed school because of parental marriage breakdowns and stuff which affected me.

Eventually I went back to college and got to university, and I did everything I should have done a bit earlier on in life but throughout that whole time, I wonder how many conversations I had with people, how many friends I made, how many people didn’t like me a lot and that’s something about us.

We need to communicate with others; Who is the most important Person in the whole of the universe that we should communicate with its God.  God is the one who created us.

I think about my parents realized that they have lots of faults, I have lots of faults, there’s no one who is perfect.  Only God is perfect.  So, what better place and what safer place can there be but in God’s arms?

Who loves your soul?

Obviously, I take a Trinitarian view, but in in general any human being can call upon God no matter what religious background or no religious background at all. Anyone can call on God 24/7 is open doors.  The Lord’s Prayer also as well, although it’s in Matthew’s gospel.  ‘The Our Father prayer’ was nothing new by the time of Jesus, we found Jewish manuscripts within other Jewish traditions but basically explains The Lord’s prayer, nearly verbatim so all the different components that have, have always been there.

Our Lord decided upon these particular components found in the Lord’s prayer.  So that’s what we’re going to be looking at, we need to remember that conversing with the Ultimate Creator is a privilege. 

When we come to the Lord’s Prayer in Christ, and we’ve got rid of some of the baggage (wrong inner attitudes and intentions) before we even start praying.  We are then ready to pray as Jesus is going to teach us how to pray.

As Christians, you have probably read the Lord’s Prayer thousands and thousands of times, or you have recited it on many occasions.  What I’m asking you perhaps (and myself as well) we need to come back to the Lord’s prayer in humility and let’s see what we can learn together.  Let’s see what we can reason together with the Lord’s prayer and spend time at the feet of our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord says:

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:9-15

From NASB

Luke’s version:

2 He answered, When you pray, say,

Father, may your name be hallowed;

your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

4 And forgive us our sins, for we too

forgive all who have done us wrong. And

do not put us to the test.

From; 1989 Revised English Version

(updated New English Bible)

The general feel of the prayer

First, the object of Prayer is God the Creator (Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, invisible God)

Secondly, we notice that our Lord speaks in the first-person plural (such as; we our)

The term Father used in the various religions

Bot Judaism and Christianity have used the term, Father.  Judaism uses the term metaphorically and perhaps in the Lord’s prayer it could be interpreted as metaphorical for it is for all intents and purposes a Jewish prayer.  Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi while he on earth.

Islam

In Islam the use of Father is discouraged because they want to emphasize the complete separation from the Trinitarian view.  A chasm forms that God cannot be touched:

“Unlike in Judaism, the term “father” is not formally applied to God by Muslims, and the Christian notion of the Trinity is rejected in Islam.[65][66] Even though traditional Islamic teaching does not formally prohibit using the term “Father” in reference to God, it does not propagate or encourage it. There are some narratives of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in which he compares the mercy of God toward his worshipers to that of a mother to her infant child.[67]

Islamic teaching rejects the Christian father-son relationship of God and Jesus, and states that Jesus is a prophet of God, not the Son of God.[65] Islamic theology strictly reiterates the Absolute Oneness of God, and totally separates him from other beings (whether humans, angel or any other holy figure), and rejects any form of dualism or Trinitarianism. Chapter 112 of the Quran states:

    Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Sura 112:1–4, Yusuf Ali)”  From (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_the_Father) As it says in this quotation Father is not a prohibited term although it has been discouraged.   Concerning the Lords Prayer Taymaz Tabrizi writes:

” The prayer although widespread in Christianity, has historically been absent in Muslim rituals for the most part yet some Muslim traditions purport that it was recommended and perhaps even recited by the Prophet Muhammad albeit in an altered version that would befit Qur’anic theology.”

He then quotes an old version equivalent to the Lords Prayer.  If you look at it very carefully one can see parallel to the Matthean version:

“Abī al-Dardā said: I heard the messenger of God (s) saying: if any of you or his brother is suffering from anything, then he should say:

O Lord God who is in heaven,

Hallowed be your name,

Your decree is in heaven and the earth,

As your mercy is in heaven,

Forgive us our sins and trespasses,

You are the Lord of the good folk,

Send down a mercy from your mercy,

And a healing from your healing upon this pain so that it may be healed”

From (bliis.org/essay/lords-prayer-islam/#ftn3) Taken from The Lord’s Prayer in Islam

By: Taymaz Tabrizi; January 13, 2018

In some of the Eastern religions the term Father is not a problem

Sikhism

The Guru Granth consistently refers to the creator as “He” and “Father”. This is because the Granth is written in north Indian Indo-Aryan languages (mixture of Punjabi and dialects of Hindi) which have no neutral gender. Since the Granth says that the God is indescribable, God has no gender according to Sikhism.[73]

God in the Sikh scriptures has been referred to by several names, picked from Indian and Semitic traditions. He is called in terms of human relations as father, mother, brother, relation, friend, lover, beloved, husband. Other names, expressive of his supremacy, are thakur, prabhu, svami, sah, patsah, sahib, sain (Lord, Master).[73]

Hinduism

In Hinduism, Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 17, stated: “I am the Father of this world, the Mother, the Dispenser and the Grandfather”, one commentator adding: “God being the source of the universe and the beings in it, He is held as the Father, the Mother and the Grandfather”.[62] A genderless Brahman is also considered the creator and Life-giver, and the Shakta goddess is viewed as the divine mother and life-bearer.

These quotations have been taken from the Wikipeadia:  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_the_Father)

So then whatever tradition one is from here in Matthew’s text God is called Father but in Islam he has been interpreted as Creator.  We are talking about the same God who made the whole human race. 

Commentary

  • ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Luke 11:2
  • ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Matthew 6:9

Here are the two opening versions.  Jesus Talks to his disciples and begins by showing them where all good things come from. Matthew’s version puts the emphasis on the Father ‘we’ all the disciples share.  Forget about interpretations of ‘daddy’ the word ‘hallowed’ (holy) dismisses that. Judith Lieu warns us of this danger as well in her Luke commentary, page 89.  Christianity can learn both from Judaism (Father as Metaphorical) and Islam (God is Creator a warning for Christians not to abuse the term Father). We can only come to the Father through the Son.  If we try to come to God on our own merit, we will be burned up in judgement.  We should always keep the respect (The fear of the Lord in front of us)

As we read above boundaries are set.  Hallowed is a form of the word holy.  Holy is about separating the religious from the non-religious.   The utensils found in a temple, church, cathedral or other institution is always to be used for that particular purpose.  One does not take the communion cup and drink beer from it in the local pub.  This is sacrilegious and an abomination.  No, my friends in the same way God is Holy and separate from his creation though creation relies on Him for its very existence.  

We are also to keep God’s name Holy.  I can understand why in Judaism Ha Shem is used ‘the name’.  As Christians we feel completely liberated because of what the Son has done for us.  We are liberated but does that mean that we should use the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) which is a very holy name in Judaism.  I’m thinking about the ethical issues around these things.  Because The Church and the Synagogue separated a long time ago, we seem to forget that Paul for example did not stop seeing himself as Jewish.  We ought to respect the background of the Apostles as much as the written word they gave to us.  If we really want to foster Christian love in the world; Are we practicing in such a way that helps to build bridges.

  • ‘Your kingdom come.  Your will be done,  On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10
  • Your kingdom come. Luke 11:2

We have spoken about the fulfillments of the eschaton (end of the age) a lot.  It is at the heart of the Lord’s prayer.  An alignment of God’s will, will take place in the whole of Creation from the heavens to the deepest recesses of the earth.   We are supposed to pray and live this. Luke has the shortest and most direct version. Luke takes it for granted that God speaks from heaven to every situation and perhaps his Greek readers appreciate more directness in his Gospel.

  • ‘Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
  • ‘Give us each day our daily bread. Luke 11:3

Moses new that obeying God was more important than eating bread and sustenance.  Jesus here has purposefully put God’s will before food.  Bread was seriously important, and this idea possibly comes from the ‘Manna’ in the wilderness.  The people needed to be fed day by day but doing the will of God was not at the forefront of their minds.  We too need to learn from the Lord’s prayer to seek his kingdom first and then our needs indeed will be met. 

  • ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:12-15
  • ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’” Luke 11:4

We have come full circle on the Lord’s Prayer.  As I said earlier God’s name is sacred.  Here in these closing verses of the prayer we see the Father as Judge.  The Father will judge according to the measure that we can forgive.  Did not Jesus himself forgive his persecutors from the cross? 

Sin or debt?

Luke uses the word sin (hamartia) missing the mark.  This is a more natural words to use for Luke’s Greek readers; (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamartia). 

Matthew uses debt (opheiletēs) this is about meeting obligations.

I think both can be used but ‘debt’ for me has a more personal usage.  You owe a debt to a person whereas if you sin it relates more to you and is impersonal.  In both meanings a wrong has taken place and there needs to be forgiveness. Our Lord expects us to forgive our fellow brothers and sisters.

Transgression or Temptations

I think in Luke’s version ‘temptation’ is not the best word to use. We do not test God but God can test us. 

Dictionary definitions

g3986. πειρασμός peirasmos; from 3985; a putting to proof (by experiment (of good), experience (of evil), solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication, adversity: — temptation, x try.

AV (21) — temptation 19, temptations 1, try 1;

1. an experiment, attempt, trial, proving

A trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition,

since condition sewed as to test the love of the Galatians

toward Paul (Cal. 4:14)

B. the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy

1. an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from

the desires or from the outward circumstances

2. an internal temptation to sin

a. of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert

Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand

3. of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which

we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness

4. adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and sewing to

test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness

(. temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men

1. rebellion against God, by which his power and justice

are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves

(This has been taken from the Olive Tree enhanced Strongs dictionary)

Reflection

I think as we have looked at the Lord’s Prayer, we need to be mindful of who’s company we are in.  Our Lord Jesus has been carefully teaching us about our own limitations in our attitudes and intentions.  This prayer also teaches us about morality that we are not only individuals, but we are part of God’s Holy Society.  We are called by God to love one another and to look out for the needs of one another.  The question do we do this? The truth is a lot of the time we only look out for our own individual needs.  God has very high standards and we cannot meet them.  Only by grace can we come before the throne of God and we can only stand by what Christ has done for us not what we have done for him.

However, the Sunday School acronym ACTS fits all the pieces together for us

  • A = Adoration
  • C= Confession
  • T= Thanksgiving
  • S= Supplication (asking)

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13 14 NASB

Lasering Our Motives and Intentions Before Prayer Time (Matt. 6;1-8)

August 6, 2022

Today we are going to start looking at prayer.  Where do we begin?   In our understanding of God there is a Creator who made heaven and earth. We have a Father in Heaven who loves and cares for us and through the life, work, death and resurrection of Christ the Believer can be drawn into a meaningful relationship with God.  This is my premise. 

There are those who prefer the comparative route of understanding religion, the idea that ‘all roads lead to Rome’ (universalism).  I am not of that school as I believe that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world in Christ through the gift of faith.  This does not mean that Christianity cannot have a meaningful dialogue with other religions.

Christianity can have dialogue because other religions also have their own particularity of beliefs and doing things differently.  Precisely because we are different, we can discuss about God and the Infinite.  It would be very boring if all humans held the same views, believed the same things, and agreed on everything.  This way of living would not be much different to the Cyborgs in Dr Who, in which they all had the same agenda. This to me is the problem with comparative religion because they emphasize sameness to such an extent that religion becomes a spaghetti junction.  I like spaghetti but not as a belief system.

So then we are talking about prayer with a Christian understanding to it. However, the Bible is clear that God has created all of us and anyone can call on God for help. Whether a person is a Christian or not they can call on the name of the Lord and be saved from their distresses. Prayer in its purity is universal but unfortunately because of the Fall our prayers can be ineffective because we ask for things from a selfish and greedy heart. 

Our Lord Jesus in this part of the sermon as a spiritual surgeon teaches us about our attitudes to God, others and ourselves.  What our Lord Jesus is going to say is going to hurt our pride, as he shows the ugliness that can be found in the human soul. As a masterful surgeon using the latest technology, he will cut through all the evil and makes us like diamonds gleaming in the light of the Son.

As before we will use the beatitudes as a mirror to understand this section of the Sermon on the mount.

Matthew 61

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Before looking at the above verse I think it is good to have a definition of religion:

Definitions of religion

  • A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
  • The service and worship of God or the supernatural.
  • Commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

(merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion#synonyms )

There are hundreds of definitions for religions, but the basic idea of a religion is what we can do for the divine object that we worship. 

Jesus turns this idea on its head, and he shows us that there is nothing that we can do for God.  Actually, God has done everything for us.

We sinned and ruined God’s creation which he Loved.  To bring creation back into balance and to save us from Hell (Complete separations for God):

  • God became a man to reach out to us
  • God the Son died on the cross so that we could be saved
  • God the Holy Spirit fills us with Himself
  • God brings us into his eternal glory.

A proud and selfish person cannot accept these premises as he/she wants to reach heaven in his/her own power and volition.  The big I replaces God, and he/ she is so arrogant that they reject this premise!

When we look at verse one, our Lord shows us that there is something in our character that wants to be in the Hot Seat; that we are the centre of attention.

Anyhow let us continue with our commentary

When we read this section, one has to remember that God sees our our attitudes and intentions and God knows us better that we know ourselves.

Verse One

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

So, then there is a universal rule that God taught us here. Why do we go to the church or another place of worship? What is the driver in our soul and wants us to be seen as perfect? If the driver in us is some form of pride in our own strength this is as rubbish in God’s eyes and we certainly wont, get any reward in the eschaton.

Verse Two

‘2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.’

When a person gives to those in need, the question is; What is the motive?

Only God really understands the motives for giving.  It may be that one gets street credibility ‘ah look at what a good fellow he is.’  Actually, the giving maybe for selfish reasons to get even more honour instead of giving through high intensions towards a needy human being.

Verses three four and five

‘3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.’ 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners  so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:5

I think our Lord is saying that when we give, let us give as though God is watching us.  We can do things on the quiet.  God loves his creation and people.  We ought to also love creation and our neighbour so that we are in line with his teachings.

Our relationship with God is not dependent on what others see.  Our relationship is between our heavenly Father and us.  It is the relationship that is important, anything extra is just baggage that needs to be thrown away.

Verses six and seven

6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.

So, God commands us not to be on show with our many words so that we can get ‘praise and gifts’.

Unfortunately, those who get gifts and praise a lot of the time have been done through evil motives.  We see this in the news on a daily basis where some people would like a little help from the government.  It is corruption but one can find corruption even in a church or another place of worship.  I remember the story of Jesus driving out the money dealers and merchants from the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  Some religious organisations are very rich and there could be a person at the top who rakes in all the money.  It is also a danger for the local Church or other religious institution.

Verse Eight

‘8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.’

So then in the previous verses our Lord Jesus gave us a lot of pitfalls for us to fall into. We do not need to rake in:

  • Dirty money and wealth
  • Dirty gifts with dirty motives
  • Dirty praise from selfish pride
  • Dirty ambition and one pretends to be an angel of light but is an angel of greed
  • Dirty glory by getting praise through a false image of oneself.

I’m sure that I have missed somethings out, but we need to do soul searching of our actions in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

What our Lord taught here in these verses is about seeing into the dark recesses of our souls.  Holy Communion is a time to weed out some of these corrupt attitudes that stains us.  We need to consider prayerfully how we approach our heavenly Father.  No one is perfect and perfection comes over time and into the eschaton.  However, these teachings can gauge the morality of the society we live in at the macro and micro levels. How?

  • In yourself
  • In your local church
  • In your local organizations
  • In your workplace
  • In your area
  • In your political party
  • In your local government
  • In your national political parties
  • In your national government
  • In your international organizations.

Our Lords teachings are like a laser, and it cuts through to the marrow of the problem.  So my friends, let us judge ourselves fairly and through prayer so that in Christ we become more holy and precious to our Trinitarian God daily.

Addendum

A lot of things I have mentioned show a lack of morality in our society.  Unfortunately, people are looking out for their own interests at the cost of the neighbour.  I am still reading the book Morality by the Late Jonathan Sacks.  The more I read it, the more I realize how low our civilization has come.  Let’s see if we can start to live as ambassadors of heaven and begin to bring God’s goodness back into this fallen world.