God’s Decrees Are… (Boston)

Christians don’t spend enough time meditating on the character of God. Below are some good thought from one of my favorite authors (Thomas Boston) on God’s decrees…

The Reformed Reader

The Works Of Thomas Boston: Volume 1 by [Boston, Thomas] The Bible teaches that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11 NIV). This means that whatever God decrees comes to pass and whatever comes to pass God has decreed.  This includes the details of creation, predestination, providence, and so forth.  I like how Thomas Boston defined the properties of God’s decrees using Scripture.  He said the following about God’s decrees:

  1. They are eternal.  God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been ‘before the foundation of the world,’ Eph. 1:4.  …If the divine decrees were not eternal, God would not be most perfect and unchangeable, but, like weak man, should take new counsels, and would be unable to tell everything that were to come to pass.
  2. They are most wise: ‘According to the counsel of his will.’ God…

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Who Was Joel?

The questions below come from Chapter 3 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Who was Joel?

Joel was a prophet, the son of a Pethuel, and probably a resident of Jerusalem.  Not much else is known about him.

What the date of this prophecy?

The date of Jeol’s prophecy is unknown.  Older writers favor an older date during the reign of Joash (800s BC).  Newer authors put his writing in the 400s BC.

What the occasion of this prophecy?

The occasion of the prophecy is a plague of locusts which destroy the land and devour all the food.  The prophecy may refer to a literal plague or may represent in invading army (Babylon?) that destroys Israel.  The cause for the invasion is because of the sin of Judah.  Joel calls on Judah to repent in order to turn away the judgement of God.

To whom was this prophecy given and how do you explain the use of the name “Israel” in 2:27; 3:2, 16?

The prophecy is given to the Kingdom of Judah.  References to Israel are to the descendants of Jacob that live in the Southern Kingdom.

What are the essential points in the analysis of this book?

  • The Judgement of God
    • The locust invasion (1:1-20)
    • The Day of the LORD: Invasion of a northern army (2:1-17)
  • The Kingdom of God
    • God delivers Israel from the invaders (2:18-32)
    • The LORD judges all the nations (3:1-21)

What formula of introduction is found in the title to this book?

“The word of the LORD that came to Joel”

What the interpretation of the coming of the locusts?

Modern writers believe that the locust invasion was a literal plague that happened in Joel’s day.  According to Carrol and the older writers, the 4 locust invasions listed in Joel 1 are an allegory for 4 world powers that threaten the southern kingdom: Babylon, Persia, Greek, and Rome.

Carrol believes the invasion is not a literal locust invasion because:

  1. The writing is apocalyptic in nature.  It is a prophecy about a great national calamity, not an agricultural history
  2. A description is given in chapter 2 of a literal northern army invasion.  This is either a second calamity that will one day befall Israel, or it is describing, in literal terms, the allegory of chapter 1.
  3. The impact of the “Day of the LORD” is far worse than would be effected by a plague of locusts
  4. Rev 9:3-11 describe a locust invasion as a symbol for an invading army

According to this position, then how interpret 1:2 to 2:27?

According to the allegorical position, the locust invasion and “Day of the Lord” invasion of chapter 2 are the same invasion (perhaps Babylon or Assyria).  The invaders threaten total devastation, necessitating the repentance of Judah.  When Judah fasts and repents, God will have pity on His people and drive the invaders from the land.  He will then restore the fortunes of the nation (grain, wine, oil).

What is the promise in 2:28-32 and where do we find the fulfillment?

Afterward, God will pour out His spirit on “all flesh” (all kinds of people) – young and old, men and women will dream dreams and prophesy.  Peter applied the fulfillment of this prophecy to the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of His Spirit on Pentecost:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  …And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. …Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, …this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smokeThe sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come”  

(Acts 2:1-20)

What the judgments of 3:1-21 and when their fulfillment?

This is God’s Judgment on the heathen nations that oppose His people.  God summons them to the battlefield, where He pours out His wrath on them.

 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. and [false spirits] go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.  …Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.  …God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.

(Rev 16:12-19)

According to Carroll,  this event ushers in the millennium in which the Prince of Judah will win the victory over the world, bring about the full manifestation of His kingdom, and disseminate knowledge of Himself to the ends of the earth.

What ideas appear for the first time in Joel and what their application?

“Day of the LORD” – refers to a time of God’s Judgment – First on Israel which results in Israel’s conversion; and second upon the Heathen, which results in their destruction.  It finds its ultimate and final fulfillment in the last great day of judgment.

What the most important lessons of this book?

  1. God will punish disobedience
  2. He will be merciful to those that repent
  3. God will pour out His Spirit on His people in the last days
  4. God will save everyone who calls upon Him (2:32)
  5. Evil may triumph for a season, but God will have final victory over all things

What is Religion?

The questions below come from chapter 1 of Louis Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine.

1. Is religion limited to certain tribes and nations?

No.  All men were created in the image of God, and even though all men are fallen, all show some form of the corrupted seed of religion still operating in them.  It is the character of sinful man that he constantly rebels against the knowledge of God naturally implanted within him.

2. How can we learn to know the real nature of true religion?

Even though all men are suppressing a natural knowledge of God, and even though nature itself testifies to his being, it is only by the study of God’s special revelation to man – His Word – that we can have a knowledge of “true” religion.

3. What terms are used in the Old and New Testament to describe religion?

Old Testament – the fear of the LORD

New Testament – faithfulness to Jesus Christ

4. How would you define religion?

Religion is the love and fear of God (piety) and a love for fellow man (charity).

5. What mistaken notions are there as to the seat of religion in man?

Intellectual – religion is agreeing to a set of propositions

emotional – religion involves a certain tenderness or emotion regarding our relation to God

will – religion involves moral forbearance and good works

6. What is the center of the religions life according to Scripture?

The Scriptures teach that the heart is the true seat of religion in man.  Out of it flows his thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions, and morals.

7. What different explanations have been given of the origin of religion?

Various theories have been put forth, but none of the theories imagined by psychologists or historians can explain man’s natural desire to connect to his creator and to search for meaning in the universe.

8. What is the only satisfactory explanation?

God created man (in his first estate) with an ability and desire to know Him and to have fellowship with him, but man has fallen and severed this relationship through rebellion and sin.  Man constantly suppresses this knowledge and will never embrace true religion unless powered by God to understand His special revelation of Himself given in His Word.

 

Who Was Obadiah?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

1. Who was Obadiah?

He was an prophet of Judah, whose name means “Servant of Jehovah”.  Nothing
else is known about him.

2. What the theme of his prophecy?

That Edom would be punished for taking advantage of Judah while Judah was
under attack by a foreign invader.

3. What the date and circumstances of this prophecy?

This is debatable.  Some think it takes place very early when the Philistines
and Arabians plundered Jerusalem because of the sins of Jehoram (2 Chron
21:16-17).  Other believe this prophecy came about during the initial stages
of the Babylonian captivity.

4. What was the attitude of Edom toward Israel and what the history which evidences this attitude?

The Edomites held hostility against the Israelites from the time of the split
between Jacob (father of Israel) and Esau (father of Edom); to the time when
the Edomites would not allow the Israelite slaves to travel from their land
after the exodus from Egypt.

The LORD says, through Obadiah, that the Edomites are full of pride and have
taken advantage of Israel during her distress by taking prisoners and
stealing her goods.

5. What of the general character of the book?

According to Carroll, “The style of Obadiah is remarkably original. …The
language is full of thought and pregnant with meaning. It has a vigor,
terseness, and rapidity which carry the reader along and place him by the
prophet’s side in fullest sympathy.”

6. What other passages of Scripture should be studied with Obadiah?

Jeremiah 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 35 both describe the arrogance of Edom and
God’s judgement against her.

7. Give a brief analysis of the book.

– vss 1-14:  God’s Judgement Because of Edom’s Arrogance and Treatment of Israel
– vss 15-21: The Day of the LORD and the Kingdom of God

8. What is the summary of verses 1-2?

God calls the nations to rise up against Edom to destroy her.

9. What was the character of the Edomites and what was the place of their security?

– The Edomites were proud and arrogant.
– The dwelt securely in the tops of the mountains

10. How is the completeness of the desolation described?

– Nothing will be left – it will be a complete desolation.

11. What reason did the prophet here assign for such desolation?

Edom sided with Israel’s enemies, plundered Israel, and rejoiced in her calamity.

12. What hope for Israel’s victory does the prophet here hold out to the people and how is it to be realized?

Israel will have final victory.  She will be as a flame and Edom will be as
stubble that will be burned and destroyed.

13. When were Obadiah’s prophecies fulfilled?

Edom was destroyed in the 6th Century BC by the Babylonians.  The survivors
pushed into the Negev region of Southern Judah – an area known as Idumea in
the New Testament.  These Idumeans were forced into Judaism and incorporated
into the Kingdom of Judah in the Second Century BC.

The LORD’s kingdom and Israelite posession of the Edomite land (modern
Jordan) will be fulfilled in the last days.

14. What are the lessons of the prophecy of Obadiah?

Love your brother
Pride goes before the fall
Beware of false confidence
Fear God’s wrath

Who Were the Later Prophets?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Introduction – The Prophets in General

1. What section of the Bible are we studying?

The later prophets

2. What can you say, in general, of the commentaries on this section?

Generally, older commentaries are better (pre-1880s), but some conservative modern works may be consulted judiciously.

3. What commentaries are especially commendable?

– Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
– Hengstenberg
– The Pulpit Commentary

4. What are the time limits of the prophetic period and what was the special mission of the prophets?

This period extends 700 years from Samuel to Malachi.

The mission of the prophets was to preach against the despotism of the kings and formalism of the priesthood.

5. What is the definition of the word “prophet”?

The Greek word (prophetes) means “to speak for”, i.e. on behalf of another, so the prophet is one that speaks on behalf of God to man.

6. By what words or terms were the prophets known? Give an illustration of each.

Hebrew nabhi  – means “speaker”
Hebrew ro’eh  – means “seer”
Hebrew chozeh – means “messenger”

also called, “man of God”, “servant of Jehovah”, etc.

7. What can you say about the inspiration of the prophets?

Their minds were stimulated and guided by the Holy Spirit as they proclaimed the message of Jehovah.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet 1:21)

8. What can you say about prophecy and fulfillment, and what does Orelli say
   about fulfillment of prophecy?

Many prophecies receive successive fulfillments, but one fulfillment is higher and greater than all the rest.  Orelli says, A prophecy can only be regarded as fulfilled when the whole body of truth included in it has attained living realization.”

9. What were the three great periods of writing prophets and who were the writing prophets of each of these periods?

The Assyrian Period, the Chaldean Period, and the Persian Period.

The Assyrian Period:

1) Obadiah
2) Joel
3) Jonah
4) Amos
5) Hosea
6) Isaiah
7) Micah
8) Nahum

The Chaldean Period:

1) Zephaniah
2) Habakkuk
3) Jeremiah
4) Ezekiel
5) Daniel

The Persian Period:

1) Haggai
2) Zechariah
3) Malachi

10. What are the three distinct elements for which a student of the prophets should look?

1) The historical context in which the prophet lived
2) The fulfillment (past or future) of the prophet’s message
3) Age-abiding principles that speak to our age

11. What are certain things that should be remembered in a study of the prophets?

1) Sovereignty of God
2) Obedience to God
3) Glory to God
4) A living hope that God would have ultimate victory

12. What are important considerations in the interpretation of prophecy?

1) Their teaching was full of figures, symbols, parables, and allegories to confound the simple and unbelieving.
2) Understanding the Pentateuch is necessary to understand these figures and symbols

13. What are the underlying themes found throughout predictive prophecy?

1) The failure of the Jewish nation
2) The coming of the Jewish Messiah
3) The establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom
4) The restoration of the Jews to that Kingdom
5) The spread of that Kingdom over the whole earth

What Was the Assyrian Empire?

The Name

The name Assyria is derived from the Greek name Ashur (a descendant of Cush). According to Genesis 10, Cush was one of the sons of Ham, and Cush begat Nimrod the mighty hunter. Nimrod was apparently a builder, as he founded Babel, as well as other important early cities in the land of Shinar (the region we now call Mesopotamia). Out of this region went Ashur, who built the prime cities of the region – Nineveh, Rehoboth, and Calah. These cities are located in the Tigris river valley in northern modern day Iraq (south of the present city of Mosul).

Geography

The Assyrian Empire extended from its chief city-state Assur in upper Mesopotamia on the Tigris River. At its peak, it extended from Babylon in the South, to the Kurdish mountains in the North. It occupied the Persian lands now known as Iran and extended as far west as Egypt. The Empire fell in the third century before Christ and was later conquered by the Medes and Romans. It was a hotbed of Christian growth for several centuries before the region was conquered by the Islamic Arabs.

Religion

The religion, art, and culture of Assyria was greatly derived from the Babylonians. The national god of the Assyrian people was Assur, who had the Assyrian King as his high priest. This god was also associated with Asherah, “the queen of heaven”, whose worship spread into Israel in the 10th century. Another important god of the Assyrian people was Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess, whose temple was at Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria.

History

The Kingdom of Assyria came to great prominence under King Tiglath-pileser I in the early 1100s BC (about the time of the reign of Saul over Israel). He extended the empire as far west as the Mediterranean. Later the kingdom declined (during the reigns of David, Solomon, and Solomon’s sons), but was greatly revived (Neo-Assyrian Empire) under the leadership of Assur-nazir-pal III (911 BC). His son, Shalmaneser III, who reigned during the period of Israelite prophets Elija and Elisha, organized all of these conquered territories in the mid-800s and extended the kingdom east and west, destroyed Syria, conquered Persia and Babylon and posed a great threat to Judah. Later Neo-Assyrian Kings (Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II) drove the Egyptians out of Canaan and conquered Samaria and the 10 Israelite Tribes comprising the northern kingdom of Israel. The conquered people were taken into captivity and resettled into new lands, never to return.

Shalmaneser’s son Sennacherib and moved the capital city to Nineveh, defeated the Greeks, and extended his power into Asia Minor. Egypt, trying to gain a foothold in the region, united with Israel (Hezekiah) and several other small nations (Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron), but was driven out by Sennacherib in 701 BC. The Assyrians conquered Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron and destroyed much of the land of Judah, but did not conquer Jerusalem. The Judeans paid tribute to Sennacherib and he left.

The Assyrians continued to exert power in the region until the rise of the Median and Persian kings in the 600s and 500s, respectively.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

Thanksgiving thoughts from 2015…

Abraham's Seed

Today is, in the United States, the national observance of Thanksgiving to God for all his blessings in 2015 and commemoration of the first American Thanksgiving which took place in the Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Background

Special days of fasting and mourning for sin and special days of feasting and celebration were common and frequent elements in the life of the 17th Century Puritans. What made that first recognized Thanksgiving celebration on US soil, in 1621, to be such a notable event is the fact that it is the first that was thoroughly documented. Those Plymouth Pilgrims suffered so many great difficulties in their first year in the New World, in their quest for religious freedom, that the first great harvest that God bestowed upon them was incredibly sweet.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year! It is the quintessential Protestant Holiday! It is the hearty, sincere, and humble…

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Happy Reformation Day 2016

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany.  There were certainly many reformers within the church both before, during, and after Martin Luther, but the unintended consequence of this seemingly insignificant event sparked a debate that would eventually roar across the Western Church like a wild fire.  For this reason, Christians celebrate the reformation of the church on October 31st every year.  Next year, of course, will be the 500th anniversary of this momentous occasion!

knox

Our reformation hero for 2016 is John Knox.  Knox was born in Scotland in 1505.  He was well educated as a child and taught at both the University of Glasgow (his Alma matter) and the University of St. Andrews.

The details of Knox’s conversion are not known.  It is known, however, that by 1543, Knox was preaching the free gospel of grace and supported reformed movements within the church.

In 1546, Knox’s friend and fellow reformer George Wishart was burned at the stake at St Andrews castle by Cardinal Beaton.  Shortly after, reformers stormed the castle and killed Beaton.  Many protestants, including Knox, took refuge in the castle.  Knox preached and taught in the castle for a year until he was captured by the French during the Siege of St. Andrews Castle.

ben-hur_1959a

As a French prisoner, Knox was sentenced to be chained to an oar as a galley slave.  Knox labored as a slave for 19 months (nearly dying from the harsh conditions).  He was freed as a condition negotiated by Protestant King Edward VI of England.  Knox was returned to England in 1549 where he preached and worked with the English reformers.

Knox had to flee to Frankfurt, Germany when “Bloody” Queen Marty ascended to the throne in 1554.  Later, Knox moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he befriended John Calvin and pastored an English church.

In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland to lead the reformation of the church there.  In his home country, Knox developed a Presbyterian form of church government (as opposed to the hierarchical form of the church of England).  Knox stood up to the Queen of Scotland (at great peril to his own life) and eventually won all of Scotland to the reformed cause.

In 1570, Knox suffered a stroke, but continued his prolific preaching schedule (having to be carried to the pulpit to preach).  Finally, by November of 1572, Knox was spent and the Lord took him home.  His influence on the Scottish reformation, the Westminster Assembly, and American and English religion could never be understated.

john_knox_statue_new_college_edinburgh

“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched
infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am
compelled to thunder out the threatening of God against the obstinate
rebels.”
― John Knox

Matthew Henry’s “Notes”

Shane Lems has a great post today encouraging the use of Matthew Henry’s commentary.

…I appreciate Henry because he had such a great knowledge of Scripture that he constantly alluded to other Bible passages in his commentary. Also, I like Henry because he understood the doctrines of grace and highlighted them in his comments. One other reason I keep on using Henry’s commentaries is because he always worked to apply the text…

Read the Whole Article Here: Matthew Henry’s “Notes”