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Frequently Asked Questions - Old Testament

FAQs - Old Testament

The male lamb for the Passover was killed by having its blood shed. On the 14th day of the 1st month of the head of the family would slit the throat of the lamb and collect its blood. The blood was then smeared on the lintel and posts of the front door.

This corresponds with the way that Jesus Christ was killed on the cross – by the shedding of His blood (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7 – “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”. Cf. John 1:29, 36).

The significance of dying by the shedding of blood is that this alone can atone for a man’s sins. Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”  (cf. Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:2; 1 Peter 1:18,19)

The firstborn of Egypt died as God’s judgment on their sins. However, in the 10th plague the firstborn of Israel would also have died because they were just as guilty of sin as the Egyptians. It was only by having a substitute to die for them that the firstborn of Israel were saved. The lamb’s blood on the doorpost and lintel meant that a death had already taken place in the house and so the angel of death passed over that house.

Exodus 12:10 – “And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”

Nothing is mentioned in the Bible as to why this had to be done, but the following may be some possible reasons for doing this:

a) It was a special meal that must not be profaned because it is holy and points to Jesus Christ. For other daily meals, leftovers could be preserved and kept for later consumption, but not in this one. (cf. Exodus 23:28; 29:34; Leviticus 17:15-17; 22:29,30 for similar laws applied to other offerings)

b) It was an illustration of the necessity of accepting God’s provision for our salvation before it is too late for us to do so. “It was to be eaten immediately, not deferred till morning, v. 10. To-day Christ is offered, and is to be accepted while it is called to-day, before we sleep the sleep of death.” (Matthew Henry)

Some scholars have tried to calculate the duration of the plagues by finding correspondences of the plagues with natural phenomena in Egypt, e.g. the flooding of the Nile river. This led them to conclude that their total duration was about 9-12 months. However natural phenomena cannot explain all the features of the plagues, and would also give Pharaoh and the Egyptians more reason to doubt their divine origin.

If we use only the data that is provided in the Bible, the only instances when time duration is mentioned in the ten plagues are found in:

Exodus 7:25 – “And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.” (the time interval between the beginnings of the 1st and 2nd plagues)

Exodus 10:22 – “And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days” (The duration of the 9th plague)

If we were to take each plague as lasting about 5 days (which is the average of the above two figures), and multiply them by 9 we would end up with 45 days. The 10th plague was exceptionally short (1 day) because of its severity and the instant response it produced from Pharaoh. However it was preceded by 4 days of preparation (cf. 12:3 and 12:6).

Hence the estimated duration from the beginning of the 1st plague until the day Pharaoh let the Israelites go is about 50 days.

Moses did not request for the permanent departure of the Israelites from Egypt, but just for a temporary leave of absence. This was done with the purpose of making the request modest, so that Pharaoh’s refusal would become more unreasonable. If he refused even such a modest request as a temporary leave of absence of a few days, how would he respond if the request was for a permanent departure?

Since God is all-knowing, He already knew that Pharaoh would reject the request for a 3-day leave of absence. But God had determined to prevail against him until Pharaoh himself would yield and command the Israelites to leave Egypt permanently! This would then be a powerful display of God’s power over the greatest kings of the earth.

Look at the following changes in Pharaoh’s concessions:

a. (After the 4th plague) “Do not leave, but sacrifice here” (8:25)

b. “You may leave, but do not go too far” (8:28)

c. (After the 7th plague) “You may leave, but only the men.” (10:10,11)

d. (After the 9th plague) “You and your children may leave, but your animals must remain behind.”  (10:24)

e. (After the 10th plague) “Get out, you, your children and your animals, and be gone!” (12:31,32)

1st and 2nd Samuel was probably written first by Samuel, and when he died, the prophets Nathan and Gad continued to write the history of Israel and added it to his book. That is why 1 Chronicles 29:29 tells us "Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer" According to the Talmud, the first 24 chapters of 1 Samuel were written by Samuel himself (1 Samuel 25:1 reports his death) and the rest of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel was the work of Nathan and God (Baba Bathra 15a).

The question concerning Saul’s status has been debated by many Bible students for centuries and has never been fully resolved. There are those who say that Saul could not have been saved because his sinful actions betray an unregenerate heart. But if a person’s actions at a latter part of his life are an indication of his salvation, then King Solomon was also probably not saved. The OT historical books record that in his mature years, he went astray from God, had many wives, worshipped idols and when he knew that Jeroboam had been appointed to replace him, he even sought to kill him (see 1 Kings 11:40). And yet, it is likely that Solomon did repent toward the end of his life and was saved. The book of Ecclesiastes is probably a testimony of this.

Solomon was a god-fearing king when he first began. The Lord appeared unto him in a dream and he asked for wisdom. He prayed a very wonderful prayer to dedicate the Temple that he built for the lord. Despite that, he backslided badly into sin and started off the trend of compromise in his kingdom that eventually brought them into captivity.

Like Solomon, Saul also started out well. The Lord sanctioned his appointment to be the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:13; 10:1,24). 1 Sam 10:9 indicates a possible work of God of regeneration in Saul - "And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day." This was followed by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the next verse. Saul sought to do God’s will as a king - When he heard news that a tribe of Israel in Gilead was oppressed he was filled with righteous indignation and received the Holy Spirit’s power to deliver the tribe. 1 Samuel 11:6 - "And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly." And he humbly attributed his success to God, v.13 - " And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel."

But like Solomon, Saul in his latter years, fell into disobedience and sin. Because of this, he lost the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and his condition became worse (16:14). When God appointed David to replace him, he sought to kill him. Although Saul disobeyed God, there were some moments when he still showed some degree of goodness and repentance in him. e.g. 1 Samuel 14:17-21; 26:21,25. There is no record that Saul repented of all his sins and was restored at the end of his life. One can only guess that perhaps just before he died on the battlefield, he finally realised the folly of his sins and repented, but knowing that it was too late to save the situation, he sinned by taking his own life.

Now here is the problem. Was Saul’s spiritual experience in the earlier part of his life genuine? If it was, then he must have been saved. Was Saul still saved at the end of his life? If he was not, then he must have lost his salvation. This conclusion however, would contradict the rest of the Scriptures which teach that salvation can never be lost. Besides, as we have seen in the case of Solomon, it is possible for a true believer to backslide and become disobedient to God.

Our God is a God of love, and also a Holy and Just God. Although He loves man, He cannot tolerate sin. It is sin that brings God’s judgment. There are people who imagine that a God of love cannot condemn sinners to die eternally in hell, and some even believe that a God of love cannot allow disasters like earthquakes to kill and hurt so many people, if He really is in control of the elements. How could a God of love send a great Flood to kill all except for 8 people? They conclude that a God who does these must be cruel.

Firstly: The Bible informs us that God is not cruel. He takes no delight in seeing sinners suffering in hell. Ezekiel 18:31,32 - "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."

Lamentations 3:32-36 - "But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not."

In the Book of Jonah, we see how merciful and caring God is even for little children: Jonah 4:10,11 - "Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand [i.e. children]; and also much cattle?"

Secondly: The Bible tells us that every man deserves punishment for sin (Romans 6:23; 3:23). Infants are not innocent, because, even though they may not have committed sin, they are already born in sin - they have inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12) and the sinful nature from their parents. Psalm 51:5 - "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." As a father of two children, I can testify that babies begin to show their sinful nature at a very early age. No one has to teach them how to sin. It is natural for them.

Thirdly: The Bible shows us that God’s judgments are not meted out indiscriminately, but always in proportion to the offence. E.g. in the case of the Amalekites, the cause of the judgment is found in Exodus 17:8-16 and Deuteronomy 25:17-19. The Amalekites were cruel to launch a surprise attack on the Israelites from behind. The ones traveling at the back of the Israelite camp that marched to Sinai were the lame and elderly, who could not keep up with the rest. They massacred these helpless people and they "feared not God." Hence the punishment they received was fully deserved by them.

The same is true with all the heathen nations that God commanded Israel to kill. They were being judged by God for their awful sins. In fact, God gave them time to repent but they did not do so. He endured and tolerated their sins until they were ripe for judgment.

The amazing thing about God’s love is that it is shown to us even when we are deserving of judgment. Romans 5:7,8 – "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." We must tell the unbeliever that it is only when we understand God’s wrath against sin that we can understand God’s love for unworthy sinners.

This word occurs 71 times the book of Psalms and 3 times in the book of Habakkuk. It is a musical term (meaning ‘lift up’) probably showing an accentuation, a pause or an instrumental interlude. They and other annotations (e.g. Higgaion, "meditation" – Ps 9:16;), in Psalms are the equivalent of the musical terms in our hymnals like "chorus" or "refrain" or "softly" (Hence we should just skip them in responsive reading). The purpose they serve today is to remind us that the psalms were originally songs that were sung in the Temple worship, and that we should incorporate singing to the Lord in our church worship. The annotations in the text are part of the original text. Those found in the titles of the psalm may have been added later. These titles are useful as they provide information on the authorship, tunes, historical background and instruments of the psalms. However, as there is considerable variation in the titles between various texts of the book of psalms (e.g. the Septuagint), it is likely that the titles were meant only as a guide, and not intended to be part of the inspired word.

The word "strength" here is used figuratively for praise. This can be verified by the way that Christ quoted this verse. Matthew 21:16 - "And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"

The psalm means that God in His sovereignty can even use little children and babies to bring glory to Him and to silence those who are against Him, as was fulfilled in Christ’s triumphal entry (Matthew 21:15).

We should be careful not to read more into the word ‘lend’ than it means. This passage of scripture sets the righteous man in contrast to the wicked. V.21 says that, "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again" showing that he is interested in getting all the time. In contrast the righteous, according to v.27, is "…ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." showing that he is more interested in giving and being generous rather than in taking or getting from others. Other passages of Scripture must be read to understand whom the righteous should lend money to. Jesus warned his disciples "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16). Even the early church was to use certain criteria to determine if someone should receive financial support – 1 Timothy 5:8 – "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." Christians should not be naive, allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous men. Hence we should be wise and discerning whom we lend money to. If they are taken in by someone who borrows from you for the first time with no intention of returning the money (as I have experienced) they can comfort themselves with the words of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." To lend again to a brother who still owes you funds, does not help him but feeds his sinful habit of borrowing (1 Timothy 5:22 – "neither be partaker of other men’s sins"). Tell him, I will lend you only if you pay back what you still owe me.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10