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Frequently Asked Questions - Old Testament

FAQs - Old Testament

Praise is very closely associated with worship, but cannot be said to be synonymous.  Praise is translated from the Hebrew "Hallal", which means to glory, boast, rage, commend, and celebrate.  So it has the idea of speaking of the goodness of God and the boasting thereof.

Worship is translated from the Hebrew "Shachach", which literally means to bow down.  It was a physical work they did.  That is why, when we see the concept of worship in the Old and New Testaments, we see the works of the people towards God, their sacrifices, their prayers, and their praises.  These were considered acts of worship.  However, it was not just in their acts, but also in their attitudes.  Many times in the Old Testament, God, through His prophets often scolded His people, asking them why they had brought their sacrifices to Him and why they did their good works when their hearts were uncircumcised and hardened.  Hence, we know that worship is not just seen by a worshiper’s works, but by his attitude.  Physical and spiritual posture before God is worship.  The physical gesture of bowing down signifies awe and self-negation, as the worshiper recognizes the surpassing majesty and worth of his Creator.  He ascribes glory to God; and true worship only occurs when a true vision of God’s glory is recognized by the worshiper as in the case of Isaiah.  Hence, our worship is nothing until we have a true attitude of worship which is attained when we have a true understanding of God.  Even our attendance of church or church activities might be seen as abominable by God, because we do not have right attitudes.  The English word “worship” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word worthship, which comes from two words – “worth” and “shape.”  In a sense, we shape our behavior and our attitude according to the worth of the object we revere and love.  We all have role models, idols, and people whom we respect, and the way we act in front of them shows the kind of reverence we have for them.  This is, in fact, worship to a certain extent.  That is why the Bible tells us not to have respect of persons or regard the face of a person – to show no favoritism, because this is a kind of worship.

So worship is a much bigger concept than praise alone, and embodies not only the physical manifestations of but also the heart manifestations of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, supplication, dedication, and obedience.

Since praise is a part of worship, the question may then be rephrased as "Can we praise God with trumpets, dance, etc in our worship?" If we have the organ and piano, as most churches do, why would it be so wrong to have a trumpet or harp in worship?  Does not Psalm 150 instruct us to do so?  The answer is not so simple.

Psalm 150 instructs its readers to praise the Lord with tambourines, dance, and organs alongside the permitted Temple instruments.  The organ in Psalm 150 (so KJV) is a wind instrument of between 7 - 10 pipes.  Does this then mean that the Israelites were supposed to worship God in the temple with all these instruments contrary to what had been laid down in the Law?  Not at all.  There is a need to understand the context of this passage.  Firstly, the psalm does not tell us to praise God in this manner in the temple.  The phrase "Praise God in his sanctuary" does not mean the sanctuary of his temple.  It must be seen as a parallel to "praise him in the firmament of his power."  It does not refer to his earthly temple but to the temple of the entire universe - "his sanctuary" may be described as God’s "mighty expanse" or "mighty heavens."  In other words, this psalm is calling for the worship of God in every area of life.  This is seen in verse 4 where it instructs believers to praise God in the dance (done during harvest and like festivals) and in Psalm 149:6 to praise God in war.  Hence, Psalm 150 is not telling us that we must praise God with all these instruments in the temple, but as the Israelites had their festivals for harvest and victory marches, whenever they played these instruments there, they were to do it unto the Lord.  Stringed instruments (which were forbidden in the temple) were used in family worship, (cf ps 144) and tambourines were used during harvest occasions (cf ps 81).  So that would be the principal context of the Psalm.

However, since the church is not Israel, must we adhere to OT instruction not to have a myriad of instruments in the church?  Furthermore, the organ is comprised of many instrument sounds; are we then, if we cannot use the trumpet and other instruments, to shut off those stops and only restrict ourselves to only a few instruments?  Again, the answer is not so simple.  Firstly, there is no regulation that the modern church must only use the organ and the piano.  Secondly, there is also no regulation that the modern church cannot use the trumpet or the guitar either.  But the standard set by God in the Old Testament should remain in this New Testament Gospel Age - that musical instruments must never be allowed to rival or overwhelm worship, hence it is best that they should be modest in character and limited in number.  We must remember that worship is importantly a spiritual act done out of a penitent heart with reverence, and hence will appropriately manifest itself outwardly; it is not the number of instruments that enhance worship.  So in the end, there is nothing seriously wrong with having many instruments, but it is the motive behind it and its propriety.  Psalm 150:6 tells us that "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord."  This verse reminds us that instruments themselves cannot be a channel of praise - only things that have breath can worship, only living souls can praise the Lord.

So Psalm 150 does not instruct us to praise God with many instruments in church, but gives a wider instruction - that whatever we do, we ought to praise God.  So the question should not be "can we praise God with many instruments in worship?" but "why would we want to praise God with many instruments in worship?".  After all, as it was seen, it is not commanded that we do so.  Worship comes from the heart, and if we feel that we must have more instruments to make worship or praise better, then there must be something seriously wrong with our worship, and that ultimately speaks of the worshiper’s heart.  Can we worship without instruments?  Of course we can, since worship comes only from the heart of the believer.  So why do we have instruments like the organ and the piano?  It is because they are employed in worship services to aid in congregational singing - that the tempo and pitching would be preserved.  Even in many congregations that do not employ musical instruments, a pitch pipe or tuning fork is employed to ascertain the first note.  So that is simply the function of instruments in the worship of God, nothing grander than that.

To begin with, it must be emphasised that David was not a vindictive person. As a man of God, David did have the capacity to forgive those who offended him, and who did wrong to him. There were probably many people that David forgave, e.g. King Saul, for pursuing him in the wilderness (1 Samuel 26:11,18-21), and Absalom, for attempting to take over his reign by force (2 Samuel 18:32,33). However, there were certain offences that were committed not only against David personally, but which constitute rebellion or treason against his rightful authority as King of Israel. In such cases, David’s judgment was no longer a personal act of unforgiving vengeance, but a righteous act of protecting the integrity of his God-given authority as king over God’s people.

Joab’s judgment was due to him for his evil murdering of two generals, Abner (2 Samuel 3:27) and Amasa (2 Samuel 20:10), in times of peace. Joab slew Abner to take revenge on him for killing his brother, Asahel, in battle (2 Samuel 2:22,23). But in doing this, Joab had broken the safe-conduct that King David had promised to Abner when Abner came to see him in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:20,21) and thus damaged the King’s integrity. Joab slew Amasa (his own cousin, 1 Chronicles 2:16,17) because he was jealous that King David had put Amasa in command of the armies of Israel instead of him when dealing with Sheba’s rebellion.

Joab was clearly a dangerous man in David’s ranks, but he also happened to be David’s nephew (1 Chronicles 2:13-16) and a brave soldier who had also served David loyally and faithfully as a military general (1 Chronicles 27:34) and won many battles for him. Thus David did not give Joab the judgment he deserved for his crimes, and the most that he ever did against Joab was to curse him (2 Samuel 3:29). This inaction does not mean that David had acquitted Joab. It only means that he had deferred Joab’s judgment.

When David’s reign was coming to an end, Joab showed his true colours by taking sides with Adonijah, who was not David’s nor God’s choice to be the next king of Israel (1 Kings 1:5-7). Although Adonijah’s attempt to take the throne did not succeed, Joab had clearly shown that he could not be trusted. Perceiving that Joab would be a threat to Solomon’s reign, David gave Solomon the instruction to act wisely against Joab in 1 Kings 2:5, by giving him his long-delayed judgment (1 Kings 2:31-33)

As for Shimei, he was a relative of King Saul, and he had a personal grudge against David for taking away the kingdom away from Saul. At the time that Absalom rebelled against King David, and David had to flee to the east, Shimei, thinking that David was now being judged for what he had done to Saul, came out to publicly curse and insult David (2 Samuel 16:5-8) in the sight of all the Israelites who were with David. David did not react against this act of high treason, even though he could have done so. Without justifying Shimei’s act, he saw it as being allowed by God for a divine purpose (2 Samuel 16:11,12).

However when Absalom died in battle and David returned back to Jerusalem victorious, Shimei quickly came to apologise to David and begged him to spare his life (2 Samuel 19:16-20). Although David could have justifiably sentenced him to die, he chose not to do so, not because he forgave Shimei, but because he did not want his return to kingship (and the joyous mood of the people) to be marred by Shimei’s death (2 Samuel 19:22,23). Besides, Shimei had brought a thousand Benjamite tribesmen with him to meet David and welcome him back to Jerusalem. It would have been grossly inappropriate for David to slay the leader of this welcoming party! David therefore acceded to Shimei’s request and swore not to kill him.

However, David knew that Shimei’s apology was insincere, and that he had only made it out of selfish fear for his own life. Deep in his heart, Shimei still resented David for taking away Saul’s reign (Actually it was God who gave David Saul’s kingdom). Such disguised disloyalty in a person would naturally make him a threat to King Solomon’s reign. Shimei would probably turn against Solomon if the opportunity ever presented itself. Since Solomon was not bound by David’s oath to spare Shimei’s life, he was able to give him the judgment he deserved.

Although Solomon was given the charge to deal with Shimei, he acted wisely by testing Shimei’s loyalty first. He only meted out judgment to him when Shimei failed the test (1 Kings 2:36-46).

What happened to Joab and Shimei offers a good lesson to all of us. God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners may be defered but never denied. Perhaps if Joab had truly repented of his sins and shown himself to be truly loyal to David, David might not have instructed Solomon to take his life.

As for Shimei, his "repentance" was only superficial and only to preserve himself. True repentance for our sins should stem from selfless and full agreement with God about the horror of our sins and what they deserve. Perhaps if Shimei had repented and come to David before Absalom’s death instead of after, things would have been quite different for him.

Some people have dreams and they firmly believe that this dream will come true. I have had my share of such dreams, which for a while made me think that they are sent from God and will come true. But I realised later on, that they do not mean anything at all. They are merely the result of the things that we have on our minds. Research has shown that dreams facilitate the emotional resolution of the problems that one is facing in life.

Hence it is not wise to pay too much attention to your dreams. Ecclesiastes 5:7 – “For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.”  The word ‘dream’ is found 123 times in the Bible, but we notice that 95% of the occurences of the word are found the OT. There are only 8 instances when it is used in the NT. That itself should tell us that dreams were being phased out by God, since Christ has now come.

In the days of the OT and NT, God did use dreams to speak to men, but they were actually more than ordinary dreams. They were visions. Numbers 12:6 – “If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.”

A night vision or vision of the night, is the same as a dream. Job 33:15,16 – “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,” (cf. Daniel 7:1 – “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed”; also Daniel 4:5) Hence the difference between a vision and a dream from God is that the first occurs when one is awake, and the other occurs when one is asleep. But both are just as vivid and can be recalled clearly to the very last detail (unlike our usual dreams which are forgotten). Sometimes the same vision or dream occurred several times (e.g. Acts 10:10-16 – Peter’s vision occurred thrice).

All that was only in the times before God’s written Word was given to us. When you meet with others for Bible study and fellowship don’t spend much time discussing the dreams you dreamed last night and what they could mean, because they probably do not mean anything. We should not pray to the Lord, “Please appear to me in a dream” or “Please reveal your will to me when I dream tonight” since we already have the scriptures to read and know God’s will and the Holy Spirit to lead us with His inner prompting. To go back to dreams is to reject the Scriptures and insult God. Please remember this: Don’t rely on dreams, but on God’s Word.

Now that we have God’s Word, we can use that to judge any vision or dream that people claim to have received from God. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 – “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” In fact the verses after that state that such a dreamer is to be executed.

Jeremiah 23:25,26 – “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart.” Hence we should be careful whenever someone comes to you and says that he has received a dream from God and the content of it is different from what God has revealed in His word. You can ignore it.

Theologians usually make a distinction between two kinds of decrees of God: Efficacious and Permissive. Efficacious decrees are those which cause those events which God has determined to effect through His own immediate agency. In other words, whatever God Himself directs to happen will certainly happen. Permissive decrees are those which cause those events which God has determined to allow to depend on free agents to effect. In other words there are certain events that God just permits to happen.

Now, the distinction between efficacious and permissive decrees although important, has no relation to the certainty of the events. All events included in the purposes of God are equally certain, whether He has determined to bring them to pass by His own power, or simply to permit their occurrence through the agency of His creatures.

What is the use then of making this distinction, since it makes no difference to the certainly of the events? The helpful thing about making this distinction is that it helps to solve a moral problem: It helps us to answer the commonly asked question of who bears the final blame for evil and sin. Since God’s decrees comprehend everything, then they must also include man’s sins. Does this make Him morally responsible for these sins? Can a non-believer stand before God’s Judgment seat one day and say “God, you have no right to punish me for my sins, because you had already included them in your decrees from the beginning of time.”?

The answer to this perplexing question is a definite NO, because God is not the immediate cause of the sin. Sin comes under God’s permissive decrees and not His efficacious decrees and therefore He cannot be charged with sin. The Scriptures emphasize over and over again that God, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. So when anyone sins, he does it entirely out of his own selfish motives and inclinations, and not because he thinks that God has decreed that he would commit sin. Some things God purposes to do; others He permits to be done. He purposes good, He permits evil. He is the author of one, but not the other.

At the point that Nebuchadnezzar received the interpretation of the dream, God would have withheld his judgement if he had repented of his sins. This is implied in Daniel’s advice in v.27 – “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.”

The king did not repent of his sins but persisted to the point that the judgement was meted out to him a year later (vv. 29-31). By this time it was too late for Nebuchadnezzar to repent.

What Daniel saw in his vision was only a visible representation of God, also known as a theophany. God was not always represented by the same form. E.g. when he called Moses He was represented by a burning bush (Exodus 3); To Ezekiel, He was represented as a man riding on a divine chariot. Thus there is no fixed form of God, and each form is only meant to teach us certain truths about God. E.g. He appeared as the Ancient of days to Daniel to teach that unlike worldly rulers and kingdoms that last only for a short time, God has always been ruling from eternity past.

These visible representations of God are only a ‘similitude’ of Him. Numbers 12:8 – “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…” Jesus said in John 4:24 – “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” In Colossians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:17 He is called ‘the invisible God.’ Hence it is wrong for anyone to represent God in any physical form.

This verse is given as a contrast to verse 11 (“I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.”) When each of the first three Gentile kingdoms fell, they were not totally destroyed. Each was absorbed into the next kingdom which conquered them and continued to exist as part of the new expression of Gentile world dominion.

In that sense the Babylonian, Medo-Persian  and Greek kingdoms would continue to live for the entire period of time that God appointed for Gentile world dominion. By contrast, the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) would be totally destroyed in its fall. It would not be made part of the kingdom of Christ on earth.

When God destroys the last Gentile empire, that judgment would also be the end of the 3 earlier empires as well (cf. Daniel 2 – when the stone crushed the feet of the statue, the entire image was destroyed with including the parts representing the three earlier empires.)

He was probably an angel (cf. Geneva Bible notes) cf. v.10 – “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”

Although the angel’s name is not given, he could have been Gabriel, the angel who speaks to Daniel in Daniel 9:21 – “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”

cf. Daniel 8:15-16 – “And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.  And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.”

Many believe that this refers to the revived Roman Empire which will be a confederation of nations rather than one empire. Perhaps the present European Union is the precursor to this. The little horn refers to the Antichrist, who will arise out of this confederation and become its ruler. Which nation does the Antichrist comes from? No one knows, though some believe that he must have Jewish blood in him because of Daniel 11:37 – “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers.”

a.  Not all the 6 things stated in v.24 are accomplished yet.

1.  Finish the transgression (not accomplished) – This refers to the end of Israel’s rebellion against God and it will only the accomplished at Christ’s Second Coming.

2.  Make an end of sins (not accomplished) – This refers to the time when Israel will meet the God’s standard as His nation. It will only be accomplished when Christ’s kingdom on earth is inaugurated.

3.  Make reconciliation for iniquity – accomplished at the crucifixion of Christ.

4.  Bring in everlasting righteousness – accomplished at the crucifixion of Christ

5.  Seal up the vision and prophecy (not accomplished) – This refers to the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning God’s kingdom, and it will be accomplished only when Christ’s kingdom on earth is inaugurated.

6.  Anoint the most Holy (not accomplished) – Referring to the Millennial Temple’s innermost chamber. This Temple will be built only after Christ’s Second Coming. (Ezekiel 40-44)

b.  The death of Christ and the destruction of the Temple are at least 40 years apart.

Daniel 9:26 – “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, [AD 30] but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. [AD 70]”

c.  Many prophecies in the OT have unspecified time intervals in them. E.g. Christ’s birth and Christ’s millennial reign on earth in Isaiah 9:6 – there is a time interval of at least 2,000 years between them:

Isaiah 9:6 - “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

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