Saturday, April 30, 2016

Odd Contrast

One of the most intriguing passages in the Old Testament is Num 14:18.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
The first half of this verse describes amazing love. God is abundant in mercy, and forgives iniquity and transgression. However, the second half of the verse seems to contradict what went before. It seems it be saying that God forgives iniquity, but then judges grandchildren and great grandchildren for it. That is illogical. If God has forgiven the person who sins, he is not going to punish their descendants.

I believe that there is something wrong with the standard translation. First of all the word “guilty” does not exist in the Hebrew, but is added by the translators. That is why it is in italics. Secondly, the expression “he by no means clears” is a very expansive translation of a couple of Hebrew words. Literally, the Hebrew says something like “to acquit not he will acquit”. I am not sure what this strange expression means, but I doubt that it means what the English translators say it means.

I presume the second half of the verse is talking about what the spiritual powers of evil want to do, in contrast to God. God is full lovingkindness, so he forgives transgressions. The powers of evil want to punish transgression to the fourth generation.

Maybe the verse should read like this.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression and making pure, not visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation (like the spiritual power of evil).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Propitiate Who?

Commentators have argued about how Romans 3:25 how should be translated. Some translators use the work propitiation

Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood (NKJV).
Others have used the word expiation.
Whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood (RSV).
Some modern translations use the neutral but meaningless expression, “atoning sacrifice”.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (NIV).
The Greek word is “hilasterion”. In Hebrews 9:5, it is used to describe the cover of ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Our problem is that none of these words mean much to modern readers.

The word propitiate is directed towards a person. Someone is offended and they must be satisfied. Others do not like the word, because they thing it means that God is angry and hard to please.

Those who argue for propitiate are correct that Romans 3:25 describes Jesus as satisfying or appeasing “someone”, but they are wrong about who that person is. They assume that it is God the one who needs to be propitiated. That is wrong. God is gracious and great in love, mercy and patience, so he does not need to be propitiated.

Everyone who sins is a slave of the spiritual powers of evil. They demand the implementation of the curse of the law against everyone who sins, so we need to be ransomed from their power. They need to be propitiated, because they are operating according to the letter of the law and demanding retribution on all sinners.

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus has satisfied the powers of evil and redeemed us from their power. His death fulfilled the requirements of the law, cancelling out the demands of our accusers. It nullified the curse of the law that was against us.

If we trust in Jesus, we died with him and rose with him. That means our old life is dead. A prosecutor cannot bring charges against someone who is dead. The powers of evil have no rights over our lives.

They cannot object to that because they have already agreed that Adam’s sin gives them authority over all his descendants, ie everyone sinned in Adam. They have used that principle for all it is worth, so they cannot disagree with the parallel truth that all who believe in Jesus died with him and rose with him to a new life. They want us to share in Adam’s sin and loss of authority, so they cannot object to us sharing in what Jesus established as the head of the new covenant.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Propitiation and Redemption

The sacrifices and rules of separation specified in the law of Moses provided spiritual protection for the children of Israel. The cost of this protection was that it allowed the accuser to demand the implementation of the curses against the disobedient.

The Old Testament sacrifices satisfied God (because he knew that they would be supplemented in the future by Jesus death on the cross). The powers of evil were not satisfied with the sacrifices. They liked the covenant, because it gave them the ability to enforce the curses on sin, but they did not like the sacrifices, because they felt that people were getting off to light.

God was willing to forgive sin. It was the powers of evil who wanted it to be punished.

God is judge over everything.

God is the judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25).
However, he is not the prosecutor. He does not bring a case against humans. The accuser/prosecutor is Satan. If he is silenced, there is no prosecutor, therefore no case for the judge to hear.

The Holy Spirit is our defence attorney/counsel (paraclete). Jesus also defends us before God the judge.

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1).
The righteousness of God means that he is not caught up in false accusations of the spiritual powers of evil. He does the right thing by his covenant, and declares us to be righteous. He silences the spiritual powers of evil and the accuser who want to bring charges against us.

The enemy’s greatest trick is to deceive the world and Christians into believing that God demanded death and hell for sinners, when it was actually the spiritual powers of evil themselves who demanded it. They have tricked us into believing that God is full of wrath and vengeance, when it is really them. God is gracious and forgiving, whereas the spiritual powers of evil are harsh and cruel, but they have tricked the world into believing the opposite.

God wants to restore people. The powers of evil want to punish. It is sad that many Christians seem to be on the side of the latter.

Some Christians believe that we need to preach God’s wrath as part of the gospel. They fall into the trap that Paul exposed.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4).
The kindness of God leads us to repentance, when we realise that he gave his son to rescue us from the spiritual powers of evil, while we were still alienated from him. That is the good news we should proclaim.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lies and War

Lies and war march together.

Lies are needed to get a war started.

Lies are needed to get young men and women to kill each other, because very few people will kill each other for the truth.

Lies continue when the war has finished, to bury the anger, hatred, pain, sorrow and suffering.

Lies are created to allow people to remember the war as glorious and celebrate with pride.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Desert Road

We travelled over the Desert Road on our way back to Wellington. The road is at an elevation of 1000 metres, so not much grows.

Mount Ngauruhoe.
Mount Ruapehu from Waiouru.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


While staying at Pukawa, we travelled to Rotorua. We had morning coffee on the lawn beside Lake Okareka.

We visited the Blue Lake.
Lake Tarawera with Mount Tarawera in the background.
The Tarawera Eruption in June 1886 destroyed the Pink and White Terraces on the shores of Lake Rotomahana, which had become an important tourist attaction in the 1880s.

Friday, April 22, 2016


We have just spent a few days at Pukawa Bay, a little village on the shores of Lake Taupo, the large lake at the centre of the North Island of New Zealand. The bird life was amazing. The songs and calls of the Tui’s and Bell birds could be heard throughout the day. The bush is beautiful.

Here is a view over the lake.

Breakfast on the balcony.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Wrath (8)

The spirit called Wrath can have a go at those who reject Jesus.

Whoever rejects the Son... God’s Wrath remains on them (John 3:36).
Jesus warned his listeners that their rejection of him would release Wrath in their land.
There shall be great distress on the land, and wrath on this people (Luke 21:23).
The spirit of Wrath would bring great distress on the land.

Those who fill up sin will experience terrible Wrath.

They always fill up the measure of their sins. But Wrath has come upon them to the utmost (1 Thes 2:16).
Wrath attacks those who push into the depths of sin.

When the politicians get angry, they release the spirit of Wrath.

The nations were angry and your wrath has come (Rev 11:18).
When the Bible refers to the wrath of God, it is not describing God as an immature father who flies into a rage because his children ignore his instructions. It is mostly describing an evil angel who leads an evil army of demonic powers who are seeing opportunities to punish and hurt people who have moved away from God and lost their protection.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wrath (7) and Mercy

The prophet prayed that the spirit called wrath would be turned away from the people.

I stood before God and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them (Jer 18:20).
God restrained wrath in answer to the prophets prayer.
Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time.. he did not stir up his full wrath (Ps 78:38).
God restrained wrath from doing his worst on earth.

The people of faith are saved from wrath through Jesus blood.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Wrath through him (Rom 5:9).
Jesus destroyed the power of Wrath when he died on the cross.
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:13-15).
Wrath gained power by demanding to inflict the curse of the law. Jesus became a curse and experienced the worst that Wrath and his mates could do, and then rose from the dead. Wrath has not power over those who trust Jesus and walk in the Spirit.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Wrath (6) and the Tabernacle

The evil spirit called Wrath made the tabernacle of God a dangerous place to be.

The Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there will be no wrath on the Israelite community. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony (Num 1:53).
God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, because the Covenant with Moses gave him the right to be there. The spiritual powers of evil hated this intrusion, because they thought the earth belonged to them. They didn’t want the children of Israel being close to God, so they gathered there and did their best to harm those who went near.

God had put spiritual protection in place for the Priests and Levites, by specific sacrifices and keeping them away from activities that could open them up to spiritual attack. They camped around the tabernacle, because they were the only ones who were safe in this dangerous place. They put up their standards to mark the safe place (Num 1:52).

When the tabernacle was being packed up was a dangerous time, because the boundaries and safe places were less clear.

Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is put to death (Num 1:51).
It is usually assumed that God would put them to death, but that is wrong. Wrath and his evil angels would put people to death, if they got caught in the wrong place.

When Samuel was a boy, the Philistines captured the covenant box, but they experienced terrible sickness. People in the vicinity came out with awful tumours (1 Sam 5:1-10). They had been attacked by Wrath, so the sent the covenant box back to Israel. At Beth Shemesh some men looked into the covenant box, but many were killed.

Then he struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord (1 Sam 6:19).
They thought it was God, but they were most likely struck down by the spirit called Wrath.

When David was taking the covenant box back to Jerusalem, he forgot to involve the Levites. Uzzah touched the ark, when the oxen stumbled, and he died beside the ark. Most English translations imply that God struck him down, but that is misleading. The Hebrew text says that Wrath of God struck him, because he was careless with the things of God (2 Sam 6:7). David had failed to followed the instructions that God had given Moses, so the powers of evil got at one of his men.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wrath (5) and Sickness

When the people of reject God’s words and the message of his prophets, Wrath releases sickness.

They mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the Wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no healing (rapha) (2 Chron 36:16).
Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started (Num 16:46).
Wrath loves to inflict pain and sickness.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wrath (4) Political Powers

In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that the political powers are “Agents of Wrath” (Rom 13:4). This should change the way that we think about them. God might use them from time to time, but the principalities and powers that control the political powers are intent on evil. This is why the proverb warns,

A king’s wrath is a messenger of death (Prov 16:14).
We need the gospel and local judges applying God’s law, so that the agents of Wrath do not get hold in our society (Rom 13:5).

Shisak the ruler of Egypt was controlled by Wrath.

My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak (2 Chron 12:7).
It is terrible to live in an empire whose ruler is controlled by Wrath.

Daniel described an evil political leader who will emerge during a time of distress on earth. He will do terrible evil on earth, because he is controlled by Wrath. When he is disturbed.

He will go forth with great Wrath to destroy and annihilate many (Dan 11:44).
Political powers are dangerous because they are often controlled by Wrath.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wrath (3)

Paul explained to the Romans the relationship between wrath and law.

The law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom 4:15).
Prior to the giving of the law through Moses, transgression was undefined. The law specified the behaviour that God required from the people that he called. The law also spelt out in detail the consequences of transgression.

Once the law of the covenant was in place, the spiritual powers of evil demanded the right to enforce the curses of the law against the children of Israel whenever they transgressed the law. Wrath was often the leader of this activity. This is why Paul said that law brings about Wrath. The giving of the law with curses specified for disobedience increased the power of Wrath and the destroying angels working with him.

The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his powerful Wrath is against all who forsake him (Ezra 8:22).
You intend to add to our sins and to our guilt; for our guilt is great, and fierce Wrath is against Israel (2 Chron 28:13).
My Wrath will be aroused (Ex 22:24).
The law said that rejection of God is a bitter poison that releases Wrath to do evil.
Make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison (Deut 19:18).
Rejecting God’s law releases Wrath.
Great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us,
because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book
Therefore my wrath shall be aroused against this place
and shall not be quenched. (2 Kings 22:13,17).
Nevertheless the Lord did not turn back his great wrath from the fierceness with which His anger was aroused against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him (2 Kings 23:26).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wrath (2)

Like all the spiritual powers of evil, the spirit called "Wrath" was created by God, but rebelled against God at the beginning of human history. (His chraracter was different when he was created, so he had a different name back then). Because God created him, he is still called God’s wrath. I guess that God knew when he created the angels and gave them freedom that they could go wrong, but he decided to do create them anyway. God does not disown his creation. He does not avoid responsibility for what he has done. They are still his, although they have rebelled against him.

Despite their rebellion, God still uses the spiritual powers of evil, despite themselves, to accomplish his purposes. He has frequently incited the spirit called Wrath to do things that he needs done, particularly when restraining political powers that are doing harm to the earth. That is why the scriptures often describe him as God’s Wrath.

Reading the scriptures with an understanding that Wrath is not an aspect of God’s character, but an wicked spirit controlling an army of spiritual powers gives a very different perspective. I will just give some examples in the next few posts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Wrath (1)

When David counted his fighting men, he brought terrible judgment on the nation. An interesting aspect of the incident is the way that David was incited to do evil. Samuel and Chronicles describe the event in different ways that are actually the same.

Again the Wrath of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah (2 Sam 24:1).
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron 21:1).
Samuel says that God’s wrath burned against evil. The Chronicler says that Satan incited David. The difference is more important than we realise. This is not a contradiction, but an insight into the structure of the spiritual world.

Satan is one of the spiritual powers of evil. These powers are controlled by a powerful hierarchy of evil spirits, but they do not like each other. Throughout history, they have jockeyed for control of their hierarchies of power. A spirit called Satan controlled this empire for a long time, but for much of history it has been controlled by a spirit called Death. One of the more powerful spirits in this evil hierarchy is called Wrath.

The devil often has Wrath with him when he attacks the earth.

The devil has come down to you having great Wrath (Rev 12:12).
This understanding of Wrath is confirmed in Psalm 78:49.
He unleashed against them his hot anger,
Wrath, indignation and hostility—
a band of destroying angels.
Wrath is the leader of a band of destroying angels.

Wrath is not a manifestation of God’s character, but an evil spiritual being.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Zahnd on Politics

This statement by Brian Zahnd hits the nail on the head.

America is experiencing an alarming exponential increase in acrimony and vitriol in its political discourse. This is why Christians need to become serious about embodying the politics of Jesus—a politics that has as its ultimate goal, not power, but love. Christians are free to vote according to their conscience, but if their political engagement makes it harder for them to love other people, then as followers of Jesus they need to disengage from politics.

The kingdom of Christ is not furthered through the apparatus of power politics. The politics of Jesus are the politics of love and are to be lived out by the church. The church is not called to covet Caesar’s sword; the coercion of Caesar’s sword is incompatible with the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is without coercion; we persuade by love, witness, spirit, reason, rhetoric, and, if need be, martyrdom…but never by force.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Jesus and Law (10)

Jesus confirmed the validity of the Law of Moses.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law….For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law...(Matt 5:17-18).
Jesus never suggested that Roman law was better than Moses’ law. He did not prophesy that English law would be superior to the law for Moses. He did not promise that the US Constitution replace Moses law. Men cannot create laws that are better than God’s laws.

If Christians spent in the UK and America loved God’s law as much as David did, they would have something to offer to the world.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes (Psalm 119:97-99).
If Christians spent as much time studying God’s law, as they spent watching political debates and commentary on television, the world would be a better place.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Jesus and Law (9)

Jesus’ new commandment was a modification of the second most important commandment.

Love your neighbour as yourself (Matt 22:39).
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:35).
The direction of love changes from “neighbour” to “one another”. However, Jesus was not reducing the scope of love by giving permission to stop loving our neighbour. Rather the gospel should transform our society, so that our neighbour becomes a “one another”.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Jesus and Law (8)

Jesus said that loving our neighbour was the second most important commandment.

The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself (Matt 22:39).
Love of neighbour is the heart of the law, so applications of the law must be based on love of neighbour. Therefore, we must read the law through the lens of love for our neighbour. The word neighbour extends to everyone in our community.

The parable of the Good Samaritan was a message about understanding the law. The Priest and the Levite complied with a strict interpretation of the law, but they did not understand it. Jesus exposed this problem, but we continue to accept a Jewish interpretation of the law. Those who seek the Kingdom of God, must apply the law in the same way as the Good Samaritan, and Jesus.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Jesus and Law (7)

The Sabbath had become a problem in Jesus’ time.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).
The Jews thought they understood the Sabbath. The only hard part was deciding on the definition of work. Jesus had a radically different and more gentle interpretation of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was established to fr the benefit of the people, not to make them miserable.

The same applies to the law. The law was made for man, and not man for the law. Jesus interpreted the law in a way that made life better for people. It was very different from the miserable and mean interpretations of the Teachers of the Law.

Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers (Luke 11:46).
Interpretations of the law that place an impossible burden on people are usually wrong.

I suspect that many Christians see the Law of Moses through the eyes of the Teachers of the Law, rather than through the eyes of Jesus.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Jesus and Law (6)

Jesus explained that the interpretations of the teachers of the law were an obstacle to the kingdom of God.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matt 23:12).
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52).
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees got the Law wrong and closed off its insights into the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom needs laws, so people who are interested in the kingdom will need need to understand the place of the Law that the teachers of the law did not understand. Jesus gave the keys to the Kingdom to his disciples. One of those keys must have been insight into the role of law in the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Jesus and Law (5)

Jesus confirmed the three step process for settling disputes outlined in the Law (Matt 18:14-17).

  • Show the person their fault
  • Take witnesses to the judge
  • Tell the community
If they refuse to accept the decision of the judge, and moral pressure from the the community to put things right, exclude them from the community (treat as a pagan).

Friday, April 01, 2016

Jesus and Law (4)

Jesus explained that the Teachers of the law did not understand God’s law.

Their teachings are merely human rules (Mark 7:7).
Most Christians have an understanding of the law that is the same as these teachers had, so they have distorted it with human rules. Jesus wanted an understanding of the law that was totally different. We should avoid the "traditions of these men" (Mark 7:8).