Archive | November 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 4:1-10

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath,‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.                NKJV
 
Hebrews is written to the Jews to show them that Jesus is the Messiah, and as such, He is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. In our text, the Lord demonstrates that the ceremonial laws fulfilled by Jesus included the Sabbath day commandments. In these verses, we see three key truths regarding the Sabbath.
 
First, the Sabbath was a picture of the believer’s life in Christ. Our text states plainly in verse three that “we who have believed do enter that rest.” As New Testament Christians, we enter into the true Sabbath rest through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In verses 6-9, we see that true Sabbath rest in Christ is superior to that offered by Joshua via entry into the land of Canaan, because it is spiritual rather than physical. The Israelites spent forty years of weary wondering in the wilderness before Joshua led them into the Promised Land where they found rest from the years of wilderness wandering. Spiritually speaking, outside of Christ, we were wandering blindly in a spiritual wilderness, but in Christ, we have spiritual rest (Matt. 11:28). The Lord Jesus Christ has given us rest from the guilt of sin, from worries about the future, and from the fear of death and the judgment to follow.
 
Second, the Sabbath was primarily a ceremonial law. There is a moral aspect to the Sabbath that was established at creation, and this is why the Sabbath is included in the ten commandments (Ex. 20:8,11). The moral principle found in the Sabbath is that one day a week is to be set aside from the normal work activities of the week for the purpose of joint public or corporate worship of God. But since the Sabbath is primarily ceremonial in nature, public or corporate worship does not have to fall on the seventh day of the week, and in fact, since the beginning of the New Testament church, Christians have set aside the first day of the week as the day for public or corporate worship (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16:2). Seventh Day Adventists claim that mainline church denominations are worshipping on the wrong day of the week because they worship on the first day instead of the seventh day; and sadly, some Christians in their ignorance compound the problem by referring to Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath.” The first day of the week is not the Sabbath, and nowhere does the New Testament ever refer to it as the Sabbath. The New Testament church did not meet on the Sabbath, which is the seventh day. They met on the first day of the week and called it the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). The church began meeting on the first day of the week because it was the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The church was meeting on the first day of the week when Pentecost came and they were baptized by the Holy Spirit on that day (Acts 2). Understanding that the Sabbath is primarily a ceremonial law, it’s not that Christians don’t keep the Sabbath by not having public or corporate worship on Saturday. To the contrary, Christians perfectly keep all of the ceremonial laws in Christ (who is the type of all the ceremonial antitypes), including the Sabbath. As New Testament believers, we don’t need a high priest to enter into the holy of holies for us and offer up sacrifices for our sins, because we have the true and perfect high priest (Christ), who has entered into the true holy of holies made without hands (heaven), and offered up the perfect sacrifice for our sins (his own body and blood). Likewise in Christ, we have entered into the true Sabbath rest.
 
Third, in our Sabbath rest in Christ, we have ceased from our own works (v.10). Those who object to the idea that the Sabbath is primarily ceremonial say, “What about the commandments to keep the Sabbath holy and not to work on the Sabbath?” The answer is simple; those were ceremonial commandments that pictured the believer’s life in the true Sabbath rest in Jesus. In Christ, we have ceased from our own works. We don’t work for ourselves anymore, we work for Jesus. As believers who have entered into the true Sabbath in Christ, we are not called to be holy just one day a week; rather we are called to be holy seven days a week (I Pet. 1:16-17). Christianity is not just a one day a week religion, it is a seven day a week, twenty-four hours a day religion. For believers who have entered into the Sabbath rest in Jesus, every day is to be holy. We are not to reflect Christ’s character just on Sunday, but our lives are to reflect His character all of the time (Eph. 5:1-2).
 
Have you entered into the true Sabbath rest in Christ by repenting of your sins and trusting Jesus as your personal Savior? If so, is every area of your life, every day, holy—consecrated to the Lord?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Hebrews 3:1-6

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.                NKJV

Hebrews is written to the Jews to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament ceremonial laws, and is thus, the Messiah. In Hebrews, chapters 1-2, God demonstrated that Jesus as the Messiah is greater than the angels. In our text, God now demonstrates that Jesus is also greater than Moses (who is held in high esteem by the Jews). The “house” referred to in our text is not a literal building, but a metaphor for the people of God. Both Jesus and Moses were faithful shepherds of God’s people (vs. 1-2), but in our text, we are given three reasons why Jesus is greater than Moses.

First, Jesus is greater than Moses because Jesus is the creator of God’s household, whereas Moses is only a member of God’s household. Jesus is the creator of the church (Matt. 16:18), and the foundation upon which the household of God is built; not Moses (I Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:19-20).

Second, Jesus is greater than Moses because Jesus is God Himself. He is not merely a prophet like Moses, or even an angel; He is the divine Creator of all things (including Moses and the angels). Scripture declares in plain terms that Jesus is God in human flesh (Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:23; Jn. 1:1,10,14; 8:58; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Tit. 2:13; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:8; I Jn. 5:20; Rev. 1:8).

Third, Jesus is greater than Moses because Jesus is the Son in God’s household, whereas Moses is just a servant in God’s household (vs. 5-6). Servant is not a negative thing in verse five; it is a God granted position of dignity given to God’s people by His grace through the death of Jesus on their behalf (Rom. 1:1, Phil. 1:1). As Christians, we have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. As a result, we are His bond slaves; freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, death, and Satan; and owned by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Master. Furthermore, as bond slaves of Jesus, we’ve been elevated to the position of the children of God (Jn. 1:12, Rom. 8:17). But neither we, nor Moses, can claim the title of the incarnate Son of God. Jesus is not just a son of God, He is God the Son, one of the three eternal persons of the Godhead.

Jesus, who is God the Son, is infinitely above believers who are but the adopted children of God. Yet even so, if we truly repent of our sins and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we are born again (Jn. 3:3-8, II Cor. 5:17), have eternal security in Jesus (Jn. 6:37-39, 10:27-30; Heb. 7:25; I Pet. 1:5), and will hold fast to our profession of Him as our Lord and Savior (v. 6, I Jn. 2:19). Are you a part of God’s family? Have you truly repented of your sins, and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?

From the Pastor’s Pen

Introduction to Song of Solomon

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—For your love is better than wine.
Song of Solomon 1:1-2 NKJV

It is clear from the very first verse of the book, that Solomon is the author of the author of Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is titled “Song of Songs” in the Hebrew text and in the Greek Septuagint. Early Latin translations titled it “Canticles” (Latin for Song of Songs). English translations began titling the book “Song of Solomon,” thus giving the fuller sense on 1:1. The phrase “song of songs” means “the superlative (best or most excellent) song.” Song of Solomon was written early in Solomon’s reign which began in 971 B.C., but before he took Pharaoh’s daughter as his second wife (I Kings 3:1).

The main theme of Song of Solomon is the love that should exist between a husband and wife (Song. 1:2, 13-16; 2:16; 3:11; 4:9-11; 5:1, 16; 6:3; 7:10). Two people dominate this true-life, dramatic, love song. Solomon, whose kingship is mentioned 5 times (Song. 1:4, 12; 3:9, 11; 7:5), appears as the beloved husband. The Shulamite maiden (Song. 6:13) is the beloved wife. In 1826, Heinrich Ewald, a liberal scholar, proposed a triangle in which the Shulamite falls in love with a shepherd who is not Solomon, but a young man from the maiden’s home town. In Ewald’s interpretation, the Shulamite actually resists the overtures of Solomon to be his wife, longing to be with the young shepherd from her home instead, and eventually she and her shepherd are reunited and marry. Ewald based his interpretation on the argument that Solomon was a polygamist and therefore could not have written a book on the purity of wedded bliss. However, this interpretation is not only dishonoring and without historical foundation, it assumes that Solomon could not have truly loved only one woman early in his reign as king. It is important to note that Solomon entered into his later marriages for political reasons, not for love.

The Shulamite is never mentioned by name in the book, but according to Jewish tradition, she is Abishag, the Shunammite maiden, who cared for King David on his death bed (I Kings 1:3-4, 15; 2:17-25). There are a number of parallels between the Shulamite and Abishag. Both were from Shunem (the consonants, lamed and nun, are frequently interchangeable in Semitic languages and some Hebrew manuscripts (as well as the Septuagint) read Shunammite instead of Shulamite). Examples of this interexchange of lamed and nun can also be seen in Hebrew words such as Azal and Azan (both meaning “to go away from”) and Ya`al and Ya`an (both meaning “to have purpose”). The same type of letter exchanges can be found in most languages, including English (examples: cipher and cipher, offence and offense, gray and grey, sceptic and skeptic, adviser and advisor, barbecue and barbeque, and enquire and inquire). Both the Shulamite and Abishag were outsiders brought into the court. Both of them were contemporaries of Solomon. Both of them knew him personally. Both of them were in an emotionally charged situation involving marriage. Both were virgins. Both were beautiful. Both were brought in to serve kings. Both of them vanish from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Since the love between Solomon and the Shulamite is a picture of the love between Christ, the shepherd/king, and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:25-33), it is worth noting that Abishag actually served the shepherd/king, David.

It is curious that the Shulamite vanishes from the pages of scripture before Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Roberta Kells Dorr, a former Middle Eastern scholar and author, in her book, Solomon’s Song, makes the compelling case that, as happened so often in those days, the Shulamite died in childbirth and suggests that it may have been at that time that Solomon wrote his great love song. In Song of Solomon 8:5, the references to death” and “the grave” may have forshadowed the Shulamite’s early death.

Some have objected to the inclusion of Song of Solomon in the canon of scripture, claiming that God is never mentioned in the book, but a closer examination of the book will demonstrate that this claim is in fact, not true. The name of God is actually found in Song. 8:6 in the phrase “most vehement flame.” This entire phrase is one word, “shalhebeth” in Hebrew and literally means “flame of Yah.” “Yah” is the shortened name of “Yahweh” or the “LORD,” the Hebrew name for God, so the phrase “most vehement flame” literally means “flame of the LORD.”